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The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the
Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , , ; ; russian: Монголы) are an East Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia, Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is an Autonomous regions of Chin ...
-led
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a successor state to the Mongol Empire after Division of the M ...
. The Ming dynasty was the last orthodox dynasty of China ruled by the
Han people The Han Chinese () or Han people (), are an East Asian people, East Asian ethnic group native to China. They constitute the list of contemporary ethnic groups, world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the World population, global ...
, the majority ethnic group in China. Although the primary capital of
Beijing } Beijing ( ; ; ), alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the center of power and development of the country. Beijing is the world's most populous national capital city, with over 21 ...
fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by
Li Zicheng Li Zicheng (22 September 1606 – 1645), born Li Hongji, also known by the nickname, Dashing King, was a Chinese peasant rebel leader who overthrew the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in ...
(who established the short-lived
Shun dynasty The Shun dynasty (), officially the Great Shun (), was a short-lived Chinese dynasty that existed during the Ming–Qing transition. The dynasty was founded in Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known b ...
), numerous rump regimes ruled by remnants of the Ming imperial family—collectively called the
Southern Ming The Southern Ming (), also known as the Later Ming (), officially the Great Ming (), was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a series of rump states of the Ming dynasty that came into existence following the Jiashen ...
—survived until 1662. The Ming dynasty's founder, the
Hongwu Emperor The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practi ...
(r. 1368–1398), attempted to create a society of self-sufficient rural communities ordered in a rigid, immobile system that would guarantee and support a permanent class of soldiers for his dynasty: the empire's standing army exceeded one million troops and the
navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval warfare, naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral zone, littoral, or ocean-borne combat operations and ...
's dockyards in Nanjing were the largest in the world. He also took great care breaking the power of the court eunuchs and unrelated magnates, enfeoffing his many sons throughout China and attempting to guide these princes through the '' Huang-Ming Zuxun'', a set of published dynastic instructions. This failed when his teenage successor, the
Jianwen Emperor The Jianwen Emperor (5 December 1377 – ?), personal name Zhu Yunwen (), was the second Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1398 to 1402. The era name of his reign, Jianwen, means "establishing civility" and represented a sharp cha ...
, attempted to curtail his uncles' power, prompting the Jingnan campaign, an uprising that placed the Prince of Yan upon the throne as the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (; pronounced ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), personal name Zhu Di (), was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu ...
in 1402. The Yongle Emperor established Yan as a secondary capital and renamed it
Beijing } Beijing ( ; ; ), alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the center of power and development of the country. Beijing is the world's most populous national capital city, with over 21 ...
, constructed the
Forbidden City The Forbidden City () is a palace complex in Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, at the center of the Imperial City of Beijing. It is surrounded by numerous opulent imperial gardens and temples including the Zhongshan Park, the sacrific ...
, and restored the Grand Canal and the primacy of the
imperial examinations The imperial examination (; lit. "subject recommendation") refers to a civil-service examination system in Imperial China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty ...
in official appointments. He rewarded his eunuch supporters and employed them as a counterweight against the Confucian
scholar-bureaucrats The scholar-officials, also known as literati, scholar-gentlemen or scholar-bureaucrats (), were government officials and prestigious scholars in Chinese society, forming a distinct social class. Scholar-officials were politicians and governmen ...
. One,
Zheng He Zheng He (; 1371–1433 or 1435) was a Chinese history of the Chinese navy, mariner, Chinese exploration, explorer, Foreign relations of imperial China, diplomat, fleet admiral, and court eunuch during China's History of the Ming dynasty, earl ...
, led seven enormous voyages of exploration into the
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five oceanic divisions, covering or ~19.8% of the water on Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia (continent), Australia to the east. To the so ...
as far as Arabia and the eastern coasts of Africa. The rise of new emperors and new factions diminished such extravagances; the capture of the
Emperor Yingzong of Ming Emperor Yingzong of Ming (; 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464), personal name Zhu Qizhen (), was the sixth and eighth Emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ...
during the 1449
Tumu Crisis The Crisis of the Tumu Fortress (), also known as the Tumu Crisis (; mn, Тумугийн тулалдаан), or the Jisi Incident (), was a frontier conflict between the Northern Yuan and Ming dynasty, Ming dynasties. The Oirats, Oirat ruler ...
ended them completely. The imperial navy was allowed to fall into disrepair while
forced labor Forced labour, or unfree labour, is any work relation, especially in modern history, modern or Early Modern period, early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of poverty, destitution, detention (imp ...
constructed the Liaodong palisade and connected and fortified the
Great Wall The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand Li (unit), ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian noma ...
into its modern form. Wide-ranging censuses of the entire empire were conducted decennially, but the desire to avoid labor and taxes and the difficulty of storing and reviewing the enormous archives at Nanjing hampered accurate figures. Estimates for the late-Ming population vary from 160 to 200 million, but necessary revenues were squeezed out of smaller and smaller numbers of farmers as more disappeared from the official records or "donated" their lands to tax-exempt eunuchs or temples. ''
Haijin The Haijin () or sea ban was a series of related isolationist Isolationism is a political philosophy advocating a national foreign policy that opposes involvement in the political affairs, and especially the wars, of other countries. Thus, iso ...
'' laws intended to protect the coasts from "Japanese" pirates instead turned many into smugglers and pirates themselves. By the 16th century, however, the expansion of European trade – albeit restricted to islands near
Guangzhou Guangzhou (, ; ; or ; ), also known as Canton () and alternatively romanized as Kwongchow or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in southern China. Located on the Pearl River about north-northwest of Hong K ...
such as
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
– spread the
Columbian Exchange The Columbian exchange, also known as the Columbian interchange, was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, precious metals, commodities, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between the New World (the Americas) in ...
of crops, plants, and animals into China, introducing
chili pepper Chili peppers (also chile, chile pepper, chilli pepper, or chilli), from Nahuatl ''Aztec cuisine, chīlli'' (), are varieties of the fruit#Berries, berry-fruit of plants from the genus ''Capsicum'', which are members of the nightshade family ...
s to
Sichuan cuisine Sichuan cuisine, Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Szechwan cuisine or Szechuan cuisine (, Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ), is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan, Sichuan Province. It has bold ...
and highly productive
maize Maize ( ; ''Zea mays'' subsp. ''mays'', from es, maíz after tnq, mahiz), also known as corn (North American English, North American and Australian English), is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples of Mexico, indigenous ...
and
potatoes The potato is a starch#Food, starchy food, a tuber of the plant ''Solanum tuberosum'' and is a root vegetable native to the Americas. The plant is a perennial plant, perennial in the nightshade family Solanaceae. Wild potato species can be fo ...
, which diminished famines and spurred population growth. The growth of Portuguese,
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Cana ...
, and Dutch trade created new demand for Chinese products and produced a massive influx of
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
and American silver. This abundance of specie remonetized the Ming economy, whose
paper Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically or chemically processing cellulose fibres derived from wood, Textile, rags, poaceae, grasses or other vegetable sources in water, draining the water through fine mesh leaving the fibre e ...
money Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts, such as taxes, in a particular country or socio-economic context. The primary functions which distinguish money are as ...
had suffered repeated
hyperinflation In economics, hyperinflation is a very high and typically accelerating inflation. It quickly erodes the real versus nominal value (economics), real value of the local currency, as the prices of all goods increase. This causes people to minimiz ...
and was no longer trusted. While traditional Confucians opposed such a prominent role for commerce and the newly rich it created, the
heterodoxy In religion, heterodoxy (from Ancient Greek: , "other, another, different" + , "popular belief") means "any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodoxy, orthodox position". Under this definition, heterodoxy is similar to unor ...
introduced by
Wang Yangming Wang Shouren (, 26 October 1472 – 9 January 1529), courtesy name Bo'an (), art name Yangmingzi (), usually referred to as Wang Yangming (), was a Chinese calligrapher, general, philosopher, politician, and writer during the Ming dynasty. ...
permitted a more accommodating attitude.
Zhang Juzheng Zhang Juzheng (; 26 May 1525 – 9 July 1582), Chinese courtesy name, courtesy name Shuda (), Art name, pseudonym Taiyue (), was a Chinese politician who served as Grand Secretariat, Senior Grand Secretary () in the late Ming dynasty during th ...
's initially successful reforms proved devastating when a slowdown in agriculture produced by the
Little Ice Age The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of regional cooling, particularly pronounced in the North Atlantic region. It was not a true ice age of global extent. The term was introduced into scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939. Mat ...
joined changes in Japanese and Spanish policy that quickly cut off the supply of silver now necessary for farmers to be able to pay their taxes. Combined with crop failure, floods, and
epidemic An epidemic (from Ancient Greek, Greek ἐπί ''epi'' "upon or above" and δῆμος ''demos'' "people") is the rapid spread of disease to a large number of patients among a given population within an area in a short period of time. Epidemics ...
, the dynasty collapsed in 1644 as Li Zicheng's forces entered Beijing, albeit Li's forces were defeated shortly afterward by the Manchu-led Eight Banner armies of the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the last orthodox dynasty in Chinese history. It emerged from the Later Jin (1616–1636), La ...
.


History


Founding


Revolt and rebel rivalry

The
Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , , ; ; russian: Монголы) are an East Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia, Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is an Autonomous regions of Chin ...
-led
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a successor state to the Mongol Empire after Division of the M ...
(1271–1368) ruled before the establishment of the Ming dynasty. Explanations for the demise of the Yuan include institutionalized ethnic discrimination against
Han Chinese The Han Chinese () or Han people (), are an East Asian ethnic group native to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by populat ...
that stirred resentment and rebellion, overtaxation of areas hard-hit by
inflation In economics, inflation is an increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation corresponds to a reductio ...
, and massive flooding of the
Yellow River The Yellow River or Huang He (Chinese: , Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and the List of rivers by length, sixth-longest river system in the world at th ...
as a result of the abandonment of irrigation projects. Consequently, agriculture and the economy were in shambles, and rebellion broke out among the hundreds of thousands of peasants called upon to work on repairing the dykes of the Yellow River. A number of Han Chinese groups revolted, including the Red Turbans in 1351. The Red Turbans were affiliated with the White Lotus, a
Buddhist Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religion or philosophical tradition based on teachings attributed to the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, most commonly referred to as the Buddha, was a ...
secret society.
Zhu Yuanzhang The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name Guorui (), was the List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, founding emperor of the Ming dynasty of China, reigning from 1368 to 1398. As fa ...
was a penniless peasant and Buddhist monk who joined the Red Turbans in 1352; he soon gained a reputation after marrying the foster daughter of a rebel commander. In 1356, Zhu's rebel force captured the city of
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is a sub-provincial city, a megacity, and t ...
, which he would later establish as the capital of the Ming dynasty. With the
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a successor state to the Mongol Empire after Division of the M ...
crumbling, competing rebel groups began fighting for control of the country and thus the right to establish a new dynasty. In 1363, Zhu Yuanzhang eliminated his archrival and leader of the rebel Han faction, Chen Youliang, in the
Battle of Lake Poyang The Battle of Lake Poyang () was a naval conflict which took place (30 August – 4 October 1363) between the rebel forces of Zhu Yuanzhang and Chen Youliang during the Red Turban Rebellion which led to the fall of the Yuan dynasty. Chen You ...
, arguably the
largest naval battle in history The "largest naval battle in history" is a disputed title between adherents of varying criteria which include the numbers of personnel and/or vessels involved in the naval battle, the total Displacement (ship), displacement of the vessels involved ...
. Known for its ambitious use of fire ships, Zhu's force of 200,000 Ming sailors were able to defeat a Han rebel force over triple their size, claimed to be 650,000-strong. The victory destroyed the last opposing rebel faction, leaving Zhu Yuanzhang in uncontested control of the bountiful
Yangtze River Valley The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ; ) is the longest list of rivers of Asia, river in Asia, the list of rivers by length, third-longest in the world, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in th ...
and cementing his power in the south. After the dynastic head of the Red Turbans suspiciously died in 1367 while a guest of Zhu, there was no one left who was remotely capable of contesting his march to the throne, and he made his imperial ambitions known by sending an army toward the Yuan capital Dadu (present-day
Beijing } Beijing ( ; ; ), alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the center of power and development of the country. Beijing is the world's most populous national capital city, with over 21 ...
) in 1368. The last Yuan emperor fled north to the upper capital
Shangdu Shangdu (, ), also known as Xanadu (; Mongolian: ''Šandu''), was the summer capital of the Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties ...
, and Zhu declared the founding of the Ming dynasty after razing the Yuan palaces in Dadu to the ground; the city was renamed Beiping in the same year. Zhu Yuanzhang took Hongwu, or "Vastly Martial", as his
era name A regnal year is a year of the reign of a sovereign ''Sovereign'' is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French , which is ultimately derived from the Latin , meaning 'above'. ...
.


