The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398) Zhu Yuanzhang (), was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1368 to 1398. As famine, plagues and peasant revolts swept across China in the 14th century, Zhu Yuanzhang rose to command the forces that conquered China, ending the Mongols, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty and forcing the Mongols to retreat to the Eurasian Steppe. Zhu claimed the Mandate of Heaven and established the Ming dynasty at the beginning of 1368 and occupied the Yuan capital, Khanbaliq (present-day Beijing), with his army that same year. Trusting only House of Zhu, his family, he made his many sons powerful feudal princes along the northern marches and the Yangtze valley.Chan Hok-lam.
Legitimating Usurpation: Historical Revisions under the Ming Yongle Emperor (r. 14021424)
". ''The Legitimation of New Orders: Case Studies in World History''. Chinese University Press, 2007. , 9789629962395. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
Having outlived his eldest son Zhu Biao, Hongwu enthroned Zhu Biao's son via a Huang Ming Zu Xun, series of instructions. This ended in failure when the Jianwen Emperor's attempts to unseat his uncles led to the Jingnan Rebellion. The era of Hongwu witnessed much tolerance with the minorities and religions; Ma Zhu, Ma Zhou, the Chinese historian indicates that the Hongwu ordered to renovate and build many mosques in Xi’an and Nanjing. Wang Daiyu also recorded that the emperor wrote 100 characters praising Islam, The Hundred-word Eulogy, Baizi zan . The reign of the Hongwu Emperor is notable for his unprecedented political reforms. The emperor abolished the position of Grand chancellor (China), chancellor, drastically reduced the role of court eunuchs, and adopted draconian measures to address corruption. He also established the Embroidered Uniform Guard, one of the best known secret police organizations in imperial China. In the 1380s and 1390s a series of purges were launched to eliminate his high-ranked officials and generals; tens of thousands were executed. The reign of Hongwu also witnessed much cruelty. Various cruel methods of execution was introduced for punishable crimes and for those who directly criticized the emperor, and massacres were also carried against everyone who resisted his rule.劉辰. ''國初事迹''李默. ''孤樹裒談''楊一凡(1988). ''明大誥研究''. Jiangsu Renmin Press. The emperor encouraged agriculture, reduced taxes, incentivized the cultivation of new land, and established laws protecting peasants' property. He also confiscated land held by large estates and forbade private slavery. At the same time, he banned free movement in the empire and assigned hereditary occupational categories to households. Through these measures, Zhu Yuanzhang attempted to rebuild a country that had been ravaged by war, limit and control its social groups, and instill orthodox values in his subjects, eventually creating a strictly regimented society of self-sufficient farming communities.Zhang Wenxian.
The Yellow Register Archives of Imperial Ming China
". ''Libraries & the Cultural Record'', Vol. 43, No. 2 (2008), pp. 148–175. Univ. of Texas Press. Retrieved 9 October 2012.

Early life

Zhu was born to a family of impoverished Peasant#Use of the term for Chinese farmers, peasant tenant farmers in Zhongli Village in the Huai River plain, which is in present-day Fengyang, Anhui, Anhui Province.Dreyer, 22–23. His father's name was Zhu Shizhen (朱世珍, original name Zhu Wusi 朱五四) and his mother was Chen Erniang. He had seven older siblings, several of whom were "given away" by his parents, as they did not have enough food to support the family. When he was 16, severe drought ruined the harvest where his family lived and famine subsequently killed everyone in his family except for him and one of his brothers. He then buried them by wrapping them in white cloth. His grandfather, who lived to be 99 years old, served in the Southern Song army and navy, which had fought against the Mongol invasion, and told his grandson tales of it. Destitute after his family's death, Zhu accepted a suggestion to take up a pledge made by his brother and became a novice monk at the Huangjue Temple, a local Buddhist monastery. However, he was forced to leave the monastery after it ran short of funds. For the next few years, Zhu led the life of a wandering beggar and personally experienced the hardships of the common people. After about three years, he returned to the monastery and stayed there until he was around 24 years old. He learned to read and write during the time that he spent with the Buddhist monks.

