Ming dynasty

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Great Ming

大明
1368–1644
Map of Ming Chinese empire 1415 (cropped).jpg
Ming China in 1415 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor
Ming Empire cca 1580 (en).svg
Ming China around 1580
Capital Nanjing (Yingtian prefecture)
(1368–1644) [lower-alpha 1]
Beijing (Shuntian prefecture)
(1403–1644) [lower-alpha 2] [lower-alpha 3]
Common languagesOfficial language:
Mandarin
Other Chinese languages
Other languages:
Turki, Old Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongolian, Jurchen, and others
Religion
Heaven worship, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Chinese folk religion, Islam, Roman Catholicism
Government Absolute monarchy
Emperor ( 皇帝 ) 
 1368–1398 (first)
Hongwu Emperor
 1402–1424
Yongle Emperor
 1572–1620 (longest)
Wanli Emperor
 1627–1644 (last)
Chongzhen Emperor
Senior Grand Secretary 
 1402–1407
Xie Jin
 1644
Wei Zaode
History 
 Established in Nanjing 1
23 January 1368
  Beijing designated as capital
28 October 1420
25 April 1644
 End of the Southern Ming 2
1662
Area
1450 [1] [2] 6,500,000 km2 (2,500,000 sq mi)
Population
 1393
65,000,000
 1403 [3]
66,598,337
 1500 [4]
125,000,000
 1600 [5]
160,000,000
Currency Paper money (1368–1450)
Bimetallic:
copper cashes (, wén) in strings of coin and paper
Silver taels (, liǎng) in sycees and by weight
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Yuan dynasty
Shun dynasty Blank.png
Southern Ming Blank.png
1. Prior to proclaiming himself emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang declared himself King of Wu in Nanjing in 1364. The regime is known in historiography as the "Western Wu".
2. Remnants of the Ming imperial family ruled southern China until 1662 as the Southern Ming. The Ming loyalist state Kingdom of Tungning on Taiwan lasted until 1683, but it was not ruled by the Zhu clan and thus usually not considered part of the Southern Ming.
Ming Dynasty
Ming dynasty (Chinese characters).svg
"Ming dynasty" in Chinese characters
Chinese 明朝
Great Ming
Chinese 大明
Empire of the Great Ming
Traditional Chinese 大明帝國
Simplified Chinese 大明帝国
History of China.png
History of China
ANCIENT
Neolithic c. 8500 – c. 2070 BCE
Xia c. 2070 – c. 1600 BCE
Shang c. 1600 – c. 1046 BCE
Zhou c. 1046 – 256 BCE
  Western Zhou
  Eastern Zhou
    Spring and Autumn
    Warring States
IMPERIAL
Qin 221–206 BCE
Han 202 BCE – 220 CE
  Western Han
  Xin
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei , Shu and Wu
Jin 265–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern Jin Sixteen Kingdoms
Northern and Southern dynasties
420–589
Sui 581–618
Tang 618–907
  (Wu Zhou 690–705)
Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms

907–979
Liao 916–1125
Song 960–1279
  Northern Song Western Xia
  Southern Song Jin
Yuan 1271–1368
Ming 1368–1644
Qing 1636–1912
MODERN
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic of China 1949–present

The Ming dynasty ( /mɪŋ/ ), [6] officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Although the primary capital of Beijing fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng (who established the Shun dynasty, soon replaced by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty), numerous rump regimes loyal to the Ming throne – collectively called the Southern Ming – survived until 1662. [lower-alpha 4]

Dynasties in Chinese history One method of organizing Chinese history

The following is a chronology of the dynasties in the history of China from 21st century BCE.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Mongol Empire former country in Asia and Europe

The Mongol Empire existed during the 13th and 14th centuries; it became the largest contiguous land empire in history. Originating in Mongolia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northwards into Siberia; eastwards and southwards into the Indian subcontinent, Indochina and the Iranian Plateau; and westwards as far as the Levant and the Carpathian Mountains.

Contents

The Hongwu Emperor (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: [7] the empire's standing army exceeded one million troops and the navy's dockyards in Nanjing were the largest in the world. [8] He also took great care breaking the power of the court eunuchs [9] 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, 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 in 1402. The Yongle Emperor established Yan as a secondary capital and renamed it Beijing, constructed the Forbidden City, and restored the Grand Canal and the primacy of the imperial examinations in official appointments. He rewarded his eunuch supporters and employed them as a counterweight against the Confucian scholar-bureaucrats. One, Zheng He, led seven enormous voyages of exploration into the Indian Ocean as far as Arabia and the eastern coasts of Africa.

Hongwu Emperor founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty

The Hongwu Emperor, personal name Zhu Yuanzhang, was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1368 to 1398.

Naval history of China an aspect of history

The naval history of China dates back thousands of years, with archives existing since the late Spring and Autumn period about the ancient navy of China and the various ship types used in war. China was the leading maritime power in the years 1405–1433, when Chinese shipbuilders began to build massive oceangoing junks. In modern times, the current Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese governments continue to maintain standing navies with the People's Liberation Army Navy and the Republic of China Navy, respectively.

The Huang-Ming Zuxun were admonitions left by the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Chinese Ming dynasty, to his descendants. The text was composed in 1373 under the title Record of the Ancestor's Instructions; this was changed to Huang Ming Zu Xun during the publication of the 1395 edition.

The rise of new emperors and new factions diminished such extravagances; the capture of the Zhengtong Emperor during the 1449 Tumu Crisis ended them completely. The imperial navy was allowed to fall into disrepair while forced labor constructed the Liaodong palisade and connected and fortified the Great Wall of China 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. [7] Estimates for the late-Ming population vary from 160 to 200 million, [10] 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. [7] Haijin laws intended to protect the coasts from "Japanese" pirates instead turned many into smugglers and pirates themselves.

Tumu Crisis conflict between the Oirats and the Chinese Ming dynasty

The Tumu Crisis ; also called the Crisis of Tumu Fortress or Battle of Tumu, was a frontier conflict between the Oirat tribes of Mongols and the Chinese Ming dynasty which led to the capture of the Emperor Yingzong of Ming on September 1, 1449, and the defeat of an army of 500,000 men by a much smaller force.

Great Wall of China wall along the historical northern borders of China

The Great Wall of China is the collective name of a series of fortification systems generally built across the historical northern borders of China to protect and consolidate territories of Chinese states and empires against various nomadic groups of the steppe and their polities. Several walls were being built from as early as the 7th century BC by ancient Chinese states; selective stretches were later joined together by Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), the first Emperor of China. Little of the Qin wall remains. Later on, many successive dynasties have built and maintained multiple stretches of border walls. The most currently well-known of the walls were built by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

The Haijin or sea ban was a series of related isolationist Chinese policies restricting private maritime trading and coastal settlement during most of the Ming dynasty and some of the Qing. First imposed to deal with Japanese piracy amid the mopping up of Yuan partisans, the sea ban was completely counterproductive: by the 16th century, piracy and smuggling were endemic and mostly consisted of Chinese who had been dispossessed by the policy. China's foreign trade was limited to irregular and expensive tribute missions, and the military pressure from the Mongols after the disastrous Battle of Tumu led to the scrapping of Zheng He's fleets. Piracy dropped to negligible levels only upon the end of the policy in 1567, but a modified form was subsequently adopted by the Qing. This produced the Canton System of the Thirteen Factories, but also the opium smuggling that led to disastrous wars with Britain and other European powers in the 19th century.

