The Ming Dynasty
American Public University
The Ming Dynasty
Every civilization has periods of time that they are well-known for, times of greatness. In Chinese history, one of these times was the Ming Dynasty. While there are unarguably many great moments associated with this empire, there are also weaknesses that cannot be ignored. The Ming Dynasty made great contributions to economics and engineering. However, their trade operations struggled quite a bit and their military lacked the might necessary to protect such a great empire. The Empire of the Great Ming, or the Ming Dynasty, has been called one of the greatest times in human history for government order and social stability. It is also known for being the last Chinese dynasty to be ruled by true Hans. This empire ruled in China between 1368 and 1644 C.E. following the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty and until being overthrown by the Manchu Qing dynasty. It is believed that there were around 180 million Chinese citizens at this time. (“Greatest Eras”, 2007) Due to the wide range of equipment and machinery that was made during this time, this dynasty is regarded as making a great contribution to the engineering field. Under the Ming Dynasty, the Grand Canal and the Great Wall of China were restored. Cotton and silk looms were created and farm production was increased. The Huochong gun (a firearm that shoots projectiles) and powerful artillery were created, which helped to advance the Ming dynasty's military. Early in the 15th century the “Forbidden City” in Beijing was established. This location was constructed to be a secure home for high-ranking politicians, including the Emperor and his family. (“Ming Dynasty Achievements”, 2012) Industry in the Ming Dynasty thrived. An abundance of porcelain and paper was produced, as well as new methods of printing. This led to an increase in literacy and an abundant book supply. Art was also a growing industry in this time. The well-known Chinese blue and white porcelain pieces began to be produced in this era. Confucian poetry and landscape painting were revived. Operas and theater were very popular, and the first detective stories were written. (Watkins, 2003) The Ming Dynasty had a very advanced economy for this time period, as well as one of the largest. They were one of the first societies to develop and use a capitalist-like economic system. Much of their financial system relied on politicians having influence over merchants and other “lower class” individuals. (“Greatest Eras”, 2007) Tributary trade, a system which was previously used in China, was promoted in the early Ming Dynasty, and the government improved upon this system by making sure that all vassal states were included equally. This change helped maintain peace and stability among states using the idea of being able to trade with China and a code of ethics used to settle disputes. Zheng He was a maritime merchant whose expeditions helped spread the prestige of the Ming Dynasty. The emperor decided to use these trips to trade partners as a chance to invite states to join tributary trade and prohibited citizens from engaging in maritime trade. This decreased the efficiency of trade, and by 1567 the empire was forced to lift the ban on maritime trade. The increased opportunity to trade with foreign nations led to a large influx of silver to China and a great demand for Chinese goods by multiple nations. (Chan, 2008, p.78-80) The military system of the Ming Dynasty was created during the rule of Emperor Hongwu. This system was meant to guide military organization and actions, and did so until the end of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Once this system was put into place, it remained the same for the next 270 years. Soldiers at this time were regarded as individuals of a lower class and often regarded with contempt. (Feng, 2009, p.12) The Ming government rarely took the initiative to attack its enemies, preferring...
References: Chan, Kenneth S. (2008). Foreign Trade, Commercial Policies, and the Political Economy of the Song and Ming Dynasties of China. Australian Economic History Review, 48(1), 68-90.
Feng, Longfei. (2009). Tumu Crisis and the Weakness of the Military System of Ming Dynasty. Asian Social Science, 5(6), 12-14.
Ming Dynasty Achievements. (2012). Retrieved from http://totallyhistory.com/ming-dynasty-achievements/ on 09/12/14
Ming Dynasty: One of the Greatest Eras in History. (2007-2014). Retrieved from http://history.cultural-china.com/en/183History5926.html on 09/14/14
Watkins, Jeffery. (2003). Dynastic China. Oswego City School District Regents Exam Prep Center. Retrieved from http://www.regentsprep.org/Regents/global/themes/goldenages/china.cfm on 09/13/14
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