The 3rd Ming Emperor - Zhu Di (Yongle) the Warrior and Builder:
The 1st Ming Emperor - Founder of the Ming Dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang :
Fall of the Yuan Dynasty - Establishment of the Ming Dynasty :
The Ming Dynasty - Introduction :
Zheng He Tribute and Trade Missions - The Ming Age of Maritime Discovery
During the first year of his reign period, the young Emperor in Nanjing does manage to start up the process of consolidation of his rule. In line with the earlier strong central reign of the Hongwu Emperor this meant keeping a tight leash on the Provinces, which by then all were fiefdoms, controlled by the various Princess, who were in this position still dangerous adversaries for the Throne. They had to be eliminated. Therefor, upon the advice of his Confucian scholars, the first step of consolidation was to began gaining back territory, military forces and political influnce. Over the course of 1399, he demoted or arrested several highly placed court eunuchs in an attempt to limit the influence of the rival Princes, most notably the Prince of Yan.
Meanwhile, the Prince of Yan was not sitting idly by. In a clear attempt to counter-act the policies of the Nanjing Court and make preparations for a military take over, Zhu Di set to work convincing his brother the Prince of Ning, who was the other main player on the political and military field in north China. Together they could prove invincible and thus Zhu Quan, the Prince of Ning joined in the campaign against the central powers. In Inner Mongolia Zhu Di launched a quick miltary campaign to subdue another brother's fiefdom, claiming a considerable army of Mongolian Cavalry useful in the battle for control of Da Ming Guo.
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).
Life December 5, 1337 - July 13, 1402 AD; Death by Suicide.
Reign June 30, 1398 - July 13, 1402 AD ; Reign Period: Jianwen (建文 ; "Establishing Civility")
Zhu (朱) Yunwen (允炆) , Name as Emperor GongMin (- other Posthumous Title as Emperor were given in 1644 AD and 1736 AD).
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.
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Summary of the Ming Dynasty Reign1368 AD - 1644 AD
This page was last updated on: May 22, 2017
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.
The preceeding Yuan Dynasty 1125 AD to 1234 AD :
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 Missions of Admiral Zheng He (1405 AD - 1443 AD) and the Chinese Golden Age of Maritime 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
After the short reign of only one year the HongXi Emperor died of natural causes and was succeeded by Zhu Zanjie, (Xuanzong) Emperor XuanDe. The XuanDe Emperor ordered the resumption of Tribute Missions in 1430 AD.
There was a decline in Missions during the first reign of the YingZong Emperor, the ZhengTong reign (1436 AD - 1449 AD ) - Hai Jin Edict) and no Chinese Governement Ships 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 Mongolian Tribes in the North, the famed Emperor launching and leading no less than five military missions to the northern regions. Although led by the battle hardened Emperor himself, these miltary campaigns only met with nominal success. Although the Mongolians had been defeated several times over, after which forward bases on the Steppes had been established, these bases proved highly vulnerable to the manouverable Mongolian armies. The move of Capital more northernly to Beijing partially supported the Missions in War with the Tribes the North, however gradually the forward base strategy had to be abandoned for a less flexible but initially more effective strategy of fixed defenses.
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.
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 its 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.
An overview of the Imperial Palace at Beijing,
constructed during the 3rd Reign of the Ming Dynasty when the Capital was moved to Beijing. It remains the largest preserved collection of wooden buildings in the world.
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 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 Yangzte 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.
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.
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 with the help of Jesuit Priests at the Ming Court in Beijing 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.
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 AD Ricci was finally invited by the Emperor to become an advisor to the Imperial court of Wanli Emperor (Shenzong Reigh Period), 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.
A Foreign invasion of China by nomadic Mongol Tribes led by the infamous Genghis 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 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 in China and the flight of the Mongolians towards their native lands in Mongolia.
The greatest ruler of the Yuan Dynasty was the founding ruler, Genghis Khan who was posthumously made its 1st Emperor. His Grandson Kubulai was the Grand Khan of the Cathay Khanate which encompassed much of current day China.
First european visit by Marco Polo, followed much later during the 16Th Century Ming by Jesuit Missionaries.
In Chinese history the Ming Dynasty is regarded as a period of greatness, characterized by the control of a large geographical domain (territory), a well oiled State, Law and administrative apparatus as well as an overal fairly stabile society. On the other hand, the Ming Dynasty Era has also been regarded as period of (relative) stagnation, mainly due to its turning inward, developing a reputation for xenofobia. This judgemental label of stagnation can however only be seen as relative, as during the Ming Dynasty remarkable social changes occured and scientific progress in many fields advanced much as they did in the previous 2000 years. Without a shadow of a doubt the Ming Dynasty period was one in which many new developments and inventions appeared, however both politically and philosophically the period can be
characterized as "conservative", even to the extreme. Politics and ideology where nearly entirely devoted to a preservation of conservation and stimulation of the cultural aspects regarded as Chinese at that time. One of the most notable traits of the Ming Society that has traditionally been highlighted by historians is its remarkable "ethnocentrism" and the later accompanying xenofobic traits of the Ming politics and reign.
The xenofobic nature of many Ming views and concurring policies are often regarded as in a shrill contrast with the general open-mindedness of the preceeding Yuan Dynasty Period (1271 AD - 1368 AD), during which of course a continent wide Empire and web of trade routes and communications pathways existed across the Eurasian continent. During the Ming Dynasty, the Han Chinese, by rejecting the joke of the Mongolians, were in many ways thrown back upon themselves, hence after living for a century under the domination of an esentially Foreign culture an understandible episode of rejection of foreigness and relish of native traditions occured. In the initial phases of the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, the hostility was mainly directed against Mongolians and other foreigners faired well as they had before (within the considerable restraints of the law as well as the many social divisions existing within society). In fact, in 1403 AD Zhu Di, the Yongle Emperor (posthumous Title), signed a decree which was sent to all known surrounding nations which amounted to the annunciation of an "open door" policy in which all Foreigners were welcomed to China i.e. the Han Chinese realm of the Ming Emperor.
China Report - Map of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty
Satellite image of China and North-East Asia, with a super-imposed schematic Map of the location and Path of the Great Wall as constructed during the Reign of the Ming Dynasty. Included for reference are City names, geographical features of landscape, Names and locations of Passes on the Great Wall of China.
Thus, it is clear that the initial hatred of foreigners during the early Ming Dynasty years was directed at the previous ruling Elite, the Mongolians. In due time, this mutual hatred for the northern neigbors in combination with the later recurring Mongolian raids became one of the raisons d'etre of the Ming Rulers and so the myth and legacy were sealed.
