the dead souls census and 60 million real dead people

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Tue, 25 Jul 1995 05:52:13 CDT

Those who remember me from the old days may recall that my consuming
passion was making the case that all the social science theories accounting
for why the wh-, uh, Europeans "developed capitalism" whereas the Chinese
allegedly did no such thing were wrong. Tons, carloadings, of such theories
exist. All of them make implicit moral evaluations. What I wish to do is to
establish that Europe is where it is, and China has been where it has been
since Europe has been where it is, on account of an exogeneous catastrope.

Imagine that Germs Fell Out Of Space. This, today, is a common fantasy.
Disease germs, tending, in keeping with contemporary fashion, toward the
viral rather than the bacterial, fall from deep space, like The Andromeda
Strain, or emerge from that sinkhole of social, political, and economic
despondency, Zaire, for whose condition the indigenous African population
is sternly and moralistically exhorted to Take Full Responsibility, as by
no stretch of the imagination might Europeans have had the Slightest thing
to do with this. [An alternative hupothesis is that Zaire is magically cursed.
However one has it, the viruses, imaginary and real, have followed the microbe
which set the trend, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is associated with
the morally reprehensible nation, Zaire, quite logically because the disease
is morally reprehansible in its transmission.]

Disease, in history, is morally neutral. If it can be shown that Europe
and China were both afflicted by repeated epidemics of Bubonic Plague in
the fourteenth century, and there were differential macrosocial effects,
there is *no moral deficiency* attaching to the society which fell behind
in development, especially if from a higher level of pre-Plague technology
and protocapitalist infrastructure. Likewise, *no moral virtue* attaches to
the society wherein capitalism developed *where this would not have transpired
without the impact of the Bubonic Plague*. There are three possibilities.
One, Europe might have been directly stimulated by the Bubonic Plague,
having had the simply wonderful good fortune of being extricated from a
"Malthusian crisis" of chronic famine, with concomitant retardation of
productive technique due to the cheapening of labour relative to alternative,
capital-intensive, inputs.
Two. There is considerable certainty that the Chinese economy experienced
technical regression (where there is excellent evidence for three state-
dominated or monopsonist industries, salt-manufacturing, production of small-
denomination coins, and iron-and-steel production. Urban populations shrank.
Fiscal regression occurred in gathering and spending state revenues and
expenses. Decline of technique was probable, due to death rates from Bubonic
Plague having been highly correlated with population density, as they were
in Europe.
Three. The Chinese state was overthrown by a revolution commencing in a
peasant war, in its initial phase an uprising by the White Lotus relgion.
The latter was an indigenous Chinese popular religious creation, analogous
to that of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, which controlled the identical
region five hundred years later. It is known that the faithful anticipated
the Advent of the Maitreya Buddha, who would bring about an Earthly utopia.
There were other doctrinal sources in the syncretism also. For example, the
Amida Buddha's "Pure Land" of the Western Paradise was identified with the
Maitreya's utopia on Earth. In addition, Manicheanism was borrowed from
Iranians of Central Asia, such that the source of Evil, the "Prince of
Darkness," was opposed by the "Prince of Radiance," *minwang*; the Spiritual
Leader, Hu Linerh, bore the title "Lesser Prince of Radiance," *xiaominwang*;
and by no coincidence, the dynasty founded by the fomrer White Lotus adherent,
then guerrilla, then warlord, then supreme commander, Zhu Yuanzhang, in 1368,
was Ming, or "Radiance." The Ming founder was subsequently zealous in
attempting to suppress White Lotus, but its popularity with ordinary soldiers
was undeniable.
Europe, too, underwent religious, ideological, and social convulsions. One
of the more spectacular of these was the Brethren of the Cross, or Flagellants,
a migratory horde of anticlerical (and Antisemitic) selfmutilating ascetics;
they were wiped out while surging toward the Papal seat at Avignon, having
established a track record of seizing churches, expelling the serving clergy,
and parodying the Mass.
What is understudied, to say the least, about White Lotus is its moral
stance or posture with regard to economic affairs. That White Lotus, and
its rebel fighters, the Red Turbans (collectively the "Red Army," no joke,
I swear), harbored violent hatreds toward the proprietors of the vast
commercial serf-estates of the Yangzi Valley is certain. What is unknown
is what else they believed or wanted changed in a society which, before the
Plague, was more capitalist than not.