Reign of the Hongwu Emperor

Hongwu made an immediate effort to rebuild state infrastructure. He built a long wall around Nanjing, as well as new palaces and government halls. The ''
History of Ming The ''History of Ming'' or the ''Ming History'' (''Míng Shǐ'') is one of the official Chinese historical works known as the '' Twenty-Four Histories''. It consists of 332 volumes and covers the history of the Ming dynasty from 1368 to 1644. ...
'' states that as early as 1364 Zhu Yuanzhang had begun drafting a new
Confucian Confucianism, also known as Ruism or Ru classicism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a Religious Confucianism, religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, ...
law code, the ''Da Ming Lü'', which was completed by 1397 and repeated certain clauses found in the old Tang Code of 653. Hongwu organized a military system known as the ''weisuo'', which was similar to the ''fubing'' system of the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dyn ...
(618–907). In 1380 Hongwu had the Chancellor Hu Weiyong executed upon suspicion of a conspiracy plot to overthrow him; after that Hongwu abolished the Chancellery and assumed this role as chief executive and emperor, a precedent mostly followed throughout the Ming period. With a growing suspicion of his ministers and subjects, Hongwu established the Jinyiwei, a network of
secret police Secret police (or political police) are Intelligence agency, intelligence, Security agency, security or police agencies that engage in covert operations against a government's political, religious, or social opponents and dissidents. Secret police ...
drawn from his own palace guard. Some 100,000 people were executed in a series of purges during his rule. The Hongwu emperor issued many edicts forbidding Mongol practices and proclaiming his intention to purify China of barbarian influence. However, he also sought to use the Yuan legacy to legitimize his authority in China and other areas ruled by the Yuan. He continued policies of the Yuan dynasty such as continued request for Korean concubines and eunuchs, Mongol-style hereditary military institutions, Mongol-style clothing and hats, promoting archery and horseback riding, and having large numbers of Mongols serve in the Ming military. Until the late 16th century Mongols still constituted one-in-three officers serving in capital forces like the Embroidered Uniform Guard, and other peoples such as
Jurchens Jurchen (Manchu language, Manchu: ''Jušen'', ; zh, 女真, ''Nǚzhēn'', ) is a term used to collectively describe a number of East Asian people, East Asian Tungusic languages, Tungusic-speaking peoples, descended from the Donghu people. They ...
were also prominent. He frequently wrote to Mongol, Japanese, Korean, Jurchen, Tibetan, and Southwest frontier rulers offering advice on their governmental and dynastic policy, and insisted on leaders from these regions visiting the Ming capital for audiences. He resettled 100,000 Mongols into his territory, with many serving as guards in the capital. The emperor also strongly advertised the hospitality and role granted to Chinggisid nobles in his court. Zhu Yuanzhang insisted that he was not a rebel, and he attempted to justify his conquest of the other rebel warlords by claiming that he was a Yuan subject and had been divinely-appointed to restore order by crushing rebels. Most Chinese elites did not view the Yuan's Mongol ethnicity as grounds to resist or reject it. Zhu emphasised that he was not conquering territory from the Yuan dynasty but rather from the rebel warlords. He used this line of argument to attempt to persuade Yuan loyalists to join his cause. The Ming used the tribute they received from former Yuan vassals as proof that the Ming had taken over the Yuan's legitimacy. Tribute missions were regularly celebrated with music and dance in the Ming court.


South-Western frontier

Hui Muslim troops settled in
Changde Changde ( ) is a prefecture-level city A prefecture-level city () or prefectural city is an administrative division of the China, People's Republic of China (PRC), ranking below a province of China, province and above a Counties of the Peo ...
,
Hunan Hunan (, ; ) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the People's Republic of China, part of the South Central China region. Located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze watershed, it borders the Administrative divisions of China, prov ...
, after serving the Ming in campaigns against aboriginal tribes. In 1381, the Ming dynasty annexed the areas of the southwest that had once been part of the
Kingdom of Dali The Dali Kingdom, also known as the Dali State (; Bai language, Bai: Dablit Guaif), was a state situated in modern Yunnan province, China from 937 until 1253. In 1253, it was Mongol conquest of China, conquered by the Mongols but members of it ...
following the successful effort by Hui Muslim Ming armies to defeat Yuan-loyalist Mongol and Hui Muslim troops holding out in Yunnan province. The Hui troops under General Mu Ying, who was appointed Governor of Yunnan, were resettled in the region as part of a colonization effort. By the end of the 14th century, some 200,000 military colonists settled some 2,000,000 ''mu'' (350,000 acres) of land in what is now
Yunnan Yunnan , () is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China, the southwest of the People's Republic of China. The province spans approximately and has a population of 48.3 million (as of 2018). The capital of the province is ...
and
Guizhou Guizhou (; formerly Kweichow) is a landlocked province in the southwest region of the People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries ...
. Roughly half a million more Chinese settlers came in later periods; these migrations caused a major shift in the ethnic make-up of the region, since formerly more than half of the population were non-Han peoples. Resentment over such massive changes in population and the resulting government presence and policies sparked more Miao and Yao revolts in 1464 to 1466, which were crushed by an army of 30,000 Ming troops (including 1,000 Mongols) joining the 160,000 local
Guangxi Guangxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Kwanghsi; ; za, Gvangjsih, italics=yes), officially the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), is an Autonomous regions of China, autonomous region of the People's Republic ...
. After the scholar and philosopher
Wang Yangming Wang Shouren (, 26 October 1472 – 9 January 1529), courtesy name Bo'an (), art name Yangmingzi (), usually referred to as Wang Yangming (), was a Chinese calligrapher, general, philosopher, politician, and writer during the Ming dynasty. ...
(1472–1529) suppressed another rebellion in the region, he advocated single, unitary administration of Chinese and indigenous ethnic groups in order to bring about
sinification Sinicization, sinofication, sinification, or sinonization (from the prefix , 'Chinese, relating to China') is the process by which non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly the language, societal norms, cul ...
of the local peoples.


Campaign in the North-East

After the overthrow of the
Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , , ; ; russian: Монголы) are an East Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia, Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is an Autonomous regions of Chin ...
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a successor state to the Mongol Empire after Division of the M ...
by the Ming dynasty in 1368, Manchuria remained under control of the Mongols of the
Northern Yuan dynasty The Northern Yuan () was a dynastic regime ruled by the Mongols, Mongol Borjigin clan based in the Mongolian Plateau. It existed as a rump state after the collapse of the Yuan dynasty in 1368 and lasted until its conquest by the Jurchen people, ...
based in
Mongolia Mongolia; Mongolian script: , , ; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia" () is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia border, to the north and China China–Mongolia border, to the s ...
. Naghachu, a former Yuan official and a
Uriankhai Uriankhai (Mongolian script, traditional Mongolian: , Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet, Mongolian Cyrillic: урианхай; sah, урааҥхай; zh, t=烏梁海, s=乌梁海, p=Wūliánghǎi), Uriankhan (, урианхан) or Uriankhat (, ...
general of the Northern Yuan dynasty, won hegemony over the Mongol tribes in Manchuria ( Liaoyang province of the former Yuan dynasty). He grew strong in the northeast, with forces large enough (numbering hundreds of thousands) to threaten invasion of the newly founded Ming dynasty in order to restore the Mongols to power in China. The Ming decided to defeat him instead of waiting for the Mongols to attack. In 1387 the Ming sent a military campaign to attack Naghachu, which concluded with the surrender of Naghachu and Ming conquest of Manchuria. The early Ming court could not, and did not, aspire to the control imposed upon the
Jurchens Jurchen (Manchu language, Manchu: ''Jušen'', ; zh, 女真, ''Nǚzhēn'', ) is a term used to collectively describe a number of East Asian people, East Asian Tungusic languages, Tungusic-speaking peoples, descended from the Donghu people. They ...
in Manchuria by the Mongols, yet it created a norm of organization that would ultimately serve as the main instrument for the relations with peoples along the northeast frontiers. By the end of the Hongwu reign, the essentials of a policy toward the Jurchens had taken shape. Most of the inhabitants of Manchuria, except for the
Wild Jurchens The Wild Jurchens () or Haidong Jurchens () were a group of the Jurchens as identified by the Ming Dynasty. They were the northernmost group of the Jurchen people (the other being the Jianzhou Jurchens and Haixi Jurchens). In the 14th century, ...
, were at peace with China. In 1409, under the Yongle Emperor, the Ming Dynasty established the Nurgan Regional Military Commission on the banks of the
Amur River The Amur (russian: река́ Аму́р, ), or Heilong Jiang (, "Black Dragon River", ), is the world's List of longest rivers, tenth longest river, forming the border between the Russian Far East and Northeast China, Northeastern China (Inne ...
, and Yishiha, a eunuch of Haixi Jurchen origin, was ordered to lead an expedition to the mouth of the Amur to pacify the Wild Jurchens. After the death of Yongle Emperor, the Nurgan Regional Military Commission was abolished in 1435, and the Ming court ceased to have substantial activities there, although the guards continued to exist in Manchuria. Throughout its existence, the Ming established a total of 384 guards (衛, ''wei'') and 24 battalions (所, ''suo'') in Manchuria, but these were probably only nominal offices and did not necessarily imply political control. By the late Ming period, Ming's political presence in Manchuria has declined significantly.


Relations with Tibet

The '' Mingshi'' – the official history of the Ming dynasty compiled by the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the last orthodox dynasty in Chinese history. It emerged from the Later Jin (1616–1636), La ...
in 1739 – states that the Ming established itinerant commanderies overseeing Tibetan administration while also renewing titles of ex-Yuan dynasty officials from
Tibet Tibet (; ''Böd''; ) is a region in East Asia, covering much of the Tibetan Plateau and spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people. Also resident on the plateau are some other ethnic groups such as Monpa people, ...
and conferring new princely titles on leaders of Tibetan Buddhist sects. However, Turrell V. Wylie states that
censorship Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments ...
in the ''Mingshi'' in favor of bolstering the Ming emperor's prestige and reputation at all costs obfuscates the nuanced history of Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming era. Modern scholars debate whether the Ming dynasty had
sovereignty Sovereignty is the defining authority within individual consciousness, Social constructionism, social construct, or territory. Sovereignty entails hierarchy within the state, as well as external autonomy for states. In any state, sovereignty i ...
over Tibet. Some believe it was a relationship of loose
suzerainty Suzerainty () is the rights and obligations of a person, state or other polity who controls the foreign policy and relations of a tributary state, while allowing the tributary state to have internal autonomy. While the subordinate party is ca ...
that was largely cut off when the
Jiajing Emperor The Jiajing Emperor (; 16September 150723January 1567) was the 12th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1521 to 1567. Born Zhu Houcong, he was the former Zhengde Emperor's cousin. His father, Zhu You ...
(r. 1521–67) persecuted Buddhism in favor of
Daoism Taoism (, ) or Daoism () refers to either a school of Philosophy, philosophical thought (道家; ''daojia'') or to a religion (道教; ''daojiao''), both of which share ideas and concepts of China, Chinese origin and emphasize living in harmo ...
at court. Others argue that the significant religious nature of the relationship with Tibetan lamas is underrepresented in modern scholarship. Others note the Ming need for Central Asian horses and the need to maintain the tea-horse trade. The Ming sporadically sent armed forays into Tibet during the 14th century, which the Tibetans successfully resisted. Several scholars point out that unlike the preceding Mongols, the Ming dynasty did not garrison permanent troops in Tibet. The
Wanli Emperor The Wanli Emperor (; 4 September 1563 – 18 August 1620), personal name Zhu Yijun (), was the 14th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1572 to 1620. "Wanli (era), Wanli", the Chinese era name, era nam ...
(r. 1572–1620) attempted to reestablish Sino-Tibetan relations in the wake of a Mongol-Tibetan alliance initiated in 1578, an alliance which affected the foreign policy of the subsequent Manchu
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the last orthodox dynasty in Chinese history. It emerged from the Later Jin (1616–1636), La ...
(1644–1912) in their support for the
Dalai Lama Dalai Lama (, ; ) is a title given by the Tibetan people to the foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism, the newest and most dominant of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th and current Dal ...
of the Yellow Hat sect. By the late 16th century, the Mongols proved to be successful armed protectors of the Yellow Hat Dalai Lama after their increasing presence in the
Amdo Amdo ( am˥˥.to˥˥ ) is one of the three traditional Tibetan regions, the others being U-Tsang in the west and Kham in the east. Ngari (including former Guge kingdom) in the north-west was incorporated into Ü-Tsang. Amdo is also the ...
region, culminating in the conquest of Tibet by Güshi Khan (1582–1655) in 1642, establishing the
Khoshut Khanate The Khoshut Khanate was a Mongols, Mongol Oirats, Oirat khanate based on the Tibetan Plateau from 1642 to 1717. Based in modern Qinghai, it was founded by Güshi Khan in 1642 after defeating the opponents of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism ...
.


Reign of the Yongle Emperor


Rise to power

The
Hongwu Emperor The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practi ...
specified his grandson Zhu Yunwen as his successor, and he assumed the throne as the
Jianwen Emperor The Jianwen Emperor (5 December 1377 – ?), personal name Zhu Yunwen (), was the second Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1398 to 1402. The era name of his reign, Jianwen, means "establishing civility" and represented a sharp cha ...
(r. 1398–1402) after Hongwu's death in 1398. The most powerful of Hongwu's sons, Zhu Di, then the militarily mighty disagreed with this, and soon a political showdown erupted between him and his nephew Jianwen. After Jianwen arrested many of Zhu Di's associates, Zhu Di plotted a rebellion that sparked a three-year civil war. Under the pretext of rescuing the young Jianwen from corrupting officials, Zhu Di personally led forces in the revolt; the palace in Nanjing was burned to the ground, along with Jianwen himself, his wife, mother, and courtiers. Zhu Di assumed the throne as the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (; pronounced ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), personal name Zhu Di (), was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu ...
(r. 1402–24); his reign is universally viewed by scholars as a "second founding" of the Ming dynasty since he reversed many of his father's policies.


New capital and foreign engagement

Yongle demoted Nanjing to a secondary capital and in 1403 announced the new capital of China was to be at his power base in
Beijing } Beijing ( ; ; ), alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the center of power and development of the country. Beijing is the world's most populous national capital city, with over 21 ...
. Construction of a new city there lasted from 1407 to 1420, employing hundreds of thousands of workers daily. At the center was the political node of the
Imperial City In the Holy Roman Empire, the collective term free and imperial cities (german: Freie und Reichsstädte), briefly worded free imperial city (', la, urbs imperialis libera), was used from the fifteenth century to denote a self-ruling city that ...
, and at the center of this was the
Forbidden City The Forbidden City () is a palace complex in Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, at the center of the Imperial City of Beijing. It is surrounded by numerous opulent imperial gardens and temples including the Zhongshan Park, the sacrific ...
, the palatial residence of the emperor and his family. By 1553, the Outer City was added to the south, which brought the overall size of Beijing to . Beginning in 1405, the Yongle Emperor entrusted his favored
eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a male who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 2n ...
commander
Zheng He Zheng He (; 1371–1433 or 1435) was a Chinese history of the Chinese navy, mariner, Chinese exploration, explorer, Foreign relations of imperial China, diplomat, fleet admiral, and court eunuch during China's History of the Ming dynasty, earl ...
(1371–1433) as the admiral for a gigantic new fleet of ships designated for international tributary missions. Among the kingdoms visited by Zheng He, Yongle proclaimed the
Kingdom of Cochin The Kingdom of Cochin, named after its capital in the city of Kochi (Cochin), was a kingdom in the central part of present-day Kerala state. It commenced at the early part of the 12th century and continued to rule until 1949, when monarchy wa ...
to be its protectorate. The Chinese had sent diplomatic missions over land since the
Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the House of Liu. The dynasty was preceded by the short-lived Qin dynasty (22 ...
(202 BCE – 220 CE) and engaged in private overseas trade, but these missions were unprecedented in grandeur and scale. To service seven different tributary voyages, the Nanjing shipyards constructed two thousand vessels from 1403 to 1419, including treasure ships measuring 112 m (370 ft) to 134 m (440 ft) in length and 45 m (150 ft) to 54 m (180 ft) in width. Yongle used
woodblock printing Woodblock printing or block printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of textile printing, printing on textiles and later paper. Each page o ...
to spread Chinese culture. He also used the military to expand China's borders. This included the brief occupation of Vietnam, from the initial invasion in 1406 until the Ming withdrawal in 1427 as a result of protracted
guerrilla warfare Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or Irregular military, irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, Raid (military), raids ...
led by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Vietnamese Lê dynasty.