By the 16th century, however, the expansion of European trade – albeit restricted to islands near Guangzhou like Macau – spread the Columbian Exchange of crops, plants, and animals into China, introducing chili peppers to Sichuan cuisine and highly productive maize and potatoes, which diminished famines and spurred population growth. The growth of Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch trade created new demand for Chinese products and produced a massive influx of Japanese and American silver. This abundance of specie remonetized the Ming economy, whose paper money had suffered repeated hyperinflation and was no longer trusted. While traditional Confucians opposed such a prominent role for commerce and the newly rich it created, the heterodoxy introduced by Wang Yangming permitted a more accommodating attitude. Zhang Juzheng's initially successful reforms proved devastating when a slowdown in agriculture produced by the Little Ice Age 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, the dynasty collapsed before the rebel leader Li Zicheng, who was defeated by the Manchu-led Eight Banner armies who founded the Qing dynasty.

Age of Discovery Period of European global exploration

The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration, is an informal and loosely defined term for the period in European history in which extensive overseas exploration emerged as a powerful factor in European culture and which was the beginning of globalization. It also marks the rise of the period of widespread adoption in Europe of colonialism and mercantilism as national policies. Many lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited. From the perspective of many non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.

Guangzhou Prefecture-level and Sub-provincial city in Guangdong, Peoples Republic of China

Guangzhou, also known as Canton and formerly romanized as Kwangchow or Kwong Chow, is the capital and most populous city of the province of Guangdong in southern China. On the Pearl River about 120 km (75 mi) north-northwest of Hong Kong and 145 km (90 mi) north of Macau, Guangzhou has a history of over 2,200 years and was a major terminus of the maritime Silk Road, and continues to serve as a major port and transportation hub, as well as one of China's three largest cities.

Portuguese Macau former Portuguese possession in Southeast Asia between 1537 and 1999

Portuguese Macau covers Macau's history from the establishment of a Portuguese settlement in 1557 to the end of colonial rule in 1999. Macau was both the first and last European holding in China.

History

Founding

Revolt and rebel rivalry

The Mongol-led Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) ruled before the establishment of the Ming dynasty. Explanations for the demise of the Yuan include institutionalized ethnic discrimination against Han Chinese that stirred resentment and rebellion, overtaxation of areas hard-hit by inflation, and massive flooding of the Yellow River as a result of the abandonment of irrigation projects. [11] 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. [11] A number of Han Chinese groups revolted, including the Red Turbans in 1351. The Red Turbans were affiliated with the White Lotus, a Buddhist secret society. Zhu Yuanzhang 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. [12] In 1356, Zhu's rebel force captured the city of Nanjing, [13] which he would later establish as the capital of the Ming dynasty.

Yuan dynasty former Mongolian-ruled empire in Eastern and Northeastern Asia

The Yuan dynasty, officially the Great Yuan, was the empire or ruling dynasty of China established by Kublai Khan, leader of the Mongolian Borjigin clan. It followed the Song dynasty and preceded the Ming dynasty. Although the Mongols had ruled territories including modern-day North China for decades, it was not until 1271 that Kublai Khan officially proclaimed the dynasty in the traditional Chinese style, and the conquest was not complete until 1279. His realm was, by this point, isolated from the other khanates and controlled most of modern-day China and its surrounding areas, including modern Mongolia. It was the first foreign dynasty to rule all of China and lasted until 1368 which ended in Ming dynasty defeating the Yuan dynasty, the rebuked Genghisid rulers retreated to their Mongolian homeland and continued to rule the Northern Yuan dynasty. Some of the Mongolian Emperors of the Yuan mastered the Chinese language, while others only used their native language and the 'Phags-pa script.

The Han Chinese, Hanzu, Han people, are an East Asian ethnic group and nation native to China. They constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population. The estimated 1.3 billion Han Chinese people are mostly concentrated in mainland China. In Taiwan they make about 95% of the population. Han Chinese people also make up around 75% of the total population of Singapore.

Inflation increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time

In economics, inflation is a sustained increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation reflects a reduction in the purchasing power per unit of money – a loss of real value in the medium of exchange and unit of account within the economy. The measure of inflation is the inflation rate, the annualized percentage change in a general price index, usually the consumer price index, over time. The opposite of inflation is deflation.

With the Yuan dynasty 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, arguably the largest naval battle in history. 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 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) in 1368. [14] The last Yuan emperor fled north to the upper capital Shangdu, and Zhu declared the founding of the Ming dynasty after razing the Yuan palaces in Dadu to the ground; [14] the city was renamed Beiping in the same year. [15] Zhu Yuanzhang took Hongwu, or "Vastly Martial", as his era name.

Dynastic cycle : is an important political theory in the History of China/Chinese history. According to this theory, each dynasty in Chinese history, rises to a political, cultural, and economic peak and then, because of moral corruption, declines, loses the Mandate of Heaven, and falls, only to be replaced by a new dynasty. The cycle then repeats under a surface pattern of repetitive motifs.

Chen Youliang was the founder of the insurgent state of Da Han in the late Yuan Dynasty period of Chinese history.

The battle of Lake Poyang (鄱陽湖之戰) 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 Youliang besieged Nanchang with a large fleet on Lake Poyang, one of China's largest freshwater lakes, and Zhu Yuanzhang met his force with a smaller fleet. After an inconclusive engagement exchanging fire, Zhu employed fire ships to burn the enemy tower ships and destroyed their fleet. This was the last major battle of the rebellion prior to the rise of the Ming dynasty.

Reign of the Hongwu Emperor

Portrait of the Hongwu Emperor (ruled in 1368-98) Hongwu1 crop.jpg
Portrait of the Hongwu Emperor (ruled in 1368–98)

Hongwu made an immediate effort to rebuild state infrastructure. He built a 48 km (30 mi) long wall around Nanjing, as well as new palaces and government halls. [14] The History of Ming states that as early as 1364 Zhu Yuanzhang had begun drafting a new Confucian law code, the Da Ming Lü, which was completed by 1397 and repeated certain clauses found in the old Tang Code of 653. [16] Hongwu organized a military system known as the weisuo, which was similar to the fubing system of the Tang dynasty (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. [17] [18] With a growing suspicion of his ministers and subjects, Hongwu established the Jinyiwei, a network of secret police drawn from his own palace guard. Some 100,000 people were executed in a series of purges during his rule. [17] [19]

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 adopted many Yuan military practices, recruited Mongol soldiers, and continued to request Korean concubines and eunuchs. [20]

South-Western frontier

In Qinghai, the Salar Muslims voluntarily came under Ming rule, their clan leaders capitulating around 1370. Uyghur troops under Uyghur general Hala Bashi suppressed the Miao Rebellions of the 1370s and settled in Changde, Hunan. [21] Hui Muslim troops also settled in Changde, Hunan after serving the Ming in campaigns against other aboriginal tribes. [22] In 1381, the Ming dynasty annexed the areas of the southwest that had once been part of the Kingdom of Dali 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. [23] 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 and Guizhou. 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 (see Miao Rebellions (Ming dynasty)). After the scholar and philosopher Wang Yangming (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 of the local peoples. [24]

Campaign in the North-East

The Great Wall of China: Although the rammed earth walls of the ancient Warring States were combined into a unified wall under the Qin and Han dynasties, the vast majority of the brick and stone Great Wall seen today is a product of the Ming dynasty. Chemin de ronde muraille long.JPG
The Great Wall of China: Although the rammed earth walls of the ancient Warring States were combined into a unified wall under the Qin and Han dynasties, the vast majority of the brick and stone Great Wall seen today is a product of the Ming dynasty.

