The second Emperor GongMin (Zhu Yunwen) is replaced in Coup Campaign (1399 AD
- 1403 AD) by 3rd Emperor, his Uncle, the Prince of Yan, Zhu Di (4Th son of Hong Wu).
Establishment of the reign of 3rd Ming Emperor under reign name Yongle, meaning
"forever happy" (ChengZu) (1403 AD-1425 AD), transfer of the Capital to Beiping (JingShi or ShunTianFu), since 1380 AD the
personal fiefdom of Zhu Di, Prince of Yan. Beiping was then renamed Beijing in 1421AD.
Construction of Imperial Palace at Beijing in the years leading up to 1422 AD, creating an Imperial City (the so-called "Forbidden City"), the largest Imperial Palace in the World. As a result of the downfall of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, continuous border wars
and incidents, followed later by the usurping of the Throne by an illegitimate Emperor, relations
with the surrounding Nations of Central Asia, along the Silk Road, were at an absolute lowpoint.
Among things, this forced the Chinese look for other ways to inflate their power and gain Tribute,
Alliance and Respect from new States. Another reaction to the hostilities in the West and North was
the reconstitution of China's Great (defensive) Wall, greatly strenghtening it and extending the Wall
into far western China, its largest length in history.
After the period 1439 AD - 1457 AD and the return of the Emperor from Captivity, relations with the
Another invasion by a Foreign Tribe, the Ching are a Tungusic people native to Manchuria. The Manchu first unite Manchuria, Mongolia and parts of Shandong Province, then establish a parallel Dynasty.
When a peasant rebellion sweeps through Hebei and the City of Beijing, Ming Emperor ChongZhen commits suicide. After the rebels reign choas on the Capital, the Qing armies sweep in to take Victory.
Capital City: Beijing, after capture of City and pacification of Beijing from Revolt.
For Full Information on Ching Dynasty - CLICK HERE
Time-line of all 15 Ching Emperors, Life, Love, achievements.
- China Report !!
Summary of the Ming Dynasty Reign1368 AD - 1644 AD
This page was last updated on: January 13, 2013
Imperial Ming-styled Dragon Logo, symbolising the Emperor, his might, longevity of Reign and prosperity. During the early Ming Dynasty China was the most influential trade nation and most important military power in East and South-East Asia.
This page was last updated on: January 13, 2013
The preceeding Yuan Dynasty 1125 AD to 1234 AD
A Foreign invasion of China by nomadic Mongol Tribes led by the infamous Dhengis Khan. Capturing Beijing and eventually establishing the Yuan Dynasty, a Mongol Ethnic Power-structure accepting Chinese Culture and ways. Confucianism was the accepted State Religion. The governmental institutions of the Mongol period were based on confucian ideas and hierarchy and were marked by a strong centralization. Rivalry among the Mongolian imperial heirs, the inflexibility of the ruling system, natural disasters, abuse of the peasant class for large scale public works led to numerous peasant uprisings. Feudal tendencies of the ruling class, aquiring large estates and lands, on which chinese
In 1405 AD Emperor Yongle orders tribute trade expeditions to be dispatched to all Nations
known and simultaniously the discovery of new Nations to Trade with (and receive tribute
from). The Emperor chooses loyal admiral Zheng He, a muslim, to oversee this giant undertaking.
During the Reign of Yongle and his successor HongXi (4Th Ming Emperor (name of Reign
Renzong)) these new plans and this new seaborn strategy culminate in the 7 Grand
Exploration (1368 AD - 1465 AD). During these voyages active trade-routes and communications
are established with more than 30 countries and city-states in Asia, Arabia and (East-) Africa.
During the first half of the 15Th Century chinese maritime explorers under command of Admiral Zheng He (SanBao) reached as far south as Mozambique (1433 AD) in south-east Africa on their Tribute Trading Missions. In their final 6th and 7 th journeys in the 2nd half of the 15Th Century Zheng He's Trade expeditions reached Cape Agulhas (southern most point of Africa) and rounded the Cape of Good Hope (before 1459 AD - Fra Mauro Map) , extending Chinese Exploration into the South-Atlantic Ocean. Only some 30 years later the renowned Portugese explorer Vasco Da Gama, rounding Cape of Good Hope from the Atlantic Ocean (late 1497 AD), was able to make use of the trade-route established by Admiral Zheng He on his 6Th journey, traveling directly from Malindi (Kenyan coast) to Calicut (Now Khozikode) on the West-Indian coast and from there on to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In this event Vasco Da Gama layed the basis for Portugese domination of the Indian Ocean in the 16Th Century, spreading a colonial and trading Empire as far as the South Seas and Molluccas (or Spice Islands) in the far South-East Asian Islands using chinese navigational knowledge. By then however, all Chinese Maritime
Explorations had been halted by Imperial Decree (1st halted in 1424 AD by HongXi Emperor
After the short reign of only one year the HongXi Emperor died of natural causes and was
were seen in the Indian Ocean, leaving the path free for the Portugese ships and plans.
