The Emperors and Their Bondservants: Interaction between Imperial Wills and Bureaucratic Institution of the Imperial Household Department in the Qing Dynasty
Within Chinese history, the Imperial Household Department of the Qing dynasty stands as a unique bureaucratic organization. Its members were primarily composed of the Booi nirus, overseers and land stewards of the Upper Three Banners, whose duty was, as the emperor’s bondservants, to work for their family master. For this reason, the Upper Three Banner Booi’s official career usually started in, and was generally confined to, the Imperial Household. Moreover, as the system of promotion and assessment of the Imperial Household was still rather underdeveloped compared to the outer court system during the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns, most of the Booi bondservants worked at the bottom of the inner court, and only a few of them had the opportunity to engage in political activities due to their close relationship with the emperor. To sum up, imperial authority played a crucial role in the achievement and maintenance of prosperity by the Booi and his family during the early Qing period. Nevertheless, as the bureaucratic institution of the Imperial Household gradually matured, the dependence of Booi bondservants on their emperor-master weakened. The role played by the junzheng (軍政) and especially of the jingcha (京察) – two assessment systems implemented within the Imperial Household – for the official promotion of the Booi also grew in significance after the Qianlong reign. The promotion of those obtaining the highest grade at the jingcha examination could be prioritized, while others with similarly high grades could become tax officials at the provincial level. In other words, the improvement of the assessment system during the Qianlong reign provided better chances of promotion for the Booi. But it should be noted that during the Qianlong and Jiaqing reigns, the imperial power was still highly centralized and strong, so that the emperor’s will continued to have a direct and powerful impact on the official career of Booi. As the respect they held for the system grew increasingly until the Daoguang reign, the emperors intervened less and less in the process of selecting officials for the Imperial Household Department. In addition, the fact that many emperors in the Late Qing ascended the throne at a very young age made it difficult for them to choose their ideal candidate or acquaintance to fill a post, and as such it was inevitable that they had to rely on the bureaucratic system to appoint officials. Therefore, the level of qualification of the candidates played a greater role than their proximity to the emperor in the selection of officials for the Imperial Household Department during this period. However, we cannot limit our discussion of the official career of Booi to a study of the imperial wills and the bureaucratic system of the Imperial Household Department, but must also take into consideration the fact that Booi were also active agents within their social milieu. Although most Booi had to work in the Imperial Household Deparment, some could also hold a post in the outer court system; a post which they could obtain by passing the civil examination system, by purchasing a degree, by claiming special Yin privileges of hereditary succession, or thanks to some particular regulation of the Imperial Household Department. Once he had become an official in the outer court, a Booi could more easily succeed in the political arena and therefore contribute to the social ascent of his family and of himself. But even Booi who took office in the outer court system usually had to hold a concurrent post in the Imperial Household Department during the High Qing. This meant that if a Booi made any mistake while in the Imperial Household Department, he could easily be dismissed or demoted by the emperor, thus losing his privilege to work in the outer court. However, as the bannermen were allowed to partake in the civil examination which were held regularly from the middle Qing on, and as the donation system began to play a more important role after the deterioration of state finances during the same period, the ways through which Booi engaged in politics diversified and expended, while some Booi even managed to avoid working in the Imperial Household Department altogether. This shows that the relationship between the Emperor and his Booi bondservants during the late Qing was not as close as before.
在 IR 系統中的文件，除了特別指名其著作權條款之外，均受到著作權保護，並且保留所有的權利。