After the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan dynasty by the Ming dynasty in 1368, Manchuria remained under control of the Mongols of the Northern Yuan dynasty based in Mongolia. Naghachu, a former Yuan official and a Uriankhai 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, [25] 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 in Manchuria by the Mongols, yet it created a norm of organization that would ultimately serve as the principal vehicle 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, were at peace with China. The Ming had created many guards (衛, wei) in Manchuria, but the creation of a guard did not necessarily imply political control. In 1409, the Ming dynasty under Yongle Emperor established the Nurgan Regional Military Commission on the banks of the Amur River, and Yishiha, a eunuch of Haixi Jurchen derivation, 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. By the late Ming period, Ming political presence in Manchuria had waned considerably.

Relations with Tibet

A 17th-century Tibetan thangka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra; the Ming dynasty court gathered various tribute items that were native products of Tibet (such as thangkas), and in return granted gifts to Tibetan tribute-bearers. 17th century Central Tibeten thanka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra, Rubin Museum of Art.jpg
A 17th-century Tibetan thangka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra; the Ming dynasty court gathered various tribute items that were native products of Tibet (such as thangkas), and in return granted gifts to Tibetan tribute-bearers.

The Mingshi – the official history of the Ming dynasty compiled by the Qing dynasty in 1739 – states that the Ming established itinerant commanderies overseeing Tibetan administration while also renewing titles of ex-Yuan dynasty officials from Tibet and conferring new princely titles on leaders of Tibetan Buddhist sects. [28] However, Turrell V. Wylie states that censorship 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. [29]

Modern scholars debate whether the Ming dynasty had sovereignty over Tibet. Some believe it was a relationship of loose suzerainty that was largely cut off when the Jiajing Emperor (r. 1521–67) persecuted Buddhism in favor of Daoism at court. [29] [30] Others argue that the significant religious nature of the relationship with Tibetan lamas is underrepresented in modern scholarship. [31] [32] Others note the Ming need for Central Asian horses and the need to maintain the tea-horse trade. [33] [34] [35] [36]

The Ming sporadically sent armed forays into Tibet during the 14th century, which the Tibetans successfully resisted. [37] [38] Several scholars point out that unlike the preceding Mongols, the Ming dynasty did not garrison permanent troops in Tibet. [39] [40] The Wanli Emperor (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 (1644–1912) in their support for the Dalai Lama of the Yellow Hat sect. [29] [41] [42] [43] 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 region, culminating in the conquest of Tibet by Güshi Khan (1582–1655) in 1642, [29] [44] [45] establishing the Khoshut Khanate.

Reign of the Yongle Emperor

Rise to power

Portrait of the Yongle Emperor (ruled in 1402-24) Anonymous-Ming Chengzu.jpg
Portrait of the Yongle Emperor (ruled in 1402–24)

The Hongwu Emperor specified his grandson Zhu Yunwen as his successor, and he assumed the throne as the Jianwen Emperor (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. [46] 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 (1402–1424); his reign is universally viewed by scholars as a "second founding" of the Ming dynasty since he reversed many of his father's policies. [47]

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. Construction of a new city there lasted from 1407 to 1420, employing hundreds of thousands of workers daily. [48] At the center was the political node of the Imperial City, and at the center of this was the Forbidden City, 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 4 by 4½ miles. [49]

The Ming Tombs located 50 km (31 mi) north of Beijing; the site was chosen by Yongle. Noel 2005 Pekin tombeaux Ming voie des ames.jpg
The Ming Tombs located 50 km (31 mi) north of Beijing; the site was chosen by Yongle.

Beginning in 1405, the Yongle Emperor entrusted his favored eunuch commander Zheng He (1371–1433) as the admiral for a gigantic new fleet of ships designated for international tributary missions. The Chinese had sent diplomatic missions over land since the Han dynasty (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. [50]

Yongle used woodblock printing 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 led by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Vietnamese Lê dynasty. [51]

Tumu Crisis and the Ming Mongols

A Bengali envoy presenting a giraffe as a tributary gift in the name of King Saif Al-Din Hamzah Shah of Bengal (r. 1410-12) to the Yongle Emperor of Ming China (r. 1402-24). Tribute Giraffe with Attendant.jpg
A Bengali envoy presenting a giraffe as a tributary gift in the name of King Saif Al-Din Hamzah Shah of Bengal (r. 1410–12) to the Yongle Emperor of Ming China (r. 1402–24).

The Oirat leader Esen Tayisi launched an invasion into Ming China in July 1449. The chief eunuch Wang Zhen encouraged the Zhengtong Emperor (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. [52] 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 (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. [52] 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". [53] 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. [54] Cao's rebel force managed to set fire to the western and eastern gates of the Imperial City (doused by rain during the battle) and killed several leading ministers before his forces were finally cornered and he was forced to commit suicide. [55]

While the Yongle Emperor had staged five major offensives north of the Great Wall 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." [56] 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. [57]

Decline and fall of the Ming dynasty

Reign of the Wanli Emperor

The Wanli Emperor (ruled in 1572-1620) in state ceremonial court dress Wanli-Emperor.jpg
The Wanli Emperor (ruled in 1572–1620) in state ceremonial court dress

The financial drain of the Imjin War in Korea against the Japanese was one of the many problems – fiscal or other – facing Ming China during the reign of the Wanli Emperor (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 (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; [58] 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. [59] 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. [60] The Bozhou rebellion by the Chiefdom of Bozhou was going on in southwestern China at the same time as the Imjin war. [61] [62] [63] [64]

Role of eunuchs

Tianqi-era teacups, from the Nantoyoso Collection in Japan; the Tianqi Emperor was heavily influenced and largely controlled by the eunuch Wei Zhongxian (1568-1627). Porcelain tea cups from the reign of the Tianqi Emperor.jpg
Tianqi-era teacups, from the Nantoyōsō Collection in Japan; the Tianqi Emperor was heavily influenced and largely controlled by the eunuch Wei Zhongxian (1568–1627).