No historic relic in China could be found to refelect more of this aspect of Ming Dynasty Era thinking than the Great Wall of China itself. Although, the first unified protective wall dates from the Qin Dynasty Era (221 BC - 206 BC), famously this man-made structure reached by far its heighpoint during the Ming Dynasty Era when much of it was finally cast in stone, leaving an impression upon life and thinking even today.
The main reason for the construction of this unsurpassed defensive belt, was the Emperors desire to forever exclude the possibility of another foreign invasion of north China, of which China had seen several since the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD). In addition it might be added that the Ming Armies were found unable to deal with the manouverability of the Mongolian armies in the open plains. Unable and unwilling to conquer the vastness of the steppes beyond the gobi desert and put an end to Mongolian resistance altogether, the Ming Emperors and their Generals had little choice but to dig in and defend a line somewhere. Over the decades and centuries of the Ming Era this line became the Great Wall of China as we know it, a defensive belt with multiple layers of wall, side-walls, a multitude of fortified gate cities (pass cities) and supporting systems. The enormity and complexity of the defenses of the Great Wall, its construction as well as its operations speak of the surprising power of the Ming for mass mobilization of its citizenry (mainly farmers).
The Ming Dynasty was the first Dynasty dominated by the majority ethicity group of the Han since the fall of
the northern Capital Bianjing (Bianliang) of the Song Dynasty at Kaifeng in Henan Province in 1126 AD, and it may be noted that during most of the period since the fall of the Tang Dynasty in 907 AD, the north of China had been dominated by various nomadic tribes descending from the north. The Ming not only succeeded in uniting the Han populace, but managed to regain control of the southern Chinese heartlands. In the following stages of their rule they expanded Chinese territory and held control of the north, establishing some of the shape of the Chinese Nation as we know it today.
Internally as well as externally, the achievement of the Han to re-achieve political domination in their own lands was a greatly significant historical event. At the time, as it is today, the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (The Great Ming 大明) in 1368 AD was seen as the beginning of a great period of Chinese revival. It is a fact that the Chinese civilization enjoyed a great flowering period in the initial years, and altogether during the Ming period the Han Chinese enjoyed a comfortable period of self identification while relatively disconnected from the civilizations of the rest of the world, most notably the western civilizations. In the Ming Era the Chinese population grew steadily, more and more people were able to read and write, and scholarship (possession of advanced education and thought) was no longer reserved to the true elite but readily spread to the lower layers of society except - of course - the farmers and peasants.
Due to the rich crops grown in the Yangtze River delta and other fertile regions of the south, the southern regions grew overpopulated and increased in political and economical importance. The inland Provinces of the south west (Guizhou, Guangxi Zhuang and Yunnan), although already nominally controlled by the previous rulers the Yuan, were finally vanquished and integrated into the framework of the Ming Empire and administrative system. At the same many Chinese of the coastal provinces evaded the official Imperial Edict that forbade overseas travel and trade, creating the first overseas Chinese colonies (in South East Asia), many of which last to this very day.
Taken on the whole the Ming Dynasty Era seems to have been a period of powerful Governance. Its founding father, Zhu Yuanzhang laid the basis for a strong and very centrally directed regime. One of the reflections of the true power of this regime is the increased influence China gathered within its own region, eastern Asia. The first Emperors moved quickly to expand Chinese military control and influence in Central Asia as well as on the seas and oceans surrounding their Empire. Notably, in all previous Dynastic periods the Chinese or their Rulers had always maintained contact with foreign Nations on the basis of mutual equality, however during the Ming period the Chinese and their Emperors developed a China centered view which did not allow for such equality and fraternity. In the new Chinese world view China was literally positioned at the center of the world and the many states that revolved around it in this imaginary world view should pay tribute to its central function of importance.
Or at least, this is what the Chinese actions and attitudes of the period have been translated as by historians.
Not only the attitude in dealing with foreign Nations on a national level changed. At the same time the Ming Era is characterized by a much increased internal control as well as oversight. In the Ming administrative system, all Regional and even local Governors and administrators. were appointed strictly on the basis of their merits and in addition they were examined, judged, recruited and appointed directly by the Central Government as seated in the Capital City. This form of control of the large Government bureaucracy throughout the land went far beyond what the previous Dynasty, the Yuan, had been able to achieve and greatly strengthened the authority and powers of the Emperor.
For lay people, who would normally fall without much of the influence of the distant Emperor, the new lofty ideals and goals of the admirable first Emperors was reinforced by emphasizing the all important state philosophy of (Neo) Confucianism. The old thoughts of Confucius and his followers were studied with renewed vigor and soon recast in the shape of Neo Confucianism, which was intended to serve as a social and moral guide book for all Chinese, the ruler, his many officials as well as lay people.
Although the first Ming Emperors did serve diligently and managed to project a powerful rule of Government and people, the successive centuries of the Ming period are characterized by remarkable periods of political weakness followed by the inevitable decline of the Nation. The founding Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, a man portrayed as suffering from increased paranoia mainly of his state subordinates, made sure to carefully invent and lay down a large number of strict rules of conduct and ethics which were supposed to uphold the power of the Imperial Dynasty at all times. Yet, regardless, the Ming period is recognized as having been of great social flexibility and seeing the passing of great administrative changes. The only thing that more or less remained the same during the Ming Dynasty Era is that agriculture remained at the center of the economy and that the overwhelming majority of its citizenry were relatively powerless farmers and peasants.
As the 14th century progressed the unity among the small Mongol ruling Elite began to unfetter. Within China (The Cathay Khanate identified by Marco Polo was China, a point which thereafter led to much confusion in the west and led to expeditions to the east) the Mongolian Rulers were confronted with considerable financial problems as well as difficulties in the all important agricultural sector. An event that exaggarated the already dire situation was a catastrofic overflow of the Yellow River (Huang He) which wiped out the population and crops in entire regions. A food shortage and chaos resulted.
The eroding of the control of the Yuan Dynasty elite became the sign for a whole series of popular revolts of the majority Han population which eventually culminated into a nationwide Revolution against the Mongolian overlords.
Until that time, arms and even small weapons were not a common occurence in the homes of the often destitude farming population, however in the 14th century these implements of war suddenly became common sight in all places in China. All men seemed to have been practicing their skills and various arts of war. Thus, when the rebellions finally came, the men were armed, and the slaughter in the elimination race for total control could begin, restarting the process of the renewal of the Dynasties.