Rise to power

The monastery where Zhu lived was eventually destroyed by an army suppressing a local rebellion. In 1352, Zhu joined one of the many insurgent forces that had risen in rebellion against the Mongols, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. He rose rapidly through the ranks and became a commander. His rebel force later joined the Red Turban Rebellion, Red Turbans (then led by Han Shantong), a Millenarianism, millenarian sect related to the White Lotus, White Lotus Society, and one that followed cultural and religious traditions of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and other religions. Widely seen as a defender of Confucianism and neo-Confucianism among the predominant Han Chinese population in China, Zhu emerged as a leader of the rebels that were struggling to overthrow the Yuan dynasty. In 1356, Zhu and his army conquered Nanjing, which became his base of operations and the capital of the Ming dynasty during his reign. Zhu's government in Nanjing became famous for good governance, and the city attracted vast numbers of people fleeing from other more lawless regions. It is estimated that Nanjing's population increased tenfold over the next 10 years.Ebrey, "Cambridge Illustrated History of China", pg. 191 In the meantime, the Yuan government had been weakened by internal factions fighting for control, and it made little effort to retake the Yangtze River valley. By 1358, central and Southern China had fallen into the hands of different rebel groups. During that time the Red Turban Rebellion, Red Turbans also split up. Zhu became the leader of a smaller faction (called "Ming" around 1360), while the larger faction, under Chen Youliang, controlled the center of the Yangtze River valley. Zhu Yuanzhang was the Duke of Wu, which was nominally under the control of Han Shantong's son Han Lin'er (w:zh:韩林儿), who was enthroned as the Longfeng 龙凤 Emperor of the Great Song dynasty (Red Turban Rebellion, Red Turban Song dynasty w:zh:宋 (韩林儿)). Zhu was able to attract many talents into his service. One of them was (), who advised him to "build high walls, stock up rations, and delay claiming kingship" (). Another, Jiao Yu, was an artillery officer, who later compiled a military treatise outlining the various types of gunpowder weapons. Another one, Liu Bowen, became one of Zhu's key advisors, and edited the military-technology treatise titled ''Huolongjing'' in later years. Starting from 1360, Zhu, and Chen Youliang fought a protracted war for supremacy over the former territories controlled by the Red Turbans. The pivotal moment in the war was the Battle of Lake Poyang in 1363. The battle lasted three days and ended with the defeat and retreat of Chen's larger navy. Chen died a month later in battle. Zhu did not participate personally in any battles after that and remained in Nanjing, where he directed his generals to go on campaigns. In 1367, Zhu's forces defeated Zhang Shicheng's Kingdom of Dazhou, which was centered in Suzhou and had previously included most of the Yangtze River Delta, and Hangzhou, which was formerly the capital of the Song dynasty.Edward L. Farmer, ''Zhu Yuanzhang and Early Ming Legislation: The Reordering of Chinese Society Following the Era of Mongol Rule''. BRILL, 1995. ,
On Google Books
P 23.
This victory granted Zhu's government authority over the lands north and south of the Yangtze River. The other major warlords surrendered to Zhu and on 20 January 1368, Zhu proclaimed himself Emperor of China, Emperor of the Ming dynasty in Nanjing and adopted "Hongwu" (lit. "vastly martial") as his Chinese era name, era name. In 1368, Ming armies headed north to attack territories that were still under Yuan rule. The Mongols gave up their capital, Khanbaliq (present-day Beijing), and the rest of northern China in September 1368 and retreated to Mongolia. On 15 October 1371, one of Hongwu's sons, Zhu Shuang, was married to the sister of Köke Temür, a Bayads, Bayad general of the Yuan dynasty. In 1371, the Ming dynasty defeated Ming Yuzhen's Xia polity, which ruled Sichuan. The Ming army captured the last Yuan-controlled province of Yunnan in 1381, and China was unified under Ming rule.


Under Hongwu's rule, Mongol and other foreign bureaucrats who had dominated the government during the Yuan dynasty along with Northern Chinese officials were replaced by Han Chinese officials. The emperor re-instituted, then abolished, then restored, the Confucianism, Confucian civil service imperial examination system, from which most state officials were selected based on their knowledge of Chinese literature, literature and Chinese philosophy, philosophy. The Ming examination curriculum followed that set by the Yuan in 1313: a focus on the Four Books over the Five Chinese Classics, Classics and the commentaries of Zhu Xi. The Confucian Scholar-official, scholar-bureaucrats who had been previously marginalized during the Yuan dynasty were reinstated to their predominant roles in the government. "Barbarian" (ie. Mongol-related) elements, including garments and names, were made illegal. However, there was no clear definition on what was "barbarian", and individual clothing styles and names were banned at the emperor’s will. There were also attacks on palaces and administrative buildings previously used by the rulers of the Yuan dynasty. But many of Taizu's government institutions were actually modeled on those of the Yuan dynasty: community schools required (not necessarily successfully) for primary education in every village are one example. Ming's legal system established by Hongwu contains various methods of execution including flaying, and slow slicing. One of his generals, Chang Yuchun, carried out massacres in Shandong and Hunan provinces to take revenge against people who resisted his army. As time went on, Hongwu became increasingly fearful of rebellions and coups, even going so far as to order the execution of those of his advisers who dared criticise him. Manicheanism and the White Lotus Sect, which played significant roles during the revolts against the Yuan, were outlawed. He was also said to have ordered the massacre of several thousand people living in Nanjing after having heard one talked about him without respect. In the Hu Weiyong case alone, tens of thousands of officials and their families were executed over sedition, treason, corruption and other charges. According to an anecdote noted by Ming dynasty writers, in 1380, after much killing, a lightning bolt struck his palace and he stopped the massacres for some time, as he was afraid divine forces would punish him. In the 1390s, however, tens of thousands more people were executed due to their association with an alleged plot of rebellion by general Lan Yu (general), Lan Yu.

