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On official corruption in the Yuan dynasty

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image of Frontiers of History in China

The vicious cycle of official corruption got worse unprecedentedly in the Yuan dynasty (ca.1279–1368). Corrupt officials at all levels from the local to the central governments were “extremely shameless and greedy.” Even many court ministers got involved in the vicious cycle of corruption. The top officialdom was polluted and degenerated badly because the Mongolian nobles made their “Sauqat” (taking gifts) tradition and the Semu, both official and merchant groups, took bribes as a way to amass wealth. Although the Mongol Yuan rulers did make a set of anti-corruption policies such as detailed rules of censorship and inspection relating to corruption crimes, these didn’t work well. Of all the reasons of the Yuan official corruption, the old Mongolian steppe traditions play the most important role, which formed the context for the low salary, improper selection and poor quality of the officials and of bending the law wrongly to pardon official misconduct


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