Historical Changes in the Format of Title-Deed Tax Receipts: From the 13thto the 18th Century (A Feng)
Abstract: The collection of taxes on land transactions has a long history in China. With the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), receipts for taxes paid on newly purchased land, or title-deed tax receipts (qiwei), started to emerge. These were pre-printed forms, whose blank spaces were to be filled in with the name of the buyer, the price, and the amount of the tax. The receipt was glued to the contract, which was then kept by the buyer. By the mid-Ming dynasty the responsibility for handling the tax receipts shifted from the county office to the prefectural level (in the Zhili district) and (elsewhere) to the office of the provincial treasurer. The Qing (1644-1911) at first followed the system of the Ming, using tax receipts issued by the office of the provincial treasurer. In 1727, the receipts were changed to a format made up of three parts (one glued to the contract, one for the local Yamen and a third to be sent to the provincial treasurer) and official contracts with their stubs came into use. In 1749, the Qing dynasty government again amended the format of the receipts. After filling in the owner’s name, the price and amount of taxes, it was to be cut into two, one half was to be kept by the owner, and the other half delivered to the office of the provincial treasurer for verification. The introduction of this format reduced, to a certain degree, the various opportunities for tax evasion which the previous system had allowed.
These tax receipts served as proof of the payment of the tax due upon land transactions. They were “forms printed according to a model and to be filled in accordingly”, hence they are prints as well as manuscripts. The change in format from the Yuan to the Qing dynasty reflects the growing importance the state, especially under the Qing, attached to the levying of taxes on land transactions.