As before, local leaders became Generals of their own armies and ultimately the most skilled ones would be vying for the Throne. In the case of the Ming Dynasty, the process lasted for some 50 years, until finally Zhu Yuanzhang established his supremacy, in 1368 AD declaring the Dynasty of the "Great Ming", who's Capital was chosen as Nanjing in current day Jiangsu Province.
One of the great peasant uprisings within the Empire catapulted Zhu Yuanzhang, a son of a
destitude farmers family who had turned a Monk before the upheavals into the limelight and onto
the National stage.
After his family suffering demise in the great famines of the time, and his period in the Buddhist Monastery, Zhu had returned with a vengeance quickly climibing up the ranks from robber to soldier and general. The rebellion led by Zhu Yuanzhang soon spread across the Provinces, and skillfully winning the support of the higher gentry, scholars and the elites, Zhu prevailed militarily over all others. His first achievement was the gaining of control of the crowded Provinces of the Yangzte River basin, the motor of the economy and bread basket of the nation. Declaring a new Dynasty and establishing his Capital at Nanjing in 1368 AD, the Ming then marched northwards in oder to engage the hated Mongolians. As they Mongolian elite had fallen into mutual bickering and no united front could be presented, the Ming Armies quickly advanced. With the taking of the Mongolian Capital of Dadu (Beijing) with its Imperial Palace and the flight of the Mongol Emperor Toghan Temür (Ukhaatu Khan) in China known as Emperor Huizong of Yuan (Chinese: 元惠宗 ; posthumous name: Shundi (順帝)) the final turn about was made. Thereafter the Mongolian armies were forced onto the Mongolian plains, and in defeat they moved towards their homeland on the Mongolian steppes. With Ming armies in pursuit and the death of their ruler in 1370 AD, it would be some time before the Mongolians and their armies would be able to regroup.
Read the Full Story of the Life and Reign of Zhu Yuanzhang,The Hong Wu Emperor in
Life 21 October 1328 - 24 June 1398 AD
Reign 1368 - 1398 AD , Reign Period Hong Wu (洪武 ; meaning "Inundating Martiality")
Zhu (朱) Yuanzhang , Name as Emperor (Ming) TaiZu (太祖 ; meaning "Great Forefather of the Ming").
The Ming Dynasty ruled for nearly 277 years en counted 16 Emperors and reign periods in total. All Emperors which ascended the throne after the founder, Zhu Yuanzhang, were direct descendants of theoriginal Emperor. In principle, the Throne was inherited from father upon the eldest son, who was born from the first wife (The Empress) of the ruling Emperor. The only exception to this rule that occurred during the Ming Dynasty was the enthronement of the 3rd Ming Emperor, Zhu Di (posthumous: Yongle) - the Prince of Yan who instigated a civil war, captured his nephew the legal and ruling Emperor and so usurped the throne. Zhu Di however, was himself also a direct descendant of Zhu Yuanzhang, albeit that at the time of the change of reign period and Emperor, Zhu was also the oldest living son of Zhu Yuanzhang. In the end therefor it can be said that the line of the first Emperor, which had been introduced to prevent any strife during the period after the death of the Emperor, was kept at all times. Naturally, all rulers of the Dynasty went by the family name of Zhu (朱).
In his lifetime and long after, Zhu Yuanzhang left an uneraisable mark on China as well as the following political evolution of the Dynasty and Nation. Regarded as a very astute, energetic and active man he not only desired but also managed to establish a through control of the Government apparatus and with it the entire nation and populace. The first Ming Emperor, he required an unrelenting dedication and demanded full obedience. As has been the case with other dominant historical figures with a similar character, as the reign and his age progressed, Zhu Yuanzhang became increasingly paranoid and suspicious of his immediate subordinates (mainly the States' many layers of officials) which eventually made him a despotic ruler who frequently used the weapon of terror to get his way. It may be noted that his increasing reliance on cohorts of eunuchs in order to balance the powers of the Confucian scholar gentry may have contributed in a large part to the eventual downfall of the Dynasty.
The immediate brunt of the violence erupting from the aging Emperor were his Ministers and lower officials, who although they had been diligent and effective in their work, might be dismissed from their tasks at any given moment. Often, they were accused of very heavy crimes or in other cases, total futilities were suddenly uplifted to the norm. In most cases, when the case was important and the Emperors fury had been unleashed, the officials were put through a show trial after which they were put to death. In the worst cases, entire families were destroyed and killed. Corporal punishments were frequent and it is therefor not an exaggeration to speak of a true "rain of terror", a trait of Chinese ruling style which seems to be reflected in that of later era's most notably that of Mao Zedong and the Communist Party.
As mentioned, Zhu Yuanzhang also desired to strengthen the Emperors' control of the normal populace moving outside of the influential circles. For this reason, great emphasis was put on the chosen State Philosophy of Confucianism, which was completely reinvented for the purpose. Important in this regard is his Edict of 1398 AD, which is known as the Jiao-min Bang wen or Letter of instruction to the people. In this edict and letter the Emperor (Zhu Yuanzhang) describes his sorrows about the fact that the official judicial and ruling channels have been corrupted by the officials and lower clerks, and deciding therefor the defer much of their local authorities to the groups of village elders, a group which should still be considered of purity and responsibility. Or apparently, the Emperor thought that at a village level this could be a strong cure for perceived problems with existing chain of official command.
Because the village elders lived together and often literally right next to the common villagers and the fact that their fields lay adjacent, they knew everything about each other and therefor, they could come to an honest judgement, or so the Emperor noted in his Edict. In addition, the villagers were urged to petition the Government with their complaints and remarks at regular intervals and they were asked to inform the State of the names of every honorable person in their local realm. At the same time, the villages and their elders were advised to petition their local Government with the same information at the same time.
Apart from the new rights and the Edict also contained a short list of six warnings (Liu Yu ; ) which were intended as simple straightforward ethical and moral principles which were to be followed by every loyal subject. In line with the State supported philosophy of Neo Confucianism, the first rule was: fulfill your duties of childly love and filial piety, honor your parents, elders and overlords. The listing continues with a call to live in peace with ones neighbors, to let everyone live in peace and let them supply their own livelihood, educate and discipline ones sons and grandsons, and last but not least: not to perpetrate unlawful or immoral deeds.
The Six Rules of Conduct were dispersed among the populace in various ways. In the villages they were inscribed onto wooden plaquets which were then hun in publically visible places such as the market place, in front of the village hall, etc. In addition, one of the poor local villagers would usually be hired by the local council in order to go around the village, ringing a bell at regular intervals and proclaiming them by word of mouth.