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 and afterwards managed huge imperial workshops, commanded armies, and participated in matters of appointment and promotion of officials. The eunuchs developed their own bureaucracy that was organized parallel to but was not subject to the civil service bureaucracy. [49] Although there were several dictatorial eunuchs throughout the Ming, such as Wang Zhen, Wang Zhi, and Liu Jin, excessive tyrannical eunuch power did not become evident until the 1590s when the Wanli Emperor increased their rights over the civil bureaucracy and granted them power to collect provincial taxes. [60] [65] [66]

The eunuch Wei Zhongxian (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. [67] The instability at court came right as natural calamity, pestilence, rebellion, and foreign invasion came to a peak. The Chongzhen Emperor (r. 1627–44) had Wei dismissed from court, which led to Wei's suicide shortly after.

Economic breakdown and natural disasters

Spring morning in a Han palace, by Qiu Ying (1494-1552); excessive luxury and decadence marked the late Ming period, spurred by the enormous state bullion of incoming silver and by private transactions involving silver. Ch'iu Ying 001.jpg
Spring morning in a Han palace, by Qiu Ying (1494–1552); excessive luxury and decadence marked the late Ming period, spurred by the enormous state bullion of incoming silver and by private transactions involving silver.

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, [68] trading Japanese silver for Chinese silk, [69] and after some initial hostilities gained consent from the Ming court in 1557 to settle Macau as their permanent trade base in China. [70] Their role in providing silver was gradually surpassed by the Spanish, [71] [72] while even the Dutch challenged them for control of this trade. [73] [74] Philip IV of Spain (reigned 1621–1665) began cracking down on illegal smuggling of silver from New Spain and Peru across the Pacific through the Philippines 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. [75] 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 equaled an ounce of silver; by 1640 that sum could fetch half an ounce; and, by 1643 only one-third of an ounce. [71] For peasants this meant economic disaster, since they paid taxes in silver while conducting local trade and crop sales in copper. [76]

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. [77] 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. [77] The central government, starved of resources, could do very little to mitigate the effects of these calamities. Making matters worse, a widespread epidemic spread across China from Zhejiang to Henan, killing an unknown but large number of people. [78] The deadliest earthquake of all time, the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556, occurred during the Jiajing Emperor's reign, killing approximately 830,000 people. [79]

Rise of the Manchu

Shanhaiguan along the Great Wall, the gate where the Manchus were repeatedly repelled before being finally let through by Wu Sangui in 1644. Shanhaiguan.jpg
Shanhaiguan along the Great Wall, the gate where the Manchus were repeatedly repelled before being finally let through by Wu Sangui in 1644.

A Jurchen tribal leader named Nurhaci (r. 1616–26), starting with just a small tribe, rapidly gained control over all the Manchurian tribes. During the Japanese invasions of Joseon Korea in the 1590s, he offered to lead his tribes in support of the Ming and Joseon army. This offer was declined, but he was granted honorific Ming titles for his gesture. Recognizing the weakness of Ming authority north of their border, he united all of the adjacent northern tribes and consolidated power in the region surrounding his homeland as the Jurchen Jin dynasty had done previously. [80] In 1610, he broke relations with the Ming court, and in 1618 demanded a tribute from them to redress "Seven Grievances".

By 1636, Nurhaci's son Huang Taiji renamed his dynasty from the "Later Jin" to the "Great Qing" at Mukden, which had fallen to Qing forces in 1621 and was made their capital in 1625. [81] [82] Huang 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". [82] [83] In 1638 the Manchu defeated and conquered Ming China's traditional ally Joseon with an army of 100,000 troops in the Second Manchu invasion of Korea. Shortly after, the Koreans renounced their long-held loyalty to the Ming dynasty. [83]

Rebellion, invasion, collapse

A peasant soldier named Li Zicheng mutinied with his fellow soldiers in western Shaanxi in the early 1630s after the Ming government failed to ship much-needed supplies there. [77] In 1634 he was captured by a Ming general and released only on the terms that he return to service. [84] 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 province by 1635. [85] By the 1640s, an ex-soldier and rival to Li – Zhang Xianzhong (1606–47) – had created a firm rebel base in Chengdu, Sichuan, while Li's center of power was in Hubei with extended influence over Shaanxi and Henan. [85]

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, the last Ming emperor hanged himself on a tree in the imperial garden outside the Forbidden City. [86]

Portrait of the Chongzhen Emperor (r. 1627-1644) Ming Chongzhen.jpg
Portrait of the Chongzhen Emperor (r. 1627–1644)

Seizing opportunity, the Eight Banners crossed the Great Wall after the Ming border general Wu Sangui (1612–1678) opened the gates at Shanhai Pass. 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. [87] The Eight Banners under the Manchu Prince Dorgon (1612–50) and Wu Sangui approached Beijing after the army sent by Li was destroyed at Shanhaiguan; 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 ruler of China. After being forced out of Xi'an by the Qing, chased along the Han River to Wuchang, and finally along the northern border of Jiangxi province, Li Zicheng died there in the summer of 1645, thus ending the Shun dynasty. 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. [88]

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. [89] Each bastion of resistance was individually defeated by the Qing until 1662, when the last southern Ming Emperor died, the Yongli Emperor, Zhu Youlang. The last Ming Princes to hold out were the Prince of Ningjing Zhu Shugui and the son of Zhu Yihai, the Prince of Lu Zhu Honghuan (朱弘桓) who stayed with Koxinga's Ming loyalists in the Kingdom of Tungning (in Taiwan) until 1683. Zhu Shugui proclaimed that he acted in the name of the deceased Yongli Emperor. [90] The Qing eventually sent the seventeen Ming princes still living in Taiwan back to mainland China where they spent the rest of their lives. [91]

In 1725 the Qing Yongzheng Emperor bestowed the hereditary title of Marquis on a descendant of the Ming dynasty Imperial family, Zhu Zhilian (朱之璉), who received a salary from the Qing government and whose duty was to perform rituals at the Ming tombs. The Chinese Plain White Banner was also inducted in the Eight Banners. Later the Qianlong Emperor bestowed the title Marquis of Extended Grace posthumously on Zhu Zhilian in 1750, and the title passed on through twelve generations of Ming descendants until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912. The last Marquis of Extended Grance was Zhu Yuxun (朱煜勳). In 1912, after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in the Xinhai Revolution, some advocated that a Han Chinese be installed as Emperor, either the descendant of Confucius, who was the Duke Yansheng, [92] [93] [94] [95] [96] or the Ming dynasty Imperial family descendant, the Marquis of Extended Grace. [97] [98]

Government

Province, prefecture, subprefecture, county

Provinces of Ming dynasty in 1409 Ming divisions.png
Provinces of Ming dynasty in 1409

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, [99] 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). [100] 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. [101] 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 (sheng 省) were prefectures (fu 府) operating under a prefect (zhifu 知府), followed by subprefectures (zhou 州) under a subprefect. The lowest unit was the county (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 亰) attached to Nanjing and Beijing. [102]

Institutions and bureaus

The Forbidden City, the official imperial household of the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1420 until 1924, when the Republic of China evicted Puyi from the Inner Court. Gugong.jpg
The Forbidden City, the official imperial household of the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1420 until 1924, when the Republic of China evicted Puyi from the Inner Court.

