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The ritual institutionalization demonstrated in the bronze production at Erlitou and further developed during the Shang and Zhou periods that formed a distinctive feature of bronze civilizations. While exploring the path of the earliest state formation, we could consider why Erlitou was chosen from the unveiling of the Bronze Age in China. Much attention had been paid to archaeological, chronological, geographic, and climatic information in the existing studies, but the relationship between bronze metal resources and the formation of the Erlitou state needed more attention. Viewing the Erlitou culture as the earliest state form in China and thus exploring the path of formation of early states was a return to the original theme of archaeology.
As the biggest tax payer in China during the Ming and Qing dynasties, Suzhou was the most prominent center to provide tax, money and grain for the country. It was known for its commodity production of silk, cotton, and printed materials. Suzhou’s wood manufacturing and processing industry were also unrivaled. Meanwhile, Suzhou was famous for jade carvings, embroidery, mounting, lacquer, musical instruments and other processing industries of copper, iron, gold, silver, etc. As a world-famous center of commodity production and processing, Suzhou exported the local commodities and imported various kinds of raw materials. Suzhou was also a transportation center in China, transporting goods and materials across the country and balancing the market. Financial institutions such as banks and exchange shops were established in Suzhou as well, where the circulation of silver and copper coins was voluminous and the use of foreign silver coins started early. With advanced financial settlement methods, Suzhou absorbed the capital from towns and cities nearby, profited from high cash turnover, and became a highly developed financial center. As far as the economic aggregate, commodity production and circulation were concerned, Suzhou was a far more advanced urban center than Hangzhou which was another industrial and financial city.
During the Ming and Qing dynasty, Tongzhou was not only a riverside port city for transporting grain to the capital, a key site for goods storage, but also witnessed the means of transportation of commercial goods from southern China changed from water to land, where commercial goods imported to Beijing together with those to be sold in northern China splits. Both the Ministry of Revenue (Gongbu) and Ministry of Works (Hubu) set up their customs in Tongzhou, respectively, and Zhangjiawan was the subsection of the customs; the major commercial goods including grain, liquor, distiller’s yeast, textiles, and groceries, were transferred through the customs of Ministry of Works. Judging from the establishment of broker house and broker tax, the volume of commodities being transported via Zhangjiawan might be bigger than Tongzhou. Shanxi merchants established guild halls (huiguan) in both Tongzhou and Zhangjiawan. They transported bulk commodities such as textiles and tea to the north of China, while Zhangjiakou and Guihuacheng were their main resale destinations. In other words, both Tongzhou and Zhangjiawan were important transportation ports for the businesses of Shanxi merchants regarding their trades within the northern territory as well as the trade at Khyagt between late imperial China and tsarist Russia.
The development of historiography in the new era has manifested in the discourse of “new historiography.” One of its achievements is the rise of “social history” or “new social history.” Over the course of the past four decades, the study of social history has prospered, as it has continuously broadened the research field by embracing interdisciplinary methods. As a result, its development has shaped the prospects of Chinese historiography in the new era. Admittedly, if we were to follow a stricter standard of evaluation, then it becomes evident that some problems worthy of reflection are present in the development of new historiography, such as sociologization, the localization of historical research, and the pursuit of new trends in research. For these reasons, we must be aware of these problems in academia in the new era.
The inter-port trade of traditional Chinese medicinal (TCM) materials dominated business structure in Hankou in 1872 to 1919, while the transfer trade of TCM materials also played an important role. Before 1904, musk was the predominant trading medicinal material among all TCM materials traded in Hankou, followed by Rhus chinensis mill. In the modern times, Hankou ranked second only to Shanghai in China in terms of the trading volume of TCM materials, since Hankou enjoyed a pronounced growth momentum then. If we look at each TCM materials’ market size, trading routes, and trading volume among various inflow and outflow ports, we can see based on the Hankou TCM materials trading structure that although there were changes from 1872 to 1919, the TCM business network and market performances formed in Hankou since the Qing dynasty did not sustain any disastrous impact from national economic and social changes, and their original vitality had retained. This was primarily due to the huge market demand in modern Hankou, the TCM commodity characteristics and the developed domestic market trade network in modern China.