DEATH AND SUCCESSION OF ZHU YUANZHANG (HONGWU), THE FIRST MING EMPEROR:
The Hongwu Emperor fell ill for the first time in the year 1397 AD, when the Emperor was 59 years of age. In the following the Emperor was yet again struck with illness, this time of a serious nature. He died on June 24 of the year 1398 AD sparking off a secret power struggle between the groups rivaling for the throne. Meanwhile, according to a custom oddly adopted from the previous Mongolian Dynasty, no less than 38 of the 40 concubines of the Emperor are said to have bravely committed suicide in order to follow their beloved Emperor into the next life (a more logical explanation is that 2 managed to escape the pressure of the Palace and the hands of any willing helpers).
Unfortunately, the first Prince or Crown Prince, who had been so designated by the Hong Wu Emperor at an earlier stage (he was the first born son of his first wife) had died previously in the year 1392 AD. This had left the Emperor and his court in a difficult predicament. In due time, the Emperor had decided to stick with his own rule and so a new first born son had to be earmarked for the Throne. It was chosen not to appoint the 2nd son of the first wife, which would break the rule, but instead to promote the first son of the deceased Heir apparent thus keeping the lineage straight and unbroken while following the rule of the Hong Wu Emperor.
Thus, soon after the death of the first Emperor, his grandson Zhu Yunwen was crowned Emperor of China in the Capital Nanjing announcing his reign period as Jianwen (建文), which means so much as "Establishing Civility".
After the sudden and rather unexpected death of the original crown prince in 1392 AD, the fourth Prince, one Zhu Di and known as the Prince of Yan, has hoped to gain enough influence so that he might be selected as the next Crown Prince and thus Emperor. However, regardless of his clear experience in military matters and his important and dominant position as the Prince of Yan, the large territory in north China which included the former Capital of Yuan at Dadu, now Beijing, Zhu Di was passed over by Hongwu and his Grand Councilors in favor of a young lad who just happened to be a first born. Although at the time the "young lad" was 20 years old and legally of age, the Prince of Yan and his following were clearly dissatisfied. It is quite possible that they feared that the handing of all powers to an inexperienced Emperor at this early stage of the Dynasty, would dangerously expose the Ming Empire to a return of the Mongolian threat.
Whatever the precise motives behind the move, be it arrogance and hurt pride, or more realistic deliberations, action was taken in due time.
Between the month of August in 1399 AD and the great year 1402 AD, a Civil War raged in China as the northern "Prince of Yan" mobilized his armies and political powers in a clear overthrow of what was by all means the legal Throne and Reign in Nanjing embodied by the young Jianwen Emperor.
The Prince of Yan, Zhu Di had his power-base in what today is the city of Beijing. His region and fiefdom of Yan was a venerable bastion for which we had invested considerable time and effort in order to turn it in the strongest miltary city and region within the Ming realm. Having been directly responsible for the campaigns directed against remnants of the fleeing Yuan Dynasty armies Zhu Di could boast a considerable military experience. In addition, having learned from his enemies, the Prince had incorporated large elements of Mongolian Cavalry within his forces. These were now put to good use against inexperienced Ming armies in the center and south of the Empire. While a rapid advance was underway from Beijing, the Prince of Yan carefully kept negotiations going, claiming that although his armies were sent southward, this was not an open revolt but a question self defense. According to the official proclamations of the Prince of Yan in those months, it was the Jianwen Emperor who had been wrongfully persuaded by his advising clique that there was a "Coup D'Etat" ongoing. In reality he claimed, the armies were sent to the south in order to correct the "chaos", help the Emperor get rid of his advsiors and restore the laws of the Hongwu Emperor to their rightful place. In a highly Confucianized society such as the Ming, the Emperor could not just claim the throne at will without splittig the nation. Thus, Zhu Di carefully stated that his call to action had been inspired by the laws of conduct and filial piety dispensed by the founding father Hongwu to all the princess. He claimed the wishes of father Emperor Hong Wu must be honored and thus as a son of Hong Wu, he was obliged to act on behalf of the nation and depose the ministers. This was supposed to legitimize his moves, however what Zhu Di thoughtfully omitted was that he not a son born of the Empress, but the first son of mere Concubine - which left Zhu Di outside the direct line of inheritance and thus without any true legal claim. In accordance with the limits of his supposed obligations, Zhu Di further claimed to have no interest in gaining the throne and restated that how his desire was to clense the court of radical subversive elements.
Thus the reign of the second Emperor was deposed and a third Emperor, the strong willed former Prince Yan Zhu Di was enthroned as the new Emperor of China in the defeated Capital of Nanjing. The name chosen for the reign period was Chengzu (成祖) meaning "forever happy".
YouTube Video: "Kublai Khan, the Mongol Yuan Dynasty".
This page was last updated on: May 22, 2017
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Interiors of the Hall of Martial Valors, now a part of the Palace Museum dedicated to historical scriptures, maps and paintings of the Emperors and their life.
Initially the whole reorganization of the central Government was triggered by a despotic and paranoical Emperor. He directly ruled his administrative system with the intention of preventing his subordinates abuse of powers, and who had the deepest mistrust of the ethical
In line with the military importance of the northern borders, but certainly also because of political considerations, under the Yongle Emperor the Capital of the Empire was changed. Although the reign period of Yongle started with the taking of Nanjing from which he then reigned supremely, already soon after the decision was made to transfer the Capital to the northern city of Beiping (Formerly Dadu, the Capital of Yuan, then Beiping (JingShi or ShunTianFu), the city which had since 1380 AD been the personal fiefdom of Zhu Di, Prince of Yan. Upon completion of the rebuilding of the Capital and its amazing Forbidden City Imperial Palace in 1421 AD, Beiping was then renamed Beijing.
Apart from the focus on defense, the new Policies that were announced by the Yongle Emperor were about to change the nation. Not only did the first reconstructions of the defenses of the Great Wall of China take place under the reign of the Yongle Emperor, he also announced the construction of a brandnew and luxury Capital, and his move to northward to Beijing.
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 MongolYuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD), 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.
Achievements : The Yongle reign of the Ming Dynasty had its achievements. Revision of the City of Beijing, who's monuments still stand as a tribute to the vision of the early Ming Dynasty.
Zheng He tribute- and peace-missions, reaching the Coast of East Africa, establishing new Trade Routes, making available new spices and goods and stimulating new maritime inventions.
Grand restorations of the Great Wall of China after thoroughly establishing Capital at the now expanded city of Beijing. Compiling "The great encyclopedia of the Reign of Yongle", the first and most comprehensive encyclopedia in Chinese History.