Departing from the main central administrative system generally known as the Three Departments and Six Ministries 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 Hu Weiyong in 1380, the Hongwu Emperor abolished the Secretariat, the Censorate, and the Chief Military Commission and personally took charge of the Six Ministries and the regional Five Military Commissions. [103] [104] Thus a whole level of administration was cut out and only partially rebuilt by subsequent rulers. [103] 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. [105] 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. [105] [106]

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. [107]

Grand Secretariat and Six Ministries

A portrait of Jiang Shunfu, an official under the Hongzhi Emperor, now in the Nanjing Museum. The decoration of two cranes on his chest is a "rank badge" that indicates he was a civil official of the first rank. Portrait of Jiang Shunfu.jpg
A portrait of Jiang Shunfu, an official under the Hongzhi Emperor, now in the Nanjing Museum. The decoration of two cranes on his chest is a "rank badge" that indicates he was a civil official of the first rank.
Processional figurines from the Shanghai tomb of Pan Yongzheng, a Ming dynasty official who lived during the 16th century PanYongzheng-ProcessionalTombFigurines-ShanghaiMuseum-May27-08.jpg
Processional figurines from the Shanghai tomb of Pan Yongzheng, a Ming dynasty official who lived during the 16th century

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 and later appointed as top officials of agencies and Grand Preceptor, a top-ranking, non-functional civil service post, under the Hongxi Emperor (ruled 1424–25). [108] The Grand Secretariat drew its members from the Hanlin Academy and were considered part of the imperial authority, not the ministerial one (hence being at odds with both the emperor and ministers at times). [109] The Secretariat operated as a coordinating agency, whereas the Six Ministries—Personnel, Revenue, Rites, War, Justice, and Public Works—were direct administrative organs of the state: [110]

  1. The Ministry of Personnel was in charge of appointments, merit ratings, promotions, and demotions of officials, as well as granting of honorific titles. [111]
  2. 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. [112]
  3. The Ministry of Rites 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. [113]
  4. 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. [114]
  5. The Ministry of Justice was in charge of judicial and penal processes, but had no supervisory role over the Censorate or the Grand Court of Revision. [115]
  6. 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. [115]

Bureaus and offices for the imperial household

Ming coinage, 14-17th century Ming coinage 14th 17th century.jpg
Ming coinage, 14–17th century

The imperial household was staffed almost entirely by eunuchs and ladies with their own bureaus. [116] 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. [116] Starting in the 1420s, eunuchs began taking over these ladies' positions until only the Bureau of Apparel with its four subsidiary offices remained. [116] 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. [116] 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. [117] The offices were in charge of providing fuel, music, paper, and baths. [117] The bureaus were in charge of weapons, silverwork, laundering, headgear, bronzework, textile manufacture, wineries, and gardens. [117] At times, the most influential eunuch in the Directorate of Ceremonial acted as a de facto dictator over the state. [118]

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. [119] There were also civil service offices to oversee the affairs of imperial princes. [120]

Personnel

Scholar-officials

Candidates who had taken the civil service examinations would crowd around the wall where the results were posted; detail from a handscroll in ink and color on silk, by Qiu Ying (1494-1552). Ming-Beamtenprufungen1.jpg
Candidates who had taken the civil service examinations would crowd around the wall where the results were posted; detail from a handscroll in ink and color on silk, by Qiu Ying (1494–1552).

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 (581–618). [122] [123] [124] 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. [125] 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. [126] The expansion of the printing industry since Song times enhanced the spread of knowledge and number of potential exam candidates throughout the provinces. [127] 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. [128]

As in earlier periods, the focus of the examination was classical Confucian texts, [122] while the bulk of test material centered on the Four Books outlined by Zhu Xi in the 12th century. [129] Ming era examinations were perhaps more difficult to pass since the 1487 requirement of completing the "eight-legged essay", a departure from basing essays off progressing literary trends. [129] [130] 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. [131] 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. [132] [133] In 276 years of Ming rule and ninety palace examinations, the number of doctoral degrees granted by passing the palace examinations was 24,874. [132] 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." [125] This was in comparison to the 100,000 shengyuan ('government students'), the lowest tier of graduates, by the 16th century. [125]

The maximum tenure in office was nine years, but every three years officials were graded on their performance by senior officials. [134] 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. [106] 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. [135] 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. [120]

Lesser functionaries

The Xuande Emperor playing chuiwan with his eunuchs, a game similar to golf, by an anonymous court painter of the Xuande period (1425-35). Ming Emperor Xuande playing Golf.jpg
The Xuande Emperor playing chuiwan with his eunuchs, a game similar to golf, by an anonymous court painter of the Xuande period (1425–35).

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. [136] 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. [137]

Eunuchs, princes, and generals

Detail of The Emperor's Approach showing the Wanli Emperor's royal carriage being pulled by elephants and escorted by cavalry (full panoramic painting here) Detail of The Emperor's Approach, Xuande period.jpg
Detail of The Emperor's Approach showing the Wanli Emperor's royal carriage being pulled by elephants and escorted by cavalry (full panoramic painting here)

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. [117] Eunuchs had ranks that were equivalent to civil service ranks, only theirs had four grades instead of nine. [138]

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. [139] The rebellion of the Prince of Yan was justified in part as upholding the rights of the princes, but once the Yongle Emperor 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. [120]

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). [140] 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). [140] [141] 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. [142] 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. [143]

Society and culture

Literature and arts

Lofty Mount Lu, by Shen Zhou, 1467. Lofty Mt.Lu by Shen Zhou.jpg
Lofty Mount Lu , by Shen Zhou, 1467.
Decorated back of a pipa from the Ming dynasty Pipa MET DP218070.jpg
Decorated back of a pipa from the Ming dynasty

Literature, painting, poetry, music, and Chinese opera 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), [144] 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, 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. [145] Literati scholars edited or developed major Chinese novels into mature form in this period, such as Water Margin and Journey to the West . Jin Ping Mei , published in 1610, although incorporating earlier material, marks the trend toward independent composition and concern with psychology. [146] In the later years of the dynasty, Feng Menglong and Ling Mengchu innovated with vernacular short fiction. Theater scripts were equally imaginative. The most famous, The Peony Pavilion , was written by Tang Xianzu (1550–1616), with its first performance at the Pavilion of Prince Teng in 1598.

Informal essay and travel writing was another highlight. Xu Xiake (1587–1641), a travel literature author, published his Travel Diaries in 404,000 written characters, with information on everything from local geography to mineralogy. [147] [148] The first reference to the publishing of private newspapers in Beijing was in 1582; by 1638 the Beijing Gazette switched from using woodblock print to movable type printing. [149] 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. [150]

Poetry of Min Ding, 17th century Mingdynasty.jpg
Poetry of Min Ding, 17th century

In contrast to Xu Xiake, who focused on technical aspects in his travel literature, the Chinese poet and official Yuan Hongdao (1568–1610) used travel literature to express his desires for individualism as well as autonomy from and frustration with Confucian court politics. [151] 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 (1037–1101). [152] 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. [153] 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. [153] Yet even gentry and scholar-officials were affected by the new popular romantic literature, seeking courtesans as soulmates to reenact the heroic love stories that arranged marriages often could not provide or accommodate. [154]

Painting of flowers, a butterfly, and rock sculpture by Chen Hongshou (1598-1652); small leaf album paintings like this one first became popular in the Song dynasty. Chen Hongshou, leaf album painting.jpg
Painting of flowers, a butterfly, and rock sculpture by Chen Hongshou (1598–1652); small leaf album paintings like this one first became popular in the Song dynasty.

