Chapter 88: Tragic Military Camps, Helpless Zhu Yunwen
The New Army policy was implemented in Beiping during the winter, a season with little agricultural activity. It wasn’t a problem for everyone to get up early and do some running, exercising their bodies.
However, now it’s already spring, and everyone is still thinking about their several dozen acres of land. You can’t continue training every day, right?
The court has regulations that every military household in the garrison must cultivate a portion of land.
Someone mentioned that it’s just a small piece of land, easy to plow a few times and get it ready. Does it really take that much time and affect the training?
Sorry to say, in the Ming Dynasty, a “portion” in a military camp was generally around fifty mu.
For each soldier’s portion of land, according to regulations, they had to yield eighteen dan of grain, submitting six dan and keeping twelve dan for themselves. If the harvest was poor, or even failed completely, you still had to compensate the full amount, commonly known as making up the difference.
The garrison system and military farm system did indeed play significant roles in the early Ming Dynasty.
By the first year of the Jianwen era, there were over 1.2 million troops involved in cultivation, adding nearly 90 million mu of land. They gathered more than 23 million dan of grain annually, This is also the key factor of the early Ming Dynasty, where the low agricultural taxes could still support an army of two to three million.
However, after two or three decades of implementing the Garrison System and Military Farm System, numerous problems have emerged.
Regarding the Garrison System, Xu Huizu pointed out four issues:
Firstly, the issue of desertion among military households.
This is actually understandable. Who can guarantee a bountiful harvest year after year?
If it doesn’t rain all year and the crops fail completely, how are we supposed to deliver our grain?
When we can’t survive, isn’t it natural to try and escape?
Secondly, the issue of military officers seizing land.
Scholars understand that taking land from peasants can bring benefits, and even though military officers may be unrefined, they are not ignorant and comprehend the value of land.
Fifty mu of land for a soldier? Alright, go cultivate fifty mu on the barren wasteland eighty miles away. Those fifty mu of fertile land will become mine.
Oh, and don’t forget to come back and water my crops after you’ve finished working on that wasteland.
When a military officer gives an order, you have to obey, right?
Thirdly, the issue of vassal kings’ annexation.
Take a look at the northern border of the Ming Dynasty and then observe the various vassal kings who hold their own territories. You will notice that wherever there are vassal kings, there is inevitably land reclamation.
Especially in regions like Ganzhou, Guyuan, Ningxia, Yansui, Datong, Xuanfu, Jizhou, Liaodong, and other nine border areas. These places not only have land reclamation but also maintain large armies, all under the control of vassal kings.
When the territories of the vassal kings are right next to the reclaimed land, it’s almost understandable if they accidentally seize a few million acres more.
Who let the field is adjacent, you soldiers are also at fault, why don’t you make the field ridge well?
This King didn’t see it, sorry.
Fourthly, poor military farms, and unrealiable harvests, severely affects training.
In the early Ming Dynasty, military farms did not seize land from the people. Many of the military farms used the abandoned land left by landowners and farmers killed during the Yuan Dynasty, or land that had been reclaimed through cultivation.
Fertile lands naturally weren’t assigned to the soldiers. For the majority of soldiers, the land they received was often barren and infertile, not suitable for farming. Moreover, these lands were scattered, requiring them to clear grass in the west in the morning and dig ditches in the east in the afternoon, making it difficult to meet production quotas.
Coupled with the tools promised by the court for cultivation, they were available at the start but disappeared later.
Yes, the court promised to provide cattle for soldiers’ plowing, but the Ming Dynasty didn’t have many cattle to begin with. Where would they find a large number of cattle to allocate to the military farms?
You are lucky, you received a cattle ten years ago. Now you say the cattle has died, and you still want another one?
No chance, use yourself as the cattle.
This is what Zhu Yuanzhang took pride in, the Garrison System and Military Farm System, the once-bold statement of “I maintain an army of a million without burdening the people with a single grain.” Yet, when it came to Zhu Yunwen’s time, all that remained was a suppressed sense of tragedy.
Zhu Yunwen really wanted to reform the Garrison System, but he also understood that it was a minefield – one wrong step, and it could lead to mutiny.
