Grand coordinator and provincial governor

Xunfu (simplified Chinese: 巡抚; traditional Chinese: 巡撫; pinyin: xúnfǔ) (literally "touring pacifier") was a high government official of the Chinese Ming (1368–1644) and Qing dynasties (1644–1911).[1] The post originated around 1430 when the Ming court started sending inspector-generals to supervise provincial-level agencies.[1] For Ming times xunfu is translated as grand coordinator.[1] In the early Qing dynasty, the xunfu became the substantive post of provincial governor in charge of civil administration.[1] In both the Ming and Qing, for military affairs they were subordinate to a multi-provincial zongdu (總督), which is translated as "supreme commander" for the Ming, and "governor-general" or "viceroy" for the Qing.[1]

Grand coordinator

The "grand coordinator" of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) was one of several institutional innovations promoted by the Xuande Emperor (r. 1425–1435).[2] Following precedents set by the Hongwu and Yongle emperors, who had sent officials on temporary civilian and military missions in the provinces, in September 1425 Xuande appointed officials to "tour and pacify" (xunfu) two southern provinces.[3] Five years later, three more officials from the central government were sent to Henan, Shaanxi, and Sichuan on similar assignments.[3] There is also evidence that more "touring pacifiers" were sent to the field between 1425 and 1430, when the position did not yet formally exist.[4] In 1435, grand coordinators were also dispatched to provinces on the northern borders of the Ming empire, from Gansu in the west to Liaodong in the east.[5] Eventually there were grand coordinators in every province.[6]

Grand coordinators could also take charge of strategically important regions that were not provinces. In 1547, one was sent to curb smuggling and piracy on the coasts of Fujian and Zhejiang.[7] Another one was appointed to Tianjin to protect access to Beijing in 1597 during a large-scale Japanese attack on Korea.[6]

Grand coordinators were members of no specific agency and only received ad hoc commissions with no definite tenure.[8] They managed and oversaw provincial government by coordinating the work of the three highest provincial agencies: the Provincial administration commission (buzheng si 布政司), the Provincial surveillance commission (ancha si 按察司), and the Regional military commissioner (du si 都司).[9] Because grand coordinators were also high-ranking members of the Censorate, they had impeachment powers and direct access to the throne, which considered them to be "provincial-level surrogate[s] of the emperor".[6] Although they were civil officials, they also received military titles when they had to supervise important military matters.[8]

Provincial governor

The Qing dynasty (1644–1911), which replaced the Ming in Beijing, kept the position of xunfu, but gave it a meaning different enough that scholars have translated the Qing xunfu as "governor" instead of "grand coordinator".[10]



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Hucker 1985, p. 255, entry 2731.
  2. Chan 1988, pp. 291–292.
  3. 1 2 Chan 1988, p. 292.
  4. Zhang 1995, p. 14; Jin 1996, p. 49.
  5. Chan 1988, pp. 292–293.
  6. 1 2 3 Hucker 1998, p. 80.
  7. Wills 1998, p. 341.
  8. 1 2 Hucker 1998, pp. 79–80.
  9. Chan 1988, p. 293; Hucker 1998, p. 79.
  10. Hucker 1985, p. 255, entry 2731; Guy 2010, p. 6.


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