Land reform

As Hongwu came from a peasant family, he was aware of how peasants used to suffer under the oppression of the scholar-bureaucrats, and the wealthy. Many of the latter, relying on their connections with government officials, encroached unscrupulously on peasants' lands and bribed the officials to transfer the burden of taxation to the poor. To prevent such abuse, he instituted two systems: ''Yellow Records'' and ''Fish Scale Records''. They served both to secure the government's income from land taxes and to affirm that peasants would not lose their lands. However, the reforms did not eliminate the threat of the bureaucrats to peasants. Instead, the expansion of the bureaucrats and their growing prestige translated into more wealth, and tax exemption for those in the government service. The bureaucrats gained new privileges, and some became illegal money-lenders and managers of gambling rings. Using their power, the bureaucrats expanded their estates at the expense of peasants' lands through outright purchase of those lands, and foreclosure on their mortgages whenever they wanted the lands. The peasants often became either tenants, or workers, or sought employment elsewhere. Since the beginning of the Ming dynasty in 1357, great care was taken by Hongwu to distribute land to peasants. One way was by forced migration to less-dense areas. Hongtong County, for example, was the source of many of those migrants due to its particularly dense population. The migrants were gathered under a Styphnolobium japonicum, pagoda tree () and escorted to neighboring provinces. "The great pagoda tree in Hongtong, Shanxi" became a common idiom when referring to one's ancestral home in certain areas of Henan and Hebei. Public works projects, such as the construction of irrigation systems, and dikes, were undertaken in an attempt to help farmers. In addition, Hongwu also reduced the demands for corvée, forced labor on the peasantry. In 1370, Hongwu ordered that some lands in Hunan and Anhui should be given to young farmers who had reached adulthood. The order was intended to prevent landlords from seizing the land, as it also decreed that the titles to the lands were not transferable. During the middle part of his reign, he passed an edict, stating that those who brought fallow land under cultivation could keep it as their property without being taxed. The policy was well received by the people and in 1393, cultivated land rose to 8,804,623 ''qing'' and 68 ''mu'', something not achieved during any other Chinese dynasty. Hongwu also instigated the planting of 50 million trees in the vicinity of Nanjing, reconstructing canals, irrigation, and repopulation of the North.

Social policy

Under the Hongwu reign, rural China was reorganized into ''li'' (), communities of 110 households. The position of community chief rotates among the ten most populous households, while the rest were further divided into tithings (''jia'', 甲). Together, the system was known as ''lijia''. The communities were responsible for collecting tax and drafting labor for the local government. Village elders were also obliged to keep surveillance on the community, report criminal activities, and ensure that the residents are fully committed to agricultural work. The Yuan dynasty ''Zhuse Huji'' () system was continued and the households were categorized into different types. The most basic types, namely civilian households (), military households (), craftsmen households () and salt worker households (), defined the family's form of corvée labor. Military households, for example, accounted for around one-sixth of the total population at the beginning of Yongle Emperor, Yongle era, and each was required to provide an adult man as soldier, and at least one more person to work in support roles in the military. The military, craftsmen and salt worker households were hereditary, and converting into civilian households was impossible except in a few very rare situations. A family may simultaneously belong in one of the minor categories, e.g. physician households and scholar households, according to their occupation. In addition to the aforementioned "good" households, discriminatory types also existed, such as entertainer households (). Travelers were required to carry a ''luyin'' (), a permit issued by the local government, and their neighbors were required to have knowledge of their itinerary. Unauthorized domestic migration was banned, and offenders were exiled. The policy was strictly enforced during the Hongwu era. Zhu Yuanzhang passed a law on mandatory hairstyle on 24 September, 1392, mandating that all males grow their hair long and making it illegal for them to shave part of their foreheads while leaving strands of hair which was the Mongol hairstyle. The penalty for both the barber and the person who was shaved and his sons was castration if they cut their hair and their families were to be sent to the borders for exile. This helped eradicated partially shaved Mongol hairstyles and enforced long Han hairstyle.


Hongwu realized that the Mongols still posed a threat to China, even though they had been driven away after the collapse of the Yuan dynasty. He decided to reassess the orthodox Confucianism, Confucian view that the military class was inferior to that of the scholar bureaucracy. He kept a powerful army, which in 1384 he reorganized using a model known as the ''weisuo'' system (). Each military unit consisted of 5,600 men divided into five battalions and ten companies. By 1393 the total number of ''weisuo'' troops had reached 1,200,000. Soldiers were also assigned land on which to grow crops whilst their positions were made hereditary. This type of system can be traced back to the ''fubing'' system () of the Sui dynasty, Sui and Tang dynasty, Tang dynasties. Training was conducted within local military districts. In times of war, troops were mobilized from all over the empire on the orders of the Three Departments and Six Ministries, Ministry of War, and commanders were appointed to lead them to battle. After the war, the army was disbanded into smaller groups and sent back to their respective districts, while the commanders had to return their authority to the state. This system helped to prevent military leaders from having too much power. The military was under the control of a civilian official for large campaigns, instead of a military general.


