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The Ming Dynasty

chinese word Ming chinese word dynasty

1368 AD - 1644 AD


The Ming Dynasty was founded by Chu Yuan-chang, the rebel leader that was successful in removing the mongols from the throne. Chinese control was re-asserted in China and eastern Asia. Literature became more important, schools were created, and the justice system was reformed. The Great Wall and the Grand Canal were also improved. The dynasty was divided into 15 provinces and three commisioners were assigned to each province: one for finances, one for military, and one for judicial matters. The financial commisioner was over-ruled by a governor in the later years of the dynasty.


The Ming's power was great. They started to re-establish a tribute among the non-Chinese states of East Asia. This tribute required that these states acknowledge the moral and cultural supremecy of the Chinese. In the first quarter of the 15th century, the Ming had decisively defeated the the mongol tribes. In addition to the superior land troops, the Chinese navy was strong. Their power was felt throughout Southeast Asia, India, and even Madagascar.


From the middle of the 15th century, the Ming's power started to decline. The quality of the imperial leadership deteriorated and eunuchs started to exercise control over the emperors, causing great discontent among the bureaucrats and factionalism in the government.


In addition to the deteriortion of the government, the imperial treasuries were being depleted by war. Much money was spent on defending against the mongol tribes to the north and Japanese pirates along the coast. The royal treasuries were eventually exhausted trying to defend Korea in a seven-year war against the Japanese pirates. p> In the final years of the Ming dynasty, maritime relations with Western countries were opened. Among the countries that had trading posts or settlements in China were: The Portuguese in Macao (1514), the Dutch in (Formosa)Taiwan (1619) and the near by Pescadres islands. At the same time, Jesuit missionaries came to spread the Christian faith and western scientific knowledge. The Jesuits soon won favor in the Ming court and the neo-Confucian scholars were pre-occupied with individual merit and social order. The Jesuits were unable to implant either Chiristian thought or western scientific knowledge in the Chinese court.


The downfall of the Ming dynasty was brought about by a rebellion due to the inability of the government to provide food in a time of famine. When the rebels attacked, the best Ming troops were deployed along the Great Wall to protect against a Manchurian tribe. The Ming commander was offered help by the Manchurians and helped drive out the rebels. But once the rebels were purged from the capital, the Manchurians refused to leave. This forced the Ming to withdraw to the south.