In the beginning of his reign, Wanli surrounded himself with able advisors and made a conscientious effort to handle state affairs. His Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng —82 built up an effective network of alliances with senior officials. However, there was no one after him skilled enough to maintain the stability of these alliances;  officials soon banded together in opposing political factions. Over time Wanli grew tired of court affairs and frequent political quarreling amongst his ministers, preferring to stay behind the walls of the Forbidden City and out of his officials' sight.
The Hongwu Emperor forbade eunuchs to learn how to read or engage in politics. Whether or not these restrictions were carried out with absolute success in his reign, eunuchs during the Yongle Emperor's reign and afterwards managed huge imperial workshops, commanded armies, and participated in matters of appointment and promotion of officials.
The eunuchs developed their own bureaucracy that was organized parallel to but was not subject to the civil service bureaucracy. The eunuch Wei Zhongxian — dominated the court of the Tianqi Emperor r. He ordered temples built in his honor throughout the Ming Empire, and built personal palaces created with funds allocated for building the previous emperor's tombs.
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His friends and family gained important positions without qualifications. Wei also published a historical work lambasting and belittling his political opponents. The Chongzhen Emperor r. During the last years of the Wanli era and those of his two successors, an economic crisis developed that was centered on a sudden widespread lack of the empire's chief medium of exchange: silver.
The Portuguese first established trade with China in ,  trading Japanese silver for Chinese silk,  and after some initial hostilities gained consent from the Ming court in to settle Macau as their permanent trade base in China. In the new Tokugawa regime of Japan shut down most of its foreign trade with European powers, cutting off another source of silver coming into China.
These events occurring at roughly the same time caused a dramatic spike in the value of silver and made paying taxes nearly impossible for most provinces. In the s a string of one thousand copper coins equaled an ounce of silver; by that sum could fetch half an ounce; and, by only one-third of an ounce. Famines became common in northern China in the early 17th century because of unusually dry and cold weather that shortened the growing season — effects of a larger ecological event now known as the Little Ice Age. Making matters worse, a widespread epidemic spread across China from Zhejiang to Henan, killing an unknown but large number of people.
A Jurchen tribal leader named Nurhaci r. During the Japanese invasions of Joseon Korea in the s, he offered to lead his tribes in support of the Ming and Joseon army. This offer was declined, but he was granted honorific Ming titles for his gesture. Recognizing the weakness of Ming authority north of their border, he united all of the adjacent northern tribes and consolidated power in the region surrounding his homeland as the Jurchen Jin dynasty had done previously. By , Nurhaci's son Huang Taiji renamed his dynasty from the "Later Jin" to the " Great Qing " at Mukden , which had fallen to Qing forces in and was made their capital in Shortly after, the Koreans renounced their long-held loyalty to the Ming dynasty.
A peasant soldier named Li Zicheng mutinied with his fellow soldiers in western Shaanxi in the early s after the Ming government failed to ship much-needed supplies there. In , masses of Chinese peasants who were starving, unable to pay their taxes, and no longer in fear of the frequently defeated Chinese army, began to form into huge bands of rebels.
The Chinese military, caught between fruitless efforts to defeat the Manchu raiders from the north and huge peasant revolts in the provinces, essentially fell apart. Unpaid and unfed, the army was defeated by Li Zicheng — now self-styled as the Prince of Shun — and deserted the capital without much of a fight.
On 25 April , Beijing fell to a rebel army led by Li Zicheng when the city gates were opened by rebel allies from within. During the turmoil, the last Ming emperor hanged himself on a tree in the imperial garden outside the Forbidden City. This occurred shortly after he learned about the fate of the capital and an army of Li Zicheng marching towards him; weighing his options of alliance, he decided to side with the Manchus.
After being forced out of Xi'an by the Qing, chased along the Han River to Wuchang , and finally along the northern border of Jiangxi province, Li Zicheng died there in the summer of , thus ending the Shun dynasty. One report says his death was a suicide; another states that he was beaten to death by peasants after he was caught stealing their food. Despite the loss of Beijing and the death of the emperor, the Ming were not yet totally destroyed.
