Local Administration in Ming China

Local Administration in Ming China: The Changing Roles of Magistrates, Prefects, and Provincial Officials, Thomas G. Nimick, Ming Studies Research Series, Center for Early Modern History, University of Minnesota, 2008.


This volume is one of two books from Ming Studies that Geiss Foundation helped sponsor. Thomas G. Nimick, a leading authority on Ming government, draws on Chinese sources to provide the most detailed account of local Ming government available in English. Rational bureaucratic administration is one of China’s greatest contributions to the art of governance.

After centuries of evolution, the Chinese civil service system reached new heights during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Local Administration in Ming China traces the origins and evolution of the lowest level of administrative offices over the course of the dynasty. It starts with the Ming founder’s experiments with using members of the local elite to collect taxes and goes on to the increased reliance on magistrates and prefects sent out from the center. The story concludes with the fiscal problems at the end of the dynasty.

Thomas G. Nimick’s book offers in English a thorough account of local Ming government. Despite China’s careful construction over many centuries towards an effective bureaucratic administrative system, it was only during the Ming dynasty that the Chinese civil service reached new heights. This book examines the lowest level of administrative offices from its origins and follows its evolution over the course of the dynasty. The author recounts how Ming Taizu, the founder of the Ming dynasty, starts by employing the local elite to collect taxes, and then ends by dispatching magistrates and prefects to distant administrative areas.

Geiss Foundation is pleased to have supported the publication of this important study.