A new form of business operation known as workshop handicraft had emerged in some economically developed areas since the middle Ming Dynasty.
Historical records show that in the Wanli Period of the Ming Dynasty, most of the households of Suzhou lived on silk weaving, and "most of the households in the northeast city are workshop owners." Detailed work divisions, such as the weaver, damask worker, yarn worker, dyer and cartwright, indicated that production had reached a certain size and relative high technique. The record that "the workshop owners provide the fund while the workers labor over the work" indicates that there was a pure employment relationship. The workshop owners bought the laborer with the fund and production materials while the laborer enjoyed personal freedom. The employers and the employees were in a currency relationship "paying by day or hour." The records about employees "being common people who earn their own livings" and "asking others who haven't been employed to substitute them in case of absence due to particular reasons" show that employees had their personal freedom. In Suzhou, there were also temporary craftsmen in addition to the weaving craftsmen with fixed employers. The temporary craftsmen came to different sites according to their strength and waited for employment from the big employers. This record indicates that a job market was formed at that time.
This private form of operation that combined scattered employees featured a division of labor, a high degree of socialization and working efficiency. It offered qualitative changes when compared to traditional officially-operated workshops and small civil workshops. With commodity production that gets added profits from labor being its form of business operation, it highlighted free employment of labors and shows the early emergence of capitalism. The Tongsheng Well Contract (1779) in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, and Tianyuan Well Contract (1796) in the reign of Emperor Jiaqing, reflects that the operation forms like joint partnership, "sharing responsibilities and profits based on respective shares" were already adopted in the salt production in Zigong, Sichuan, and this kind of labor combination shows some traits of the modern stock system.
The changes that largely differentiated the late Ming and Qing dynasties from traditional economic modes indicate that the over-mature farming civilization didn't remain unchanged all along. Growth of the new elements had paved the way for the formation of a modern world and incorporated the trend of evolution towards the industrial civilization.