Imperial Household Department

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This article is about the institution in Qing dynasty China. For the version in Japan, see Imperial Household of Japan. For Japan before 1889, see Ministry of the Imperial Household. For Japan after 1889, see Imperial Household Agency. For the generalized concept, see Imperial Household.

The Imperial Household Department (simplified Chinese: 内务府; traditional Chinese: 內務府; pinyin: Nèiwùfǔ; Manchu: Dorgi baita be uheri kadalara yamun) was an institution of the Qing dynasty of China. Its primary purpose was to manage the internal affairs of the Qing imperial family and the activities of the inner palace (in which tasks it largely replaced eunuchs), but it also played an important role in Qing relations with Tibet and Mongolia, engaged in trading activities (jade, ginseng, salt, furs, etc.), managed textile factories in the Jiangnan region, and even published books.[1]


The Department was established before the Manchu-led Qing dynasty defeated the Ming dynasty in 1644, but it became mature only after 1661, following the death of the Shunzhi Emperor and the accession of his son, who reigned as the Kangxi Emperor.[2]


The Department was manned by booi (Chinese: baoyi 包衣), or "bondservants", who were selected from the bondservants of the upper three banners.[3] Booi was sometimes synonymous with booi aha, which literally means "household person", but aha usually referred to the servile people who worked in fields, whereas booi usually referred to household servants who performed domestic service.[4] The booi who operated the Imperial Household Department can be divided into roughly four groups: (a) a small booi elite; b) the majority of the booi; c) indentured servants of the booi; d) the state bondservants (Manchu: sinjeku Chinese:辛之庫).[5]

Various classes of Booi[edit]

  1. booi niru a Manchu word (Chinese:包衣佐領), meaning Neiwufu Upper Three Banner's platoon leader of about 300 men.
  2. Booi guanlin a Manchu word (Chinese:包衣管領), meaning the manager of booi doing all the domestic duties of Neiwufu.
  3. Booi amban is also a Manchu word, meaning high official, (Chinese:包衣大臣).
  4. Estate bannerman (Chinese:庄头旗人) are those renegade Chinese who joined the Jurchen, or original civilians-soldiers working in the fields. These people were all turned into booi aha, or field bondservants.
  5. sinjeku is another Manchu word (Chinese:辛之庫), the lowest class of the bondservants.


Below are some of the many bureaus that were supervised by the Chancery of the Imperial Household Department (Ch.: Zongguan neiwufu yamen 總管內務府衙門):

  • Bureau of Imperial Gardens and Parks (Ch.: Fengchen yuan 奉宸苑), in charge of the everyday maintenance of palace gardens.
  • Department of Works (Ch.: Yingzaosi 營造司), in charge of maintaining and repairing buildings inside the palace.
  • Imperial Armory (Ch.: Wubeiyuan 武備院), in charge of the manufacture and repair of palace weapons.
  • Imperial Buttery (Ch.: Yuchashanfang 御茶膳房), in charge of cooking ordinary meals for the court.
  • Imperial Stables (Ch.: Shangsiyuan 上駟院), in charge of maintaining all the palace's horses.
  • Shenfang (Ch.: Shenfang 神房), in charge of rituals.
  • Privy Purse (Ch.: Yuyongjian 御用監), in charge of imperial revenues and expenditures. At least as early as 1727, Administrator of the Canton Customs, known to Europeans as the "Hoppo," delivered substantial revenues to the Imperial Household Department through the Privy Purse. [6]

By the nineteenth century, the Imperial Household Department managed the activities of more than 56 subagencies.[7][8]


  1. ^ Rawski (1998). The Last Emperors. p. 179-80. 
  2. ^ Rawski, Evelyn S. (1998). The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 179. ISBN 0-520-21289-4. ISBN 9780520212893. 
  3. ^ Torbert, Preston M. The Chʻing Imperial Household Department: A Study of Its Organization and Principal Functions, 1662-1796. The Chʻing Imperial Household Department. ISBN 978-0-674-12761-6. 
  4. ^ Rawski (1998). The Last Emperors. p. 167. 
  5. ^ Torbert, Preston (1977). The Chʻing Imperial Household Department. Harvard Univ Asia Center, 1977. p. 67. ISBN 0674127617. ISBN 978-0-674-12761-6. 
  6. ^ Torbert, The Ch'ing Household Department, p. 99-100.
  7. ^ Torbert (1977). The Chʻing Imperial Household Department. p. 28. 
  8. ^ Rawski (1998). The Last Emperors. p. 179. 

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