Famous painters included Ni Zan and Dong Qichang, as well as the Four Masters of the Ming dynasty, Shen Zhou, Tang Yin, Wen Zhengming, and Qiu Ying. 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. [155]

Ming dynasty Xuande mark and period (1426-35) imperial blue and white vase. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Ming dynasty Xuande mark and period (1426-35) imperial blue and white vase, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ming Xuan De Jing De Zhen Yao Qing Hua Guan Er Ping , Niu Yue Da Du Bo Wu Guan  .jpg
Ming dynasty Xuande mark and period (1426–35) imperial blue and white vase. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The period was also renowned for ceramics and porcelains. The major production center for porcelain was the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province, most famous in the period for blue and white porcelain, but also producing other styles. The Dehua porcelain factories in Fujian catered to European tastes by creating Chinese export porcelain by the late 16th century. Individual potters also became known, such as He Chaozong, 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. [156]

Carved designs in lacquerware and designs glazed onto porcelain 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, ivory, and cloisonné. The houses of the rich were also furnished with rosewood furniture and feathery latticework. 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. [157]

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. [157] The Jesuit Matteo Ricci while staying in Nanjing wrote that Chinese scam artists were ingenious at making forgeries and huge profits. [158] However, there were guides to help the wary new connoisseur; Liu Tong (died 1637) wrote a book printed in 1635 that told his readers how to spot fake and authentic pieces of art. [159] He revealed that a Xuande era (1426–1435) bronzework could be authenticated by judging its sheen; porcelain wares from the Yongle era (1402–1424) could be judged authentic by their thickness. [160]

Religion

Chinese glazed stoneware statue of a Daoist deity, from the Ming dynasty, 16th century. SFEC BritMus Asia 021.JPG
Chinese glazed stoneware statue of a Daoist deity, from the Ming dynasty, 16th century.

The dominant religious beliefs during the Ming dynasty were the various forms of Chinese folk religion and the Three TeachingsConfucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. 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. [161] The Hongwu Emperor curtailed the cosmopolitan culture of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, and the prolific Prince of Ning Zhu Quan even composed one encyclopedia attacking Buddhism as a foreign "mourning cult", deleterious to the state, and another encyclopedia that subsequently joined the Taoist canon. [161]

Islam was also well-established throughout China, with a history said to have begun with Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas 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 Hongwu Emperor's generals Chang Yuqun, Lan Yu, Ding Dexing, and Mu Ying, [162] as well as the Yongle Emperor's powerful eunuch Zheng He. 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. [163] [164] [165]

Bodhisattva Manjusri in Blanc-de-Chine, by He Chaozong, 17th century; Song Yingxing devoted an entire section of his book to the ceramics industry in the making of porcelain items like this. He Chaozong 1.JPG
Bodhisattva Manjusri in Blanc-de-Chine , by He Chaozong, 17th century; Song Yingxing devoted an entire section of his book to the ceramics industry in the making of porcelain items like this.

The advent of the Ming was initially devastating to Christianity: in his first year, the Hongwu Emperor declared the eighty-year-old Franciscan missions among the Yuan heterodox and illegal. [167] The centuries-old Nestorian church also disappeared. During the later Ming a new wave of Christian missionaries arrived – particularly Jesuits – 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 after its founding in 1579. The most influential was Matteo Ricci, whose "Map of the Myriad Countries of the World" upended traditional geography throughout East Asia, and whose work with the convert Xu Guangqi led to the first Chinese translation of Euclid's Elements in 1607. The discovery of a Nestorian stele at Xi'an 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, Confucius, or their ancestors: 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 and forced the others out of public life for six years. [168] 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 [169] 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.

During his mission, Ricci was also contacted in Beijing by one of the approximately 5,000 Kaifeng Jews and introduced them and their long history in China to Europe. [170] 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. [171]

Philosophy

Wang Yangming's Confucianism

Wang Yangming (1472-1529), considered the most influential Confucian thinker since Zhu Xi Wang-yang-ming.jpg
Wang Yangming (1472–1529), considered the most influential Confucian thinker since Zhu Xi

During the Ming dynasty, the Neo-Confucian doctrines of the Song scholar Zhu Xi were embraced by the court and the Chinese literati at large, although the direct line of his school was destroyed by the Yongle Emperor'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 (1472–1529), whose teachings were attacked in his own time for their similarity to Chan Buddhism. [172] Building upon Zhu Xi's concept of the "extension of knowledge" (理學 or 格物致知), gaining understanding through careful and rational investigation of things and events, Wang argued that universal concepts would appear in the minds of anyone. [173] Therefore, he claimed that anyone – no matter their pedigree or education – could become as wise as Confucius and Mencius had been and that their writings were not sources of truth but merely guides that might have flaws when carefully examined. [174] A peasant with a great deal of experience and intelligence would then be wiser than an official who had memorized the Classics but not experienced the real world. [174]

Conservative reaction

A Ming dynasty print drawing of Confucius on his way to the Zhou dynasty capital of Luoyang. Confucius on his way to Luoyang.jpg
A Ming dynasty print drawing of Confucius on his way to the Zhou dynasty capital of Luoyang.

Other scholar-bureaucrats 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. [172] 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 (何心隱) challenged the elevation and emphasis of the family in Chinese society. [172] 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". [175] Yet these "dangerous ideas" of educating women had long been embraced by some mothers [176] and by courtesans who were as literate and skillful in calligraphy, painting, and poetry as their male guests. [177]

The liberal views of Wang Yangming were opposed by the Censorate 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. [178]

Urban and rural life

A Ming dynasty red "seal paste box" in carved lacquer. Seal Paste Box (Yinnihe) with Litchi Stems LACMA M.87.205a-b (1 of 2).jpg
A Ming dynasty red "seal paste box" in carved lacquer.
Map of Beijing in Ming Dynasty Beijing in Ming and Qing Dynasties.jpg
Map of Beijing in Ming Dynasty

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. [179] Jonathan Spence 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 (Chinese: 士農工商), since artisans sometimes worked on farms in peak periods, and farmers often traveled into the city to find work during times of dearth. [180]

A variety of occupations could be chosen or inherited from a father's line of work. This would include – but was not limited to – coffinmakers, 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. [71] [181] Virtually every town had a brothel where female and male prostitutes could be had. [182] Male catamites fetched a higher price than female concubines since pederasty with a teenage boy was seen as a mark of elite status, regardless of sodomy being repugnant to sexual norms. [183] Public bathing became much more common than in earlier periods. [184] 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. [181] 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. [180]

Farming villagers in the north spent their days harvesting crops like wheat and millet, while farmers south of the Huai River 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; even further south sugarcane and citrus were grown as basic crops. [180] 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 shells to make lime and fired pots, and weaving mats and baskets. [185] 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. [186]

Early Ming dynasty saw the strictest sumptuary laws 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. [187]

Science and technology

The puddling process of smelting iron ore to make pig iron and then wrought iron, with the right illustration displaying men working a blast furnace, from the Tiangong Kaiwu encyclopedia, 1637. Chinese Fining and Blast Furnace.jpg
The puddling process of smelting iron ore to make pig iron and then wrought iron, with the right illustration displaying men working a blast furnace, from the Tiangong Kaiwu encyclopedia, 1637.
Map of the known world by Zheng He: India at the top, Ceylon at the upper right and East Africa along the bottom. Sailing directions and distances are marked using zhenlu (Zhen Lu 
) or compass route. Zhenghe-sailing-chart.gif
Map of the known world by Zheng He: India at the top, Ceylon at the upper right and East Africa along the bottom. Sailing directions and distances are marked using zhenlu (針路) or compass route.