Tumu Crisis and the Ming Mongols

The Oirat leader Esen Tayisi launched an invasion into Ming China in July 1449. The chief eunuch Wang Zhen encouraged the
Zhengtong Emperor Emperor Yingzong of Ming (; 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464), personal name Zhu Qizhen (), was the sixth and eighth Emperor of the Ming dynasty. He ascended the throne as the Zhengtong Emperor () in 1435, but was forced to abdicate i ...
(r. 1435–49) to lead a force personally to face the Oirats after a recent Ming defeat; the emperor left the capital and put his half-brother Zhu Qiyu in charge of affairs as temporary regent. On 8 September, Esen routed Zhengtong's army, and Zhengtong was captured – an event known as the
Tumu Crisis The Crisis of the Tumu Fortress (), also known as the Tumu Crisis (; mn, Тумугийн тулалдаан), or the Jisi Incident (), was a frontier conflict between the Northern Yuan and Ming dynasty, Ming dynasties. The Oirats, Oirat ruler ...
. The Oirats held the Zhengtong Emperor for ransom. However, this scheme was foiled once the emperor's younger brother assumed the throne under the era name Jingtai (r. 1449–57); the Oirats were also repelled once the Jingtai Emperor's confidant and defense minister
Yu Qian Yu Qian (; 1398–1457), courtesy name Tingyi, art name Jie'an, was a Chinese official who served under the Ming dynasty. Biography Yu Qian was born in Qiantang County, Hangzhou, Zhejiang. He started his career in the Ming civil service after o ...
(1398–1457) gained control of the Ming armed forces. Holding the Zhengtong Emperor in captivity was a useless bargaining chip for the Oirats as long as another sat on his throne, so they released him back into Ming China. The former emperor was placed under house arrest in the palace until the coup against the Jingtai Emperor in 1457 known as the "Wresting the Gate Incident". The former emperor retook the throne under the new era name Tianshun (r. 1457–64). Tianshun proved to be a troubled time and Mongol forces within the Ming military structure continued to be problematic. On 7 August 1461, the Chinese general Cao Qin and his Ming troops of Mongol descent staged a coup against the Tianshun Emperor out of fear of being next on his purge-list of those who aided him in the Wresting the Gate Incident. Cao's rebel force managed to set fire to the western and eastern gates of the
Imperial City In the Holy Roman Empire, the collective term free and imperial cities (german: Freie und Reichsstädte), briefly worded free imperial city (', la, urbs imperialis libera), was used from the fifteenth century to denote a self-ruling city that ...
(doused by rain during the battle) and killed several leading ministers before his forces were finally cornered and he was forced to commit suicide. While the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (; pronounced ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), personal name Zhu Di (), was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu ...
had staged five major offensives north of the
Great Wall The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand Li (unit), ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian noma ...
against the Mongols and the Oirats, the constant threat of Oirat incursions prompted the Ming authorities to fortify the Great Wall from the late 15th century to the 16th century; nevertheless, John Fairbank notes that "it proved to be a futile military gesture but vividly expressed China's siege mentality." Yet the Great Wall was not meant to be a purely defensive fortification; its towers functioned rather as a series of lit beacons and signalling stations to allow rapid warning to friendly units of advancing enemy troops.


Decline


Reign of the Wanli Emperor

The financial drain of the
Imjin War The Imjin River ( in South Korea) or Rimjin River ( in North Korea) is the 7th largest river in Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38t ...
in Korea against the Japanese was one of the many problems – fiscal or other – facing Ming China during the reign of the
Wanli Emperor The Wanli Emperor (; 4 September 1563 – 18 August 1620), personal name Zhu Yijun (), was the 14th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1572 to 1620. "Wanli (era), Wanli", the Chinese era name, era nam ...
(1572–1620). In the beginning of his reign, Wanli surrounded himself with able advisors and made a conscientious effort to handle state affairs. His Grand Secretary
Zhang Juzheng Zhang Juzheng (; 26 May 1525 – 9 July 1582), Chinese courtesy name, courtesy name Shuda (), Art name, pseudonym Taiyue (), was a Chinese politician who served as Grand Secretariat, Senior Grand Secretary () in the late Ming dynasty during th ...
(1572–82) built up an effective network of alliances with senior officials. However, there was no one after him skilled enough to maintain the stability of these alliances; officials soon banded together in opposing political factions. Over time Wanli grew tired of court affairs and frequent political quarreling amongst his ministers, preferring to stay behind the walls of the Forbidden City and out of his officials' sight. Scholar-officials lost prominence in administration as eunuchs became intermediaries between the aloof emperor and his officials; any senior official who wanted to discuss state matters had to persuade powerful eunuchs with a bribe simply to have his demands or message relayed to the emperor. The Bozhou rebellion by the Chiefdom of Bozhou was going on in southwestern China at the same time as the Imjin War.


Role of eunuchs

The Hongwu Emperor forbade eunuchs to learn how to read or engage in politics. Whether or not these restrictions were carried out with absolute success in his reign, eunuchs during the Yongle Emperor's reign (1402–1424) and afterwards managed huge imperial workshops, commanded armies, and participated in matters of appointment and promotion of officials. Yongle put 75 eunuchs in charge of foreign policy; they traveled frequently to vassal states including Annam, Mongolia, the Ryukyu Islands, and Tibet and less frequently to farther-flung places like Japan and Nepal. In the later 15th century, however, eunuch envoys generally only traveled to Korea. The eunuchs developed their own bureaucracy that was organized parallel to but was not subject to the civil service bureaucracy. Although there were several dictatorial eunuchs throughout the Ming, such as Wang Zhen, Wang Zhi, and
Liu Jin Liu Jin (; 28 February 1451 – 25 August 1510) was a powerful Ming dynasty Chinese Eunuch (court official), eunuch during the reign of the Zhengde Emperor. Liu was famous for being one of the most influential officials in Chinese history. For ...
, excessive tyrannical eunuch power did not become evident until the 1590s when the
Wanli Emperor The Wanli Emperor (; 4 September 1563 – 18 August 1620), personal name Zhu Yijun (), was the 14th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1572 to 1620. "Wanli (era), Wanli", the Chinese era name, era nam ...
increased their rights over the civil bureaucracy and granted them power to collect provincial taxes. The eunuch
Wei Zhongxian Wei Zhongxian (1568 – December 12, 1627), born Wei Si (魏四), was a Chinese court eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a male who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest reco ...
(1568–1627) dominated the court of the Tianqi Emperor (r. 1620–1627) and had his political rivals tortured to death, mostly the vocal critics from the faction of the Donglin Society. He ordered temples built in his honor throughout the Ming Empire, and built personal palaces created with funds allocated for building the previous emperor's tombs. His friends and family gained important positions without qualifications. Wei also published a historical work lambasting and belittling his political opponents. The instability at court came right as natural calamity, pestilence, rebellion, and foreign invasion came to a peak. The
Chongzhen Emperor The Chongzhen Emperor (; 6 February 1611 – 25 April 1644), personal name Zhu Youjian (), courtesy name Deyue (),Wang Yuan (王源),''Ju ye tang wen ji'' (《居業堂文集》), vol. 19. "聞之張景蔚親見烈皇帝神主題御諱字德 ...
(r. 1627–44) had Wei dismissed from court, which led to Wei's suicide shortly after. The eunuchs built their own social structure, providing and gaining support to their birth clans. Instead of fathers promoting sons, it was a matter of uncles promoting nephews. The Heishanhui Society in Peking sponsored the temple that conducted rituals for worshiping the memory of Gang Tie, a powerful eunuch of the Yuan dynasty. The Temple became an influential base for highly placed eunuchs, and continued in a somewhat diminished role during the Qing dynasty.


Economic breakdown and natural disasters

During the last years of the Wanli era and those of his two successors, an economic crisis developed that was centered on a sudden widespread lack of the empire's chief medium of exchange: silver. The Portuguese first established trade with China in 1516, trading Japanese silver for Chinese silk, and after some initial hostilities gained consent from the Ming court in 1557 to settle
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
as their permanent trade base in China. Their role in providing silver was gradually surpassed by the Spanish, while even the Dutch challenged them for control of this trade.
Philip IV of Spain Philip IV ( es, Felipe, pt, Filipe; 8 April 160517 September 1665), also called the Planet King (Spanish: ''Rey Planeta''), was King of Spain from 1621 to his death and (as Philip III) King of Portugal from 1621 to 1640. Philip is remembered f ...
(r. 1621–1665) began cracking down on illegal smuggling of silver from
New Spain New Spain, officially the Viceroyalty of New Spain ( es, Virreinato de Nueva España, ), or Kingdom of New Spain, was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Amer ...
and
Peru , image_flag = Flag of Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo nacional del Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (emblem), National seal , national_motto = "Fi ...
across the
Pacific The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's five oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south, and is bounded by the continen ...
through the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
towards China, in favor of shipping American-mined silver through Spanish ports. In 1639 the new Tokugawa regime of Japan shut down most of its foreign trade with European powers, cutting off another source of silver coming into China. These events occurring at roughly the same time caused a dramatic spike in the value of silver and made paying taxes nearly impossible for most provinces. People began hoarding precious silver as there was progressively less of it, forcing the ratio of the value of copper to silver into a steep decline. In the 1630s a string of one thousand
copper coins A coin is a small, flat (usually depending on the country or value), round piece of metal or plastic used primarily as a medium of exchange or legal tender. They are standardized in weight, and produced in large quantities at a mint (facility), ...
equaled an ounce of silver; by 1640 that sum could fetch half an ounce; and, by 1643 only one-third of an ounce. For peasants this meant economic disaster, since they paid taxes in silver while conducting local trade and crop sales in copper. Recent historians have debated the validity of the theory that silver shortages caused the downfall of the Ming dynasty. Famines became common in northern China in the early 17th century because of unusually dry and cold weather that shortened the growing season – effects of a larger ecological event now known as the
Little Ice Age The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of regional cooling, particularly pronounced in the North Atlantic region. It was not a true ice age of global extent. The term was introduced into scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939. Mat ...
. Famine, alongside tax increases, widespread military desertions, a declining relief system, and natural disasters such as flooding and inability of the government to properly manage irrigation and flood-control projects caused widespread loss of life and normal civility. The central government, starved of resources, could do very little to mitigate the effects of these calamities. Making matters worse, a widespread epidemic, the Great Plague of 1633–1644, spread across China from Zhejiang to Henan, killing an unknown but large number of people. The deadliest earthquake of all time, the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556, occurred during the
Jiajing Emperor The Jiajing Emperor (; 16September 150723January 1567) was the 12th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1521 to 1567. Born Zhu Houcong, he was the former Zhengde Emperor's cousin. His father, Zhu You ...
's reign, killing approximately 830,000 people.


Fall of the Ming


Rise of the Manchus

A Jurchen tribal leader named Nurhaci (r. 1616–26), starting with just a small tribe, rapidly gained control over all the Manchurian tribes. He offered to lead his armies to support Ming and
Joseon Joseon (; ; Middle Korean: 됴ᇢ〯션〮 Dyǒw syéon or 됴ᇢ〯션〯 Dyǒw syěon), officially the Great Joseon (; ), was the last dynastic kingdom of Korea, lasting just over 500 years. It was founded by Taejo of Joseon, Yi Seong-gye in ...
armies against the
Japanese invasions of Korea Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
in the 1590s. Ming officials declined the offer, but granted him honorific titles. Recognizing the weakness of Ming authority north of their border, he consolidated power by co-opting or conquering his Chinese, Jurchen, and Mongol neighbors. In 1616 he declared himself Khan and established the Later Jin dynasty as successor to the Jurchen Jin dynasty. In 1618 he demanded tribute from the Ming to redress " Seven Grievances." In 1636, Nurhaci's son
Hong Taiji Hong Taiji (28 November 1592 – 21 September 1643), also rendered as Huang Taiji and sometimes referred to as Abahai in Western literature, also known by his temple name as the Emperor Taizong of Qing, was the second khan of the Later Jin ( ...
renamed his dynasty the "
Great Qing The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the last orthodox dynasty in Chinese history. It emerged from the Later Jin (1616–1636), La ...
" at
Mukden Shenyang (, ; ; Mandarin pronunciation: ), formerly known as Fengtian () or by its Manchu language, Manchu name Mukden, is a major China, Chinese sub-provincial city and the List of capitals in China#Province capitals, provincial capital of Lia ...
, which had been made their capital in 1625. Hong Taiji also adopted the Chinese imperial title '' huangdi'', declared the Chongde ("Revering Virtue") era, and changed the ethnic name of his people from "Jurchen" to "
Manchu The Manchus (; ) are a Tungusic East Asian ethnic group An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other g ...
". In 1638 Banner Armies defeated and conquered Joseon 100,000 troops in the
Second Manchu invasion of Korea The Qing invasion of Joseon (Korean: Byeongja Horan) occurred in the winter of 1636 when the newly-established Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese his ...
. Shortly after, the Koreans renounced their long-held loyalty to the Ming dynasty.