If it should turn out to be the case that technical regression, directly
caused by urban die-off from the Plague, *or* technical and institutional
Luddism motivated by religous convulsions, *or* both of these was responsible
for the Chinese loss of her techinal and institutional lead over Europe, then
the Virtue versus Sin dynamic, which has driven the theoretical discourse
as to why "capitalism" arose in Europe and not in China, or why China was
*not suitable* for "capitalism" whereas Europe was so, in short, *that there
was a Good Reason for Us (what do you mean, us, whiteman), to be where We Are,
or Got To, which is On Top; hence there was a Good Reason, which was, They
were Inferior, for Them to be Where They had to get to, which is Poverty,
Famine, Overpopulation, and Backwardness, falls to the ground.

It all becomes stupid.

It would then follow that the only reason why Europe became the core of
the capitalist world-economy, hence dominated the human species and the planet
economically and politically, was *sheer dumb luck*. No society can be morally
blamed or credited for having adapted, in its social organization, culture,
institutions, and productive technique, to the *absence of Bubonic Plague*,
where another society, developed equally unforseeing of the Bubonic Plague,
was differentially affected to its disadvantage or advantage.

Make no mistake about it. There are issues of implicit or even explicit
morality affecting every aspect of the explanation for which societal matrix
developed capitalism. The historical stakes proved so enormous, unless some
moral or essential superiority here, or moral or essential Inferiority there,
can be proven to have existed, then there is *reason to believe that the past
six hundred and fifty years happened wrong*.

Ideological justification operates in accordance with the principle that
"facticity is teleology." What has been seen to occur must have occurred the
way it did For A Good Reason. Hierarchical relations between societies, else
within societies, which cannot be construed as optimal by the winner, are
just a pile of jumbled data. History was not right.
That history merely *was*, does not constitute sufficient justification
for its having been what it was; especially if we may be convinced that the
wrong people won.

What I'm telling you in fact is, that the wrong people won.


One of the more curious aspects of the Bubonic Plague epidemic in China
was, that it was better-known, more appreciated in conscious awareness, than
it is today. Consider the statement made as a matter of common knowledge by
Giovanni Bocaccio on the second page of text of his Decameron. The vast
cultural changes directly induced by the Bubonic Plague in Europe included,
*inter alia*, the relatively minor literary innovation of pornography, almost
single-handedly, by this master of Italian literature, and he sets the scene
for his collection of racy, anticlerical, or combined racy-anticlerical,
stories in the midst of the raging of the Plague in the city of Florence
in 1348. Seven young women and three young men arrange a wild party for
the purpose of waiting out the epidemic, then wiping out the Florentine
population, in a country retreat belonging to the family of one of the
women; they tell one another stories for ten days. Introducing the context,
the author tells us:

"But whatever its cause, it had originated some years earlier in the
East, where it had claimed countless lives before it unhappily spread
westward, growing in strength as it swept relentlessly on from one place
to the next."

Who was Giovanni Bocaccio?

Giovanni Bocaccio, 1313-1375, was the son of the general manager, from
1327, of the Neaopolitan branch of the Bardi bank, the largest banking house
in Europe. The Neapolitan branch managed enormous Florentine investments in
the Kingdom of Naples, representing what amounted to a Florentine deathgrip
on the economy of the Regno. Meanwhile, in Rome, the Bardi were heavily
involved in the receipt, deposits, and investments of the income of the
Papacy, notwithstanding the removal of the person of the Pope to Avignon.
In London, the Bardi, along with the Peruzzi and the Frescobaldi, financed
the purchase of the English raw wool clip, whose export from England to the
textile manufacturing centers of Flanders and, latterly, of Florence itself.
(The latter since the war in the mid-1290s between Edward I of England,
1272-1307, and Philip IV of France, 1285-1314, in the course of which the
English coerced the diversion of raw material from the territory of the
Count of Flanders, vassal of Philip; and likewise exerted political pressure
for the vast expansion of the Florentine woolen industry as a substitute
market for the wool exports: As a result, the enterprises of the Florentine
banking guild, the Arte del Cambio were heavily imbricated, in ownership
and financial structure, with those of the woolen-manufacturers' guild, the
Arte del Lana.)