Compared to 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. 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, the Yuanjingshuo (Far Seeing Optic Glass); in 1634 the Chongzhen Emperor acquired the telescope of the late Johann Schreck (1576–1630). [188] The heliocentric model of the solar system was rejected by the Catholic missionaries in China, but Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei's ideas slowly trickled into China starting with the Polish Jesuit Michael Boym (1612–59) in 1627, Adam Schall von Bell's treatise in 1640, and finally Joseph Edkins, Alex Wylie, and John Fryer in the 19th century. [189] 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. [190] Although Shen Kuo (1031–95) and Guo Shoujing (1231–1316) had laid the basis for trigonometry in China, another important work in Chinese trigonometry would not be published again until 1607 with the efforts of Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci. [191] 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. [192]

The Chinese calendar was in need of reform since it inadequately measured the solar year at 365 ¼ days, giving an error of 10 min and 14 sec a year or roughly a full day every 128 years. [193] Although the Ming had adopted Guo Shoujing's Shoushi calendar of 1281, which was just as accurate as the Gregorian Calendar, 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. [194] A sixth-generation descendant of the Hongxi Emperor, the "Prince" Zhu Zaiyu (1536–1611), submitted a proposal to fix the calendar in 1595, but the ultra-conservative astronomical commission rejected it. [193] [194] This was the same Zhu Zaiyu who discovered the system of tuning known as equal temperament, a discovery made simultaneously by Simon Stevin (1548–1620) in Europe. [195] In addition to publishing his works on music, he was able to publish his findings on the calendar in 1597. [194] 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: 崇禎暦書) in 1629 according to Western standards. [194]

A 24-point compass chart employed by Zheng He during his explorations. Ming-marine-compass.jpg
A 24-point compass chart employed by Zheng He during his explorations.

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 (683–727) and Su Song (1020–1101) – he associated all of them with the decadence of Mongol rule and had them destroyed. [196] 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. [196] Later, European Jesuits such as Matteo Ricci and Nicolas Trigault would briefly mention indigenous Chinese clockworks that featured drive wheels. [197] 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 clocks, incense clocks, and "other instruments ... with wheels rotated by sand as if by water" (Chinese: 沙漏). [198] 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 and a stationary dial face over which a pointer circulated, similar to European models of the time. [199] 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. [200]

Portrait of Matteo Ricci by Yu Wenhui, Latinized as Emmanuel Pereira, dated the year of Ricci's death, 1610 Ricciportrait.jpg
Portrait of Matteo Ricci by Yu Wenhui, Latinized as Emmanuel Pereira, dated the year of Ricci's death, 1610

The Chinese were intrigued with European technology, but so were visiting Europeans of Chinese technology. In 1584, Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598) featured in his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum the peculiar Chinese innovation of mounting masts and sails onto carriages, just like Chinese ships. [201] Gonzales de Mendoza also mentioned this a year later – noting even the designs of them on Chinese silken robes – while Gerardus Mercator (1512–94) featured them in his atlas, John Milton (1608–74) in one of his famous poems, and Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739–1801) in the writings of his travel diary in China. [202] The encyclopedist Song Yingxing (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, [203] nautical technology such as vessel types and snorkeling gear for pearl divers, [204] [205] [206] the annual processes of sericulture and weaving with the loom, [207] metallurgic processes such as the crucible technique and quenching, [208] manufacturing processes such as for roasting iron pyrite in converting sulphide to oxide in sulfur 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 [209] – and the use of gunpowder weapons such as a naval mine ignited by use of a rip-cord and steel flint wheel. [210]

A cannon from the Huolongjing, compiled by Jiao Yu and Liu Bowen before the latter's death in 1375. Chinese Cannon.JPG
A cannon from the Huolongjing , compiled by Jiao Yu and Liu Bowen before the latter's death in 1375.

Focusing on agriculture in his Nongzheng Quanshu, the agronomist Xu Guangqi (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. [211]

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. [212] The Huolongjing , compiled by Jiao Yu and Liu Bowen sometime before the latter's death on 16 May 1375 (with a preface added by Jiao in 1412), [213] featured many types of cutting-edge gunpowder weaponry for the time. This includes hollow, gunpowder-filled exploding cannonballs, [214] land mines that used a complex trigger mechanism of falling weights, pins, and a steel wheellock to ignite the train of fuses, [215] naval mines, [216] fin-mounted winged rockets for aerodynamic control, [217] multistage rockets 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), [218] and hand cannons that had up to ten barrels. [219]

Li Shizhen (1518–93) – one of the most renowned pharmacologists and physicians in Chinese history – belonged to the late Ming period. His Bencao Gangmu 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. [220] 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. [221] In regards to oral hygiene, the ancient Egyptians 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. [222]

Population

Appreciating Plums, by Chen Hongshou (1598-1652) showing a lady holding an oval fan while enjoying the beauty of the plum. Chen Hongshou, Appreciating Plums, detail.jpg
Appreciating Plums, by Chen Hongshou (1598–1652) showing a lady holding an oval fan while enjoying the beauty of the plum.

Sinologist historians debate the population figures for each era in the Ming dynasty. The historian Timothy Brook 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. [223] Children were often underreported, especially female children, as shown by skewed population statistics throughout the Ming. [224] Even adult women were underreported; [225] for example, the Daming Prefecture in North Zhili reported a population of 378,167 males and 226,982 females in 1502. [226] 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. [227] Some part of the gender imbalance may be attributed to the practice of female infanticide. 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. [228] However, the dramatically skewed sex ratios, which many counties reported exceeding 2:1 by 1586, cannot likely be explained by infanticide alone. [225]

The Xuande Emperor (r. 1425-35); he stated in 1428 that his populace was dwindling due to palace construction and military adventures. But the population was rising under him, a fact noted by Zhou Chen - governor of South Zhili - in his 1432 report to the throne about widespread itinerant commerce. Xuanzong of Ming.jpg
The Xuande Emperor (r. 1425–35); he stated in 1428 that his populace was dwindling due to palace construction and military adventures. But the population was rising under him, a fact noted by Zhou Chen – governor of South Zhili – in his 1432 report to the throne about widespread itinerant commerce.
Scenes of everyday life in the Ming Dynasty, by Qiu Ying Along the River During the Qingming Festival (Suzhou Imitation) 11.jpg
Scenes of everyday life in the Ming Dynasty, by Qiu Ying