When the Ming dynasty emerged, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang's military officers were given noble titles. These privileged the holder with a stipend, but in all other aspects was merely symbolic. Mu Ying's family was among them. Special rules against abuse of power were implemented on the nobles.

Bureaucratic reforms and consolidation of power

Hongwu attempted, and largely succeeded in, the consolidation of control over all aspects of government, so that no other group could gain enough power to overthrow him. He also buttressed the country's defense against the Mongols. He increasingly concentrated power in his own hands. He abolished the Chancellor (China), Chancellor's post, which had been head of the main central administrative body under past dynasties, by suppressing a plot for which he had blamed his chancellor Hu Weiyong. Many argue that Hongwu, because of his wish to concentrate absolute authority in his own hands, removed the only insurance against incompetent emperors. However, Hongwu could not govern the sprawling Ming Empire all by himself and had to create the new institution of the "Grand Secretariat, Grand Secretary". This cabinet-like organisation progressively took on the powers of the abolished prime minister, becoming just as powerful in time. Ray Huang argued that Grand-Secretaries, outwardly powerless, could exercise considerable positive influence from behind the throne. Because of their prestige and the public trust which they enjoyed, they could act as intermediaries between the emperor and the ministerial officials, and thus provide a stabilising force in the court. In Hongwu's elimination of the traditional offices of grand councilor, the primary impetus was Hu Weiyong's alleged attempt to usurp the throne. Hu was the Senior Grand Councilor and a capable administrator; however over the years, the magnitude of his powers, as well as involvement in several political scandals eroded the paranoid emperor's trust in him. Finally, in 1380, Hongwu had Hu and his entire family arrested and executed on charges of treason. Using this as an opportunity to purge his government, the emperor also ordered the execution of countless other officials, as well as their families, for associating with Hu. The purge lasted over a decade and resulted in more than 30,000 executions. In 1390, even Li Shanchang, one of the closest old friends of the emperor, who was rewarded as the biggest contributor to the founding of the Ming Empire, was executed along with over 70 members of his extended family. A year after his death, a deputy in the Board of Works made a submission to the emperor appealing Li's innocence, arguing that since Li was already at the apex of honour, wealth and power, the accusation that he wanted to help ''someone else'' usurp the throne was clearly ridiculous. Hongwu was unable to refute the accusations and finally ended the purge shortly afterwards. Hongwu also noted the destructive role of court eunuchs under the previous dynasties. He drastically reduced their numbers, forbidding them to handle documents, insisting that they remain illiterate, and executing those who commented on state affairs. The emperor had a strong aversion to the eunuchs, epitomized by a tablet in his palace stipulating: "''Eunuchs must have nothing to do with the administration''". This aversion to eunuchs did not long continue among his successors, as the Hongwu and Jianwen emperors' harsh treatment of eunuchs allowed the Yongle Emperor to employ them as a power base during his coup. In addition to Hongwu's aversion to eunuchs, he never consented to any of his consort kin becoming court officials. This policy was fairly well-maintained by later emperors, and no serious trouble was caused by the empresses or their families. The Embroidered Uniform Guard or ''Jinyiwei'' was transformed into a secret police organization during the Hongwu era. It was given the authority to overrule judicial proceedings in prosecutions with full autonomy in arresting, interrogating and punishing anyone, including nobles and the emperor's relatives. In 1393, Jiang Huan (), the chief of ''Jinyiwei'', accused general Lan Yu (general), Lan Yu of plotting rebellion. 15,000 people was executed in familial extermination during the subsequent purges, according to Hongwu. Through the repeated purges and the elimination of the historical posts, Hongwu fundamentally altered the centuries-old government structure of China, greatly increasing the emperor's absolutism.