The Bardi, in other words, would have reasonably been expected to know
all there was to know about international trade. That portion of international
trade to the Eastern Mediterranean, at the time, was in the hands of the
Venetians and Genoese. The former traded in spices via Egypt and the Red
Sea. Genoa was plugged into the overland trade route across the Eurasian
landmass, ie, India apart, the Mongol Empire. There was a Genoese colony,
Caffa, in the Crimea; this was the terminus of the overland route. Through
Caffa were exported slaves and silk. The silk industry was the most lucrative
and fastest-growing luxury industry in southern Europe in the fourteenth
century, even before the rapid increase in propensity to consume which was
directly induced by precarious life-expectancies by the Plague and its
recurrences. Some of the raw materials, mulberry leaves and silkworms,
could be grown in the Kingdom of Naples (the Regno), also in Spain. But
increasing demand could only be met by raw silk from China.

Lauro Martines, Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy,
tells us (p. 170):

"In 1293, in the port of Genoa, tax farmers anticipated the transit
of merchandise to the value of about 4,000,000 Genoese pounds; in 1334
the value had dropped to less than 2,000,000 pounds, and totals seldom
went above this in the second half of the century."

Here, I take the questionable step of assuming the bulk of the decline
having taken place in the latter part of the 41-year period in question;
intermediate figures are not given. What might have been temporally proximate
at the Other End?

In W.H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples, 1976, Appendix, pp. 263-264, there
appears the following list, in tabular form, entitled, "EPIDEMICS IN CHINA:
A check list compiled by Joseph H. Cha, Professor of Far Eastern History,
Quincy College."
1313 Epidemic in Hebei [Note: Hebei province surrounds Beijing, in the Mongol]
1320 Epidemic in Hebei [Yuan Dynasty, likewise the capital; then named Dadu.]
1321 Epidemic in Hebei [At this time, the Yuan maintained strict control over]
1323 Epidemic in Hebei [the metropolitan province almost exclusively. -df]
1331 Epidemic in Hebei; nine tenths died.
1345 Epidemic in Fujian and Shandong.
1346 Epidemic in Shandong.
1351-1352 Epidemic in Shanxi, Hebei, Jiangsu; 50 per cent mortality among
troops in Huai Valley.
1353 Epidemic in Hubei, Jiangsu, Shanxi, Suiyuan; in part of Shanxi more
than two thirds of the population died.
1354 Epidemic in Shanxi, Hubei, Hebei, Jiangsu, Hunan, Guangdong, and Guangxi.
In part of Hubei six or seven out of ten of the population died.
1356 Epidemic in Honan.
1357 Epidemic in Shandong.
1358 Epidemic in Shanxi and Hebei; over 200,000 died.
1359 Epidemic in Sha'anxi, Shandong, and Guangdong.
1360 Epidemic in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui.
1362 Epidemic in Zhejiang
1369 Epidemic in Fujian; corpses in heaps on the roads.
[Note: I do not believe this list is exhaustive. -df]