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. [230] 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. [229] 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. [231] 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. [229] Even the Hongzhi Emperor (r. 1487–505) remarked that the daily increase in subjects coincided with the daily dwindling amount of registered civilians and soldiers. [185] William Atwell states that around 1400 the population of China was perhaps 90 million people, citing Heijdra and Mote. [232]

Historians are now turning to local gazetteers of Ming China for clues that would show consistent growth in population. [224] Using the gazetteers, Brook estimates that the overall population under the Chenghua Emperor (r. 1464–1487) was roughly 75 million, [227] despite mid-Ming census figures hovering around 62 million. [185] 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. [233] The Hongzhi and Zhengde emperors lessened the penalties against those who had fled their home region, while the Jiajing Emperor (r. 1521–67) finally had officials register migrants wherever they had moved or fled in order to bring in more revenues. [226]

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. [234] Fairbank estimates that the population was perhaps 160 million in the late Ming dynasty, [235] while Brook estimates 175 million, [234] and Ebrey states perhaps as large as 200 million. [236] However, a great epidemic that entered China through the northwest in 1641 ravaged the densely populated areas along the Grand Canal; a gazetteer in northern Zhejiang noted more than half the population fell ill that year and that 90% of the local populace in one area was dead by 1642. [237]

See also

Notes

  1. Primary capital after 1403; secondary capital after 1421.
  2. Secondary capital until 1421; primary capital afterwards.
  3. The capitals-in-exile of the Southern Ming were Nanjing (1644), Fuzhou (1645–46), Guangzhou (1646–47), Zhaoqing (1646–52).
  4. The Ming loyalist regime Kingdom of Tungning, ruled by the House of Zheng, is usually not considered part of the Southern Ming.

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History of the Ming dynasty

The Ming dynasty, officially the Great Ming or Empire of the Great Ming, founded by the peasant rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang, known as the Hongwu Emperor, was an imperial dynasty of China. It was the successor to the Yuan dynasty and the predecessor of the short-lived Shun dynasty, which was in turn succeeded by the Qing dynasty. At its height, the Ming dynasty had a population of 160 million people, while some assert the population could actually have been as large as 200 million.

The Grand Secretariat was nominally a coordinating agency but de facto the highest institution in the imperial government of the Chinese Ming dynasty. It first took shape after the Hongwu Emperor abolished the office of Chancellor in 1380 and gradually evolved into an effective coordinating organ superimposed on the Six Ministries. There were altogether six Grand Secretaries, though the posts were not always filled. The most senior one was popularly called Senior Grand Secretary. The Grand Secretaries were nominally mid-level officials, ranked much lower than the Ministers, heads of the Ministries. However, since they screened documents submitted to the emperor from all governmental agencies, and had the power of drafting suggested rescripts for the emperor, generally known as piàonǐ (票擬) or tiáozhǐ (條旨), some senior Grand Secretaries were able to dominate the whole government, acting as de facto Chancellor. The word nèigé itself also became to refer modern cabinet in Chinese.

Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming dynasty analysis of relations between China and Tibet during the Ming Dynasty

The exact nature of relations between Tibet and the Ming dynasty of China (1368–1644) is unclear. Analysis of the relationship is further complicated by modern political conflicts and the application of Westphalian sovereignty to a time when the concept did not exist. Some Mainland Chinese scholars such as Wang Jiawei and Tibetan scholars such as Nyima Gyaincain, assert that the Ming dynasty had unquestioned sovereignty over Tibet, pointing to the Ming court's issuing of various titles to Tibetan leaders, Tibetans' full acceptance of these titles, and a renewal process for successors of these titles that involved traveling to the Ming capital. Scholars within China also argue that Tibet has been an integral part of China since the 13th century and that it was thus a part of the Ming Empire. But most scholars outside China, such as Turrell V. Wylie, Melvin C. Goldstein, and Helmut Hoffman, say that the relationship was one of suzerainty, that Ming titles were only nominal, that Tibet remained an independent region outside Ming control, and that it simply paid tribute until the Jiajing Emperor (1521–1566), who ceased relations with Tibet.

Yeheidieerding Chinese architect

Yeheidie'erding, also known as Amir al-Din, was a Muslim architect who helped design and led the construction of the capital of the Yuan Dynasty, Khanbaliq, located in present-day Beijing, the current capital of the People's Republic of China.

Yishiha was a Jurchen eunuch in the service of the Ming dynasty emperors who carried out several expeditions down the Songhua and Amur Rivers during the period of Ming rule of Manchuria, and is credited with the construction of the only two Ming dynasty Buddhist temples ever built on the territory of present-day Russia.

House of Zhu, also known as House of Chu, was the imperial family of the Ming dynasty of China. Zhu was the family name of the emperors of the Ming dynasty. The House of Zhu ruled China from 1368 until the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, followed by the rule as the Southern Ming dynasty until 1662, and the last Ming princes, the Prince of Ningjing Zhu Shugui and Prince Zhu Honghuan (朱弘桓) held out until the annexation of the Kingdom of Tungning in 1683.

The Imperial Clan Court or Court of the Imperial Clan was an institution responsible for all matters pertaining to the imperial family under the Ming and Qing dynasties of imperial China.

Prince of Ning rebellion

The Prince of Ning rebellion or Rebellion of the Prince of Ning was a rebellion that took place in China between 10 July and 20 August 1519 during the Ming dynasty. It was started by Zhu Chenhao, the Prince of Ning and a fifth-generation descendant of Zhu Quan, and was aimed at overthrowing the Zhengde Emperor. The Prince of Ning revolt was one of two princedom rebellions during the Zhengde Emperor's reign, and was preceded by the Prince of Anhua rebellion in 1510.

A xunfu was an important imperial Chinese provincial office under both the Ming and Qing dynasties. However, the purview of the office under the two dynasties differed markedly. Under the Ming, the post originated around 1430 as a kind of inspector-general and ad hoc provincial-level administrator; such a xunfu is usually translated as a grand coordinator. However, after the Manchu conquest of China in the mid-17th century, xunfu became the title of a regular provincial governor overseeing civil administration.

Manchuria under Ming rule

Manchuria under Ming rule refers to the domination of the Ming dynasty over Manchuria, including today's Northeast China and Outer Manchuria. The Ming rule of Manchuria began with its conquest of Manchuria in the late 1380s after the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, and reached its peak in the early 15th century with the establishment of the Nurgan Regional Military Commission, but the Ming power waned considerably in Manchuria after that. Starting in the 1580s, a Jianzhou Jurchen chieftain named Nurhaci (1558–1626), began to take control of most of Manchuria over the next several decades, and the Qing dynasty established by his son would eventually conquer the Ming and take control of China proper.

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Further reading

Preceded by
Yuan dynasty
Dynasties in Chinese history
1368–1644
Succeeded by
Qing dynasty
(see also Shun dynasty)