Legal reform

The legal code drawn up in the time of Hongwu was considered one of the great achievements of the era. The ''History of Ming'' mentioned that as early as 1364, the monarchy had started to draft a code of laws. This code was known as ''Da Ming Lü'' (, "Code of the Great Ming" or "Laws of the Great Ming"). The emperor devoted much time to the project and instructed his ministers that the code should be comprehensive and intelligible, so as not to allow any official to exploit loopholes in the code by deliberately misinterpreting it. The Ming code laid much emphasis on family relations. The code was a great improvement on the code of the Tang dynasty in regards to the treatment of slaves. Under the Tang code, slaves were treated as a species of domestic animal; if they were killed by a free citizen, the law imposed no sanction on the killer. Under the Ming dynasty, the law protected both slaves and free citizens. Later during his reign, however, the ''Code of the Great Ming'' was set aside in favor of the far harsher legal system documented in ''Da Gao'' (大誥, "Great Announcements"). Compared to the ''Da Ming Lü'', the penalties for almost all crimes were drastically increased, with more than 1,000 crimes eligible for capital punishment. Much of the ''Da Gao'' was dedicated to the government and officials, particularly for anti-corruption. Officials who embezzled more than the equivalent of 60 ''tael, liang'' (one ''liang'' was around 30 grams) of silver were to be beheaded and then flayed, the skin publicly exhibited. Zhu Yuanzhang granted all people the right to capture officials suspected of crimes and directly send them to the capital, a first in Chinese history. Apart from regulating the government, ''Da Gao'' aimed to set limits to various social groups. For example, "idle men" () who did not change their lifestyles after the new law came into effect would be executed and their neighbors exiled. ''Da Gao'' also included extensive sumptuary laws, down to details such as banning ornaments in heating rooms in the houses of commoners.

Economic reform

Supported by the scholar-bureaucrats, he accepted the Confucianism, Confucian viewpoint that merchants were solely parasitic. He felt that agriculture should be the country's source of wealth and that trade was ignoble. As a result, the Ming economic system emphasized agriculture, unlike the economic system of the Song dynasty, which had preceded the Yuan dynasty and relied on traders and merchants for revenues. Hongwu also supported the creation of self-supporting agricultural communities. However, his prejudice against merchants did not diminish the numbers of traders. On the contrary, commerce increased significantly during the Hongwu era because of the growth of industry throughout the empire. This growth in trade was due in part to poor soil conditions and the overpopulation of certain areas, which forced many people to leave their homes and seek their fortunes in trade. A book titled ''Tu Pien Hsin Shu'', written during the Ming dynasty, gave a detailed description of the activities of merchants at that time. Although the Hongwu era saw the reintroduction of paper currency, its development was stifled from the beginning. Not understanding inflation, Hongwu gave out so much paper money as rewards that by 1425, the state was forced to restore Cash (Chinese coin), copper coins because the paper currency had sunk to only 1/70 of its original value.

Education policy

Hongwu tried to remove Mencius from the Temple of Confucius as certain parts of Mencius (book), his work were deemed harmful. These include "the people are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land and grain are the next; the sovereign is the lightest" (''Mengzi, Jin Xin II''), as well as, "when the prince regards the ministers as the ground or as grass, they regard him as a robber and an enemy" (''Mengzi, Li Lou II''). The effort failed due to the objection from important officials, particularly Qian Tang (), Minister of Justice. Eventually, the emperor organized the compilation of the ''Mencius Abridged'' () in which 85 lines were deleted. Apart from those mentioned above, the omitted sentences also included those describing rules of governance, promoting benevolence, and those critical of King Zhou of Shang. At the Guozijian, law, math, calligraphy, equestrianism, and archery were emphasized by Hongwu in addition to Confucian classics and also required in the Imperial Examinations. Archery and equestrianism were added to the exam by Hongwu in 1370, similarly to how archery and equestrianism were required for non-military officials at the College of War () in 1162 by the Song Emperor Xiaozong. The area around the Meridian Gate of Nanjing was used for archery by guards and generals under Hongwu. A cavalry based army modeled on the Yuan military was implemented by the Hongwu and Yongle Emperors. Hongwu's army and officialdom incorporated Mongols. Equestrianism and archery were favorite pastimes of He Suonan who served in the Yuan and Ming militaries under Hongwu. Archery towers were built by Zhengtong Emperor at the Forbidden City and archery towers were built on the city walls of Xi'an which had been erected by Hongwu. Hongwu wrote essays which were posted in every village throughout China warning the people to behave or else face horrifying consequences. The 1380s writings of Hongwu includes the "''Great warnings''" or "''Grand Pronouncements''", and the "''Ancestral Injunctions''". He wrote the ''Six Maxims'' (六諭, 聖諭六言) which inspired the Sacred Edict of the Kangxi Emperor. Around 1384, Hongwu ordered the Chinese translation and compilation of Zij, Islamic astronomical tables, a task that was carried out by the scholars Mashayihei, a Muslim astronomer, and Wu Bozong, a Chinese scholar-official. These tables came to be known as the ''Huihui Lifa'' (''Muslim System of Calendrical Astronomy''), which was published in China a number of times until the early 18th century,

Religious policy

Mongol and Central Asian Semu Muslim women and men were required by Ming Code to marry Han Chinese after the first Ming Emperor Hongwu passed the law in Article 122. Hongwu ordered the construction of several mosques in Nanjing, Yunnan, Guangdong and Fujian provinces, and had inscriptions praising the Islamic prophet Muhammad placed in them. He rebuilt the Jinjue Mosque (literally meaning: ''Pure Enlightenment Mosque'') in Nanjing and large numbers of Hui people moved to the city during his rule. Chinese sources claim that Hongwu had close relations with Muslims and had around ten Muslim generals in his military including Lan Yu (general), Lan Yu, Ding Dexing, Mu Ying, Feng Sheng (general), Feng Sheng and Hu Dahai, and that "His Majesty ordered to have mosques built in Xijing and Nanjing [the capitals], and in southern Yunnan, Fujian and Guangdong." He also personally wrote The Hundred-word Eulogy, a 100-word praise (''baizizan'') on Islam, Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. During the war fighting the Mongols, the Hui Muslim Feng Sheng was among the Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang's armies.