However, there were several pretenders for the Ming throne, and their forces were divided. These scattered Ming remnants in southern China after were collectively designated by 19th-century historians as the Southern Ming. Zhu Shugui proclaimed that he acted in the name of the deceased Yongli Emperor. Later the Qianlong Emperor bestowed the title Marquis of Extended Grace posthumously on Zhu Zhilian in , and the title passed on through twelve generations of Ming descendants until the end of the Qing dynasty in In , after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in the Xinhai Revolution , some advocated that a Han Chinese be installed as Emperor, either the descendant of Confucius, who was the Duke Yansheng ,      or the Ming dynasty Imperial family descendant, the Marquis of Extended Grace.
Described as "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history" by Edwin O. Reischauer , John K. Fairbank and Albert M. Craig ,  the Ming emperors took over the provincial administration system of the Yuan dynasty, and the thirteen Ming provinces are the precursors of the modern provinces.
Departing from the main central administrative system generally known as the Three Departments and Six Ministries system, which was instituted by various dynasties since late Han BCE — CE , the Ming administration had only one Department, the Secretariat, that controlled the Six Ministries. The Hongwu Emperor sent his heir apparent to Shaanxi in to "tour and soothe" xunfu the region; in the Yongle Emperor commissioned 26 officials to travel the empire and uphold similar investigatory and patrimonial duties.
By these xunfu assignments became institutionalized as " grand coordinators ". Hence, the Censorate was reinstalled and first staffed with investigating censors, later with censors-in-chief. By , the grand coordinators were granted the title vice censor-in-chief or assistant censor-in-chief and were allowed direct access to the emperor.
Censors had the power to impeach officials on an irregular basis, unlike the senior officials who were to do so only in triennial evaluations of junior officials. Although decentralization of state power within the provinces occurred in the early Ming, the trend of central government officials delegated to the provinces as virtual provincial governors began in the s. By the late Ming dynasty, there were central government officials delegated to two or more provinces as supreme commanders and viceroys, a system which reined in the power and influence of the military by the civil establishment.
Governmental institutions in China conformed to a similar pattern for some two thousand years, but each dynasty installed special offices and bureaus, reflecting its own particular interests. The Ming administration utilized Grand Secretaries to assist the emperor, handling paperwork under the reign of the Yongle Emperor and later appointed as top officials of agencies and Grand Preceptor, a top-ranking, non-functional civil service post, under the Hongxi Emperor ruled — The imperial household was staffed almost entirely by eunuchs and ladies with their own bureaus.
The eunuchs were divided into different directorates in charge of staff surveillance, ceremonial rites, food, utensils, documents, stables, seals, apparel, and so on. Although the imperial household was staffed mostly by eunuchs and palace ladies, there was a civil service office called the Seal Office, which cooperated with eunuch agencies in maintaining imperial seals, tallies, and stamps. The Hongwu emperor from to staffed his bureaus with officials gathered through recommendations only.
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After that the scholar-officials who populated the many ranks of bureaucracy were recruited through a rigorous examination system that was initially established by the Sui dynasty — However, the government did exact provincial quotas while drafting officials. As in earlier periods, the focus of the examination was classical Confucian texts,  while the bulk of test material centered on the Four Books outlined by Zhu Xi in the 12th century.
Officials were classified in nine hierarchic grades, each grade divided into two degrees, with ranging salaries nominally paid in piculs of rice according to their rank. The maximum tenure in office was nine years, but every three years officials were graded on their performance by senior officials. In extreme cases, officials would be dismissed or punished. Only capital officials of grade 4 and above were exempt from the scrutiny of recorded evaluation, although they were expected to confess any of their faults. The Chief Instructor on the prefectural level was classified as equal to a second-grade county graduate.
Scholar-officials who entered civil service through examinations acted as executive officials to a much larger body of non-ranked personnel called lesser functionaries. They outnumbered officials by four to one; Charles Hucker estimates that they were perhaps as many as , throughout the empire. These lesser functionaries performed clerical and technical tasks for government agencies.
Yet they should not be confused with lowly lictors, runners, and bearers; lesser functionaries were given periodic merit evaluations like officials and after nine years of service might be accepted into a low civil service rank.
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Eunuchs gained unprecedented power over state affairs during the Ming dynasty. One of the most effective means of control was the secret service stationed in what was called the Eastern Depot at the beginning of the dynasty, later the Western Depot. This secret service was overseen by the Directorate of Ceremonial, hence this state organ's often totalitarian affiliation. Descendants of the first Ming emperor were made princes and given typically nominal military commands, annual stipends, and large estates.
