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A Study of GDP and Its Structure in China's Ming Dynasty

HANHUI GUAN(Peking University,Tsinghua University) DAVID DAOKUI LI(Tsinghua University)  
We estimate GDP and its composition of China's Ming dynasty by using methods of modern national income accounting. Using data provided by historical documents,we calculate the major economic variables between 1402 and 1626 and compare our findings with those of the British economy before the Industrial Revolution. Major conclusions are:GDP grew slowly in the Ming dynasty with the GDP growing at an average rate of 0.29% per annum; GDP per capita did not change significantly stabilizing at the level of 6 gongdan (around 391 kg) wheat per capita; measured by the purchasing power of the 1990 dollar,Ming dynasty's per-capita GDP was 230 dollars on average,and the highest level was below 280 dollars; Agriculture's share in GDP was 88%,and handcrafts and commerce never exceeded the ceiling of 20% of GDP; the share of government revenue in GDP fluctuated between 3% and 9% with military expenditure accounting for 60% to 90% of central government's total expenditure; finally,the national savings were between 5.3% and 9% of GDP.
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