China population (ii) - historic changes

China's population has been between 15-60M most of the time in history, until late Ming dynasty. Whenever there is a war, the population decreases significantly, but peak population has seldomly passed 60M for the 2000 years before late Ming. Below is a chart (source), please remember the following caveats when reading it
  • The statistics are mostly done when war is over or during peace, so a few deep trough (during wars) may be missing in this chart, when there were no stats available. The dynasty beginning number is indicative of the damage of the war preceding the change in dynasty
  • Lost of populations in war include war dead, famine, migration of people and hiding (in mountains - esp in beginning of Qing)
  • Major civil war causes change of dynasty, and population decrease of 1/2 to 2/3. However, the numbers in the beginning of a dynasty is often under-stated as people were moving around and the stats were incomplete (so the real impact might not be as bad)
  • Since there were small changes in geographic boundary, the population stats were not entirely comparable (but it is probably 80-90% correct)
  • Because Chinese dynasties tax on land size, headcount and household numbers, it is likely that the total populations are understated due to tax evasion (some scholar estimated that popluation reached 100m around late Song, so official stats could be 30-40% below real figures)
  • A major trick of concealing population is not include serf and slave. Yuan's real population is above the same as South Song/Jin. However, Yuan's numbers were relatively more accurate because it cracked down on cheating of the rich people
  • There was an estimate for Xia (2000-3000BC) population of 13.35M
After 1700,
  • Official population passed 100M around 1720, 200M in 1764, 300M around 1790, 400M around 1834, due mainly to higher food yield, with introduction of new world plants such as corn, potatos, etc.
  • Virtually no growth between 1840 to 1900, when western powers invaded China and Taiping Rebellion took away 20-30M lives
  • From 1900-1947 the growth was slow, from 430M to 460M, with a peak of 470M around 1928 when civil war lessened but then the Japanese invasion took 20-30M lives


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