Although princes served no organ of state administration, the princes, consorts of the imperial princesses, and ennobled relatives did staff the Imperial Clan Court , which supervised the imperial genealogy. Like scholar-officials, military generals were ranked in a hierarchic grading system and were given merit evaluations every five years as opposed to three years for officials. This was due to their hereditary service instead of solely merit-based and Confucian values that dictated those who chose the profession of violence wu over the cultured pursuits of knowledge wen.
In the early half of the dynasty, men of noble lineage dominated the higher ranks of military office; this trend was reversed during the latter half of the dynasty as men from more humble origins eventually displaced them. Literature , painting , poetry , music , and Chinese opera of various types flourished during the Ming dynasty, especially in the economically prosperous lower Yangzi valley. Although short fiction had been popular as far back as the Tang dynasty — ,  and the works of contemporaneous authors such as Xu Guangqi, Xu Xiake, and Song Yingxing were often technical and encyclopedic, the most striking literary development was the vernacular novel.
While the gentry elite were educated enough to fully comprehend the language of Classical Chinese , those with rudimentary education — such as women in educated families, merchants, and shop clerks — became a large potential audience for literature and performing arts that employed Vernacular Chinese. Jin Ping Mei , published in , although incorporating earlier material, marks the trend toward independent composition and concern with psychology. Theater scripts were equally imaginative. Informal essay and travel writing was another highlight.
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Xu Xiake — , a travel literature author, published his Travel Diaries in , written characters , with information on everything from local geography to mineralogy. In contrast to Xu Xiake, who focused on technical aspects in his travel literature, the Chinese poet and official Yuan Hongdao — used travel literature to express his desires for individualism as well as autonomy from and frustration with Confucian court politics. This anti-official sentiment in Yuan's travel literature and poetry was actually following in the tradition of the Song dynasty poet and official Su Shi — They drew upon the techniques, styles, and complexity in painting achieved by their Song and Yuan predecessors, but added techniques and styles.
Well-known Ming artists could make a living simply by painting due to the high prices they demanded for their artworks and the great demand by the highly cultured community to collect precious works of art. The artist Qiu Ying was once paid 2. Renowned artists often gathered an entourage of followers, some who were amateurs who painted while pursuing an official career and others who were full-time painters.
The period was also renowned for ceramics and porcelains. The major production center for porcelain was the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province, most famous in the period for blue and white porcelain , but also producing other styles. The Dehua porcelain factories in Fujian catered to European tastes by creating Chinese export porcelain by the late 16th century.
Individual potters also became known, such as He Chaozong , who became famous in the early 17th century for his style of white porcelain sculpture. Carved designs in lacquerware and designs glazed onto porcelain wares displayed intricate scenes similar in complexity to those in painting. The houses of the rich were also furnished with rosewood furniture and feathery latticework. The writing materials in a scholar's private study, including elaborately carved brush holders made of stone or wood, were designed and arranged ritually to give an aesthetic appeal.
Connoisseurship in the late Ming period centered on these items of refined artistic taste, which provided work for art dealers and even underground scammers who themselves made imitations and false attributions. The dominant religious beliefs during the Ming dynasty were the various forms of Chinese folk religion and the Three Teachings — Confucianism , Taoism , and Buddhism. The Yuan -supported Tibetan lamas fell from favor, and the early Ming emperors particularly favored Taoism, granting its practitioners many positions in the state's ritual offices.
Islam was also well-established throughout China, with a history said to have begun with Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas during the Tang dynasty and strong official support during the Yuan. The advent of the Ming was initially devastating to Christianity: in his first year, the Hongwu Emperor declared the eighty-year-old Franciscan missions among the Yuan heterodox and illegal. During the later Ming a new wave of Christian missionaries arrived — particularly Jesuits — who employed new western science and technology in their arguments for conversion.
They were educated in Chinese language and culture at St. Paul's College on Macau after its founding in The most influential was Matteo Ricci , whose " Map of the Myriad Countries of the World " upended traditional geography throughout East Asia, and whose work with the convert Xu Guangqi led to the first Chinese translation of Euclid 's Elements in The discovery of a Nestorian stele at Xi'an in also permitted Christianity to be treated as an old and established faith, rather than as a new and dangerous cult.