The notation for 1331, "nine tenths died," might seem to some like premodern
whining exaggeration of the very frequent (and often unidentifiable, from the
records, diseases involved) epidemics. These, in some European chronicles are
so commonplace it is difficult to ascertain with any conviction whether any
outbreak of extraordinary seriousness has in fact occurred. Where, say, the
Bubonic Plague was certain, numbers were commonly wildly exaggerated: For
instance, a city with a pre-Plague population of 40,000 might and did report
100,000 deaths.
In this instance, the death toll is credible because of research carried
out during World War II by Japanese social scientists. No village was found
in Hebei province with foundation date antedating 1368, the year Zhu Yuanzhang
aka Ming Taizu aka Hongwu officially inaugurated his new dynasty, the Ming.
His immediate actions following the overthrow and flight of the Yuan dynasty
remnants, including Emperor Toghon Temur and the Crown Prince, was the forced
resettling of depopulated areas in Hebei. Another wave of foundations followed
the civil war of 1399-1402, when the Prince of Yan, uncle of Ming Taizu's
grandson, revolted, captured the existing capital, Nanjing, and removed the
capital to his political base, Beijing.
See Prasenjit Duara, Culture, Power, and the State: North China, 1900-1942,
Princeton, 1988. (The author attributes inferrable depopulation to Mongol
misrule, not to the Bubonic Plague. This is typical. Possible explanations
will be adduced shortly.)

It is a strong likelihood that, in 1332, Bubonic Plague victims included
two Mongol Yuan Dynasty emperors and a crown prince.

In historical works and scholarly articles by non-Chinese, in English,
there is a widespread tendency, even where it is known that Bubonic Plague
did in fact break out, to attribute deaths in large numbers to famines;
sometimes, also, to floods; and whenever or wherever possible, to warfare.
(The latter, I believe, is overdone; consider that, between 1937 and 1949,
with weapons used, in particular by Japanese forces against Chinese civilians,
of far greater lethality than those of former centuries, the population of
China increased from about 500 million to about 600 million!)

"Dead Souls," in the title of this post, alludes to a novel by Nikolai
Gogol, exposing government corruption by bribed serf-enumerators; they
counted as serfs for whom certain state payments were due to be paid to
landlords those who had died, run away, disappeared, or Elsewise inflated
the "souls," serfs on the estate, fraudulently; the state was swindled.

The *undercount* of those cultivators, listed on Song dynasty census
forms as "tenant-serfs" does, very greatly, confuse the question of the size
of the population of China prior to the outbreak of Bubonic Plague, hence
encourages historians to deny the extent and mortality of the Plague (as
they would not for Europe). The following fine feathered mess illustrates
the problem to perfection[!].

"Social and economic studies are needed before we can satisfactorialy [?]
explain the demographic mystery of Yuan times. Ho Ping-ti's research on the
history of China's population suggests that a massive decline in China's
population occurred under Mongol rule. The combined population in Song and
Jin times, he calculates, was well in excess of 100,000,000, while in 1393
the population of China had dropped to a little over 60,000,000. Since the
Yuan fiscal records of the 1290s indicate a population of roughly
70,000,000, we see a steadily declining population under Mongol rule. One
is challenged to explain this. If, as some argue, the Yuan was a period of
benevolent and peaceful rule, why did the population drop so drastically?
Disease may explain the decline to some extent. We know, for example, that
disease took many lives in the 1340s in the Huai basin. But we require more
information before the demographic mystery is solved." (John D. Langlois,
Jr., "Introduction," pp. 4-21. In: John D. Langlois, Jr. (Ed.), China Under
Mongol Rule, Princeton University Press, 1981.)

Oh, we are challenged, are we. Consider that Morris Rossabi, biographer
of Khubilai Khan, criticizes the Ming census of 1393 as follows:

"The wars at the end of the Mongol dynasty must have sharply reduced the
population of the North and are a partial explanation for the drop. Even
more significant was the inaccuracy of the census caused by evasion and
corrupt census takers." (Morris Rossabi, Khubilai Khan, University of
California Press, 1988, p. 117.)