Reasons that have been given for this decline and the eventual seizure of maritime
missions were first of all the increasing attention claimed by invading Mongol Tribes in the
North. During the Yongle reign there had already been increasing pressure from attacking
Mongol Tribes in the North, the famed Emperor launching and leading no less than five
military missions to the northern regions. The move of Capital more northernly to Beijing
partially supported the Missions in War with the Tribes the North.
Furthermore, in 1449 AD, the 6Th Ming Emperor , Zheng Tong was attacked and captured by Mongol Cavalry of the Wala Tribe at a day's march from Beijing. Political crisis followed while the Emperor was held hostage and Civil War was at hand in China as the half-brother declared himself JingTai Emperor (Daizong) in the absence of the real ruling Emperor. The 6 year absence of the Emperor and the internal power-struggle further drew attention and focus internally.
expanding it into the far Western Deserts, the cost of Garrisoning this long
border must have been a drain of Imperial Finances.
At one time the standing army counted in excess
of 1,000,000 troops. It is quite possible that
the cost of maintaining both a giant
sea-going fleet and a great wall of
China would have been too high.
However, there has been
reasonable argument that the
Zheng He Tribute Missions actually
enhanced trade, moving money
into the chinese economy from
overseas regions and thus feeding the
Empire. Loss of the Trade Missions in that sense
would have been an economic loss.
A third reason that has been given for ending the
succesful maritime missions refers to the Chinese worldview
and the mentality of Cultural Superiority. At the Time of the early Ming
Dynasty China's vast Empire was seen by the Chinese as the Center of
the World, and this had been confirmed by the eagerness of Tribute States
to send Missions to the Chinese Capital. Newfound states were quick to do
trade, buy chinese goods and seek the Alliance of this Great seaborn military
power. The Chinese,and now others, knew their lands as the Empire of the Great Ming (Da Ming Guo). There may therefor have been resentment at the Ming Court which was still heavily influenced by confucianist idea's (Confucianism being the State Religion during the preceding Dynasties). Such opposition at court may have been a real contributing factor, as conservative officials found the concept of expansion and commercial ventures alien to Chinese ideas of government and contrary to Confucian ideals of piety and virtue. Zheng's appointment in 1403 to lead a sea-faring task force already had been a triumph of commercial lobbies seeking to stimulate (conventional) trade over the conservative forces of the Confucian Scholar Gentry. The confucianists, who were fast re-establishing their former powers after the reign of Zhu Yuanzhang, the Hongwu Emperor, may have eventually have turned the tide against the whole endeavour. Whichever way it may be, the stability of the Ming dynasty, which during it's early years was without major disruptions of the population, economy,
arts, society, or politics, promoted a belief among the Chinese that they had achieved the most
satisfactory civilization on earth and that nothing foreign was needed or desirable. As a result an
Imperial Ban on official sea-going trade was enforced, ending the majority of Chinese seaborn
activities. In a peculiar move typical of Chinese Government censorship, all Records of the Zheng He
Missions including the navigational charts were destroyed and shipbuilding was restricted to
small-size vessels. Later, during the 16Th Century, China's coastal areas are plagued by groups of
Waku (wakou), pirates ravaging villages, cities and coastal area's.
The reign of the YingZong Emperor was recovered in 1457 AD, renaming his reign Tianshun.
The Giant Statue of Zhu Di Emperor Yongle, 3rd Emperor of the Ming Dynasty at his Mausoleum, Chang Ling, outside Beijing.
A scale model of Chang Ling, the extensive Mausoleum of Zhu Di Yongle near Beijing.