Rebellion, invasion, collapse

A peasant soldier named
Li Zicheng Li Zicheng (22 September 1606 – 1645), born Li Hongji, also known by the nickname, Dashing King, was a Chinese peasant rebel leader who overthrew the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in ...
mutinied with his fellow soldiers in western Shaanxi in the early 1630s after the Ming government failed to ship much-needed supplies there. In 1634 he was captured by a Ming general and released only on the terms that he return to service. The agreement soon broke down when a local magistrate had thirty-six of his fellow rebels executed; Li's troops retaliated by killing the officials and continued to lead a rebellion based in Rongyang, central
Henan Henan (; or ; ; Chinese postal romanization, alternatively Honan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China, in the Central China, central part of the country. Henan is often referred to as Zhongyuan or Zhongzhou (), which literall ...
province by 1635. By the 1640s, an ex-soldier and rival to Li –
Zhang Xianzhong Zhang Xianzhong (张献忠 or Chang Hsien-chung; 18 September 1606 – 2 January 1647), nickname Huanghu (literally 'Yellow Tiger'), was a Chinese peasant leader who led a peasant revolt from Yan'an wei, Shaanxi (today Yulin, Shaanxi, Yulin, Sh ...
(1606–1647) – had created a firm rebel base in
Chengdu Chengdu (, ; Simplified Chinese characters, simplified Chinese: 成都; pinyin: ''Chéngdū''; Sichuanese dialects, Sichuanese pronunciation: , Standard Chinese pronunciation: ), Chinese postal romanization, alternatively Romanization of Chi ...
,
Sichuan Sichuan (; zh, c=, labels=no, ; zh, p=Sìchuān; Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan; formerly also referred to as "West China" or "Western China" by Protestantism in Sichuan, Protestant missions) is a Prov ...
, while Li's center of power was in
Hubei Hubei (; ; Postal romanization, alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, and is part of the Central China region. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring t ...
with extended influence over Shaanxi and Henan. In 1640, masses of Chinese peasants who were starving, unable to pay their taxes, and no longer in fear of the frequently defeated Chinese army, began to form into huge bands of rebels. The Chinese military, caught between fruitless efforts to defeat the Manchu raiders from the north and huge peasant revolts in the provinces, essentially fell apart. Unpaid and unfed, the army was defeated by Li Zicheng – now self-styled as the Prince of Shun – and deserted the capital without much of a fight. On 25 April 1644, Beijing fell to a rebel army led by Li Zicheng when the city gates were opened by rebel allies from within. During the turmoil, Chongzhen, the last Ming emperor, accompanied only by a eunuch servant, hanged himself on a tree in the imperial garden right outside the Forbidden City.Spence, 25. Seizing opportunity, the
Eight Banners The Eight Banners (in Manchu language, Manchu: ''jakūn gūsa'', ) were administrative and military divisions under the Later Jin (1616–1636), Later Jin and Qing dynasty, Qing dynasties of China into which all Manchu people, Manchu households ...
crossed the
Great Wall The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand Li (unit), ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian noma ...
after the Ming border general
Wu Sangui Wu Sangui (; 8 June 1612 – 2 October 1678), courtesy name Changbai () or Changbo (), was a notorious Ming Dynasty military officer who played a key role in the fall of the Ming dynasty and the founding of the Qing dynasty in China. In Chinese ...
(1612–1678) opened the gates at
Shanhai Pass Shanhai Pass or Shanhaiguan () is one of the major mountain pass, passes in the Great Wall of China, being the easternmost stronghold along the Ming Great Wall, and commands the narrowest choke point in the Liaoxi Corridor. It is located in ...
. This occurred shortly after he learned about the fate of the capital and an army of Li Zicheng marching towards him; weighing his options of alliance, he decided to side with the Manchus. The Eight Banners under the Manchu Prince Dorgon (1612–1650) and Wu Sangui approached Beijing after the army sent by Li was destroyed at
Shanhaiguan Shanhai Pass or Shanhaiguan () is one of the major mountain pass, passes in the Great Wall of China, being the easternmost stronghold along the Ming Great Wall, and commands the narrowest choke point in the Liaoxi Corridor. It is located in ...
; the Prince of Shun's army fled the capital on the fourth of June. On 6 June, the Manchus and Wu entered the capital and proclaimed the young
Shunzhi Emperor The Shunzhi Emperor (15 March 1638 – 5 February 1661) was the second emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial re ...
ruler of China. After being forced out of
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known by #Name, other names, is the list of capitals in China, capital of Shaanxi, Shaanxi Province. A Sub-provincial division#Sub-provincial municipalities, sub-provincial city o ...
by the Qing, chased along the Han River to
Wuchang Wuchang forms part of the urban core of and is one of 13 urban districts A district is a type of administrative division that, in some countries, is managed by the local government. Across the world, areas known as "districts" vary great ...
, and finally along the northern border of
Jiangxi Jiangxi (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in East China, the east of the China, People's Republic of China. Its major cities include Nanchang and Jiujiang. Spannin ...
province, Li Zicheng died there in the summer of 1645, thus ending the
Shun dynasty The Shun dynasty (), officially the Great Shun (), was a short-lived Chinese dynasty that existed during the Ming–Qing transition. The dynasty was founded in Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known b ...
. One report says his death was a suicide; another states that he was beaten to death by peasants after he was caught stealing their food. Despite the loss of Beijing and the death of the emperor, the Ming were not yet totally destroyed. Nanjing, Fujian, Guangdong, Shanxi, and Yunnan were all strongholds of Ming resistance. However, there were several pretenders for the Ming throne, and their forces were divided. These scattered Ming remnants in southern China after 1644 were collectively designated by 19th-century historians as the
Southern Ming The Southern Ming (), also known as the Later Ming (), officially the Great Ming (), was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a series of rump states of the Ming dynasty that came into existence following the Jiashen ...
. Each bastion of resistance was individually defeated by the Qing until 1662, when the last Southern Ming emperor,
Zhu Youlang The Yongli Emperor (; 1623–1662; reigned 18 November 1646 – 1 June 1662), personal name Zhu Youlang, was a royal member to the House of Zhu, imperial family of Ming dynasty, and the fourth and last commonly recognised Emperor of China, emper ...
, the Yongli Emperor, was captured and executed. Despite the Ming defeat, smaller loyalist movements continued until the proclamation of the
Republic of China Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a Country, country in East Asia, at the junction of the East China Sea, East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the n ...
.


Government


Province, prefecture, subprefecture, county

Described as "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history" by Edwin O. Reischauer, John K. Fairbank and Albert M. Craig, the Ming emperors took over the provincial administration system of the Yuan dynasty, and the thirteen Ming provinces are the precursors of the modern provinces. Throughout the Song dynasty, the largest political division was the circuit (''lu'' 路). However, after the Jurchen invasion in 1127, the Song court established four semi-autonomous regional command systems based on territorial and military units, with a detached service secretariat that would become the provincial administrations of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Copied on the Yuan model, the Ming provincial bureaucracy contained three commissions: one civil, one military, and one for surveillance. Below the level of the
province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire ...
(''sheng'' 省) were
prefectures A prefecture (from the Latin ''Praefectura'') is an administrative jurisdiction traditionally governed by an appointed prefect. This can be a regional or local government subdivision in various countries, or a subdivision in certain international ...
(''fu'' 府) operating under a prefect (''zhifu'' 知府), followed by subprefectures (''zhou'' 州) under a subprefect. The lowest unit was the
county A county is a geographic region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French ...
(''xian'' 縣), overseen by a magistrate. Besides the provinces, there were also two large areas that belonged to no province, but were metropolitan areas (''jing'' 京) attached to Nanjing and Beijing.


Institutions and bureaus


Institutional trends

Departing from the main central administrative system generally known as the
Three Departments and Six Ministries The Three Departments and Six Ministries () system was the primary administrative structure in History of China#Imperial China, imperial China from the Sui dynasty (581–618) to the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). It was also used by Balhae (698– ...
system, which was instituted by various dynasties since late Han (202 BCE – 220 CE), the Ming administration had only one department, the Secretariat, that controlled the six ministries. Following the execution of the
Chancellor Chancellor ( la, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the of Roman courts of justice—ushers, who sat at the or lattice work screens of a basilica or law cou ...
Hu Weiyong in 1380, the Hongwu Emperor abolished the Secretariat, the
Censorate The Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in History of China#Imperial China, Imperial China, first established during the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC). The Censorate was a highly effective agency during the Mongols, Mongol-led Yu ...
, and the Chief Military Commission and personally took charge of the Six Ministries and the regional Five Military Commissions. Thus a whole level of administration was cut out and only partially rebuilt by subsequent rulers. The Grand Secretariat, at the beginning a secretarial institution that assisted the emperor with administrative paperwork, was instituted, but without employing grand counselors, or chancellors. The Hongwu Emperor sent his heir apparent to Shaanxi in 1391 to "tour and soothe" (''xunfu'') the region; in 1421 the Yongle Emperor commissioned 26 officials to travel the empire and uphold similar investigatory and patrimonial duties. By 1430 these ''xunfu'' assignments became institutionalized as " grand coordinators". Hence, the Censorate was reinstalled and first staffed with investigating censors, later with censors-in-chief. By 1453, the grand coordinators were granted the title vice censor-in-chief or assistant censor-in-chief and were allowed direct access to the emperor. As in prior dynasties, the provincial administrations were monitored by a travelling inspector from the Censorate. Censors had the power to impeach officials on an irregular basis, unlike the senior officials who were to do so only in triennial evaluations of junior officials. Although decentralization of state power within the provinces occurred in the early Ming, the trend of central government officials delegated to the provinces as virtual provincial governors began in the 1420s. By the late Ming dynasty, there were central government officials delegated to two or more provinces as supreme commanders and viceroys, a system which reined in the power and influence of the military by the civil establishment.


Grand Secretariat and Six Ministries

Governmental institutions in China conformed to a similar pattern for some two thousand years, but each dynasty installed special offices and bureaus, reflecting its own particular interests. The Ming administration utilized Grand Secretaries to assist the emperor, handling paperwork under the reign of the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (; pronounced ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), personal name Zhu Di (), was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu ...
and later appointed as top officials of agencies and Grand Preceptor, a top-ranking, non-functional civil service post, under the
Hongxi Emperor The Hongxi Emperor (16 August 1378 – 29 May 1425), personal name Zhu Gaochi (朱高熾), was the fourth List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1424 to 1425. He succeeded his father, the Yongle Emperor, ...
(r. 1424–25). The Grand Secretariat drew its members from the
Hanlin Academy The Hanlin Academy was an academic and administrative institution of higher learning founded in the 8th century Tang China The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China th ...
and were considered part of the imperial authority, not the ministerial one (hence being at odds with both the emperor and ministers at times). The Secretariat operated as a coordinating agency, whereas the Six Ministries
Personnel Employment is a relationship between two party (law), parties Regulation, regulating the provision of paid Labour (human activity), labour services. Usually based on a employment contract, contract, one party, the employer, which might be a co ...
,
Revenue In accounting, revenue is the total amount of income generated by the sale of goods and services related to the primary operations of the business. Commercial revenue may also be referred to as sales or as turnover. Some companies receive rev ...
, Rites,
War War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violenc ...
,
Justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspective ...
, and
Public Works Public works are a broad category of infrastructure Infrastructure is the set of facilities and systems that serve a country, city, or other area, and encompasses the services and facilities necessary for its economy, households and firms t ...
were direct administrative organs of the state: # The Ministry of Personnel was in charge of appointments, merit ratings, promotions, and demotions of officials, as well as granting of honorific titles. # The Ministry of Revenue was in charge of gathering census data, collecting taxes, and handling state revenues, while there were two offices of currency that were subordinate to it. # The
Ministry of Rites The Ministry or Board of Rites was one of the Six Ministries of government in late imperial China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), dur ...
was in charge of state ceremonies, rituals, and sacrifices; it also oversaw registers for Buddhist and Daoist priesthoods and even the reception of envoys from tributary states. # The Ministry of War was in charge of the appointments, promotions, and demotions of military officers, the maintenance of military installations, equipment, and weapons, as well as the courier system. # The
Ministry of Justice A Ministry of Justice is a common type of government department that serves as a justice ministry. Lists of current ministries of justice Named "Ministry" * Ministry of Justice (Abkhazia) * Ministry of Justice (Afghanistan) * Ministry of Justic ...
was in charge of judicial and penal processes, but had no supervisory role over the Censorate or the Grand Court of Revision. # The Ministry of Public Works had charge of government construction projects, hiring of artisans and laborers for temporary service, manufacturing government equipment, the maintenance of roads and canals, standardization of weights and measures, and the gathering of resources from the countryside.


Bureaus and offices for the imperial household

The imperial household was staffed almost entirely by eunuchs and ladies with their own bureaus. Female servants were organized into the Bureau of Palace Attendance, Bureau of Ceremonies, Bureau of Apparel, Bureau of Foodstuffs, Bureau of the Bedchamber, Bureau of Handicrafts, and Office of Staff Surveillance. Starting in the 1420s, eunuchs began taking over these ladies' positions until only the Bureau of Apparel with its four subsidiary offices remained. Hongwu had his eunuchs organized into the Directorate of Palace Attendants, but as eunuch power at court increased, so did their administrative offices, with eventual twelve directorates, four offices, and eight bureaus. The dynasty had a vast imperial household, staffed with thousands of eunuchs, who were headed by the Directorate of Palace Attendants. The eunuchs were divided into different directorates in charge of staff surveillance, ceremonial rites, food, utensils, documents, stables, seals, apparel, and so on. The offices were in charge of providing fuel, music, paper, and baths. The bureaus were in charge of weapons, silverwork, laundering, headgear, bronze work, textile manufacture, wineries, and gardens. At times, the most influential eunuch in the Directorate of Ceremonial acted as a ''de facto'' dictator over the state. Although the imperial household was staffed mostly by eunuchs and palace ladies, there was a civil service office called the Seal Office, which cooperated with eunuch agencies in maintaining imperial seals, tallies, and stamps. There were also civil service offices to oversee the affairs of imperial princes.


