The Chinese Nine Tributes-Jiu Gong

The Chinese Nine Tributes-Jiu Gong

The Nine Tributes were a set of nine categories of tributes mandated during the Zhou Dynasty, as specified by the king's decrees. These tributes, known in the "Rites of Zhou" as "Nine Tributes," "Nine Taxes," and "Nine Methods," represented the economic contributions from the feudal lords to the royal court. The king authorized the Grand Minister of the Treasury to oversee these tributes through accounting officials led by the Si Hui (Accountant General). These officials were tasked with managing and controlling the accounting procedures, reflecting the economic accounting content according to these categories, and reporting regularly to the king. These items served not only as the basis for the accounting department's calculations but also for the safekeeping of goods and economic audits. Due to their fixed and standardized nature, these accounting items became the foundation and standard for calculating, recording, and compiling financial reports, functioning similarly to modern accounting subjects. The Nine Tributes were annual income items, tributes from the feudal lords to the royal court, used for the court's daily needs, mainly consisting of goods and a small portion of currency, forming one of the royal court's revenue sources.


Contents of the Nine Tributes


The Nine Tributes included the following categories, typically paid in local specialties:


  1. Sacrificial Tributes:Including animals like cattle, sheep, pigs, and items like bundled reed mats used for sacrifices.
  2. Guest Tributes:Consisting of furs and textiles.
  3. Utensil Tributes:Including items like silver, iron, stone chimes, and lacquer, used for temple utensils.
  4. Currency Tributes: Consisting of embroidered textiles or valuable items like jade and horses.
  5. Material Tributes: Including timber like chüan poles, oak, cypress, and bamboo, used for making chariots and bows.
  6. Treasure Tributes: Consisting of gold, jade, tortoise shells, and cowries.
  7. Clothing Tributes:Including textiles like zhù or xuan silk and fine cloth, used for making ceremonial robes.
  8. Decorative Tributes: Consisting of feathers, swallow ornaments, pearls, and coral, used for decorations.
  9. Miscellaneous Tributes: Other local specialties not categorized above.


These tributes had specific uses, such as sacrificial tributes for sacrifices, guest tributes for entertaining guests, utensil tributes for temple utensils, material tributes for making military equipment, and clothing tributes for ceremonial garments.


Background of the Nine Tributes


During the Western Zhou period, to maintain the stability and daily operations of the royal court, the king implemented a series of financial management measures, among which the tribute system was crucial. This system ensured stable and continuous financial income for the royal court, enriching its material reserves and supporting its daily needs and various expenses. Feudal lords, according to the king’s regulations, regularly presented various tributes, covering all aspects of life, from precious jewels to practical textiles.


These tributes were not just economic contributions but also political symbols, demonstrating the feudal lords' submission and respect to the royal court while showcasing their strength and loyalty. This further solidified the political order of the Zhou Dynasty, enabling stable governance over vast territories and populations.


Additionally, the tribute system promoted economic exchange and cultural integration among regions. As feudal lords brought their local specialties and handicrafts to the royal court, it enriched the court’s resources and fostered trade and cultural exchange between regions.


Specific Content of the Nine Tributes


According to ancient texts like the "Rites of Zhou," the Nine Tributes included:


- Sacrificial Tributes: Including animals like cattle, sheep, and pigs for sacrifices.

- Guest Tributes: Including furs and textiles for royal guests.

- Utensil Tributes: Including silver, iron, stone chimes, and lacquer for temple utensils.

- Currency Tributes: Including embroidered textiles, jade, and horses as valuable items.

- Material Tributes: Including timber for making chariots and bows.

- Treasure Tributes: Including gold, jade, tortoise shells, and cowries.

- Clothing Tributes: Including textiles for ceremonial robes.

- Decorative Tributes: Including feathers, pearls, and coral for decorations.

- Miscellaneous Tributes: Other local specialties.


These items had specific uses, such as sacrificial tributes for rituals, guest tributes for hosting guests, utensil tributes for temple use, material tributes for military equipment, and clothing tributes for ceremonial garments.


Role and Significance of the Nine Tributes


During the Western Zhou period, the Nine Tributes were a crucial source of fiscal revenue, providing a stable material base for the royal court's daily operations and expenses. This system ensured the court's continuous supply of necessary resources, supporting its normal functioning and development.


The Nine Tributes also played multiple roles in economic management. They served as the basis for accounting departments to ensure accurate financial records and reports, the foundation for asset management departments to manage and protect royal assets, and the criteria for economic audits to assess the court's financial status, identify issues, and propose improvements.


Politically, the tributes symbolized the feudal lords' submission and respect to the royal court, reinforcing the Zhou Dynasty's political order. The lords’ offerings expressed loyalty and obedience, strengthening the court’s rule over various regions and maintaining political stability and harmony.


In summary, the Nine Tributes played a multifaceted role during the Western Zhou period. They were a vital source of fiscal revenue, a basis for economic management, and a political symbol of the feudal lords' submission and respect, laying a solid foundation for the Zhou Dynasty's prosperity and stability.




In conclusion, the "Nine Tributes" were a significant concept in the fiscal system of the Western Zhou period, referring to nine categories of tributes from the feudal lords to the royal court. These tributes enriched the court's material reserves, demonstrated the lords' submission and respect, and served as crucial references for economic accounting and audits. This system reflects the meticulous fiscal management and the thriving social economy of the time, providing valuable insights into the ancient social structure and royal governance.



  1. Wang Wenyuan, Xia Bozhong. New Compilation of Accounting Dictionary. Liaoning People's Publishing House. 1991-01.
  2. High Yi Southeast Gate Ming and Qing Dynasty Characters, Folk Style Network 2021-01-04.
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