Water conservation projects, encouraged agriculture and stimulated the handicrafts industry. The entire Chinese canal system was reviewed and reconstructed between 1411 and 1415 during the reign of Zhu Di, the Yongle Emperor. The resulting Grand Canal of China would connect the Capital of Beijing with the City of Huangzhou in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, creating the longest artificial river in world history.
The fierce looking bronze statue of Zhu Di, Emperor Yongle, inside the Hall of Eminent Flowers. Among things Zhu Di was responsible for the Chinese Age of Nautical Discovery, culminating in the epic Voyages of eunuch Admiral Zheng He (SanBao).
With a strong need to counter any hidden opposition against his usurpation of the Throne and enabled by the system created by founding Emperor Hongwu, the Yongle Emperor set forth a policy of a strong central rule, with considerable emphasis on the military branch of the central powers. With is experience in battling the Mongolian neighbors of the north, the Emperor made sure that the military received new funding while at the same time, attempts were made to revive the economy of the Empire in order to satisfy the people and create enough revenue to pay for ambitious State sponsored projects in the planning.
LADIES OF THE MING COURT - EMPRESSES AND CONCUBINES:
As is widely known today and still considered one of the more popular and thrilling aspects of the Ming Dynasty as well as other Dynasties, the Ming Emperor could choose to have as many wives as he pleased. Zhu Di himself for instance ended up having no less that 26 wives, ranking between the highest rank of Noble Consort via various ranks of to the lowest rank of Beauty Lady.
All that said, the Emperor could however still have only one official wife, who was then crowned as Empress. A secondary wife was kept to serve as secondary Empress but that was it. All other ladies remained in virtual anonimity until and unless they could attract the interest of the Emperor in the hope of gaining rank and status. In a few rare incidents, the first Empress was replaced. However, this was usually when the Empress proved "barren" (infertile) and the needs of Empire and Dynasty demanded a replacement who could provide a legal first born son to succeed the Emperor in due time.
Reflecting upon the historic tales and handed down through from the previous Dynasties, the rules laid down by founding Emperor Hong Wu forbade the court ladies from any mingling in State Affairs. Although this was an official policy, this rule was broken in practice several times during the years of the Ming Era, most notably by Hong Wu himself. Hongwu's wife, Empress Ma is known to have stood directly behind her man, and she can had considerable ifluence on the Emperor who is known to have shared his thoughts on ruling the Emperor directly with her.
During the rule of Hongwu and later early Emperors of the Ming Dynasty Palace Ladies are known to have
come from relatively humble families and backgrounds. They were daughters of diligent officials, distinguished and able army officers and families without any honorary titles. It was a custom that these daughters were selected from those who neared the end of their puberty were recommended to the court by the officials from each locality. Thus recommended, the ladies were then delivered to the Imperial Palace were they were screened and selected in every which way, both physically -in the most intimate ways-, as well as mentally and psychologically. In addition, the higher the rank of the donating family and the better the training and education of the candidate concubine, the higher she might rise within the inner circles. Every lapse in physical beauty meant elimination. In addition, the ladies were touched up and down everywhere, and even sniffed at in the most intimate places in order to ensure the Emperor would be satisfied, happy - which basicly meant he was supposed to get aroused upon being confronted with such a fine specimen of femininity.
Those who were selected were to vanish within forever. But in return their families were honored and received jobs and large sums of money. In addition, the Concubines themselves had the opportunity to compete for the Emperors favor, and so hopefully bare the Emperor a child, bringing great honors to her entire family and setting the family up for a great future, a future thatt entirely depended upon the success of the Empire. If sufficient rank was achieved, her brothers were usually given ranking posts in the military hierarchy. If the lady in question bore the Emperor a first son, or otherwise managed to gain unusual favor and standing her family might even be promoted into the Gentry class. It was considerable reward, especially considering that in traditional Ming Dynasty China women were considered as secondary citizens as they were supposedly too weak to perform the most important economic functions such as working the land. A pretty girl could be sold but better was to send her off to the Imperial Palace. It was a long bet but it may turn out a blessing after all.
The Ladies of the Ming Court were allowed absolutely no contact with the world beyond the Palace walls. Punishments for infringing upon the rules were harsh, and breaking of the rule entirely would result in a sure death sentence. There were no two ways about. The punishments, once given, were always meeted out. The only option out was suicide, which - as buffs of historic Chinese literature will know, was thus a frequent occurence. Seperated from the outside in this way they could not become spies of the Emperor, however within the Palace they were condemned to a life without family or parents, and often loneliness and depression. Intrugue, jealousy and manipulation were rampant among the women of the Palace as well as among the eunuchs, so murder and suspicious death were equally frequent occurences.
THE EUNUCHS OF THE MING COURT:
With so many women having relations with the Emperor, the need for security had several aspects. The seclusion of the Ladies was not merely intened to prevent spying and plotting, the main reason was also sipmply to exclude every male other than the Emperor from entering the residential inner parts (Nei Ting) of the Imperial Palace of the Ming Emperor. Although the total male exclusion rule served well in keeping the imperial lineage clear and certain, or so it is thought, this left a considerable practical problem, as Confucian society and reglementation promoted by the Ming dictated that all kinds of jobs could be performed only by men. The court needed them. The solution for this problem was found in the hiring of eunuchs (castrated men), who could then be set to work doing chores for the household of the Emperor in the Inner Court (Nei Ting) >> Links to concurring part of the Forbidden City (Palace Museum in Beijing).
Earlier in China's history eunuchs had been used in large numbers at the Imperial Courts, and for a long period castration had been a punishment for criminal behavior and captives from wars and revellions, however this punishment was abandoned during the Ming Dynasty, when voluntary castrates became common as an alternative (It may however be noted that the famous assistant to the Emperor Admiral Zheng He was a captive muslim from current day Yunnan Province who had been castrated and sent to the court. A notable exception with magnificent results.). During the Ming Dynasty era the eunuchs mainly came from poor and classless pesants families and citizenry, who - with an abundance of sons - had one of them (not the oldest and first born!) castrated. Those who survived the dangerous operation were then offered as a gift to the Imperial House. Such an explicit show of loyalty towards the Emperor was often rewarded. with some sort of return gift. In addition, if the boy was accepted and gained enough rank in the Imperial organization, the rewards may end up being nearly limitless. Although, the founding Emperor made efforts to restrict any influence the eunuchs may get hold off, in the later reign periods some eunuchs managed to claim enormous influence and wealth. Through their own positions, the eunuchs then repaid their family by helping them to jobs and positions within the huge civilian administration.
