Culture of Jin Merchants
Culture of Jin Merchants
The people of Jin have been noted for being good at doing business since the ancient time, and this can date back to the great merchant Yidun in Wei Dynasty of the Warring Kingdoms. By Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Jin merchants had become famous all over the country. For five hundred years, they made their name in the history of finance and commerce of China. The Jin merchants started their business in salt industry, and then extended their business into various industries including cotton, cloth, oil, tea, medicine, fur and finance. At the beginning they did business only in the inner land, and then gradually they expand their business in some neighboring countries such as Mongolia, Russia, North Korea and Japan. The business activities of Jin merchants enriched the culture of the Chinese business, and raise the business of China to a new level. Shanxi private bank, which was founded by Jin merchants, combined the commercial management and financial capital. This combination created a secure and convenient way of exchange and promoted the traditional Chinese commercial capital movement to a new level.
Jin merchants are mainly those merchants in Shanxi who were very active in Ming and Qing Dynasties from the mid-14th century to the early 20th century. The culture of Jin merchants was a cultural phenomenon which circled commerce in Shanxi and made its appearance in the Chinese market because of the great achievements of Jin merchants. From Ming and Qing Dynasties to the period of Republic of China, the culture of Jin merchants developed into a series of cultural phenomena including commercial culture, family culture, architecture culture, food culture, opera culture, culture of martial arts, educational culture and folk culture.
During 500 years period of Ming and Qing Dynasties, merchants of Shanxi were the most powerful business people with countless wealth who were viewed as the richest in China. Their business could be found all over China, and even in Europe, Central Asia, North Korea, Japan and the southeastern Asia. No wonder it is said that merchants of Shan can be seen everywhere. Their business got involved in diverse products from silk to vegetables like onions and garlic. Jin merchants once took the lead in finance, especially after the establishment of the banking system--Huitong of the Country in Qing Dynasty in which the financial capital and commercial capital were combined. With much money, the merchants of Shanxi in Ming and Qing dynasties did business in a variety of industries nearly all over the world. The great achievements they made were so remarkable that they as well as the Jewish merchants and merchants of Venice were regarded as the most famous three groups of merchants in the world.
The Jin merchants we talked about today refer to those merchants of Shanxi who emerged in early Ming Dynasty when Kaizhong System was implemented in the northern troops to raise money. The merchants of Shanxi seized the opportunity by taking the advantage of their location and became well-known for doing business in crops and salt. The merchants of Pingyang and Zelu were the most powerful at that time, and until the mid Ming Dynasty, Jin merchants began to develop gradually. With the disintegration of Kaizhong System，the Jin merchants began expanding their domestic market instead of only doing business in Shanxi province, and their business transferred from crops and salt to diverse things like silk, paint and cotton. By Qing Dynasty, after 200 years’ development, both in management experience and the accumulation of the commercial capital, the Jin merchants had become more mature. From the early Qing Dynasty till the late Qing Dynasty, the Jin merchants gradually became the top one in China and the establishment of private banks made them well-known in the business world all over the world. During this period, the group of Jinzhong merchants developed so fast that they took the lead in all the groups of Jin merchants. In late Qing Dynasty, with the constant wars, battle failures and the signing of a series of unequal treaties, some foreign countries invaded the Chinese economy more severely and damaged the economy of China very badly. In that case, the Jin merchants declined and never regain their prosperity.
The success of Jin merchants in Ming and Qing Dynasties lies in their special spirits they possessed consciously and subconsciously in a certain historical background. These special spirits called the honest and credible spirits of Jin merchants consist of their great ambition with perseverance and determination, their diligence with a hard-working and down-to-earth attitude and their cooperation with kindness and generosity. Many great merchants such as the Qiao family and Qu family in Qi County, the Chang family in Yuci, the Cao family in Taigu, the Fan family and the Hou family in Jiexiu, the Kang family in Linfen and the Wang family in Lingshi are the models of the honest business of Jin merchants during that time. In August 2008, when Li Changchun visited Shanxi, he outlined the spirits of Jin merchants with 16 Chinese characters which mean thrifty, diligence, politeness and honesty, which are the essence of the spirits of Jin merchants and also the precious treasure left by them.
Nowadays, many great mansions of Jin merchants Shanxi province are the symbols of the culture of Jin merchants. They demonstrate the typical features of Shanxi civilian houses and the civilian houses in the north of China. Moreover, they are also evidence of the 500-year ups and downs of Jin merchants. Each stone and each detail in the mansions are intertwined with the culture of Jin merchants.
The world cultural heritage------Pingyao ancient city: the city can date back to as early as in the period of Xuan King in Xizhou Dynasty (827 BC to 782BC), about 2700 years ago. It was listed as the world cultural heritage by the UNESCO in December 1997.
Rishengchang bank: it is the first private bank in Chinese history, which used to be well-known as the top one in the world and Huitong of the Country. It had branches in all the big cities of China, and is the origin of the modern banks.
The mansion of Chang Family: it is the private mansion of the great Jin merchant Chang of Shanxi province, located in the Chewang village. The whole mansion with both the solemnity of the northern gardens and the elegance of the southern gardens integrates the Confucianism and Taoism which is called the mansion of 8 qualifications: qualifications for living, for reading, for cultivation, for thinking, for sightseeing, for travelling, for pleasure and for writing.
The big mansion of Qiao Family: the mansion, situated in Qiaojiabao village in Qi County, is the house of Qiao Zhiyong, a very famous commercial finance capitalist in Qing Dynasty. Seen from the sky, the big mansion of Family Qiao is just like a Chinese character囍 which symbolizes fortune and blessing. It is called a diamond of the northern civilian houses of Qing Dynasty by many experts and scholars, for the arches and pillars，stone carvings and brick sculptures, the colorful paintings and the golden decorations in the mansion, which embody the unique style of the civilian houses in Qing Dynasty, have great values for sightseeing, scientific research and historic research. Hence, there is a saying that the mansion of Qiao Family to the civilian houses is like the Palace to the royal buildings.
Courtyard of Family Wang: the courtyard, situated in Jingshen town, 12 kilometers away from Lingshi County, is the largest well-preserved building complex and called the top of the Chinese civilian houses, the folk Imperial Palace of China and the forbidden city of Shanxi.