However, there were strong disagreements about the extent to which converts could continue to perform rituals to the emperor , Confucius , or their ancestors : Ricci had been very accommodating and an attempt by his successors to backtrack from this policy led to the Nanjing Incident of , which exiled four Jesuits to Macau and forced the others out of public life for six years.
However, by the end of the Ming the Dominicans had begun the Chinese Rites controversy in Rome that would eventually lead to a full ban of Christianity under the Qing dynasty. During his mission, Ricci was also contacted in Beijing by one of the approximately 5, Kaifeng Jews and introduced them and their long history in China to Europe. During the Ming dynasty, the Neo-Confucian doctrines of the Song scholar Zhu Xi were embraced by the court and the Chinese literati at large, although the direct line of his school was destroyed by the Yongle Emperor 's extermination of the ten degrees of kinship of Fang Xiaoru in The Ming scholar most influential upon subsequent generations, however, was Wang Yangming — , whose teachings were attacked in his own time for their similarity to Chan Buddhism.
Other scholar-bureaucrats were wary of Wang's heterodoxy, the increasing number of his disciples while he was still in office, and his overall socially rebellious message. To curb his influence, he was often sent out to deal with military affairs and rebellions far away from the capital. Yet his ideas penetrated mainstream Chinese thought and spurred new interest in Taoism and Buddhism. The liberal views of Wang Yangming were opposed by the Censorate and by the Donglin Academy , re-established in These conservatives wanted a revival of orthodox Confucian ethics.
Conservatives such as Gu Xiancheng — argued against Wang's idea of innate moral knowledge, stating that this was simply a legitimization for unscrupulous behavior such as greedy pursuits and personal gain. These two strands of Confucian thought, hardened by Chinese scholars' notions of obligation towards their mentors, developed into pervasive factionalism among the ministers of state, who used any opportunity to impeach members of the other faction from court.
Wang Gen was able to give philosophical lectures to many commoners from different regions because — following the trend already apparent in the Song dynasty — communities in Ming society were becoming less isolated as the distance between market towns was shrinking. Schools, descent groups, religious associations, and other local voluntary organizations were increasing in number and allowing more contact between educated men and local villagers. A variety of occupations could be chosen or inherited from a father's line of work. This would include — but was not limited to — coffinmakers, ironworkers and blacksmiths, tailors, cooks and noodle-makers, retail merchants, tavern, teahouse, or winehouse managers, shoemakers, seal cutters, pawnshop owners, brothel heads, and merchant bankers engaging in a proto-banking system involving notes of exchange.
A small township also provided a place for simple schooling, news and gossip, matchmaking, religious festivals, traveling theater groups, tax collection, and bases of famine relief distribution. Farming villagers in the north spent their days harvesting crops like wheat and millet, while farmers south of the Huai River engaged in intensive rice cultivation and had lakes and ponds where ducks and fish could be raised. The cultivation of mulberry trees for silkworms and tea bushes could be found mostly south of the Yangzi River ; even further south sugarcane and citrus were grown as basic crops.
Besides cutting down trees to sell wood, the poor also made a living by turning wood into charcoal, and by burning oyster shells to make lime and fired pots, and weaving mats and baskets. Although the south had the characteristic of the wealthy landlord and tenant farmers, there were on average many more owner-cultivators north of the Huai River due to harsher climate, living not far above subsistence level. Early Ming dynasty saw the strictest sumptuary laws in Chinese history. It was illegal for commoners to wear fine silk or dress in bright red, dark green or yellow colors; nor could they wear boots or guan hats.
Women could not use ornaments made from gold, jade, pearl or emerald. Merchants and their families were further banned from using silk. However, these laws were no longer enforced from the middle Ming period onwards. Compared to the flourishing of science and technology in the Song dynasty , the Ming dynasty perhaps saw fewer advancements in science and technology compared to the pace of discovery in the Western world. In fact, key advances in Chinese science in the late Ming were spurred by contact with Europe.