The founding Emperor Hongwu was aware of the devious plots and manipulations of the eunuchs of the Imperial Palaces of the past and thus hated and distrusted the eunuchs. He therefor made sure to restrict the functions and fortunes of his servant Eunuchs. Under the rule of Hogwu eunuchs were restricted in number, and in addition they must be illterate. In this way the founding Emperor had hoped to prevent the mistakes of the earlier Dynasties, however, as tine would prove his efforts and warnings would be to no avail. Regardless the attitude adopted by the Hongwu Emperor, in the course of the Ming Dynasty the eunuch class would come to extreme power in the Imperial Administration. The growing of their influence inevitably led to the eunuchs coming into conflict with the established and educated power holding Elite, the Confucian scholars of the administrative system.
In addition to allowing the emergence of a eunuch class with functions in and access to the innermost workings of the Empire, the Hongwu Emperor made even more sweeping changes to the Imperial System. Most notably, instead of relying on a Prime Minister to lead a "cabinet" which could then be made responsible for the day to day ruling of the gaint Emperor, the Hongwu Emperor dismissed with the function of Prime Minister altogether, and instead took full command directly himself. Needless to say, this added enormously to his influence but also to his daily task. In addition, the remaining ministers were left in function but their previous tasks of reporting to the Emperor were taken over by a newly established group of "Grand Councillors". In this arrangement the ministers and their ministeries still existed but instead were demoted down one rank and expected to just follow orders from above. The influence of the ministers on the Emperor was thereby greatly reduced.
The third Emperor Yongle, having inherited the machinery of the enormous state from his father, found that he could make good use of eunuchs, especially when they were not illiterate but learned and educated and skilled in some way or another. He therefor ignored the warnings of Hongwu and started using educated eunuchs for special missions and deliveries. One of the most remarkable careers of such a eunuch was that of Admiral Zheng He (Life: 1371 AD – 1433 AD), who became the prime euncuh servant, advisor and special envoy of the Yongle Emperor.
As became the practice after the initial example set by the Yongle Emperor, eunuchs of the court usually were close confidents of the Emperor and were frequently used by him as a go between on important assignments. The reverse also became the truth, that is frequently contrary to the strict regimen kept by the Hongwu Emperor who always saw everyone in person, the high Confucian Officials increasingly found it difficult to communicate directly with the Emperor, instead having to face one of the eunuchs as a go between. In return for any favors done, the eunuchs would expect a gift or some sort of other repayment. While Hongwu had proven to be a very good manager of the overwhelmingly large and complicated State Matters, never allowing for such open corruption and abuse of political influence or administrative processes, under the rule of weaker Emperors the eunuchs gained the ncessary leeway to be able to enrich themselves fast.
Much later, in the year 1626 near the end of the Ming Dynasty, Alvara Semedo, a jesuit missionary who had stayed at the court of the Wanli Emperor (Shenzong ; Reign: 1573 AD - 1620 AD), recorded that the Emperor held a group of some 12.000 eunuchs in his Palace, many of whom were considered high ranking officials who clearly held influential posts in the inner circle of the Emperor. By that time eunuchs were functioning all across the administrative system of the Empire, taking up such lucrative position as tax collection, the management of state operated companies, licensing of their foreign operations (monopolies on foreign trade of tea, salt, silk, metal implements etc through a limited licensing system) and even in the representative missions to foreign nations and the command of whole armies and navies (Zheng He). Naturally, this led to much aversion and friction with the Confucian scholar gentry who had up to that point held most of these posts and the according status. During the Ming Dynasty the Confucian scholars as a group would continuously battle and resist against the growing influence and the corruption of their Confucian ethics by the openly hedonistic eunuch class. However, they would find them tough political oponents and in the end, the mis-behavior and more importantly mismanagement of the eunuchs became a large contributing factor to the downfall of the Dynasty in 1644 AD.
CONFUCIAN SCHOLARS AND OFFICIALS VERSUS EUNUCHS:
Hongwu, the founder was a diligent ruler which as it turned out made him rather unusual among the Ming Emperors. As the Dynasty progressed in its years the situation within the administrative system as well as the the rest of society reverted to a more laisser faire attitude. As the discipline eroded the management of the Empire slowly evolved from a system ruler by terror under a paranoic Emperor towards one in which powers were delegated by the Elite and or otherwise usurped. The little rivalries returned and reached into the highest circles. Meanwhile, the Emperor remained at the center of a vast sytem that could not function without him as ultimate tone key. The Emperor was at the very least the symbolic head of the giant "Chinese Dragon", the machine that was the Empire. In the highly ritualized society of the Neo Conficianist and Buddhist Ming this was of great importance. However, at the same time the example set by the Hongwu Emperor (and later in many regards by the Yongle Emperor) required a very active healthy Emperor with a clear state of mind and the desire to control and know everything. Obviously, where some of these talents of desires were missing, the sytem took over from the Emperor, and various officials and eunuchs would stand to benifit from the situation. It can even be said that the sytem, in case of the illness or inability of the Emperor would require a replacement for him. Hongwu had been a talented man, however some of his successors would fail. For instance, near the end Ming Dynasty period in 1621 AD, the first son of the deceased Taichang (泰昌) Emperor (Posthumous: Guangzong) and thus the heir apparent was a retarded Man by the name of Zhu Youxiao (由校). Among things due to the ongoing battle for power between the court eunuchs and the Confucian scholar gentry Zhu Youxiao actually was crowned as TianQi (天啓) Emperor (Posthumous: Xizong), after which his power was usurped, partially out of a clear necessity but on the other hand also out of mutual spite by either eunuchs and the less successful Confucian gentry who were often handicapped by their (otherwise) strict code of ethics. Clearly the Emperors mental capacities made him unfit to rule however there was no guarantee that the manipulators and surpers who ruled in name of the Emperor would handle affairs with everyone's good interest at heart.
The Imperial system of the Ming clearly required an Emperor who was not only mentally and physically fit, but he also needed to be educated to a fairly high decree in a whole multitude of skills and subjects. In effect, the presence of the Emperor was required to such a high degree that the Throne and thus the Court, travelled with the Emperor wherever he went (This tradition had been routine during the rule of the originally nomadic (Kitan) Liao Dynasty and Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. It would be continued in the Manchu Qing Dynasty, when Emperors regularly reigned the Nation from their "Summer Palaces" situated at various locations outside the Capital).