When Zhu Houzhao become the emperor, the eunuch Liu Jin wanted to reform the military farms, which led to the rebellion of King of Anhua, Zhu Zhifan. Though it didn’t create a huge uproar, it was enough to tell Zhu Yunwen that changing the Garrison System wouldn’t happen overnight.
However, if the Garrison System isn’t resolved, the implementation of the New Army Policy would only be superficial, unable to achieve the goal of a strong military. The future of the Ming Dynasty would be limited to a defensive strategy.
Just defense, no offense – that’s not what Zhu Yunwen desired.
Since the mongols would inevitably attack sooner or later, Zhu Yunwen couldn’t let them easily return to their home to graze.
If they dared to invade a small step into Ming territory, then Ming should have the courage to march a million steps into Mongolia until they completely conquer the grasslands, making it the richest pasture for the Ming Dynasty!
With a sigh, Zhu Yunwen concluded his contemplation and placed Xu Huizu’s report on the desk, saying solemnly, “Currently, we’re at a critical point in enforcing single whip method and restraining land consolidation. However, the current court may not be able to sustain the expenses resulting from the relaxation of the garrison system.”
Xu Huizu naturally understood this point and empathized with Zhu Yunwen’s dilemma.
Enforcing the Single Whip method and restraining land consolidation offended numerous scholars and the gentry within the Ming Dynasty. Although these individuals lack the power to resist the court, losing benefits still causes discomfort, inevitably leading to some outcry.
There are many voices of criticism against the Single whip method and the policy of restraining land consolidation, especially coming from the gentry.
Zhu Yunwen managed to gather popular support but offended the gentry – this is to be expected. However, if the Garrison System is tampered with again, it won’t be about harming the gentry’s interests; instead, it will harm the interests of the Garrison officers and military officials in various regions.
These officers have strong control over the soldiers, they not only possess kitchen knives but eighteen different types of weapons at home. If pushed to their limits, they won’t hesitate to wield them.
If some gentry secretly supports this, and a certain vassal king with ambitions starts shouting the slogan “Restore ancestral traditions, protect our properties,” then that could spell trouble.
Although Xu Huizu also knows that these Garrison forces can’t rival the capital troops, once turmoil erupts, it will undoubtedly become a major issue.
This matter can only be handled gradually.
Zhu Yunwen frowned and said, “The new army policy in Beiping cannot be halted. As for the issue of Garrison land cultivation, let Zhang Bing, the Commissioner of Beiping, and Ping An, the Commander, come up with solutions and find a way out.”
Xu Huizu nodded in agreement.
Zhu Yunwen looked at Zhu Di and said, “Uncle Yan, when it comes to military strategy and battle formations, I am far inferior to you. Even Duke Wei and Minister Ru are not on par with you. I’m thinking of entrusting the task of reforming the capital troops to you. What do you think?”
Zhu Di found it hard to believe.
As someone who had transgressed in the past and came to the capital to beg for forgiveness, he had thought that the best outcome he could hope for was to retain his title as King of Yan and live a leisurely life as a prince.
After their candid conversation following that drunken night, Zhu Yunwen hadn’t pursued his past action instead asking him to study the new army policy. Later on, he even appointed Zhu Di to Five army commandery, where he collaborated with Xu Huizu on the new army policy and the defense of the borders.
He had initially assumed he would just be an advisor, offering some ideas.
Unexpectedly, Zhu Yunwen had entrusted him with such a crucial task!
Reforming the capital troops!
This was a matter of national importance!
Zhu Yunwen looked deeply at Zhu Di, his gaze filled with anticipation.
After over half a year of implementing the new army policy in the capital troops, it achieved remarkable success. Even Zhu Di couldn’t help but praise it – the capital troops were now an elite force of the empire!
However, as the new army policy continued to progress, individual soldiers’ combat abilities improved, and research into formations of several thousand or tens of thousands of soldiers achieved significant results. But there remained an issue with coordinating large-scale battles for the capital troops.
The tactics for armies of one hundred thousand, two hundred thousand, or even three hundred thousand soldiers were entirely different from those for a few thousand or ten thousand.
Neither Xu Huizhu Ru Chang have experience in commanding large armies in battle. Relying solely on theoretical discussions and ancestral knowledge is far from sufficient.
Therefore, Zhu Yunwen needs Zhu Di, someone who is experienced in the battlefield and adept at commanding large army formations, to be the key figure in the reform of the Capital Garrison!