When the Ming founder Hongwu came upon the mechanical devices housed in the Yuan dynasty's palace at Khanbaliq — such as fountains with balls dancing on their jets, self-operating tiger automata , dragon-headed devices that spouted mists of perfume, and mechanical clocks in the tradition of Yi Xing — and Su Song — — he associated all of them with the decadence of Mongol rule and had them destroyed. The Chinese were intrigued with European technology, but so were visiting Europeans of Chinese technology. In , Abraham Ortelius — featured in his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum the peculiar Chinese innovation of mounting masts and sails onto carriages , just like Chinese ships.
This includes mechanical and hydraulic powered devices for agriculture and irrigation,  nautical technology such as vessel types and snorkeling gear for pearl divers,    the annual processes of sericulture and weaving with the loom ,  metallurgic processes such as the crucible technique and quenching ,  manufacturing processes such as for roasting iron pyrite in converting sulphide to oxide in sulfur used in gunpowder compositions — illustrating how ore was piled up with coal briquettes in an earthen furnace with a still-head that sent over sulfur as vapor that would solidify and crystallize  — and the use of gunpowder weapons such as a naval mine ignited by use of a rip-cord and steel flint wheel.
Focusing on agriculture in his Nongzheng Quanshu , the agronomist Xu Guangqi — took an interest in irrigation, fertilizers, famine relief, economic and textile crops, and empirical observation of the elements that gave insight into early understandings of chemistry. There were many advances and new designs in gunpowder weapons during the beginning of the dynasty, but by the mid to late Ming the Chinese began to frequently employ European-style artillery and firearms.
This includes hollow, gunpowder-filled exploding cannonballs ,  land mines that used a complex trigger mechanism of falling weights, pins, and a steel wheellock to ignite the train of fuses,  naval mines,  fin-mounted winged rockets for aerodynamic control,  multistage rockets propelled by booster rockets before igniting a swarm of smaller rockets issuing forth from the end of the missile shaped like a dragon's head ,  and hand cannons that had up to ten barrels.
Li Shizhen —93 — one of the most renowned pharmacologists and physicians in Chinese history — belonged to the late Ming period. His Bencao Gangmu is a medical text with 1, entries, each entry with its own name called a gang. The mu in the title refers to the synonyms of each name. Throughout the Ming dynasty, around fifty texts were published on the treatment of smallpox. Sinologist historians debate the population figures for each era in the Ming dynasty. The historian Timothy Brook notes that the Ming government census figures are dubious since fiscal obligations prompted many families to underreport the number of people in their households and many county officials to underreport the number of households in their jurisdiction.
The practice is well documented in China, going back over two thousand years, and it was described as "rampant" and "practiced by almost every family" by contemporary authors. The number of people counted in the census of was 59,,; however, this number dropped significantly when the government found that some 3 million people were missing from the tax census of The government tried to mitigate this by creating their own conservative estimate of 60,, people in Historians are now turning to local gazetteers of Ming China for clues that would show consistent growth in population.
Even with the Jiajing reforms to document migrant workers and merchants, by the late Ming era the government census still did not accurately reflect the enormous growth in population. Gazetteers across the empire noted this and made their own estimations of the overall population in the Ming, some guessing that it had doubled, tripled, or even grown fivefold since From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Former empire in Eastern Asia, last Han Chinese-led imperial regime. For other uses, see Ming disambiguation and Ming Dynasty disambiguation. Ming China in during the reign of the Yongle Emperor.
Remnants of the Ming imperial family ruled southern China until as the Southern Ming. The Ming loyalist state Kingdom of Tungning on Taiwan lasted until , but it was not ruled by the Zhu clan and thus usually not considered part of the Southern Ming. Related articles.
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Chinese historiography Timeline of Chinese history Dynasties in Chinese history Linguistic history Art history Economic history Education history Science and technology history Legal history Media history Military history Naval history. Main article: History of the Ming dynasty. See also: Timeline of the Ming dynasty. Main article: Ming conquest of Yunnan. Main article: Manchuria under Ming rule.
Main article: Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming dynasty. Main article: Yongle Emperor. Main article: Fall of the Ming dynasty. Further information: Europeans in Medieval China. Main article: Qing conquest of the Ming. See also: List of emperors of the Ming dynasty. Further information: History of science and technology in China , List of Chinese inventions , and List of Chinese discoveries.
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