Cnstantly plagued by his many ritual appearances, the Emperor had to maintain personal oversight of major policy decision which required his updated knowledge of events and also had the final say and power of approval in every major appointment within the administrative system of the Empire. Surrounded by what amounted to his own henchmen and those who stood to benifit from his presence, status and powers the Emperor had to maintain the clearness of mind, and spy on court intrigue, in order to maintain the upper hand and not be manipulated into the making of costly errors.
Altogether, such a high degree of central control had never been achieved and maintained in all of the lenghty history of the Chinese feudal system and the accumulated powers and responsibilities put a large pressure on any Emperor. Being Emperor required a full commitment of time and attention.
(In later ages historians have jydged that one of the inherent weaknesses of the Ming Dynasty system waas exactly the overburdoning of the Emperor with responsibilities. In hindsight, it seems obvious that whenever the Emperor failed, the system would inevitably be perverted). As described earlier, the Hongwu Emperor had abolished the post of Prime Minister, taking all his responsibilities, which heightened the burden on the Emperor considerably. At the same time, it created a long period of confusion with the administrative system Empire.
The abolishment of the Prime Minister, and they practical disempowerment of the Ministers of State had led to the need for a complete reorganization of the sytem and a redistribution of the powers within (Traces of this can still be found in the buildings of the outer court of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in central Beijing. Initially the Hall of Military Eminence
standards of the many little administrators in the layers below. The new structure of Government led to the more active particpation of the Inner Court of the Palace in the affairs of the State, a move of which mostly the eunuchs benifiited. In hindsight, the decision to dissolve the daily Government Cabinet, a situation which nevertheless would continued unil the year 1911 AD and the end of the Qing Dynasty, would have far reaching consequences for the course of history. Combined with a constant reign of terror from above, altogether this led to the slow but sure estrangement of the normally loyal Confucian literati, who in large parts were the true managers of affairs.
After grabbing power from his inexperienced younger nephew, the third Ming Emperor, best know as Yongle (Reign: 1402 AD - 1424 AD) focussed most of his energy and attention of the matters of the defense of the border, which in his time and age mainly meant dealing with the long and often unrestive border regions extending from the northeast to the north and west of Beijing, his original powerbase.
His initial moves arranged for the facilitation of his rule and the ambitious plans he had envisioned for the Ming Realm. In the Inner Court of the Palace, a selected group of the Confucian Literati were gathered to form the prestigious Hanlin Academy. Originally, this was intened as a seperate think tank for the Emperor, however its members soon emerged as the Grand Councillors who formed the Grand Secretariat (Nei Ge) one of the most powerful cliques in the top of the Government. In order to balance the powers of the Confucian Grand Secretariat, at the same time Yongle moved to increase some of the powers of the eunuchs at court. In disregard of the advise of the Hongwu Emperor, under the Yongle Emperor eunuchs were especially made literate and further trained in specific tasks of the Government. In due time, these seemingly rational decisions would have the effect of creating various complicated forms of cooperation between the Inner Court and those of the ealier Ministries who were now demoted and banished to the outermost courts of the Palace. With the considerable animosity already existing between the educated Scholars and the rough edged eunuchs the new arrangements seem to have naturally led to a situation of mutual strife, in which one party sought to manipulate the Emperor into decisions that would benifit one side at the expense of the other. Normally, as under Hongwu and Yongle the system worked fairly well and all cliques at court were terrorized into obedience. However, chaos easily ensued when no strong central reign was installed or held.
As the Dynasty persisted, the Eunuchs proved to hold a better hand for gaining powers within the Government. By constinuously nibbling at the powers of the Literati class the eunuchs eventually managed to maneuver them out of power entirely.
The first such incident of eunuchs usurping most of the central powers occurred in the year 1440 AD, during the fourth reign period of the Dynasty during the Zhengtong reign of Emperor Yingzong (英宗) who was made Emperor at the young age of only 9 leaving him vulnerable to manipulation. However, during the later years of the Ming Dynasty several such instances of excessive powers falling into the hands of eunuch councillors would occur. It would become a famous trait of the Ming period. Eventually, the Imperial Palace became the permanent home of a virtual army of eunuchs nearly all of whom were responsible for the handling of important civilian and military affairs, as well as the regulation and handling of international trade, diplomacy and maritime missions. The eunuchs were also responsible for the daily operations of the State Coffers, handled all the aqcuisitions for the Imperial Household as well as the stream of so called "Special Revenue"directed towards the Imperial City and Capital Beijing. In other words, the abolishment of the Prime Minister and the Ministerial responsibility for State Affairs opened the way for the rise of the eunuch class at the expense of the traditional elite. Although the Ming Dynasty persisted for over 2 centuries, eventually the seeds sown would help rip the Empire apart.
Having rearranged his Court and advsiors as suited him, the Yongle Emperor could set out his policies. In essence, the first priority remained the same as it had been under the Hongwu Emperor, that is with a strong emphasis on the Military who's tasks mainly involved making war on the Mongolian tribes which had been driven out of China, however who's leadership technically still claimed the Throne of China through the Cathay Khanate. After the Mongolian armies had been driven outside of the important symbolic barrier of the Great Wall of China in XX, the Hongwu Emperor had pursued the Mongolians onto their own territory in an attempt to forever annihilate them and prevent their return. As stated previously, under the Ming the Chinese grew a particular hatred for the Mongol occupiers and as a result fears of their return are quite understandible. Thus, under the Yongle Emperor, the war on the Mongolians continued. Initially the Hongwu Emperor had favored a strategy of attack and this was continued under the Yongle Emperor. However gradually it was proven that the Mongolian lands were to vast and large to be taken, and thus the Mongolians could always retreat.
Thus, great expenses were made on military campaigns and the Yongle Emperor himself led several military campaigns into the steppe lands. Although much territory was gained in this way, it was almost equally easily lost back to the Mongolians who retreated at will into their vast hinterlands only to return later and sweep the Chinese armies with their cavalry and mobile warfare. According to the wish and plan of the Hongwu Emperor, foward bases were established in the steppes which were intended to hold off the Mongolians and intercept them at an early time when their men assembled in large numbers in order to raid into the Chinese territories. However, as the reign of the Yongle Emperor proceeded, he became convinced that this strategy of forward defense would not work. Gradually, the Chinese armies were retreated and instead shifted their strategy to one of fixed defenses along a defensable line. Under the Yongle Emperor the first attempts were made to rebuild and strengthen the existing Great Wall of China (much ruined after centuries of neglect) and gradually new fortifications were erected along the line.