This is illogical. The political terror visited upon officials suspected
of dishonesty by Zhu Yuanzhang/Ming Taizu/Hongwu had certain deterrent effects
in reducing corruption and inaccuracy below the levels attained later in that
regime. Yet there was no such restraint upon the vested interests most likely
to pay off census takers in the 1290s: the serflord proprietors of the vast
commercial estates of the Yangzi valley, growing cash crops for the vast cities
of that region, starting with Hangzhou (population anywhere from 1.2 million
(Gernet) to 4 million (Hucker), Suzhou (over a million), Nanjing (half
million), and on down. Peasants had long ago given up their lands, became
serfs, in return wherefor, said landlords assumed their tenants' tax burdens;
but they had no desire to pay their taxes to the full; they had, as time wore
on, no intention of paying land tax at all. Dardess, in Conquerors and
Confucians (1973), reports that the Yangzi valley landlords were flatly
refusing to pay land tax, had vowed to fight rather than pay. Admittedly,
this was at a time when the Mongol Yuan dynasty was already facing social
revolt and natural disaster. It had, however, long since become normal for
the Mongol Yuan regime to have derived three fifths of its state revenues
from the salt monopoly and commercial taxes. To this end, it had become
even more pro-business than the Song itself, establishing an efficient
Imperial post, building a network of motels for commercial travelers, and
both subsidizing and protecting exports with its ocean-going navy, also
seeking outlets for Chinese manufactured exports abroad. These included
niche markets such as porcelains with Arabic letters.

The Yangzi valley landlords were among the most selfish, disloyal ruling
classes in all history, in terms of their refusal to pay for the very state
apparatus which guaranteed their property and wealth: In this, they were
comparable, perhaps, to the owners of the great senatorial estates of the
Western Roman Empire. The Mongols had decided that, since the indigenous
regime they conquered did not, could not penetrate the mysteries of corruption
and immunities, it would have been folly for recent conquerors, having no clue
to how the landlords worked the system for their own vast profit. They should
leave them alone, let sleeping landlords lie.
Then, given that the landlords were already smarting from the curtailment
of their avenue to bureaucratic office and social prestige via the Examination-
Degree system, the conquerors should not disturb the magnates further in their
playing the roles of kingpins of local elites.

In the late 1280s and early 1290s, Khubilai Khan had indulged in ruinously
expensive foreign wars, and lost nearly all of them. His financial experts,
Chinese and foreign, had been smeared with corruption charges (in the case of
the Muslim Ahmad, apparently framed). An unexpectedly desparate need for money
suddenly loomed, and he had nobody whatever he could trust. Chinese opinion
was scandalized by Khubilai's having the tombs of the deceased Song emperors
pillaged for valuables; and he was getting desparate enough to break his
sweetheart deal with the landed magnates. Which had gone so far as to have
included acceptance of Southern Song paper money in exchange for Mongol
Yuan paper money at face value. Which was a giveaway comparable in our
experience, say, to the Federal Republic of Germany exchanging Deutche Marks
for Ostmarks, the latter not worth the paper they were printed on, at an
exchange rate of one to one. Else, it had been feared, the Wessis would get
inundated by Ossis whose savings, employment, and property had all gotten
wiped out, turned into penniless refugees. Or perhaps exchanging Yankee
Greenbacks for Confederate money at face value *after* the Civil War,
going out of one's way "to bind up the nation's wounds," so to speak.

Was Khubilai Khan about to revert to his Savage Conqueror persona again,
for mere money? Would the Yangzi valley landlords pay up, possibly a new
experience for them?

"That the Office of the Grand Supervisors of Agriculture was a
distinctly local bureau, concerned with the Metropolitan Province, or,
at best, North China, is shown by the establishment in 1293 of a replica
Office of the Grand Supervisors of Agriculture in Yang-chou to deal with
South China after its conquest [in 1276-df]. The reason in this case was
only marginally to revive agriculture, since the south had suffered little
of the damage experienced by the north; instead, it was to control the
powerful landlords who had been concealing their rent incomes and illegally
occupying government land. The region and commune units were also introduced
in South China, but there is some doubt whether the communes were ever
really operative. In any case, the "Branch" Office and its apparatus were
abolished three years later in 1295, not because the government wished to
restore administrative control to the parent office in the capital, but
because it was determined that "cases of [landlord] concealment were not
numerous, and the [office] had become irrelevant." (David M. Farquahr,
"Structure and Function in the Yuan Imperial Government." In: John D.
Langlois, Jr. (Ed.), China Under Mongol Rule, Princeton University Press,
1981. pp. 25-55.)

