So-Yo-Cho (租庸調)

So-Yo-Cho (a tax system, corvee) was a tax system under the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) adopted in China and Japan.

So-Yo-Cho in Japan

So-Yo-Cho in Japan was a system modeled after China's. However, considering the domestic conditions of Japan in those days, some arrangements were applied when it was introduced.

The Silla Kingdom, which was strengthened by adopting the Ritsuryo system following its ally, the Tang Dynasty, that had already attained the development by perfecting the Ritsuryo system, overthrew Paekche and Goguryeo. The Silla Kingdom also eliminated the Tang Dynasty from the Korean peninsula finally, ensuring the unified domination over the Korean peninsula. Facing the highly volatile situation in East Asia in the seventh century, there emerged a need for "Wa" (ancient Japan, "Wa" was called "Japan" after the establishment of the name of the country by the Emperor Tenmu) to establish a centralized state under the Ritsuryo system. In this context, So-Yo-Cho was introduced from the Tang Dynasty to Japan along with the Ritsuryo system.

Jintozei (primitive taxes which were imposed individually) were the core financial resources in the tax system of Japan until around the 10th century, when the taxation system was converted from an individual tax imposition system to a land tax imposition system: this conversion was triggered by the collapse of the system of complete state ownership of land and citizens, after the managing system based on the family register and Keicho (the yearly tax registers) had collapsed. So of So-Yo-Cho, land tax, was kept at low rate aimed at securing the lowest living standard of a peasant so as to acquire a stable subject of taxation. Yo and Cho of So-Yo-Cho, kinds of Jintozei, were recognized as the core financial resources, becoming an overwhelming burden on people. As a result, vagrancy, escape, false registers and others were prevalent among people for tax avoidance. This resulted in the ruin of Kubunden (rice fields given to each farmer in the Ritsuryo system), which became a factor of shaking the Handen-sei (Ritsuryo land-allotment system).

So of So-Yo-Cho

So was set at 2.2 bundles every 10 a, which was equivalent to 3% to 10% of the annual yield. As a rule, So was presented to kokufu (provincial office) from mid-September through November 30 (old calendar). After earmarking some rice for stockpile (Fudokoku staple) for an emergency, the remainder was regarded as main financial resources of kokuga (provincial government offices). However, as the resource for the annual revenue, this system was quite uncertain. Therefore, soon after the enforcement of the Ritsuryo codes, the government changed the system to collect the interest born by loaning seed rice to peasants (called Suiko [government loans made to peasants]), which became the main financial resources. A part of the rice was presented as tax to the capital in the style of shomai (rice made by pounding it in a mortar) during the period of January to August 30 (old calendar).
(nenryo shomai [rice made by pounding it in a mortar and paid in kind for the taxes])

There is a theory that this system might originate in the etiquette of the first years of rice before the enforcement of the Ritsuryo codes.

Yo of So-Yo-Cho

Yo was levied on Seitei (a man in good health between 21 and 60 years of age) and Jitei (disabilities between 21 and 60 years of age and Rotei [old man over 61 years of age]). Originally, they were obliged to engage in labor services in the capital (called Saieki), however, they were exempted from labor service if they paid tax by substitutes including cloth, cotton, rice, and salt.
These substitutes were called "Yo. "
Yo was not levied on the capital, Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) and the Hida Province (Refer to the other section). It can be called a kind of Jintozei if it is similar to the modern tax system.

Yo was the financial resources used for covering the expenditure on food given to Eji (a guard) and Uneme (a court lady), as well as the expenditure on wages and food given to Koekimin (drafted workers under the Ritsuryo system) engaging in public utilities.

Cho of So-Yo-Cho

Cho was levied on Seitei, Jitei and Chunan (young men from 17 to 20 years old). Paying tax by textile products was basic (called Seicho), while paying tax by 34 kinds of local indigenous products or money was also admitted instead (called Chozatsubutsu [miscellaneous things that were paid as tributes]). This system greatly differed from that in China. Delivered to the capital, Cho was allotted to the salary for the government official (Iroku [stipends paid to people who were in the fourth rank and the fifth rank]) and kiroku [salary paid to the officers under the ritsuryo system]), etc. as the main financial resources of the central government.

The capital and Kinai region enjoyed lightened levy, while Hida Province enjoyed an exemption from paying.

Seicho (a tax paid by textile products)

Seicho were the essentials of Cho, in which taxes were paid by textile products. Seicho was mainly divided into two groups; one was called "Chokinu" in which tax was paid by silk, and the other was called "Chofu" in which tax was paid by cloth. In those days, silk was a top quality product used by the people of high rank, like emperor.
Products made of silk were regarded as a different material from 'cloth.'
Therefore, cloth paid under the Chofu in those days indicated the textile products made of hemp, ramie (an Asian flowering nettle), kazura (vines) and other materials except silk.

Although there were differences by age, the regulations based on the Taiho ritsuryo code (code promulgated in the Taiho period) and Yoro ritsuryo code (code promulgated in the Yoro period) stipulated as follows. One hiki (also called one tan) was the basic unit of Chokinu, measuring 15.3 meters long by 66 cm wide, which was equivalent to the Cho paid by six members of Seitei.

On the other hand, one tan was the basic unit of Chofu, measuring 15.6 meters long by 72 cm wide, which was equivalent to the Cho paid by two members of Seitei.

This regulation was, however, revised in the Yoro period, therefore a newly established regulation, which is mentioned below, was applied practically. In Chokinu, one hiki (one tan) was changed to 18 meters in length by 57 cm in width, which was equivalent to the Cho paid by six members of Seitei.

In Chofu, one tan was changed to 12.6 meters in length by 72 cm in width, which was equivalent to the Cho paid by one member of Seitei.

Based on the regulations, tax was collected.

Especially, Mino ashiginu (silk textile) made in Mino Province and Modano nuno (hemp fabric) made in Kazusa Province had enjoyed an established reputation for their high quality from old times. Furthermore, they were also appreciated as tribute articles for showing proof of loyalty by local ruling families in the eastern part of Japan. They were called 'Togoku-no-Cho' (Cho presented by Togoku [the eastern part of Japan]), used in court functions and religious services. Therefore, regulations relating to Mino ashiginu and Modano nuno were extraordinarily established.


Cho-no-sowaritsumono was the subordinate tax to Cho. Only Seitei presented craft products such as paper and lacquer.

Cho, Yo and Cho-no-sowaritsumono were delivered to the capital. The laborer who delivered those items was called "Unkyaku." They were forced to shoulder a big burden, because they had to pay all costs needed for delivery by themselves.

Note: Hida Province was exempted from paying Cho and Yo, instead 10 members of Shotei (woodworkers, also called Takumi-no-yohoro) were commandeered for one year of duty from each village every year. They were what is called Hida no takumi (woodworkers). Belonging to Mokuryo (Bureau of Carpentry) or Shurishiki (Office of Palace Repairs), Shotei were engaged in construction work.

So-Yo-Cho in China

In China, So-Yo-Cho was first introduced in Northern Zhou, which became the perfect system in the Tang Dynasty. The following is about So-Yo-Cho in China.

So of So-Yo-Cho

In return for the provision of rice fields based on the Equal-field system, people were put under an obligation to present about 360 litters of millet. This was the So.

Yo of So-Yo-Cho

Yo was the tax paid for evading the obligation to engage in 20 days labor service per year that was laid down in the Ritsuryo codes. Instead, people had to present 90 cm of silk or 113 cm of cloth for one day of labor service.

Cho of So-Yo-Cho

In Cho, people were obliged to present six meters of silk and about 120 grams of cotton.