Ming Achievements: The Worlds largest Economy of its Age. Most Powerful and largest Military Power if it's Time in East-Asia and South-East Asia. Science, economy and military strength early Ming Dynasty culminating in the greatest age of maritime exploration in Chinese History. Kangnido Map 1402 AD depicting the Mediterranean sea and Europe. Discovery of
the (South-) Atlantic Ocean. During his 6th and
7th Voyage Admiral Zheng He explores the East-
African Coast and reaches Africas southern most
point. Invention of the Rudder on ships,
practical use of magnetic compass and other
navigation techniques (stars and celestial
bodies, triangulation). Fast development of very
large wooden sea-going ships, culminating in
the largest in chinese and world history
(around 160 meters).
Spin-offs of the Voyages are the Maturity of
Blue-and-White Porcelain and highpoint of
international trade in porcelain. Zheng He
navigational charts among earliest trans-oceanic
navigational charts in world history.
Da Ming Guo, the Empire of the Great Ming shown at it's greatest size during the Ming Dynasty (red border inside the yellow of current day China). There were several tribute states, which are not included as part of the Empire.
Yuan Dynasty Achievements: Impressive, if not stunning. Conquering largest world Empire in History, spanning the Eurasian continent from Manchuria and Burma to Poland and Bulgaria, then part of the Roman Empire in Europe. Long Range maritime expeditions around "the world", including attempts to invade the Japanese main Islands and subdue them to Mongol-Chinese Rule. The invasion fails due to a Tropical Storm (Typhoon) that destroys the Mongol-Chinese Fleet in sight of Japan's shores. It is generally held that the deep discrimination of the Mongols against the native Han-Chinese was the deciding factor in the downfall of The Empire, since the main motives of HongJin Rebellion that eventually overthrew the Yuan were the exclusion from all strata of society and governement. Another of their biggest sorrows was the destitute situation of chinese agriculture , leading to deep poverty among the overwhelmingly peasant population .However over-expansion of Empire, weakness of Genghis nad Kubilai Khan's succeeding rulers and rampant corruption were other large contributing factors to the downfall of the Yuan Dynasty. Overinflation of currency due to the new invention of paper currency, which had been printed and circulated in large volume, has also be named as a factor.
peasants (the majority of the population) were worked as slaves also adversely affected the popularity of the mongol ruling class. A final war broke out when hundreds of thousands of civilians were called upon to work on the Yellow River. A number of Han Chinese groups revolted, and eventually the group led by Zhu Yuanzhang (HongJin), assisted by an ancient and secret intellectual fraternity called the Summer Palace people, established dominance. An organised uprising inside the Capital City of Khanbalik (Beijing), followed by an attack of the HongJin (Red Turban) army led to the collapse of the Yuan dynasty.
The greatest ruler of the Yuan Dynasty was the founding ruler, Dhenghis Khan who was posthumously made its 1st Emperor.
The Ming Dynasty is famous for the influence of the eunuchs on political affairs. Basically trusted with tasks of imperial household affairs, many eunuchs were able to climb up the social ladder and to occupy posts at the court that made them able to influence the ruler and his decisions. Their numbers multiplied the longer the Ming Dynasty ruled, the number of eunuchs at the court soon reaching between 15- and 20.000.
The greater part of the eunuchs came from poor families from territories in the north China, while the scholar-officials that traditionally occupied governmental posts, came from gentry clans in southern China. The problem of the intermingling of the eunuchs into state affairs was not new. As early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) the eunuchs had become a tradition, leading often to political intrigue. During the whole course of Ming Dynasty, there was always a deep mistrust between the scholarship elite, that occupied the governmental posts in the capital(s) and in the prefectures, and the central government, that was often deeply influenced by some high ranking eunuchs predominantly from Northern area's. There was thus always a split between rivalling power-groups at Court.
The authoritarian and centralized politics of the Ming government lead to a status of immovability and confucian-inspired orthodoxy. Strong Emperors founed the Ming Dynasty and reigned supreme, however the Imperial Powers were vulnerable to manipulations when Emperor's were weak. Such a situation frequently occured during the later reigns of the Ming Dynasty, leading eventually to its downfall. One of the failures of the Ming Dynasty had been the unchecked trickery of the corrupt eunuchs. At one Time during the 16Th Century reign of Zhu Haochao (Emperor Wuzong 1505 AD - 1521 AD), who was the weakest ruler of all Ming, the Chief Eunuch, one Liu Jin, managed to maneuver himself in control of all State Affairs. The period saw a lot of political intrigue and bloodshed, eroding court power and losing the Ming crucial popularity among its many disgruntled citizens. Rebellions occured in the south.
