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The “Arteries and Veins” of the Imperial Body: The Nature of the Relay and Post Station Systems in the Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644

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The “arteries and veins” of the Ming Empire were the relay (驛 yi) and post station (急遞鋪 jidipu) systems, two networks that worked together to circulate people, information, and goods throughout the realm. The relay system was an infrastructure of stations, horses, carts, and other facilities provided at government expense for the transportation, accommodation, and provision of a select group of imperial officials, tribute-bearing foreign envoys, and messengers from other government offices on their journeys to the capital. The express post station network with its foot posts and mail handling procedures was the communications system of the Ming Empire. Together, the two systems helped the state consolidate control over the empire, allowed the emperor to manage his officials, supported the conduct of diplomatic relations, and facilitated the movement of people, goods, and information across the empire.

Affiliations: 1: Furman University


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