Ministry of War
Chinese name
Literal meaningArmy Department
Warfare Department
Manchu name
Manchu scriptᠴᠣᡠᡥᠠᡳ ᠵᡠᡵᡤᠠᠨ
Möllendorffcoohai jurgan

The Ministry of War was one of Six Ministries under the Department of State Affairs in imperial China.


The Ministry of War is also commonly translated as the Ministry or Board of Defense.


During the Ming dynasty, the Ministry of War had control over appointments, promotions, and demotions of military officers; the maintenance of military installations, equipment, and weapons; and administration over the imperial Chinese post or courier network.[1]

Courier network

Workers found jobs at Relay Stations or Post Offices during the Ming dynasty in multiple ways. Some were directly appointed by the Emperor.[2][3] In some cases, local indigenous leaders received these appointments.[2] The subordinate positions were filled by members of the leader's entourage, including cooks, stable hands and innkeepers.[2] Thereafter the Stationmaster became an inherited position, in some cases for over 100 years.[2]

At more isolated frontier stations, exiles, ex-criminals and prisoners of war filled the positions.[2] Formerly high officials who had been convicted of crimes ranging from malversation (corrupt behaviour in a position of trust), to bribe-taking or drunkenness received these posts as punishment.[2]

By 1360 CE, local families were part of the relay system and required, depending upon their wealth, to supply the station with a horse, grain, or labor.[2] Such posts were regarded as a punishment, ensuring that only minimal qualifications were needed. However, Relay Station Masters had to be responsible for the maintenance of boats at water stations and horses at horse stations as well as supplying travelers according to their rank with appropriate equipment, servants and food to accommodate their journey.[3]

The wellbeing of official messengers and envoys was the primary concern of the Relay Station Master.[3]


The hierarchy within these stations was clear. The Post Master or Relay Station Master was in charge. Under him were the staff performing jobs ranging from stable-hand or inn/tavern staff to warehouse duties managing the station's supplies.[3] The pay for Masters varied based upon the importance of the station. Compensation was in the form of grain every lunar month, and later switched into silver ranging from fifteen to twenty-two taels per year.[3][4] Despite this rather high pay, no individual during the Ming dynasty ever sought to become Relay Station Master, due to the associated risks.[3] These risks came both from the travelers and, especially in the more isolated stations from bandits or foreign armies could target station or the travel routes.[3] Station Masters could be harassed, beaten, or even murdered depending upon the whims of high-ranking travelers.[2][3] These risks were not confined to the Station Master; banditry and invading armies did not distinguish their foes by rank.[2] For every relay station as many as eight express post stations were present.[3]

Post stations

Postmaster positions were a much less risky occupation. Most express post station masters did not suffer any forms of harassment, injury, or death from their clients.[3] Post stations were smaller and less diplomatically important than relay stations. The staff and compensation were much smaller. Each express post station had between four and ten staffers serving as foot post soldiers and one postmaster whose primary duties were to oversee them and ensure mail delivery.[3] The staff were typically local farming community youth. Apart from good health the job had no other qualifications.[3] At isolated post stations, rank and file positions were filled by pardoned death-row criminals.[3] Pay was between four and seven taels of silver per year.[3]

See also



  1. ^ Hucker (1958), p. 32.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harris, Lane J. (2015-10-09). "INTO THE FRONTIERS: THE RELAY SYSTEM AND MING EMPIRE IN THE BORDERLANDS, 1368–1449". Ming Studies. 2015 (72): 3–23. doi:10.1179/0147037x15z.00000000044. ISSN 0147-037X.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Harris, Lane J. (2015-06-18). "The "Arteries and Veins" of the Imperial Body: The Nature of the Relay and Post Station Systems in the Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644". Journal of Early Modern History. 19 (4): 287–310. doi:10.1163/15700658-12342440. ISSN 1385-3783.
  4. ^ Wang, Chelsea (2017). Dilemmas of Empire: Movement, Communication, and Information Management in Ming, 1368-1644. Columbia Ph.D. Dissertation (Thesis). pp. 1–275. doi:10.7916/D8N87P2H – via Columbia Academic Commons.


  • Hucker, Charles O. (1958), "Governmental Organization of The Ming Dynasty", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 21: 1–66, doi:10.2307/2718619, JSTOR 2718619.