One hundred years later the Chief Eunuch Wei Zhongxian (1568 AD - 1627 AD) would go even further. Becoming the predominant power at Court through manipulation of the Tianqi Emperor Xizong (1621 AD - 1627 AD), Eunuch Wei went on a widespread purge of officials, brutalizing the other power-groups at Court into his submission with the Eunuchs newfound power. In the ensuing period the Eunuchs were practically in control of everything, running the Palace and the State for the Emperor. Needless to say the Chief Eunuch further abused power, plundering state finances and even inspiring a personality culture complete erecting shrines in his own honor. This marked a true lowpoint in imperial authority during the Ming Reign. The Chief Eunuch was eventually caught up with by the suspicions of the Emperor. Helped by remaining enemies of the Chief Eunuch, the Emperor had Wei Zhongxian banished from Court, after which Wei's suicide and a spree of revenge killings and punishments put an end to the whole Wei power-clique. The damage to the Empire had however already been done. Reinforced by the effects of natural disasters and droughts, the ensuing chaos and enmity against the Ming led to numerous uprisings throughout the Empire. Peasants were revolting in many area's. Poverty led to banditry, which in turn led to more armies marching against the Throne. In the North the Manchu Prince Nuerhachi had broken away from the Ming Empire (1616 AD) and united the Jurchen people, establishing a parallel Dynasty named Jing (changed to Chin in 1636 AD). The succeeding Emperors would have to be strong to overcome the challenges now facing the Ming, however history would prove the tide could not be turned against their downfall. The eunuchs' manipulations had mortally wounded the Empire.
The succeeding Dynasty, the arriving Manchu, had seen the internal chaos resulting from the plots of the Eunuchs during the Ming Reign. As a result, at the beginning of the new Qing Dynasty their numbers were greatly reduced, many were executed and all demoted to the lowest ranks. The majority of remaining eunuchs were sent home finally breaking their power at court. Even then however, the eunuchs would return !
During the Yongle reign of the Ming Dynasty the Grand Canal (Da YouHe'), the largest and longest ancient artificial river (or Canal) in world history was constructed in China. Expanding on earlier-built canal systems the Grand Canal connected the City of Beijing in Hebei Province to Huangzhou in current day ZheJiang Province on the lower reaches of the Jiangtse River, reaching an
Zheng He Tribute and Trade Missions - The Ming Age of Maritime Discovery
Ming Dynasty Origins and Short History
(1368 AD to 1644 AD)
Life: October 21, 1328 AD – June 24, 1398 AD
Zhu was born the 8Th Son in a large and estitude peasant family in the village of Zhongli (鍾離), which today is known as Fengyang, in Anhui Province. When Zhu Yuanzhang was 16 years old the Yellow River broke its banks and wiped their village off the map. Several family members died in the flood or in the ensuing disasters; the famine and the plague. Other brothers were 'given away' as the family could not support their lot of children.
Reign: 1368 AD - 1398 AD
Name: Zhu YuanZhang (TaiZhu), named as first ruling Emperor Hong Wu. Hongwu Reign Period (1368 AD - 1398 AD).
Capital City: Nanjing (YingTianFu). During the reign of first two Emperors the Capital City of the Ming Dynasty is located at Nanjing, an important Harbor City, Main Naval
After 1457 AD - The Great Wall of China during the Ming Dynasty
The entire Ming period was important especially in the arts.
The Imperial Palace,Beijing's mythical Forbidden City, was constructed in the years leading up to 1422 AD, using resources and skilled manpower and artists from territories around the Empire.Only altered during the Qing Dynasty the Palace still stands as a remarkable Monument to Ming Dynasty architecture and achievement. In the same period, in a giant recreation of the City of Beijing, another famous Chinese landmark and cultural relic the confucian Temple of Heaven Complex (Tiantan) with its
monumental Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, was erected in
the South of the new Capital Beijing. Last but not least, in
1409 AD while Beijing was being recreated into the new
Imperial Capital, work was started on a final masterpiece, the
Ming Dynasty Politics - The Eunuchs and their Intrigues
A Grand Canal - The Longest artificial river in World History
The Arts - The Ming Dynasty Legacy in Arts & Crafts, Architecture and Literature
Link: Satellite Image with Schematic of the Location and path of the Great Wall of China during the Ming Dynasty. Passes on the Great Wall included.