Under the Ming the vast Empire was divided into 15 Provinces. Each of these Provinces were subdivided into smaller sub-units. The first and highest layers of these Provincial sub-division were the Prefectures or Fu (-- ; ), followed by the sub-prefectures or departments known as Zhou (州 ; Zhōu) and the smallest sub-divisions of counties or Xian (县 ; Xiàn). This was according to a system which was copied from earlier Dynastic reigns and largely has been kept in use until today. In addition of the elements of this basic system during the Ming Dynasty Era the level of Dao (道 ; Dào), a new division which was placed between the level of Province and Prefecture, was introduced. The Dào which today is translated in China as ´circuits´ were originally an administrative invention of the early Tang Dynasty which had been introduced by Emperor Tang Taizong in the year 627 AD. Emperor Taizong split his Empire into the 10 geographical entities of 10 circuits. Although during the course of the Tang Dynasty the Dào ended up as powerful entities which helped rip the Nation apart, they were kept in use in both the Jin Dynasty (936 - 946) and the Song Dynasty (960 AD - 1279 AD) and were again used by the rulers of the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD). Later on, this system was copied in Korea (도) and also in Japan, where the system is still in use today under the designation Dō.
In the early Ming Dynasty the Dào were an assorted but loosely defined group of State appointed inspectors, who helped kept an eye on officials in charge of tax collection, the management of Government Monopolies and such things as the operations of the Police and other public officials.
Although they were initially largely an informal group directed by the Central Government, In the subsequent decades and centuries, the Dào were thoroughly institutionalized across the 15 Provinces, after which they became an integral administrative part of the Government.
The 15 Provinces of the Ming Dynasty were clearly defined geographical and administrative units. In reality, there were 13 large provinces, and what can now be dubbed two city Provinces. That is, after its elevation to the Capital of Ming China in 1421 AD under the Yongle Emperor, the city of Beijing became a separate Province known as the Imperial City. The other `City Province` then was the former Capital of Nanjing, which by then had fallen to a secondary status.
At the Provincial Level the administration was divided into three segments, the first being the officials responsible for administrative tasks (Bu-Zheng-Shi), the second being the Provincial Inspector (An-Cha-Shi) who was responsible for the control and inspection of those within the Government administration, and thirdly the District Military Commander (Du-Zhi-Hui-Shi) who held all the military authority and responsibilities. All of these Provincial Officials were appointed directly by the Central Government, the Court in Beijing, with (supposedly) the full knowledge and approval of the Emperor. In turn, the sub-layers of the Provincial administration were administered by Prefects and Magistrates. In addition, the system included a team of traveling inspectors and envoys sent out from the Imperial Capital, who would make sure to frequently drop by on local administrations, make inspections and were necessary put an end to corruption and abuses of power.
THREE PILLARS OF IMPERIAL POWER - CIVIL ADMINISTRATION, THE MILITARY AND THE CENSORAT
Although much information can be found regarding the Civil administration and affairs of the Ming Dynasty, it should be recognized that the Military apparatus represented by the Military District Commander and his military forces were of equal importance within the Empire. In this situation, the Military formed the second pillar of Imperial Power, which not only exercised its own control, but also had its own lines of communications to the Court which were kept largely separate from the existing civil channels.
Garrisons were stationed at strategic points within the Empire and along its borders. In recently (re)occupied lands and thinly populated and remote border regions the military garrisons were formed of large groups of farmers which were then ordered to migrate and fend for themselves at their remote stations. In practice this meant that the soldiers were also farmer colonists, who had to work their own land and cultivate the fields in between of the periods of war and confrontation when they were to defend themselves. This policy, which had already been used by Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the founding Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC), had the desired effect of decreasing the population pressures within the Empire and helped hold captured border lands, had the downside that often the armies were forced to make a choice between their farming activities and their military duties. In peacetime, this meant that the discipline and fighting power of Ming Armies rapidly decreased. The colonists usually gradually assimilated with the local population, after which many of them preferred the life of farming over the risk and hardships of battle. Local marriages further helped fix the soldier colonists to their assigned stations and designated plots of land.
The Third Pillar of Imperial Power in the Ming Dynasty was formed by the Censorat (Du-Cha-Yuan). The members of the Censorat basically had to cover three tasks. These were firstly, the oversight of all appointed civilian Government officials. Secondly, the judicial aspects of investigation, judgement and punishment of civilian officials who had committed the crimes of corruption, had abused their assigned powers or had otherwise broken the rules of their duties. And thirdly, the Censorat was engaged in the making of recommendations of policy. In some cases the Secretariat even had the powers to impose and implement policy changes, remove personal from their function and change the guidelines for certain practices.
In the Ming Dynasty, the Censorat had a huge amount of power, and often it was in the position through making their advise to criticize the Emperor directly.
Apart from a Central Office which was part of the Inner Court of the Imperial Palace of Beijing, the seat of the Imperial Government, there were offices of the Secretariat in each separate Province (Ti-xing An-Cha-Shi). The Censorat also included 6 Security Bureau´s (Ke) which helped make further inspections into the dealings of all layers of the Government in order to maintain order and discipline within the entire system.
Immediately after taking power as Emperor in Nanjing, the Hongwu Emperor had set out to strengthen the economy. The lapsing state of economy had been one of the reasons for the revolt against the Mongolians of the Yuan Dynasty and during the rebellions the economy had only suffered further.
Apart for the need to pacify the populace as the only means to gain permanent peace and consolidate the reign of his new Dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor also had to face the fact that the agricultural sector was also by far the dominant part of the economy and hence made up the largest share of the Government revenues acquired through various forms of taxation.
In order to be allowed any sort of ambition in building his Empire, the economy had to be revived and thus under the Hongwu Emperor as well as the Yongle Emperor there were several great reforms in the agricultural sector.
As mentioned briefly above, one of the first steps taken was the mobilization of large population groups in the overpopulated inner provinces and their deployment to area´s and zones that had been depopulated by the last 50 years of ongoing warfare and rebellions. In addition, during the first 20 years of the Hongwu Reign large scale investments were made into agricultural infrastructure. Crucial Dikes along the main rivers were repaired and new large scale irrigation projects were constructed. In an attempt to fight soil erosion and provide more wood for the building of ships, some of the Forests lost were restored by obliging each farmer to plant a designated number of trees on his land as well as on government owned land holdings.
The new agricultural policies did pay off and slowly but surely agricultural rose and the economy was revived. Meanwhile however, the Ming Emperor and Court were faced with an immediate situation of cash shortage. Although the agricultural sector was starting to come back to life, the economy was suddenly threatened in unpredictable and unexpected ways.