Personnel


Scholar-officials

The Hongwu emperor from 1373 to 1384 staffed his bureaus with officials gathered through recommendations only. After that the scholar-officials who populated the many ranks of bureaucracy were recruited through a rigorous examination system that was initially established by the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China that lasted from 581 to 618. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties, thus ending the long period of division following the fall of the Western Jin dynasty, and la ...
(581–618). Theoretically the system of exams allowed anyone to join the ranks of imperial officials (although it was frowned upon for merchants to join); in reality the time and funding needed to support the study in preparation for the exam generally limited participants to those already coming from the landholding class. However, the government did exact provincial quotas while drafting officials. This was an effort to curb monopolization of power by landholding gentry who came from the most prosperous regions, where education was the most advanced. The expansion of the printing industry since Song times enhanced the spread of knowledge and number of potential exam candidates throughout the provinces. For young schoolchildren there were printed multiplication tables and primers for elementary vocabulary; for adult examination candidates there were mass-produced, inexpensive volumes of Confucian classics and successful examination answers. As in earlier periods, the focus of the examination was classical Confucian texts, while the bulk of test material centered on the
Four Books The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism, written in Zhou dynasty, China before 300 BCE. The Four Books and the Five Classics are the most important classics of Chinese Confucianism. Four Books The Four ...
outlined by
Zhu Xi Zhu Xi (; ; October 18, 1130 – April 23, 1200), formerly romanized Chu Hsi, was a Chinese calligrapher, historian, philosopher, poet, and politician during the Song dynasty. Zhu was influential in the development of Neo-Confucianism. He con ...
in the 12th century. Ming era examinations were perhaps more difficult to pass since the 1487 requirement of completing the "
eight-legged essay The eight-legged essay () was a style of essay in imperial examinations during the Ming Dynasty, Ming and Qing Dynasty, Qing dynasties in China. The eight-legged essay was needed for those candidates in these civil service tests to show their me ...
", a departure from basing essays off progressing literary trends. The exams increased in difficulty as the student progressed from the local level, and appropriate titles were accordingly awarded successful applicants. Officials were classified in nine hierarchic grades, each grade divided into two degrees, with ranging salaries (nominally paid in piculs of rice) according to their rank. While provincial graduates who were appointed to office were immediately assigned to low-ranking posts like the county graduates, those who passed the palace examination were awarded a ''jinshi'' ('presented scholar') degree and assured a high-level position. In 276 years of Ming rule and ninety palace examinations, the number of doctoral degrees granted by passing the palace examinations was 24,874. Ebrey states that "there were only two to four thousand of these ''jinshi'' at any given time, on the order of one out of 10,000 adult males." This was in comparison to the 100,000 ''shengyuan'' ('government students'), the lowest tier of graduates, by the 16th century. The maximum tenure in office was nine years, but every three years officials were graded on their performance by senior officials. If they were graded as superior then they were promoted, if graded adequate then they retained their ranks, and if graded inadequate they were demoted one rank. In extreme cases, officials would be dismissed or punished. Only capital officials of grade 4 and above were exempt from the scrutiny of recorded evaluation, although they were expected to confess any of their faults. There were over 4,000 school instructors in county and prefectural schools who were subject to evaluations every nine years. The Chief Instructor on the prefectural level was classified as equal to a second-grade county graduate. The Supervisorate of Imperial Instruction oversaw the education of the heir apparent to the throne; this office was headed by a Grand Supervisor of Instruction, who was ranked as first class of grade three. Historians debate whether the examination system expanded or contracted upward social mobility. On the one hand, the exams were graded without regard to a candidate's social background, and were theoretically open to everyone. In actual practice, the successful candidates had years of a very expensive, sophisticated tutoring of the sort that wealthy gentry families specialized in providing their talented sons. In practice, 90 percent of the population was ineligible due to lack of education, but the upper 10 percent had equal chances for moving to the top. To be successful young men had to have extensive, expensive training in classical Chinese, the use of Mandarin in spoken conversation, calligraphy, and had to master the intricate poetic requirements of the eight-legged essay. Not only did the traditional gentry dominated the system, they also learned that conservatism and resistance to new ideas was the path to success. For centuries critics had pointed out these problems, but the examination system only became more abstract and less relevant to the needs of China. The consensus of scholars is that the eight-legged essay can be blamed as a major cause of "China's cultural stagnation and economic backwardness." However Benjamin Ellman argues there were some positive features, since the essay form was capable of fostering “abstract thinking, persuasiveness, and prosodic form” and that its elaborate structure discouraged a wandering, unfocused narrative”.


Lesser functionaries

Scholar-officials who entered civil service through examinations acted as executive officials to a much larger body of non-ranked personnel called lesser functionaries. They outnumbered officials by four to one; Charles Hucker estimates that they were perhaps as many as 100,000 throughout the empire. These lesser functionaries performed clerical and technical tasks for government agencies. Yet they should not be confused with lowly lictors, runners, and bearers; lesser functionaries were given periodic merit evaluations like officials and after nine years of service might be accepted into a low civil service rank. The one great advantage of the lesser functionaries over officials was that officials were periodically rotated and assigned to different regional posts and had to rely on the good service and cooperation of the local lesser functionaries.


Eunuchs, princes, and generals

Eunuchs gained unprecedented power over state affairs during the Ming dynasty. One of the most effective means of control was the secret service stationed in what was called the Eastern Depot at the beginning of the dynasty, later the Western Depot. This secret service was overseen by the Directorate of Ceremonial, hence this state organ's often totalitarian affiliation. Eunuchs had ranks that were equivalent to civil service ranks, only theirs had four grades instead of nine. Descendants of the first Ming emperor were made princes and given (typically nominal) military commands, annual stipends, and large estates. The title used was "king" (, ''wáng'') but – unlike the princes in the Han and Jin dynasties – these estates were not feudatories, the princes did not serve any administrative function, and they partook in military affairs only during the reigns of the first two emperors. The rebellion of the Prince of Yan was justified in part as upholding the rights of the princes, but once the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (; pronounced ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), personal name Zhu Di (), was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu ...
was enthroned, he continued his nephew's policy of disarming his brothers and moved their fiefs away from the militarized northern border. Although princes served no organ of state administration, the princes, consorts of the imperial princesses, and ennobled relatives did staff the Imperial Clan Court, which supervised the imperial genealogy. Like scholar-officials, military generals were ranked in a hierarchic grading system and were given merit evaluations every five years (as opposed to three years for officials). However, military officers had less prestige than officials. This was due to their hereditary service (instead of solely merit-based) and Confucian values that dictated those who chose the profession of violence (wu) over the cultured pursuits of knowledge (wen). Although seen as less prestigious, military officers were not excluded from taking civil service examinations, and after 1478 the military even held their own examinations to test military skills. In addition to taking over the established bureaucratic structure from the Yuan period, the Ming emperors established the new post of the travelling military inspector. In the early half of the dynasty, men of noble lineage dominated the higher ranks of military office; this trend was reversed during the latter half of the dynasty as men from more humble origins eventually displaced them.


Society and culture


Literature and arts

Literature Literature is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to ...
,
painting Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "matrix" or "support"). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and ai ...
,
poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek '' poiesis'', "making"), also called verse, is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language − such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre The metre (Brit ...
,
music Music is generally defined as the The arts, art of arranging sound to create some combination of Musical form, form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise Musical expression, expressive content. Exact definition of music, definitions of mu ...
, and
Chinese opera Traditional Chinese opera (), or ''Xiqu'', is a form of musical theatre in China with roots going back to the early periods in China. It is an amalgamation of various art forms that existed in ancient China, and evolved gradually over more tha ...
of various types flourished during the Ming dynasty, especially in the economically prosperous lower Yangzi valley. Although short fiction had been popular as far back as the Tang dynasty (618–907), and the works of contemporaneous authors such as Xu Guangqi, Xu Xiake, and Song Yingxing were often technical and encyclopedic, the most striking literary development was the vernacular novel. While the gentry elite were educated enough to fully comprehend the language of
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak", meaning "literary language/speech"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text", meaning "literar ...
, those with rudimentary education – such as women in educated families, merchants, and shop clerks – became a large potential audience for literature and performing arts that employed
Vernacular Chinese Written vernacular Chinese, also known as Baihua () or Huawen (), is the forms of written Chinese based on the varieties of Chinese spoken throughout China, in contrast to Classical Chinese, the written language, written standard used during impe ...
. Literati scholars edited or developed major Chinese novels into mature form in this period, such as ''
Water Margin ''Water Margin'' (''Shuihu zhuan'') is one of the earliest Chinese novels written in vernacular Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin, and is attributed to Shi Nai'an. It is also translated as ''Outlaws of the Marsh'' and ''All Men Are Brothers''. The ...
'' and ''
Journey to the West ''Journey to the West'' () is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng'en. It is regarded as one of the greatest Classic Chinese Novels, and has been described as arguably the most popul ...
''. ''
Jin Ping Mei ''Jin Ping Mei'' () — translated into English as ''The Plum in the Golden Vase'' or ''The Golden Lotus'' — is a Chinese novel of manners composed in vernacular Chinese during the latter half of the 16th century during the late Ming dynasty ...
'', published in 1610, although incorporating earlier material, marks the trend toward independent composition and concern with psychology. In the later years of the dynasty,
Feng Menglong Feng Menglong (1574–1646), courtesy names Youlong (), Gongyu (), Ziyou (), or Eryou (), was a Chinese historian, novelist, and poet of the late Ming Dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in Chinese ...
and Ling Mengchu innovated with vernacular short fiction. Theater scripts were equally imaginative. The most famous, ''
The Peony Pavilion ''The Peony Pavilion'' ( zh, t=牡丹亭, s=牡丹亭, p=Mǔdān tíng, w=Mu-tan t'ing), also named ''The Return of Soul at the Peony Pavilion'', is a romantic tragicomedy play written by dramatist Tang Xianzu in 1598. The plot was drawn from the sh ...
'', was written by
Tang Xianzu Tang Xianzu (; September 24, 1550 – July 29, 1616), courtesy name Yireng (), was a Chinese playwright of the Ming Dynasty. Biography Tang was a native of Linchuan, Linchuan, Jiangxi and his career as an official consisted principally of ...
(1550–1616), with its first performance at the Pavilion of Prince Teng in 1598. Informal essay and travel writing was another highlight.
Xu Xiake Xu Xiake (, January 5, 1587 – March 8, 1641), born Xu Hongzu (), courtesy name Zhenzhi (), was a Chinese travel writer and geographer of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), known best for his famous geographical treatise, and noted for his bravery ...
(1587–1641), a
travel literature The genre of travel literature encompasses outdoor literature, guide books, nature writing, and travel memoirs. One early travel memoirist in Western literature was Pausanias (geographer), Pausanias, a Greek geographer of the 2nd century CE. In ...
author, published his ''Travel Diaries'' in 404,000 written characters, with information on everything from local
geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia''. Combination of Greek words ‘Geo’ (The Earth) and ‘Graphien’ (to describe), literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, i ...
to
mineralogy Mineralogy is a subject of geology specializing in the scientific study of the chemistry, crystal structure, and physical (including optical mineralogy, optical) properties of minerals and mineralized artifact (archaeology), artifacts. Specific s ...
. The first reference to the publishing of private newspapers in Beijing was in 1582; by 1638 the '' Peking Gazette'' switched from using woodblock print to
movable type Movable type (US English; moveable type in British English) is the system and technology of printing and typography that uses movable Sort (typesetting), components to reproduce the elements of a document (usually individual alphanumeric charact ...
printing. The new literary field of the moral guide to business ethics was developed during the late Ming period, for the readership of the merchant class. In contrast to Xu Xiake, who focused on technical aspects in his travel literature, the Chinese poet and official
Yuan Hongdao Yuan Hongdao (, 1568–1610) was a Chinese poet of the Ming Dynasty, and one of the Three Yuan Brothers, along with his brothers Yuan Zongdao and Yuan Zhongdao. Hongdao's life spanned nearly the whole of the Wanli Emperor, Wanli period (1573-1620) ...
(1568–1610) used travel literature to express his desires for individualism as well as autonomy from and frustration with Confucian court politics. Yuan desired to free himself from the ethical compromises that were inseparable from the career of a scholar-official. This anti-official sentiment in Yuan's travel literature and poetry was actually following in the tradition of the Song dynasty poet and official
Su Shi Su Shi (; 8 January 1037 – 24 August 1101), courtesy name Zizhan (), art name Dongpo (), was a Chinese calligrapher, essayist, gastronomer, pharmacologist, poet, politician, and travel writer during the Song dynasty. A major personality of t ...
(1037–1101). Yuan Hongdao and his two brothers, Yuan Zongdao (1560–1600) and Yuan Zhongdao (1570–1623), were the founders of the Gong'an School of letters. This highly individualistic school of poetry and prose was criticized by the Confucian establishment for its association with intense sensual lyricism, which was also apparent in Ming vernacular novels such as the ''Jin Ping Mei''. Yet even gentry and scholar-officials were affected by the new popular romantic literature, seeking courtesans as soulmates to re-enact the heroic love stories that arranged marriages often could not provide or accommodate. Famous painters included Ni Zan and Dong Qichang, as well as the
Four Masters of the Ming dynasty The Four Masters of the Ming dynasty () are a traditional grouping in Chinese art history of four famous Chinese painters that lived during the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in Chinese hist ...
, Shen Zhou,
Tang Yin Tang Yin (; 1470–1524), courtesy name Bohu (), was a Chinese painter, calligrapher, and poet of the Ming dynasty period. Even though he was born during the Ming dynasty, many of his paintings, especially those of people, were illustrated with el ...
,
Wen Zhengming Wen Zhengming (28 November 1470 – 1559), born Wen Bi, was a Chinese Painting, painter, calligrapher, and poet during the Ming dynasty. He was regarded as one of the Four Masters of the Ming dynasty, Four Masters of Ming painting. Biography Wen ...
, and
Qiu Ying Qiu Ying (; 1494 – 1552)Cihai page 211. was a Chinese painter of the Ming dynasty who specialised in the ''gongbi'' brush technique. Early life Qiu Ying's courtesy name was Shifu (), and his art name was Shizhou (). He was born to a peasan ...
. They drew upon the techniques, styles, and complexity in painting achieved by their Song and Yuan predecessors, but added techniques and styles. Well-known Ming artists could make a living simply by painting due to the high prices they demanded for their artworks and the great demand by the highly cultured community to collect precious works of art. The artist Qiu Ying was once paid 2.8 kg (100 oz) of silver to paint a long handscroll for the eightieth birthday celebration of the mother of a wealthy patron. Renowned artists often gathered an entourage of followers, some who were amateurs who painted while pursuing an official career and others who were full-time painters. The period was also renowned for ceramics and porcelains. The major production center for porcelain was the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in
Jiangxi Jiangxi (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in East China, the east of the China, People's Republic of China. Its major cities include Nanchang and Jiujiang. Spannin ...
province, most famous in the period for
blue and white porcelain "Blue and white pottery" () covers a wide range of white pottery and porcelain decorated underglaze, under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt(II) oxide, cobalt oxide. The decoration is commonly applied by hand, originally by brush pa ...
, but also producing other styles. The Dehua porcelain factories in
Fujian Fujian (; postal romanization, alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien) is a provinces of China, province on the southeastern coast of China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, Guangdong to the south, and ...
catered to European tastes by creating
Chinese export porcelain Chinese export porcelain includes a wide range of Chinese porcelain that was made (almost) exclusively for export to Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical s ...
by the late 16th century. Individual potters also became known, such as
He Chaozong He Chaozong () was a celebrated early 17th-century Chinese potter. He Chaozong fashioned mainly Buddhist Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religion or philosophical tradition based on tea ...
, who became famous in the early 17th century for his style of white porcelain sculpture. In ''The Ceramic Trade in Asia'', Chuimei Ho estimates that about 16% of late Ming era Chinese ceramic exports were sent to Europe, while the rest were destined for Japan and South East Asia. Carved designs in lacquerware and designs glazed onto
porcelain Porcelain () is a ceramic material made by heating Chemical substance, substances, generally including materials such as kaolinite, in a kiln to temperatures between . The strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pot ...
wares displayed intricate scenes similar in complexity to those in painting. These items could be found in the homes of the wealthy, alongside embroidered silks and wares in
jade Jade is a mineral used as jewellery or for ornament (art), ornaments. It is typically green, although may be yellow or white. Jade can refer to either of two different silicate minerals: nephrite (a silicate of calcium and magnesium in the amp ...
, ivory, and cloisonné. The houses of the rich were also furnished with rosewood furniture and feathery
latticework __NOTOC__ Latticework is an openwork framework consisting of a criss-crossed pattern of strips of building material, typically wood or metal. The design is created by crossing the strips to form a grid or weave. Latticework may be functional &nda ...
. The writing materials in a scholar's private study, including elaborately carved brush holders made of stone or wood, were designed and arranged ritually to give an aesthetic appeal. Connoisseurship in the late Ming period centered on these items of refined artistic taste, which provided work for art dealers and even underground scammers who themselves made imitations and false attributions. The Jesuit
Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci, SJ (; la, Mattheus Riccius; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italians, Italian Society of Jesus, Jesuit Priesthood in the Catholic Church, priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions. He create ...
while staying in Nanjing wrote that Chinese scam artists were ingenious at making forgeries and huge profits. However, there were guides to help the wary new connoisseur;
Liu Tong Liu Tong (, c. 1593–1637) was a Chinese politician and writer from Macheng in Huanggang Huanggang is a prefecture-level city A prefecture-level city () or prefectural city is an administrative division of the China, People's Republi ...
(died 1637) wrote a book printed in 1635 that told his readers how to spot fake and authentic pieces of art. He revealed that a Xuande era (1426–1435) bronze work could be authenticated by judging its sheen; porcelain wares from the Yongle era (1402–1424) could be judged authentic by their thickness.