Ming Dynasty Demise - End of the Ming Dynasty
The inevitable end came in 1644 AD at the hands of a peasant revolt sweeping Hebei Province and setting the Capital of Beijing aflame. With the city citizenry revolting unexpectedly the Ming were taken aback by the situation. The revolt now stood at the Gate of the Palace itself and a horde of angry citizens was about to take revenge for unknown sufferings. Fallen into panic and despair and lamenting his ancestry, the Chongzhen Emperor of the Ming Dynasty fled his Palace, hanging himself from a Tree in Jingshan Park. All defenses then seemed to collapse. Finding the Palace virtually undefended and deserted by its prime inhabitant, the peasant revolt leader Lee Zicheng, an ignorant farmer, was then crowned Emperor. He however reigned for only one day.
Helped by a Ming General commanding the Pass at Shanhai, the Manchu Dynasty of the North passed the Great Wall of China and descended on Beijing. Deposing the One-Day-Fly peasant Emperor, the Jin of the North, renamed Qing in 1636 AD, took control of the Empire and founded a new Dynasty. The Empire was saved from fragmentation but the Han Chinese had new Foreign Rulers. The Manchurian Qing would adopt many of the Ming customs, however they would also lead a segregated society and leave their own mark on Chinese History. Although the Míng capital, Beijing, fell in 1644, remnants of the Míng throne and power (now collectively called the Southern Míng) survived until 1662 AD.t
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Need we Say More? Great DVD on the even Greater Wall of China.
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Construction of the Grand Canal, longest manmade river in world history during the Yongle Reign of the Ming dynasty (1411 to 1415 AD). From Yongle reign to ZhengTong reign increasing attacks from Mongol Tribes re-focussing Chinese attention to the North and internally. Initial military campaigns in the far North- and West led by Zhu Di himself result in recapturing of the lands "North and West of the (Gobi) Desert", i.e. the Han Chinese gain control of parts of Turkestan (now XinJiang Autonomous Region, the "new territories"). Reconstruction of- and extension of the Great Wall of China follows with the Wall ultimately reaching to the border of far western China (North Xinjiang Autonomous Region), ending North-West of Dunhuang in Gansu Province as series of Fire Beacon Towers. During the Ming period, Chinese authority extended into Mongolia, Korea, Southeast Asia, and the Ryukyu Islands.
Today know as Shisan Ling, or simply "The Ming Tombs", the mausoleum Valley was selected for it's perfect Feng Shui caracteristics by the Yongle Emperor himself.
As founding father of the Great Imperial Capital with many achievements, Yongle would be the first Ming Emperor to
be enshrined here, resting at Chang Ling Mausoleum. With 12 more Ming Emperors to follow. In time, the entire Valley was transformed into a huge confucian shrine and monument to the Ming Reign. Also known as the "Chinese Valley of the Kings", the Ming Mausolea are another World Heritage Site, and among the most renowned architectural wonders in China today.
Although the Ming did censor Literature, many new books were written, produced, printed and distributed during their Dynastic reign. One great cultural and literary development of the Ming Dynasty was the advent of the novel. These novels developed from the writings of Chinese story tellers. As a result, they were written in a more open language than the language of the nobility traditionally used in Chinese books and much more accessible to a larger
With the use of movable block type printing, many such novels could be printed and their use was widespread. Some of the best known novels in chinese history date from the Ming Dynasty and the most famous examples are still read today.
In addition to the spread of the Novel, many Encyclopedias were written during the Ming Period, containing important information from a variety of fields.
Among the subjects geography, music and medicine. Dictionaries were also written. In the most influential dictionary of the time, written in 1615 A.D. the number of signs for Chinese characters was reduced to 214, as opposed to the 540 plus signs of previous dictionaries.
The Ming Period was also a highpoint for Chinese Ceramics. Artists and Artisans produced exquisite porcelains which were traded to all corners of the chinese-known world. As a result shards of chinese ceramics can be still unearthed at many historical sites on the East-African Coast and in the Central African Republics today. Porcelain production increased and diversified into many new directions. Blue and white porcelain became the normal and most
usual type of Chinese Ceramics traded to overseas areas, but experimentation in two color and even three color porcelain was already undertaken.
Many bronzes and large quantities of the finest lacquerware were also produced and traded during the Ming Dynasty. Some of the finest works have survived time and many are now on display at the Palace Museum, the former Imperial Palace at Beijing. Other items, among which the most precious Ming treasures, were"rescued" by the former KuominTang "National Governement"
upon their defeat on the chinese mainland in 1949 AD and have been taken to
Taiwan. They are on display ay the Palace Museum of Taipei. Many more priceless treasures remain in private collections around the World.
