China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper looks at the contribution of accounting to the establishment and expansion of the horse administration in the early Ming period. All Chinese dynasties, whether Han or non-Han, struggled to maintain a large cavalry with high-quality horses in environmental and social conditions that favored sedentary over pastoral economies. In the Ming, it was the Yongle emperor (1403-1425) that initiated a large-scale expansion of the horse population. It involved the simultaneous expansion of foreign trade and domestic rearing that depended on an administrative system that inspected and counted horses on a regular basis. This effort is apparent in the rare appearance of equine statistics in annual revenue reports, preserved in the official histories. They show an outstanding rise in the number of horses from under 40,000 to over 1,700,000 in twenty years. These statistics present a previously unnoticed government project of immense scale, and provide an opportunity to examine the relationship between accounting practices and government policy.