Religion

The dominant religious beliefs during the Ming dynasty were the various forms of
Chinese folk religion Chinese folk religion, also known as Chinese popular religion comprehends a range of traditional religious practices of Han Chinese, including the Chinese diaspora. Vivienne Wee described it as "an empty bowl, which can variously be filled ...
and the
Three Teachings In Chinese philosophy, the ''three teachings'' (; vi, tam giáo, Chữ Hán: 三教) are Chinese Buddhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, considered as a harmonious aggregate. Literary references to the "three teachings" by prominent Chines ...
Confucianism Confucianism, also known as Ruism or Ru classicism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a Religious Confucianism, religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, ...
,
Taoism Taoism (, ) or Daoism () refers to either a school of Philosophy, philosophical thought (道家; ''daojia'') or to a religion (道教; ''daojiao''), both of which share ideas and concepts of China, Chinese origin and emphasize living in harmo ...
, and
Buddhism Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religions, Indian religion or Indian philosophy#Buddhist philosophy, philosophical tradition based on Pre-sectarian Buddhism, teachings attributed to the Buddha. ...
. The Yuan-supported Tibetan lamas fell from favor, and the early Ming emperors particularly favored Taoism, granting its practitioners many positions in the state's ritual offices. The Hongwu Emperor curtailed the cosmopolitan culture of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, and the prolific Prince of Ning
Zhu Quan Zhu Quan (; 27 May 1378 – 12 October 1448), the Prince of Ning (), was a Chinese historian, military commander, musician, and playwright. He was the 17th son of the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty. During his life, he served as a milit ...
even composed one encyclopedia attacking Buddhism as a foreign "mourning cult", deleterious to the state, and another encyclopedia that subsequently joined the Taoist canon. The Yongle emperor and later emperors strongly patronised Tibetan Buddhism by supporting construction, printing of sutras, ceremonies etc., to seek legitimacy among foreign audiences. Yongle tried to portray himself as a Buddhist ideal king, a cakravartin. There is evidence that this portrayal was successful in persuading foreign audiences.
Islam Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious text considered by Muslims to be the direct word of God in Islam, God (or ''Allah'') as it was revealed to Muh ...
was also well-established throughout China, with a history said to have begun with
Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ ( ar, سعد بن أبي وقاص), also known as Saʿd ibn Mālik, was one of the sahaba, companions of the Prophets of Islam, Islamic Prophet Muhammad, a military conqueror of Sasanian Empire, Sasanian Persia and the fou ...
during the Tang dynasty and strong official support during the Yuan. Although the Ming sharply curtailed this support, there were still several prominent Muslim figures early on, including the Yongle Emperor's powerful eunuch
Zheng He Zheng He (; 1371–1433 or 1435) was a Chinese history of the Chinese navy, mariner, Chinese exploration, explorer, Foreign relations of imperial China, diplomat, fleet admiral, and court eunuch during China's History of the Ming dynasty, earl ...
. The Hongwu Emperor's generals Chang Yuqun, Lan Yu, Ding Dexing, and Mu Ying have also been identified as Muslim by Hui scholars, though this is doubted by non-Muslim sources. Regardless, the presence of Muslims in the armies that drove the Mongols northwards caused a gradual shift in the Chinese perception of Muslims, transitioning from "foreigners" to "familiar strangers". Mongol and Central Asian Semu Muslim women and men were required by Ming Code to marry Han Chinese after the first Ming Emperor
Hongwu Hongwu () (23 January 1368 – 5 February 1399) was the Chinese era name, era name of the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming dynasty of China. Hongwu was also the Ming dynasty's first era name. Comparison table Other eras contemporaneou ...
passed the law in Article 122. The Hongwu Emperor wrote a a 100 character praise of Islam and the prophet Muhammad. The Ming Emperors strongly sponsored the construction of mosques and granted generous liberties for the practice of Islam. The advent of the Ming was initially devastating to Christianity: in his first year, the
Hongwu Emperor The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practi ...
declared the eighty-year-old
Franciscan , image = FrancescoCoA PioM.svg , image_size = 200px , caption = A cross, Christ's arm and Saint Francis's arm, a universal symbol of the Franciscans , abbreviation = OFM , predecessor = , ...
missions among the Yuan heterodox and illegal. The centuries-old
Church of the East in China The Church of the East (also known as the Nestorianism, Nestorian Church) historically had a presence in China during two periods: first from the 7th through the 10th century in the Tang dynasty, when it was known as ''Jingjiao'' ( zh, t=景教, w= ...
also disappeared. During the later Ming a new wave of Christian missionaries arrived – particularly
Jesuits The Society of Jesus ( la, Societas Iesu; abbreviation: SJ), also known as the Jesuits (; la, Iesuitæ), is a religious order (Catholic), religious order of clerics regular of pontifical right for men in the Catholic Church headquartered in Rom ...
– who employed new western science and technology in their arguments for conversion. They were educated in Chinese language and culture at St. Paul's College on
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
after its founding in 1579. The most influential was
Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci, SJ (; la, Mattheus Riccius; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italians, Italian Society of Jesus, Jesuit Priesthood in the Catholic Church, priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions. He create ...
, whose " Map of the Myriad Countries of the World" upended traditional geography throughout East Asia, and whose work with the convert
Xu Guangqi Xu Guangqi or Hsü Kuang-ch'i (April 24, 1562– November 8, 1633), also known by his baptismal name Paul, was a Chinese agronomist, astronomer, mathematician, politician, and writer during the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), off ...
led to the first Chinese translation of
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Wikt:Εὐκλείδης, Εὐκλείδης; BC) was an ancient Greek mathematician active as a geometer and logician. Considered the "father of geometry", he is chiefly known for the ''Euclid's Elements, Elements'' trea ...
's '' Elements'' in 1607. The discovery of a Xi'an Stele at
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), frequently spelled as Xian and also known by #Name, other names, is the list of capitals in China, capital of Shaanxi, Shaanxi Province. A Sub-provincial division#Sub-provincial municipalities, sub-provincial city o ...
in 1625 also permitted Christianity to be treated as an old and established faith, rather than as a new and dangerous cult. However, there were strong disagreements about the extent to which converts could continue to perform rituals to the
emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife (empress consort), ...
,
Confucius Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; – ) was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period who is traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages. Co ...
, or their
ancestors An ancestor, also known as a forefather, fore-elder or a forebear, is a parent or (Recursion, recursively) the parent of an antecedent (i.e., a grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent and so forth). ''Ancestor'' is "any person ...
: Ricci had been very accommodating and an attempt by his successors to backtrack from this policy led to the Nanjing Incident of 1616, which exiled four Jesuits to
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
and forced the others out of public life for six years. A series of spectacular failures by the Chinese astronomers – including missing an eclipse easily computed by Xu Guangqi and Sabatino de Ursis – and a return by the Jesuits to presenting themselves as educated scholars in the Confucian mold restored their fortunes. However, by the end of the Ming the Dominicans had begun the Chinese Rites controversy in Rome that would eventually lead to a full ban of Christianity under the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the last orthodox dynasty in Chinese history. It emerged from the Later Jin (1616–1636), La ...
. During his mission, Ricci was also contacted in Beijing by one of the approximately 5,000
Kaifeng Jews The Kaifeng Jews ( zh, t=開封猶太族, p=Kāifēng Yóutàizú; he, יהדות קאיפנג ''Yahădūt Qāʾyfeng'') are members of a small community of History of the Jews in China, descendants of Chinese Jews in Kaifeng, in the Henan, Hen ...
and introduced them and their long history in China to Europe. However, the 1642 flood caused by Kaifeng's Ming governor devastated the community, which lost five of its twelve families, its synagogue, and most of its Torah..


Philosophy


Wang Yangming's Confucianism

During the Ming dynasty, the
Neo-Confucian Neo-Confucianism (, often shortened to ''lǐxué'' 理學, literally "School of Principle") is a Morality, moral, Ethics, ethical, and metaphysics, metaphysical Chinese philosophy influenced by Confucianism, and originated with Han Yu (768–8 ...
doctrines of the
Song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at melody, distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various song form, forms, such as those includ ...
scholar A scholar is a person who pursues academic and intellectual activities, particularly academics who apply their intellectualism into expertise in an area of study. A scholar can also be an academic An academy (Attic Greek Attic Greek is t ...
Zhu Xi Zhu Xi (; ; October 18, 1130 – April 23, 1200), formerly romanized Chu Hsi, was a Chinese calligrapher, historian, philosopher, poet, and politician during the Song dynasty. Zhu was influential in the development of Neo-Confucianism. He con ...
were embraced by the court and the Chinese literati at large, although the direct line of his school was destroyed by the
Yongle Emperor The Yongle Emperor (; pronounced ; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), personal name Zhu Di (), was the third List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1402 to 1424. Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu ...
's extermination of the ten degrees of kinship of Fang Xiaoru in 1402. The Ming scholar most influential upon subsequent generations, however, was
Wang Yangming Wang Shouren (, 26 October 1472 – 9 January 1529), courtesy name Bo'an (), art name Yangmingzi (), usually referred to as Wang Yangming (), was a Chinese calligrapher, general, philosopher, politician, and writer during the Ming dynasty. ...
(1472–1529), whose teachings were attacked in his own time for their similarity to
Chan Buddhism Chan (; of ), from Sanskrit ''dhyāna in Buddhism, dhyāna'' (meaning "meditation" or "meditative state"), is a Chinese school of Mahayana, Mahāyāna Buddhism. It developed in China from the 6th century Common Era, CE onwards, becoming e ...
. Building upon Zhu Xi's concept of the "extension of knowledge" ( or ), gaining understanding through careful and rational investigation of things and events, Wang argued that universal concepts would appear in the minds of anyone. Therefore, he claimed that anyone – no matter their pedigree or education – could become as wise as
Confucius Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; – ) was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period who is traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages. Co ...
and
Mencius Mencius ( ); born Mèng Kē (); or Mèngzǐ (; 372–289 BC) was a Chinese Confucianism, Confucian Chinese philosophy, philosopher who has often been described as the "second Sage", that is, second to Confucius himself. He is part of Confuc ...
had been and that their writings were not sources of truth but merely guides that might have flaws when carefully examined. A peasant with a great deal of experience and intelligence would then be wiser than an official who had memorized the
Classics Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity. In the Western world, classics traditionally refers to the study of Classical Greek and Roman literature and their related original languages, Ancient Greek Ancient ...
but not experienced the real world.


Conservative reaction

Other
scholar-bureaucrat The scholar-officials, also known as literati, scholar-gentlemen or scholar-bureaucrats (), were government officials and prestigious scholars in Chinese society, forming a distinct social class. Scholar-officials were politicians and governmen ...
s were wary of Wang's heterodoxy, the increasing number of his disciples while he was still in office, and his overall socially rebellious message. To curb his influence, he was often sent out to deal with military affairs and rebellions far away from the capital. Yet his ideas penetrated mainstream Chinese thought and spurred new interest in Taoism and Buddhism. Furthermore, people began to question the validity of the social hierarchy and the idea that the scholar should be above the farmer. Wang Yangming's disciple and salt-mine worker Wang Gen gave lectures to commoners about pursuing education to improve their lives, while his follower He Xinyin () challenged the elevation and emphasis of the family in Chinese society. His contemporary Li Zhi even taught that women were the intellectual equals of men and should be given a better education; both Li and He eventually died in prison, jailed on charges of spreading "dangerous ideas". Yet these "dangerous ideas" of educating women had long been embraced by some mothers and by
courtesan Courtesan, in modern usage, is a euphemism for a "kept" mistress (lover), mistress or prostitute, particularly one with wealthy, powerful, or influential clients. The term historically referred to a courtier, a person who attended the Royal cour ...
s who were as literate and skillful in calligraphy, painting, and poetry as their male guests. The liberal views of Wang Yangming were opposed by the
Censorate The Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in History of China#Imperial China, Imperial China, first established during the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC). The Censorate was a highly effective agency during the Mongols, Mongol-led Yu ...
and by the Donglin Academy, re-established in 1604. These conservatives wanted a revival of orthodox Confucian ethics. Conservatives such as Gu Xiancheng (1550–1612) argued against Wang's idea of innate moral knowledge, stating that this was simply a legitimization for unscrupulous behavior such as greedy pursuits and personal gain. These two strands of Confucian thought, hardened by Chinese scholars' notions of obligation towards their mentors, developed into pervasive factionalism among the ministers of state, who used any opportunity to impeach members of the other faction from court.