During the final century of the Ming dynasty, increasing numbers of Europeans
reached China starting a period of increasing foreign influence..
neighboring peoples were at an all time low, the Chinese confronting many enemies. Massive repairs and construction are once more undertaken on the Great Wall of
China. The Chinese Nation fortified itself against the Northern and Western Tribes and Nations, a proven and tried method from earlier history (Han, Tang Dynasty, etc). The Great Wall, already repaired and restrenghtened under the Reign of Brutal 3rd Emperor Zhu Di
who realised the potential danger from Northern Lands, was further extended and fortifications and garrisons were strengthened. The Emperor directly commanded the troops at the Great Wall, and with the Capital moved to Northern Beijing, the Ming Emperors were
in good communications and closeby to personally oversee the defenses. Watch-towers on the Wall were redesigned and canons were installed along its length. This however did not deter the remnants of the Northern Tribes from attempting to breach the wall once more. Reconstituted under the leadership of one Andahan, in 1540 AD, during the reign of the Shizong Emperor (Jiajing), the mongols launched
Breaching the outer layer of the Great Wall once more the raiders swept Northern Shanxi Province leaving chaos in their path. In 1550 AD, only then years later, an all out offensive was launched against the Great Wall along the border of Gansu, Ningxia and Liaoning Provinces. Breaking in through the Pass at Gubeikou the Mongol Armies threatened Beijing for some time. The Mongols were eventually pushed back behind the Wall, but the alarmed Ming realised it was clear that defenses would have to keep up. Thus, construction on the Great Wall would continue.
The Great Wall of China was originally started in around 220 BC, as a mud-brick defensive Wall by China's very first Dynasty, the Ch'In. During the succeeding Han Dynasty, which prospered on vital trade from the Silk Road behind strong defenses, the Great Wall ran an entire length of 6700 miles, all the way from the Korean Border and the ocean, through Dunhuang in Gansu Province at the edge of the Taklamakan desert, to its very end at the White River inWestern China.In the second half of the 15th Century the length of the Great Wall was extended by some further 600 miles to the West.
The result was a virtually continuous brick wall running around 8000 miles between the Mongolian and Northern Tribes on the one side and the Han Chinese to the South on the other. This period of the Ming Reign signalled a final strategic change, moving the nation from the earlier offensives to a defensive mentality. Henceforth the Chinese would protect themselves with an everlenghtening and newly strenghtened Great Wall, a well though out, layered system of defensive Walls, thought to be impregnable to most armies. When the beacons on the Wall were lit, the Chinese Army, warned of an invading army, would be awakened. Behind this Great Wall, the economically vital Silk Road leading West, the North China Plains and the Chinese central territories, cities and farmland would be safely protected. Or so, it was hoped.
A 2nd Schematic Map of the Silk Road during the Roman Age. In 30 BC the Roman Empire started trading with India, which was already well known from the Conquest of Alexander the Great (+/- 330 BC). In the following 6 centuries the West would Trade with India and indirectly also with China through the Silk Road. The Silk Road only lost its Value after the European Age of Discovery and the Establishment of Maritime Trade Routes with India (16Th Century) and later China.
ultimate length of 1,794 km (1,115 miles). According to some measurements (Père Gandar), the total length of the canal measures even longer at around 3630 li, or about 1200 miles (1930km). With Beijing linked through to the JiangTse River and the route passable for shipping, the Canal was the first continuous waterway cutting across all of the Chinese mainland. This greatly enhanced communications of the Capital with the Southern Territories of the Empire and stimulated domestic trade to a new high-point. Soon the Grand Canal became the main route for the transport of grain to Beijing. After construction of the Canal during the reign of Zhu Di, linking up the five large rivers of Haihe, Huanghe (Yellow River), Huaihe, Changjiang (the Yangtze) and Qiantangjiang, the Ming economy prospered. The Grand Canal would remain a vital economic artery for the country, at least until the mid 19th century when its use began to be replaced by the development of railroads in China and other modes of Transportation.
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port and Trade Center, South of the Jiangtse (Yangtze) River, China's Main transport artery of the Time.
