Chubunsen (Import duties in the Muromachi period) (抽分銭)

Chubunsen was an import duty in the Muromachi period. It was imposed on the trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China.

In the Yuan (Dynasty) in China, there was a system in which a tenth of the value of transactional cargo, or two thirds of the value in case of inferior goods, was paid to the authorities. In Japan, there was also a precedent that Tenryujibune (trading vessels dispatched to the Yuan dynasty in order to raise funds to build Tenryu-ji Temple in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts) used to pay 5000 kan in cash to Tenryu-ji Temple regardless of the amount of profit after its return from abroad.

The managers of kangosen (trading vessels between Japan and the Ming in the Muromachi period), such as the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), Shugo daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable), namely the Hosokawa clan or Ouchi clan, etc. and temples, collected about a tenth of the total amount of selling prices (the amount converted into Japanese domestic prices) of the imported goods from the traders who had been on board the vessels. The total amount of goods imported by the kangosen each time reached a staggering amount. Therefore, it brought a large amount of extra income to the Muromachi bakufu.

After the Onin War, Sakai merchants undertook the task of Chubunsen under a system in which they prepaid the Chubunsen to the management based on the amount of profit to be generated from imported goods that was preliminarily estimated by them in advance of departure. This system granted the right to decide the passengers to the Sakai merchants who undertook to prepay the Chubunsen. As a result, no merchants except the Sakai merchants and other merchants under their influence, could go on board the kangosen. However, the vessels managed by the Ouchi clan based in Saigoku (western part of Japan (esp. Kyushu, but ranging as far east as Kinki)) were beyond the reach of the above regulation, and the Chubunsen was still independently collected after their return to port.

[Original Japanese]