Urban and rural life

Wang Gen was able to give philosophical lectures to many commoners from different regions because – following the trend already apparent in the Song dynasty – communities in Ming society were becoming less isolated as the distance between market towns was shrinking. Schools, descent groups, religious associations, and other local voluntary organizations were increasing in number and allowing more contact between educated men and local villagers.
Jonathan Spence Jonathan Dermot Spence (11 August 1936 – 25 December 2021) was an English-born American historian, Sinology, sinologist, and writer who specialized in History of China, Chinese history. He was Sterling Professor of History at Yale Universit ...
writes that the distinction between what was town and country was blurred in Ming China, since suburban areas with farms were located just outside and in some cases within the walls of a city. Not only was the blurring of town and country evident, but also of socioeconomic class in the traditional four occupations (''Shì nóng gōng shāng'', ), since artisans sometimes worked on farms in peak periods, and farmers often traveled into the city to find work during times of dearth. A variety of occupations could be chosen or inherited from a father's line of work. This would include – but was not limited to – coffin makers, ironworkers and blacksmiths, tailors, cooks and noodle-makers, retail merchants, tavern, teahouse, or winehouse managers, shoemakers, seal cutters, pawnshop owners, brothel heads, and merchant bankers engaging in a proto-banking system involving notes of exchange. Virtually every town had a
brothel A brothel, bordello, ranch, or whorehouse is a place where people engage in Human sexual activity, sexual activity with prostitutes. However, for legal or cultural reasons, establishments often describe themselves as massage parlors, bars, st ...
where female and male prostitutes could be had. Male catamites fetched a higher price than female concubines since
pederasty Pederasty or paederasty ( or ) is a sexual relationship between an adult man and a puberty, pubescent or adolescence, adolescent boy. The term ''pederasty'' is primarily used to refer to historical practices of certain cultures, particularly H ...
with a teenage boy was seen as a mark of elite status, regardless of
sodomy Sodomy () or buggery (British English) is generally Anal sex, anal or oral sex between people, or Human sexual activity, sexual activity between a person and a non-human animal (Zoophilia, bestiality), but it may also mean any non-Reproduction, ...
being repugnant to sexual norms.
Public bathing Public baths originated when most people in population centers did not have access to private bathing facilities. Though termed "public", they have often been restricted according to gender, religious affiliation, personal membership, and other cr ...
became much more common than in earlier periods. Urban shops and retailers sold a variety of goods such as special paper money to burn at ancestral sacrifices, specialized luxury goods, headgear, fine cloth, teas, and others. Smaller communities and townships too poor or scattered to support shops and artisans obtained their goods from periodic market fairs and traveling peddlers. A small township also provided a place for simple schooling, news and gossip, matchmaking, religious festivals, traveling theater groups, tax collection, and bases of famine relief distribution. Farming villagers in the north spent their days harvesting crops like wheat and millet, while farmers south of the
Huai River The Huai River (), Postal Map Romanization, formerly romanization of Chinese, romanized as the Hwai, is a major river in China. It is located about midway between the Yellow River and Yangtze, the two longest rivers and largest drainage basins ...
engaged in intensive rice cultivation and had lakes and ponds where ducks and fish could be raised. The cultivation of mulberry trees for silkworms and tea bushes could be found mostly south of the
Yangzi River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ; ) is the longest list of rivers of Asia, river in Asia, the list of rivers by length, third-longest in the world, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in th ...
; even further south
sugarcane Sugarcane or sugar cane is a species of (often hybrid) tall, Perennial plant, perennial grass (in the genus ''Saccharum'', tribe Andropogoneae) that is used for sugar Sugar industry, production. The plants are 2–6 m (6–20 ft) tall with ...
and citrus were grown as basic crops. Some people in the mountainous southwest made a living by selling lumber from hard bamboo. Besides cutting down trees to sell wood, the poor also made a living by turning wood into charcoal, and by burning
oyster Oyster is the common name for a number of different families of Seawater, salt-water bivalve molluscs that live in Marine (ocean), marine or Brackish water, brackish habitats. In some species, the valves are highly calcified, and many are somew ...
shells to make lime and fired pots, and weaving mats and baskets. In the north traveling by horse and carriage was most common, while in the south the myriad of rivers, canals, and lakes provided cheap and easy water transport. Although the south had the characteristic of the wealthy landlord and tenant farmers, there were on average many more owner-cultivators north of the Huai River due to harsher climate, living not far above subsistence level. Early Ming dynasty saw the strictest
sumptuary laws Sumptuary laws (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
in Chinese history. It was illegal for commoners to wear fine silk or dress in bright red, dark green or yellow colors; nor could they wear boots or '' guan'' hats. Women could not use ornaments made from gold, jade, pearl or emerald. Merchants and their families were further banned from using silk. However, these laws were no longer enforced from the middle Ming period onwards.


Science and technology

After the flourishing of science and technology in the Song dynasty, the Ming dynasty perhaps saw fewer advancements in science and technology compared to the pace of discovery in the
Western world The Western world, also known as the West, primarily refers to the various nations and state (polity), states in the regions of Europe, North America, and Oceania.
. In fact, key advances in Chinese science in the late Ming were spurred by contact with Europe. In 1626 Johann Adam Schall von Bell wrote the first Chinese treatise on the
telescope A telescope is a device used to observe distant objects by their emission, Absorption (electromagnetic radiation), absorption, or Reflection (physics), reflection of electromagnetic radiation. Originally meaning only an optical instrument usin ...
, the ''Yuanjingshuo'' (''Far Seeing Optic Glass''); in 1634 the
Chongzhen Emperor The Chongzhen Emperor (; 6 February 1611 – 25 April 1644), personal name Zhu Youjian (), courtesy name Deyue (),Wang Yuan (王源),''Ju ye tang wen ji'' (《居業堂文集》), vol. 19. "聞之張景蔚親見烈皇帝神主題御諱字德 ...
acquired the telescope of the late Johann Schreck (1576–1630). The
heliocentric Heliocentrism (also known as the Heliocentric model) is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the universe. Historically, heliocentrism was opposed to Geocentric model, geocentrism, which p ...
model of the solar system was rejected by the Catholic missionaries in China, but
Johannes Kepler Johannes Kepler (; ; 27 December 1571 – 15 November 1630) was a German astronomer, German mathematician, mathematician, astrologer, Natural philosophy, natural philosopher and writer on music. He is a key figure in the 17th-century Scienti ...
and
Galileo Galilei Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced (, ). He was ...
's ideas slowly trickled into China starting with the Polish Jesuit Michael Boym (1612–1659) in 1627, Adam Schall von Bell's treatise in 1640, and finally Joseph Edkins, Alex Wylie, and John Fryer in the 19th century. Catholic Jesuits in China would promote Copernican theory at court, yet at the same time embrace the Ptolemaic system in their writing; it was not until 1865 that Catholic missionaries in China sponsored the heliocentric model as their Protestant peers did. Although
Shen Kuo Shen Kuo (; 1031–1095) or Shen Gua, courtesy name Cunzhong (存中) and Art name#China, pseudonym Mengqi (now usually given as Mengxi) Weng (夢溪翁),Yao (2003), 544. was a Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman of the Song dynasty (960 ...
(1031–1095) and
Guo Shoujing Guo Shoujing (, 1231–1316), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including ...
(1231–1316) had laid the basis for
trigonometry Trigonometry () is a branch of mathematics that studies relationships between side lengths and angles of triangles. The field emerged in the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic world during the 3rd century BC from applications of geometry to Astr ...
in China, another important work in Chinese trigonometry would not be published again until 1607 with the efforts of Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci. Ironically, some inventions which had their origins in ancient China were reintroduced to China from Europe during the late Ming; for example, the field mill. The
Chinese calendar The traditional Chinese calendar (also known as the Agricultural Calendar 曆; 农历; ''Nónglì''; 'farming calendar' Former Calendar 曆; 旧历; ''Jiùlì'' Traditional Calendar 曆; 老历; ''Lǎolì'', is a lunisolar calendar ...
was in need of reform since it inadequately measured the
solar year A tropical year or solar year (or tropical period) is the time that the Sun takes to return to the same position of the Sun, position in the sky of a celestial body of the Solar System such as the Earth, completing a full cycle of seasons; for e ...
at 365 ¼ days, giving an error of 10 min and 14 sec a year or roughly a full day every 128 years. Although the Ming had adopted
Guo Shoujing Guo Shoujing (, 1231–1316), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including ...
's ''Shoushi'' calendar of 1281, which was just as accurate as the
Gregorian Calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most parts of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a modification of, and replacement for, the Julian calendar. The principal change was to space leap years diffe ...
, the Ming Directorate of Astronomy failed to periodically readjust it; this was perhaps due to their lack of expertise since their offices had become hereditary in the Ming and the Statutes of the Ming prohibited private involvement in astronomy. A sixth-generation descendant of the Hongxi Emperor, the "Prince"
Zhu Zaiyu Zhu or ZHU may refer to: *Zhu (surname) Zhu is the pinyin Hanyu Pinyin (), often shortened to just pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in China, and to some extent, in Singapore a ...
(1536–1611), submitted a proposal to fix the calendar in 1595, but the ultra-conservative astronomical commission rejected it. This was the same Zhu Zaiyu who discovered the system of tuning known as
equal temperament An equal temperament is a musical temperament or Musical tuning#Tuning systems, tuning system, which approximates Just intonation, just intervals by dividing an octave (or other interval) into equal steps. This means the ratio of the frequency, ...
, a discovery made simultaneously by
Simon Stevin Simon Stevin (; 1548–1620), sometimes called Stevinus, was a Flemish mathematician, scientist and music theorist. He made various contributions in many areas of science and engineering, both theoretical and practical. He also translated vario ...
(1548–1620) in Europe. In addition to publishing his works on music, he was able to publish his findings on the calendar in 1597. A year earlier, the memorial of Xing Yunlu suggesting a calendar improvement was rejected by the Supervisor of the Astronomical Bureau due to the law banning private practice of astronomy; Xing would later serve with Xu Guangqi in reforming the calendar (Chinese: ) in 1629 according to Western standards. When the Ming founder Hongwu came upon the mechanical devices housed in the Yuan dynasty's palace at Khanbaliq – such as fountains with balls dancing on their jets, self-operating tiger automata, dragon-headed devices that spouted mists of perfume, and mechanical clocks in the tradition of
Yi Xing Yi Xing (, 683–727), born Zhang Sui (), was a Chinese astronomer, Buddhist monk, inventor, mathematician, mechanical engineer, and philosopher during the Tang dynasty. His astronomical globe#celestial, celestial globe featured a liquid-driven ...
(683–727) and
Su Song Su Song (, 1020–1101), courtesy name Zirong (), was a Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman. Excelling in a variety of fields, he was accomplished in mathematics, Chinese astronomy, astronomy, History of cartography#China, cartography, ...
(1020–1101) – he associated all of them with the decadence of Mongol rule and had them destroyed. This was described in full length by the Divisional Director of the Ministry of Works, Xiao Xun, who also carefully preserved details on the architecture and layout of the Yuan dynasty palace. Later, European Jesuits such as Matteo Ricci and
Nicolas Trigault Nicolas Trigault (1577–1628) was a Jesuit The Society of Jesus ( la, Societas Iesu; abbreviation: SJ), also known as the Jesuits (; la, Iesuitæ), is a religious order (Catholic), religious order of clerics regular of pontifical right for me ...
would briefly mention indigenous Chinese clockworks that featured drive wheels. However, both Ricci and Trigault were quick to point out that 16th-century European clockworks were far more advanced than the common time keeping devices in China, which they listed as
water clock A water clock or clepsydra (; ; ) is a timepiece by which time is measured by the regulated flow of liquid into (inflow type) or out from (outflow type) a vessel, and where the amount is then measured. Water clocks are one of the oldest time-m ...
s,
incense clock The incense clock () is a timekeeping device that originated from China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and spread to neighboring East Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. The clocks' bodies are effectively specialized censers that hold i ...
s, and "other instruments ... with wheels rotated by sand as if by water" (Chinese: ). Chinese records – namely the '' Yuan Shi'' – describe the 'five-wheeled sand clock', a mechanism pioneered by Zhan Xiyuan ( fl. 1360–80) which featured the scoop wheel of Su Song's earlier
astronomical clock An astronomical clock, horologium, or orloj is a clock with special mechanism (technology), mechanisms and dial (measurement), dials to display astronomical information, such as the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, zodiacal constellations, a ...
and a stationary dial face over which a pointer circulated, similar to European models of the time. This sand-driven wheel clock was improved upon by Zhou Shuxue (fl. 1530–58) who added a fourth large gear wheel, changed gear ratios, and widened the orifice for collecting sand grains since he criticized the earlier model for clogging up too often. The Chinese were intrigued with European technology, but so were visiting Europeans of Chinese technology. In 1584,
Abraham Ortelius Abraham Ortelius (; also Ortels, Orthellius, Wortels; 4 or 14 April 152728 June 1598) was a Duchy of Brabant, Brabantian cartographer, geographer, and cosmographer, conventionally recognized as the creator of the list of atlases, first modern at ...
(1527–1598) featured in his atlas ''Theatrum Orbis Terrarum'' the peculiar Chinese innovation of mounting masts and sails onto carriages, just like Chinese ships. Gonzales de Mendoza also mentioned this a year later – noting even the designs of them on Chinese silken robes – while
Gerardus Mercator Gerardus Mercator (; 5 March 1512 – 2 December 1594) was a 16th-century geographer, cosmographer and Cartography, cartographer from the County of Flanders. He is most renowned for creating the Mercator 1569 world map, 1569 world map based on ...
(1512–1594) featured them in his atlas,
John Milton John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) was an English people, English poet and intellectual. His 1667 epic poetry, epic poem ''Paradise Lost'', written in blank verse and including over ten chapters, was written in a time of immense ...
(1608–1674) in one of his famous poems, and Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739–1801) in the writings of his travel diary in China. The encyclopedist
Song Yingxing Song Yingxing (Traditional Chinese A tradition is a belief or behavior (folk custom) passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. A component of cultural expressions and folklo ...
(1587–1666) documented a wide array of technologies, metallurgic and industrial processes in his '' Tiangong Kaiwu'' encyclopedia of 1637. This includes mechanical and hydraulic powered devices for agriculture and irrigation, nautical technology such as vessel types and
snorkeling Snorkeling (American and British English spelling differences#Doubled in British English, British and Commonwealth English spelling: snorkelling) is the practice of human swimming, swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a div ...
gear for pearl divers, the annual processes of
sericulture Sericulture, or silk farming, is the cultivation of silkworm The domestic silk moth (''Bombyx mori''), is an insect from the moth family (biology), family Bombycidae. It is the closest relative of ''Bombyx mandarina'', the wild silk moth ...
and weaving with the
loom A loom is a device used to weaving, weave cloth and tapestry. The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the Warp (weaving), warp threads under tension (mechanics), tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads. The precise shape o ...
, metallurgic processes such as the
crucible A crucible is a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures. While crucibles were historically usually made from clay, they can be made from any material that withstands te ...
technique and
quench In materials science, quenching is the rapid Conduction (heat), cooling of a workpiece in water, oil, polymer, air, or other fluids to obtain certain material properties. A type of heat treating, quenching prevents undesired low-temperature proce ...
ing, manufacturing processes such as for roasting iron
pyrite The mineral pyrite (), or iron pyrite, also known as fool's gold, is an iron sulfide with the chemical formula Iron, FeSulfur, S2 (iron (II) disulfide). Pyrite is the most abundant sulfide mineral. Pyrite's metallic Luster (mineralogy), lust ...
in converting sulphide to oxide in
sulfur Sulfur (or sulphur in British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere". More narrowly, it can refer specifically to the ...
used in gunpowder compositions – illustrating how ore was piled up with coal briquettes in an earthen furnace with a still-head that sent over sulfur as vapor that would solidify and crystallize – and the use of gunpowder weapons such as a
naval mine A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any ve ...
ignited by use of a rip-cord and steel flint wheel. Focusing on agriculture in his ''Nongzheng Quanshu'', the agronomist
Xu Guangqi Xu Guangqi or Hsü Kuang-ch'i (April 24, 1562– November 8, 1633), also known by his baptismal name Paul, was a Chinese agronomist, astronomer, mathematician, politician, and writer during the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), off ...
(1562–1633) took an interest in irrigation, fertilizers, famine relief, economic and textile crops, and empirical observation of the elements that gave insight into early understandings of chemistry. There were many advances and new designs in gunpowder weapons during the beginning of the dynasty, but by the mid to late Ming the Chinese began to frequently employ European-style artillery and firearms. The ''
Huolongjing The ''Huolongjing'' (; Wade-Giles: ''Huo Lung Ching''; rendered in English as ''Fire Drake Manual'' or ''Fire Dragon Manual''), also known as ''Huoqitu'' (“Firearm Illustrations”), is a Chinese military treatise compiled and edited by Jia ...
'', compiled by
Jiao Yu Jiao Yu () was a Chinese military general, philosopher, and writer of the Yuan dynasty and early Ming dynasty under Zhu Yuanzhang, who founded the dynasty and became known as the Hongwu Emperor. He was entrusted by Zhu as a leading artillery o ...
and
Liu Bowen Liu Ji (1 July 1311 – 16 May 1375),Jiang, Yonglin. Jiang Yonglin. 005(2005). The Great Ming Code: 大明律. University of Washington Press. , 9780295984490. Page xxxv. The source is used to cover the year only. courtesy name Bowen, bette ...
sometime before the latter's death on 16 May 1375 (with a preface added by Jiao in 1412), featured many types of cutting-edge gunpowder weaponry for the time. This includes hollow, gunpowder-filled exploding cannonballs,
land mine A land mine is an explosive weapon, explosive device concealed under or on the ground and designed to destroy or disable enemy targets, ranging from combatants to vehicles and tanks, as they pass over or near it. Such a device is typically d ...
s that used a complex trigger mechanism of falling weights, pins, and a steel wheellock to ignite the train of fuses, naval mines, fin-mounted winged rockets for
aerodynamic Aerodynamics, from grc, ἀήρ ''aero'' (air) + grc, δυναμική (dynamics), is the study of the motion of air, particularly when affected by a solid object, such as an airplane wing. It involves topics covered in the field of fluid dy ...
control,
multistage rocket A multistage rocket or step rocket is a launch vehicle that uses two or more rocket ''stages'', each of which contains its own Rocket engine, engines and Rocket propellant, propellant. A ''tandem'' or ''serial'' stage is mounted on top of anot ...
s propelled by booster rockets before igniting a swarm of smaller rockets issuing forth from the end of the missile (shaped like a dragon's head), and
hand cannon The hand cannon ( Chinese: 手 銃 ''shŏuchòng'', or 火 銃 ''huŏchòng''), also known as the gonne or handgonne, is the first true firearm and the successor of the fire lance. It is the oldest type of small arms as well as the most me ...
s that had up to ten barrels.
Li Shizhen Li Shizhen (July 3, 1518  – 1593), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sp ...
(1518–1593) – one of the most renowned pharmacologists and physicians in Chinese history – belonged to the late Ming period. His ''
Bencao Gangmu The ''Bencao gangmu'', known in English as the ''Compendium of Materia Medica'' or ''Great Pharmacopoeia'', is an encyclopedic gathering of medicine, natural history, and Chinese herbology compiled and edited by Li Shizhen and published in the ...
'' is a medical text with 1,892 entries, each entry with its own name called a ''gang''. The ''mu'' in the title refers to the synonyms of each name. Inoculation, although it can be traced to earlier Chinese folk medicine, was detailed in Chinese texts by the sixteenth century. Throughout the Ming dynasty, around fifty texts were published on the treatment of smallpox. In regards to
oral hygiene Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping one's mouth clean and free of disease and other problems (e.g. bad breath) by regular brushing of the teeth (dental hygiene) and cleaning between the teeth. It is important that oral hygiene be carried out ...
, the
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the ...
ians had a primitive toothbrush of a twig frayed at the end, but the Chinese were the first to invent the modern bristle toothbrush in 1498, although it used stiff pig hair.