The Ming Dynasty arises quite rapidly from a mix of causes. Discontent is high among the starving peasant populace, as droughts, flooding of the Yellow River and other disaster expose the weaknesses of what is already a declining agricultural system. Initially, the Ming Uprising is but one of many such which appear throughout the Nation, were discontend is high, most among the Han Chinese, who have been thrown to the lowest strata of society and are excluded essentially from almost all promising Government jobs, but the Muslims in Quanzhou in Fujian Province, the largest international sea-port in the thriving nation, also rise in a bloody ten year revolt (1357 AD to 1366 AD) which devastates overseas trade with Persia and the middle east, and throws the economy further into a spiral of chaos.
Just previous to the eventual Ming, the so called Red Turbans (Hongjin Qiyi - 紅巾起義) rose as a merger of two secret societies menacing the Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty. Later in 1351 AD, it arose in open armed rebellion against the Mongol Rulers, offering chances for one of their many recruits, Zhu Yuanzhang.
The story of the Ming Dynasty essentially begins when Zhu Yuanzhang found the Monastery where he lived destroyed by a Yuan Dynasty Imperial Army that was suppressing a local rebellion in Anhui Province. In 1352 AD, Zhu, aged 24 then joined one of the many insurgent forces that had risen in rebellion against the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD). It is the beginning of a spectacular Rise. As the rebels of Anhui Province joined with the larger whole of the inter-regional rebel organization of the 'Red Turbans', Zhu Yuanzhang, by then many times promoted in rank became one of the main leaders of the movement.
In 1356 AD, the city of Nanjing in the Yangtse River Delta fell to the Red Turbans troops, securing the most populous and economically important regions for the Red Turbans. With their situation finally more secure, the various power figures within the Red Turbans turned upon eachother.
Cleverly and often brutally outwitting his opponents with the 'Red Turbans' during what can only be seen as a Civil War within the Red Turban movement in the period 1356 AD - 1367 AD, Zhu Yuanzhang eventually made it to the position of top dog. After winning a decisive battle at Poyang Lake (Jiangxi Province) involving two opposing fleets and a sea battle, and subsequently the natural death of Guo Zixing, his older Red Turban Mentor and Father-in-law, Zhu Yuanzhang arose in the general view as the new leader.
Zhu Yuanzhang would then take the battle to the Mongols and defeat them by taking Beijing the very next year in 1368 AD. He subsequently declared the Ming Dynasty, with himself Zhu Yuanzhang as first Emperor and Nanjing in Jiangsu Province as Capital.
In the immediate aftermath the Ming armies chased the remaining forces of Mongolian Yuan Dynasty to the far corners of the Empire. Already by 1368 AD, in 1st Year of the Hongwu First Reign of the Dynasty, a Ming army led by General Feng Sheng managed to drive the last of the Mongol armies from the Hexi Corridor and the JiaYuGuan and Dunhuang Regions in far western Gansu Province, thus pushing them outside of the strategic JiaYu Pass and Chinese Borders. The Ming Empire was secured, for the Time being.
Already during the very first years of the Hongwu Reign of the Ming Dynasty, work was undertaken to fortify the borders and in essence, rebuild the ancient defenses of The Great Wall of China. During the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall would be transformed into a nearly impassable barrier which would be tested several times.
The Ming had vowed to get rid of the Barbarian Mongol Invaders and now they had done so, they needed to see that they could never return. Extensive constructions were undertaken on the earlier neglected defenses of the Great Wall of China along the entire length of the Northern Borders. Among the Great Works planned in defense was a giant stop-plug Fortress to defend the JiaYu Pass (Jaiyu Guan) and make it impassable for any army.
In 1372 AD, on orders of the Hongwu Emperor and founder of the Dynasty, the construction of a large scale Fortress Citadel was commenced at JiaYu Pass changing the status of the local Town from Desert Oasis Town into a small township engaged in local trading, agriculture and catering to the needs of the military garrisons stationed at the fort. The Fortress would remain the ultimate Western Gate of China along the Silk Road for centuries to come. Today, the Jiayuguan Fortress still stands (renovated) as a lasting reminder to the end of the Mongols and the beginning of a Han Chinese Ming Empire.
Achievements: Outwitting and murdering many political and military opponents within the Red Turbans society and rebel movement. Capturing the Mongol Capital of Khanbalik (Beijing) and driving the Mongol Forces out of the (Han-)Chinese Realm.
Death & Succession: The Hongwu Emperor dies after a 31 year reign. He is succeeded by 1st Grandson Zhu Yunwen, named as Emperor Gongmin (1399 AD - 1403 AD), Name of Reign Period Jianwen.