There's no such thing as Chinese Culture/Civilization apart from capitalism
having developed or not developed in China; and there are no cultural features
of "Western Civilization," however you count, not contingent upon the emergence
of capitalism among the wh-, uh, er, in Europe, excuse me. (By "however you
count," there's the Pope's announcement, Christmas Day, 800, that there was
as of that date a Western Civilization with an Emperor, who spoke German but
could *read* some Latin, you understand; at which point the Byzantines, over
in Constantinople, heard the two juxtaposed words, "Western Civilization,"
laughed their heads off for a while, then Declared War. Selfevidently, there
having been only one Civilized people, there was one Emperor allowed; though
in the end they may have allowed, at the peace, for Charlemagne to have been
carried as a spare in the trunk. I truly don't know.)

None of the foregoing, I reiterate, is to suggest that anyone ever wanted
capitalism prior to its having come into existence. Even then, it has required
at least two hundred years of unbroken, unshaken capitalism for churlish folk
to condemn as immoral, unnatural, and counter to the Essence of the Human
Spirit for *mere moneygrubbers* to have been allowed to have become the Highest
Form Of Life. This was a race, a contest, that nobody ever wanted to run in,
to begin with, and because whitey, ah, Northwest Europeans, happened to win,
they acuqired cultures conducive to hustling, precision, dealmaking, yuppies,
gentrification, and *chachka* boutiques; where the state of Chinese culture
at the time of Imperialist hegemony, entailing quasi-control over the
political regime permitted to the Chinese in China, whereby the Europeans
had a predilection for feeble-but-well-meaning statespersons, elitist
proponents of "democratic" reform, for the Educated only, with a highly
nebulous philosophical-metaphysical spin to it, and espoused by physically
puny, unaggressive, elderly Men [intentional] Of Great Learning resembling
Jewish rabbis or students thereof, only neater.

The getupandgo, the inventiveness, the slovenliness that armenians like
to call "creativity," the fooling-around part of being Smart, all that is
yet denied to the Developing Chinese and other East Asians, with but the
younger generation of Japanese showing much hope for allowing themselves to
get a little Disgusting when they feel like it. This is all a crock of
stereotypes, but there is a species of Privilege in the exemption of the
oldest-capitalistic peoples from the most painfully tedious impositions
of social discipline.

World-System Theory says that the capitalist world-system can only emerge
in one core region of the Earth, while simultaneously everything else gets
peripheralized or semiperipheralized. I am not, frankly, sure which comes
first, the core or the periphery. Were the question Else, I'd say, "the Egg,"
but I can't tell you. If, as Marshall Hodgkin said, China in the Medieval
period (ie, prior to the Bubonic Plague) was "the motor of the oecumene,"
then it is not surprising to find Europe of circa 1300-1315 as a Peripheral
sort of place, with gaunt, emaciated, overworked peasants starving by the
millions in huge continentwide famines; this associated temporally with
brutal fiscality, as in Edward I's England and Philip IV's France, where
each autocrat found that the mercantile and craftsperson classes would
pay through the nose for Serious Government, then pay extra for the right
to collect what they had joyously promised said Serious Government in advance
*themselves*, by contrast with the brutes collecting it from them as nastily
as was in theory possible. Giving you Parliament or Estates General. Still,
a weak, peripheralish sort of State, definite improvement over feudalism, but
made to order for pushing around servile wretches with no worry over Human
Rights Violations. Chinese would be confidently striding into this dump,
renting palaces, hiring dirtcheap servants, and feeling Superior, ineffably.

What I meant to say was, there's no such thing as Culture Regardless.

Daniel A. Foss