Foreign policy


Hongwu was a non-interventionist, refusing to intervene in a Vietnamese invasion of Champa to help the Chams, only rebuking the Vietnamese for their invasion, being opposed to military action abroad. He specifically warned future Emperors only to defend against foreign barbarians, and not engage in military campaigns for glory and conquest. In his 1395 ancestral injunctions, the emperor specifically wrote that China should not attack Champa, Cambodia or Annam (Vietnam). With the exception of his turn against aggressive expansion, much of Taizu's foreign policy and his diplomatic institutions were based on Yuan practice.

"Japanese" pirates

Hongwu sent a harsh message to the Ashikaga shogunate, Japanese that his army would "capture and exterminate Wokou, your bandits, head straight for your country, and put your king in bonds". In fact, many of the "Wokou, dwarf pirates" and "dongyi, eastern barbarians" raiding his coasts were Chinese, and Hongwu's response was almost entirely passive. The Ashikaga shogunate, Ashikaga shōgun cheekily replied "Your great empire may be able to invade Japan, but our small state is not short of a strategy to defend ourselves.". The necessity of protecting his state against the Northern Yuan dynasty, Northern Yuan remnants meant that the most Hongwu was able to accomplish against Japan was a series of "haijin, sea ban" measures. Private foreign trade was made punishable by death, with the collective punishment, trader's family and neighbors exiled; ships, docks, and shipyards were destroyed, and ports were sabotaged.. The plan's aim seems to have been to use Japan's need for Chinese goods to force them to terms. The plan was at odds with Chinese tradition and extremely counterproductive as it tied up resources. For example, 74 coastal garrisons had to be established from Guangzhou to Shandong, though they were often manned by local gangs. Hongwu's measures limited tax receipts, impoverished and provoked both coastal Chinese and Japanese against the Hongwu regime, and actually ''increased'' piracy-. offering too little as a reward for good behavior and enticement for Japanese authorities to root out their own smugglers and pirates. Regardless of the policy, piracy had dropped to negligible levels by the time of its abolition in 1568. Nonetheless, the sea ban was added by Hongwu to his ''Ancestral Injunctions'' and so continued to be broadly enforced through most of the rest of his dynasty: for the next two centuries, the rich farmland of the south and the military theaters of the north were linked only by the Jinghang Canal. Despite the deep distrust, in Hongwu's ''Ancestral Injunctions'', he listed Japan along with 14 other countries as "countries against which campaigns shall not be launched", and advised his descendants to maintain peace with them.

Byzantine Empire

The ''History of Ming'', compiled during the early Qing dynasty, describes how Hongwu met with an alleged merchant of ''Fulin'' (拂菻; the Byzantine Empire) named "Nieh-ku-lun" (). In September 1371, he had the man sent back to his native country with a letter announcing the History of the Ming dynasty, founding of the Ming dynasty to his ruler (i.e. John V Palaiologos). It is speculated that the merchant was actually a Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing, former bishop of Khanbaliq (Beijing) called Nicolaus de Bentra, sent by Pope John XXII to replace Archbishop John of Montecorvino in 1333. The ''History of Ming'' goes on to explain that contacts between China and ''Fu lin'' ceased after this point, and diplomats of the great western sea (the Mediterranean Sea) did not appear in China again until the 16th century, with the Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci.


After a 30-year reign, The Hongwu Emperor died on 24 June 1398 at the age of 69. After his death, his physicians were penalized. He was buried at Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum on the Purple Mountain (Nanjing), Purple Mountain, in the east of Nanjing. The mass sacrifice of concubines after the emperor's death, a practice long disappeared among Chinese dynasties, was revived by Zhu Yuanzhang, probably to clear potential obstacles to the reign of his chosen successor. At least 38 concubines were killed as part of Hongwu's Human sacrifice#China, funeral human sacrifice.


Historians consider Hongwu as one of the most significant emperors of China. As Patricia Buckley Ebrey puts it, "Seldom has the course of Chinese history been influenced by a single personality as much as it was by the founder of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang."Ebrey, "Cambridge Illustrated History of China", pg. 190 His rise to power was fast despite his having a poor and humble origin. In 11 years, he went from being a penniless monk to the most powerful warlord in China. Five years later, he became emperor of China. Simon Leys described him this way:
'an adventurer from peasant stock, poorly educated, a man of action, a bold and shrewd tactician, a visionary mind, in many respects a creative genius; naturally coarse, cynical, and ruthless, he eventually showed symptoms of paranoia, bordering on psychopathy.'