During the Ming Dynasty Era the Christian Faith re-entered China after a long absence. The First Christians arrived aboard Portuguese ships which traded with Ports in Southern China, at the time only with Macau, but later also with Guangzhou (Canton) up the Pearl River. Sailing upon the monsoon winds from Goa in India, among the first Christians to arrive at Macau was the jesuit Priest Father Matteo Ricci (1552 AD Macerata, Italy - 1610 Beijing, China). Through many adventures and a long and patient struggle the Father eventually found his way to the northern Capital of Beijing and the Ming Dynasty Court, where he and fellow Priest-Scientists were allowed to make considerably contributions to Chinese Science and perhaps Government Affairs. The effects of the Christian presence at Court did not always turn out positive for the Christians, as in fact, the presence of their Foreign Faith and ambitions to spread it among the populace more than once became a sore-point in mutal relations. however from this early beginning through centuries the Christian Faith would be allowed to take root in China. Several Times the Christians were shunned. At other times they were attacked, and at all times their activities were severly restricted, as no one Chinese wanted a foreign culture to gain serious influence in Chinese Affairs. The same went for other religions as well.
In later years, much after the demise of the Ming Dynasty, the Christian Priests would gain rights to roam free and carry their faith to the farthest corners of the huge Empire.
Among the many contributions made by Matteo Ricci and other Jesuit Priest in China or at the Court of the Ming in Beijing are;
- In 1584 AD, Matteo Ricci composed the first European-style map of the world in Chinese (laguage), now called the "Impossible Black Tulip" on account of its rarity. No versions of the 1584 AD map survive, but a reprinted Map dated to the year 1602 AD survives to this day.
- In the period (1583 AD - 1588 AD) Ricci, together with Michele Ruggieri, compiled their Portuguese-Chinese dictionary - the first ever European-Chinese dictionary, for which they developed a consistent system for transcribing Chinese words in the Latin alphabet. Unfortunately, the manuscript was misplaced in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, and not re-discovered until 1934. This dictionary was finally published in 2001 AD. Other improved dictionaries were made later but before 1600 AD.
- In 1601 ADRicci was finally invited by the Emperor to become an advisor to the Imperial court of Wanli Emperor, thus becoming the first Westerner to be invited into the Forbidden City (Palace Museum) in Beijing. This honour was in recognition of Ricci's scientific abilities, chiefly his predictions of solar Eclipses, which were significant events in the Chinese world. Specifically, Chinese ships which naviagted the world calculated their longitude by observing solar eclipses. Although Ricci never met the reclusive Wanli Emperor; the Jesuits did gain a large grant of patronage as the Wanli Emperor allotted to Ricci a generous stipend that helped the Jesuits in China.
Later, around a 100 years after the Death of Matteo Ricci and the Rise of the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD) the Jesuits would even gain hold at the Court as advisors on astronomical affairs and were
The second foreign Faith, although present in China since the rule of the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD) and officially allowed to be practiced and taught since the year 651 AD, had only entered Northern China through the pathways of the Silk Road during the rule of the Mongol Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD) and since the Muslims had grown considerably in influence and overall social position. Although the Muslims had been allied with the Mongolians in the earlier conquest of China leading up to the Yuan Dynasty, the Ming nevertheless saw the value of their scientific skills, knowledge and culture.
During the Ming Dynasty Islam in China saw a Golden Age due to a large tolerance for Minorities and the Islamic Faith by Han Officials and Empire. In the Ming Period China's Muslims fully integrated into Han society by adopting their Chinese Names and main Han customs and Cultural Aspects while retaining their Islamic mode of dress and dietary restrictions. Muslims served important functions in society as scientist, but also as Generals and Admirals. Especially famous is the Muslim Admiral Zheng He, who, as a Palace eunuch and personal assistant to the Emperor, rose to high ranks and eventually commanded what was likely the largest fleet in world history. Among Zheng He's colleagues on the Fleet were many more Muslims.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) had the first written record of Chinese Muslims performing the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam's holiest city. Some historians believe the famous Chinese Muslim mariner and diplomat Zheng He (1371-1433) performed the Hajj during his voyage to Arabia.
Read more in: 'History of islam in China'. And 'The Third Period of the Spread of Islam in China - The Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD)'.
Rubbing of Mattheo Ricci's Tomb Stone at the Five Pagoda Temple (Wu Ta Si) in Haidian District, Beijing. Dated the year 1610 AD of the Ming Dynasty. Originally on the christian semetary, later stored in Tenggong Zhalan, in the Xicheng District of Beijing.