Sufficient military units spared costs when soldiers

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sufficient military units spared costs when soldiers practiced cultivation and defense in rotation. Once they brought their families to join them, the soldier-settlers formed the nucleus of permanent settlements. Merchants followed, linking the garrisons with interior trading networks. Then peas- ants arrived, relieving population pressure in poor interior provinces, di- minishing the prospects of famine or revolt, and mixing non-Han people with more loyal settlers from the interior. In Chinese terms, military colo- nies were a policy of yiju liangde (killing two birds with one stone). In fact, permanent military colonies faced great difficulties. The Han dy- nasty, in the second century bce , had set up military colonies beyond the Great Wall, as did the Tang and others, but these colonies were expensive to maintain. During the great Debates on Salt and Iron, in 81 bce , literati attacked the policy of establishing salt and iron monopolies in order to pay the expenses of military colonies on the Han northwestern frontier. 1 The abandoned garrison towns of Jiaohe and Gaochang in the Turfan oasis testify to the haunting presence of these ephemeral imperial efforts at colonization. 2 Jiaohe reached a peak population of five thousand under the Tang dynasty. Its ruins now stretch for 1,700 meters north-south and 300 meters east-west on top of high cliffs west of Turfan. Gaochang, even larger, also began as a Han garrison town and expanded by the seventh cen- tury to become a large Buddhist community and the center of the Uighur
kingdom of KaraKhoja in the ninth century. The Mongol invasion de- stroyed both cities in the fourteenth century. Rediscovered by German archaeologists Albert Grünwedel and Albert von Le Coq in the early twen- tieth century, Gaochang yielded large numbers of manuscripts, mosaics, frescoes, and statuary to these modern-day adventurers and plunderers. The fate of the famous cave paintings of Bezeklik nearby, taken to Berlin by von le Coq and partly destroyed by American bombs during World War II, epitomizes the vulnerability of these lost Central Eurasian cities. Ming emperors and officials made valiant efforts to develop military colonies on a large scale. They quickly failed. 3 Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Ming emperor, expanded them on an unprecedented scale, especially on the northwest frontier and in Liaodong. By the end of his reign, 33,500 soldiers had opened over 16,000 qing (400 square miles) of land in Gansu province. Zhu boasted of his ability to support over 1 million men in an army with- out using any civilian grain production at all. Two-thirds of the soldiers in Shaanxi were ordered to cultivate fields, while the rest stood watch. But the troops made poor peasants. By 1392 two-thirds of them had run away. The low yields of frontier lands, hardships of agricultural labor, and embezzle- ment of funds by officers made soldiering very unattractive, and rendered it impossible to produce enough grain to feed the troops. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, reformers repeatedly proposed changes to restore production and reduce corruption, to no avail. As Arthur Waldron notes,

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