Zhu Yuanzhang had many Korean women and Mongolian women among his concubines along with his empress Ma and had 16 daughters and 26 sons with all of them. Consorts and Issue: * Empress Ma (Hongwu), Empress Xiaocigao, of the Ma clan (; 1332–1382), personal name Xiuying () ** Zhu Biao, Crown Prince Yiwen (; 10 October 1355 – 17 May 1392), first son ** Zhu Shuang, Prince of Qin of Ming dynasty, Prince Min of Qin (; 3 December 1356 – 9 April 1395), second son ** Zhu Gang, Prince Gong of Jin (; 18 December 1358 – 30 March 1398), third son ** Zhu Di, the Yongle Emperor (; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), fourth son. According to surviving Ming historical records, Zhu Di's mother was the Hongwu Emperor's primary consort, Empress Ma (Hongwu), Empress Ma, the view Zhu Di himself maintained. Some contemporaries maintained, however, that Zhu Di's mother was one of his father's concubines, who might be of Korean origin, and that the official records were changed during his reign to list him as a son of the Empress Ma in order to sanction his succession on the "death" of the Jianwen Emperor. ** Zhu Su, Prince Ding of Zhou (; 8 October 1361 – 2 September 1425), fifth son ** Princess Ning (; 1364 – 7 September 1434), second daughter *** Married Mei Yin, Duke Rong (; d. 1405) in 1378, and had issue (two sons) ** Princess Anqing (), fourth daughter *** Married Ouyang Lun (; d. 23 July 1397) on 23 December 1381 * Noble Consort Chengmu, of the Sun clan (; 1343–1374) ** Princess Lin'an (; 1360 – 17 August 1421), personal name Yufeng (), first daughter *** Married Li Qi (; d. 1402), a son of Li Shanchang, in 1376, and had issue (two sons) ** Princess Huaiqing (; 1366 – 15 July 1425), sixth daughter *** Married Wang Ning, Marquis Yongchun () on 11 September 1382, and had issue (two sons) ** ''Tenth daughter'' ** ''13th daughter'' * Noble Consort, of the Zhao clan () ** Zhu Mo, Prince Jian of Shen (; 1 September 1380 – 11 June 1431), 21st son * Consort Ning, of the Guo clan () ** Princess Runing (), fifth daughter *** Married Lu Xian () on 11 June 1382 ** Princess Daming (; 1368 – 30 March 1426), seventh daughter *** Married Li Jian (; d. 1401) on 2 September 1382, and had issue (one son) ** Zhu Tan, Prince Huang of Lu (; 15 March 1370 – 2 January 1390), tenth son * Consort Zhaojingchong, of the Hu clan () ** Zhu Zhen, Prince Zhao of Chu (; 5 April 1364 – 22 March 1424), sixth son * Consort Ding, of the Da clan (; d. 1390) ** Zhu Fu, Prince of Qi of Ming dynasty, Prince Gong of Qi (; 23 December 1364 – 1428), seventh son ** Zhu Zi, Prince of Tan (; 6 October 1369 – 18 April 1390), eighth son * Consort An, of the Zheng clan () ** Princess Fuqing (; 1370 – 28 February 1417), eighth daughter *** Married Zhang Lin () on 26 April 1385, and had issue (one son) * Consort Hui, of the Guo clan () ** Zhu Chun, Prince Xian of Shu (; 4 April 1371 – 22 March 1423), 11th son ** Zhu Gui, Prince Jian of Dai (; 25 August 1374 – 29 December 1446), 13th son ** Princess Yongjia Zhenyi (; 1376 – 12 October 1455), 12th daughter *** Married Guo Zhen (; 1372–1399) on 23 November 1389, and had issue (one son) ** Zhu Hui, Prince of Gu (; 30 April 1379 – 1428), 19th son ** Princess Ruyang (), 15th daughter *** Married Xie Da (; d. 1404) on 23 August 1394 * Consort Shun, of the Hu clan () ** Zhu Bai, Prince Xian of Xiang (; 12 September 1371 – 18 May 1399), 12th son * Consort Xian, of the Li clan () ** Zhu Jing, Prince Ding of Tang (; 11 October 1386 – 8 September 1415), 23rd son * Consort Hui, of the Liu clan () ** Zhu Dong, Prince Jing of Ying (; 21 June 1388 – 14 November 1414), 24th son * Consort Li, of the Ge clan () ** Zhu Yi, Prince Li of Yi (; 9 July 1388 – 8 October 1414), 25th son ** ''Zhu Nan'' (; 4 January 1394 – February 1394), 26th son * Consort Zhuangjinghui, of the Cui clan () * Consort, of the Han clan () (w:zh:韓妃 (明太祖), 韓妃 (明太祖)). She was an ethnic Korean from Goryeo. ** Zhu Zhi, Prince Jian of Liao (; 24 March 1377 – 4 June 1424) (w:zh:朱植, 朱植), 15th son, ancestor of the last Ming Prince to refuse to capitulate to the Qing, Zhu Shugui, Prince Ningjing. Zhu Zhi's heirs used the generation names "Gui, Hao, En, Chong, Zhi, Yun, Reng, Qi, Bao, He, Xian, Shu, Yan, Zun, Ru, Cai, Han, Li, Long, Yu". ** Princess Hanshan (; 1381 – 18 October 1462), 14th daughter (w:zh:含山公主, (含山公主) *** Married Yin Qing () on 11 September 1394, and had issue (two sons) * Consort, of the Yu clan () ** Zhu Zhan, Prince Jing of Qing (; 6 February 1378 – 23 August 1438), 16th son * Consort, of the Yang clan () ** Zhu Quan, Prince Xian of Ning (; 27 May 1378 – 12 October 1448), 17th son * Consort, of the Zhou clan () ** Zhu Pian, Prince Zhuang of Min (; 9 April 1379 – 10 May 1450), 18th son ** Zhu Song, Prince Xian of Han (; 20 June 1380 – 19 November 1407), 20th son * ''Meiren'', of the Zhang clan (), personal name Xuanmiao () ** Princess Baoqing (; 1394–1433), 16th daughter *** Married Zhao Hui (; 1387–1476) in 1413 * Lady, of the Lin clan () ** Princess Nankang (; 1373 – 15 November 1438), personal name Yuhua (), 11th daughter *** Married Hu Guan (; d. 1403) in 1387, and had issue (one son) * Lady, of the Gao clan () ** Zhu Ying, Prince Zhuang of Su (; 10 October 1376 – 5 January 1420), 14th son * Unknown ** Princess Chongning (), third daughter *** Married Niu Cheng () on 21 December 1384 ** ''Zhu Qi, Prince of Zhao'' (; October 1369 – 16 January 1371), ninth son ** Princess Shouchun (; 1370 – 1 August 1388), ninth daughter *** Married Fu Zhong (; d. 20 December 1394), the first son of Fu Youde, on 9 April 1386, and had issue (one son) ** Zhu Ying, Prince Hui of An (; 18 October 1383 – 9 October 1417), 22nd son