Population

Sinologist historians debate the population figures for each era in the Ming dynasty. The historian
Timothy Brook Timothy James Brook ( Chinese name: 卜正民; born January 6, 1951) is a Canadian historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, met ...
notes that the Ming government census figures are dubious since fiscal obligations prompted many families to underreport the number of people in their households and many county officials to underreport the number of households in their jurisdiction. Children were often underreported, especially female children, as shown by skewed population statistics throughout the Ming. Even adult women were underreported; for example, the Daming Prefecture in
North Zhili North Zhili, Wade–Giles, formerly romanization of Chinese, romanized as , was a history of the administrative divisions of China before 1912, province of History of China#Imperial China, Imperial China in Ming dynasty. It was composed of the p ...
reported a population of 378,167 males and 226,982 females in 1502. The government attempted to revise the census figures using estimates of the expected average number of people in each household, but this did not solve the widespread problem of tax registration. Some part of the gender imbalance may be attributed to the practice of female
infanticide Infanticide (or infant homicide) is the intentional killing of infants or offspring. Infanticide was a widespread practice throughout human history that was mainly used to dispose of unwanted children, its main purpose is the prevention of resou ...
. The practice is well documented in China, going back over two thousand years, and it was described as "rampant" and "practiced by almost every family" by contemporary authors. However, the dramatically skewed sex ratios, which many counties reported exceeding 2:1 by 1586, cannot likely be explained by infanticide alone. The number of people counted in the census of 1381 was 59,873,305; however, this number dropped significantly when the government found that some 3 million people were missing from the tax census of 1391. Even though underreporting figures was made a capital crime in 1381, the need for survival pushed many to abandon the tax registration and wander from their region, where Hongwu had attempted to impose rigid immobility on the populace. The government tried to mitigate this by creating their own conservative estimate of 60,545,812 people in 1393. In his ''Studies on the Population of China'', Ho Ping-ti suggests revising the 1393 census to 65 million people, noting that large areas of North China and frontier areas were not counted in that census. Brook states that the population figures gathered in the official censuses after 1393 ranged between 51 and 62 million, while the population was in fact increasing. Even the Hongzhi Emperor (r. 1487–1505) remarked that the daily increase in subjects coincided with the daily dwindling amount of registered civilians and soldiers. William Atwell states that around 1400 the population of China was perhaps 90 million people, citing Heijdra and Mote. Historians are now turning to local
gazetteer A gazetteer is a geographical Reference work, index or Directory (databases), directory used in conjunction with a map or atlas.Aurousseau, 61. It typically contains information concerning the geographical makeup, social statistics and physica ...
s of Ming China for clues that would show consistent growth in population. Using the gazetteers, Brook estimates that the overall population under the
Chenghua Emperor The Chenghua Emperor (; 9 December 1447 – 9 September 1487), personal name Zhu Jianshen, was the ninth List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, who reigned from 1464 to 1487. His Chinese era name, era name "Chenghua (e ...
(r. 1464–87) was roughly 75 million, despite mid-Ming census figures hovering around 62 million. While prefectures across the empire in the mid-Ming period were reporting either a drop in or stagnant population size, local gazetteers reported massive amounts of incoming vagrant workers with not enough good cultivated land for them to till, so that many would become drifters, conmen, or wood-cutters that contributed to deforestation. The Hongzhi and Zhengde emperors lessened the penalties against those who had fled their home region, while the
Jiajing Emperor The Jiajing Emperor (; 16September 150723January 1567) was the 12th List of emperors of the Ming dynasty, Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1521 to 1567. Born Zhu Houcong, he was the former Zhengde Emperor's cousin. His father, Zhu You ...
(r. 1521–67) finally had officials register migrants wherever they had moved or fled in order to bring in more revenues. Even with the Jiajing reforms to document migrant workers and merchants, by the late Ming era the government census still did not accurately reflect the enormous growth in population. Gazetteers across the empire noted this and made their own estimations of the overall population in the Ming, some guessing that it had doubled, tripled, or even grown fivefold since 1368. Fairbank estimates that the population was perhaps 160 million in the late Ming dynasty, while Brook estimates 175 million, and Ebrey states perhaps as large as 200 million. However, a great epidemic that started in Shanxi Province in 1633, ravaged the densely populated areas along the Grand Canal; a gazetteer in northern
Zhejiang Zhejiang ( or , ; , also romanized as Chekiang) is an eastern, coastal province of the People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countri ...
noted more than half the population fell ill that year and that 90% of the local populace in one area was dead by 1642.


See also

* Economy of the Ming dynasty ** Taxation in premodern China * 1642 Yellow River flood *
Kingdom of Tungning The Kingdom of Tungning (), also known as Tywan by the British at the time, was a dynastic Thalassocracy, maritime state that ruled part of southwestern Taiwan and the Penghu islands between 1661 and 1683. It is the first predominantly Han Chine ...
* List of tributaries of Imperial China * Luchuan–Pingmian campaigns * Manchuria under Ming rule *
Military conquests of the Ming dynasty The military conquests of the Ming dynasty were instrumental to the dynasty's hold on power during the early Ming. Hongwu reign (1368–1398) Early in his reign, Hongwu Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu Emperor), the founder of the Ming dynasty, la ...
* Ming ceramics * Ming emperors family tree * Ming official headwear *
Ming poetry Ming poetry refers to the poetry of or typical of the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongo ...
*
Transition from Ming to Qing The transition from Ming to Qing, alternatively known as Ming–Qing transition or the Manchu conquest of China, from 1618 to 1683, saw the transition between two major Dynasties in Chinese history, dynasties in Chinese history. It was a decade ...
* Ye Chunji (for further information on
rural economics Rural economics is the study of rural economy, economies. Rural economies include both farm, agricultural and non-agricultural industries, so rural economics has broader concerns than agricultural economics which focus more on food systems. Rura ...
in the Ming) *
Zheng Zhilong Zheng Zhilong, Marquis of Tong'an and Nan'an (; April 16, 1604 – November 24, 1661), baptismal name Nicholas Iquan Gaspard, was a Chinese admiral, merchant, military general, pirate, and politician of the late Ming dynasty who later defect ...


Notes


References


Citations


Works cited

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading


Reference works and primary sources

* Farmer, Edward L. ed.
Ming History: An Introductory Guide to Research
' (1994). *
The Ming History English Translation Project
A collaborative project that makes available translations (from Chinese to English) of portions of the 明史 Mingshi (Official History of the Ming Dynasty). * Lynn Struve,
The Ming-Qing conflict, 1619-1683: A historiography and source guide
', Online Indiana University.


General studies

* Brook, Timothy. ''The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties'' (History of Imperial China) (Harvard UP, 2010)
excerpt
* * * * * Dardess, John W. ''A Ming Society: T'ai-ho County, Kiangsi, in the Fourteenth to Seventeenth Centuries'' (U of California Press, 1996
online free
* * * *
pp. 723–743Archive

pp. 807–832Archive
. * Swope, Kenneth M. "Manifesting Awe: Grand Strategy and Imperial Leadership in the Ming Dynasty." ''Journal of Military History'' 79.3 (2015). pp. 597–634. * *


External links


Notable Ming dynasty painters and galleries
at China Online Museum


Highlights from the British Museum exhibition
{{Featured article Imperial China Dynasties in Chinese history Former countries in Chinese history 1368 establishments in Asia *02 14th-century establishments in China * * *01 1640s disestablishments in China 1644 disestablishments in Asia States and territories disestablished in 1644 States and territories established in 1368