In popular culture

; Novels * ''The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber'' (), a 1961–63 ''wuxia'' novel by Jin Yong, Louis Cha. Zhu Yuanzhang List of The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber characters#Ming Cult, appears as a minor character in the novel. Zhu Yuanzhang has been portrayed by various actors in the films and television series adapted from this novel. ; Television series * ''Born to be a King'' (), a 1987 Hong Kong television series produced by Television Broadcasts Limited, TVB and starring Simon Yam as Zhu Yuanzhang. * ''Zhu Yuanzhang'' (), a 1993 Chinese television series produced by Beijing Media Network, Beijing TV and starring Lü Qi as Zhu Yuanzhang. * ''Empress Ma With Great Feet'' (), a 2002 Chinese television series about Zhu Yuanzhang's wife, Empress Ma (Hongwu), Empress Ma. Tang Guoqiang starred as Zhu Yuanzhang. * ''Chuanqi Huangdi Zhu Yuanzhang'' (), a 2006 Chinese television series starring Chen Baoguo as Zhu Yuanzhang. * ''Founding Emperor of Ming Dynasty'' (), a 2006 Chinese television series directed by Feng Xiaoning and starring Hu Jun as Zhu Yuanzhang. * ''The Legendary Liu Bowen'' (), a 2006–2008 Taiwanese television series about Zhu Yuanzhang's adviser, Liu Bowen. It was produced by Taiwan Television, TTV and starred Huo Zhengqi as Zhu Yuanzhang. * ''Zhenming Tianzi'' (), a 2015 Chinese television series produced by Jian Yuanxin and starring Zhang Zhuowen as Zhu Yuanzhang. * ''Love Through Different Times'' (), a 2002 Chinese television comedy-drama that is considered the first time-travel television series produced in mainland China.

See also

* Chinese emperors family tree (late) * Huang Ming Zu Xun, the "Ancestral Instructions" written by Hongwu to guide his descendants * Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum * Rags to riches * Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming dynasty * Hongwu Tongbao



* * *

Further reading

* * Brook, Timothy. (1998). ''The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China''. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Paperback). * * * * *

External links

{{DEFAULTSORT:Hongwu Emperor Ming dynasty emperors Ming dynasty Buddhists Chinese Buddhist monarchs 14th-century Chinese monarchs Medieval legislators People from Chuzhou History of Nanjing 1328 births 1398 deaths Burials in Nanjing