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The Ming Dynasty

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 590
  • Category: Chinese

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The Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644. The Ming took over from the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty and would be replaced the Manchu Qing Dynasty. As a Dynasty of Ethnic Hans they would be the last dynasty led by native Chinese. Ming China was the largest and most powerful state in Asia in its time. Korea was a mere vassal state to the Ming while Japan was mired petty pose Sengoku Jidai xenophobia. Even the European powers had no choice but to kowtow to Ming power if they were trade with it.

            The Ming are best known for their construction of a massive fleet of ships some of their four-masted ships displaced some 1,500 tons. The fleets traveled far-and-wide with some reaching as far as the Philippines and Indonesia in the south even the indo-china would be frequently visited by Ming Fleets. The most well known fleet was led by the Eunuch Admiral Zheng He in the 15th Century. Massive construction projects were also launched by the Ming, not the least of which was the reconstruction of the Grand Canal and the Great Wall of China. The Forbidden city was built during Ming rule.

            The wealth of Ming was such that it conducted regular trade with the Spanish Empire. Chinese Junks would bring Tea, Porcelain and other Chinese goods to Manila where Spanish Galleons would take them for transport to Acapulco and eventually to Europe. Other European powers, Japan and Korea also traded heavily with China and all paid for delectable Chinese goods with silver.

            Another significant feature of the Ming was the entry of Christian Missionaries to China. Although Nestorian Christians had existed in China since Tang it was the arrival of the likes of Jesuit Matteo Ricci and others that truly spread Christianity in China. These scholarly missionaries also translated the works of Kong Fuzi and the popularize his philosophies under the mistranslated name Confucius.

Even after they fell the Ming remained significant to the heart of the Chinese people. As opposed to the earlier Yuan and the later Qing Dynasties, the Ming were native Chinese. The other Dynasties were actually foreign barbarians posing as civilized Chinese. It is this ‘foreigner’ status of the Manchu Qing that would later help fuel the fires of revolt that sapped that Dynasty’s strength and would eventually lead to its downfall in 1910.

It is also worth noting that Ming openly sent envoys to distant lands to spread Chinese influence and civilization. They were a true foreign power who enforced a tributary system upon their lesser neighbors. Although the tributary system itself is actually a very ritualized form of barter / trade since in reality the Chinese envoy would receive ‘tribute’ but would in turn give ‘gifts’ of equal or even greater value to the tributary. Contrast this with the Qing who were as Xenophobic as the Tokugawa of Japan and consequently fell into the wayside of foreign affairs.

            In sum, the significance of the Ming Dynsaty was that it was possibly the last Chinese empire that could consider itself a world power. It fleets reached far and wide to spread their influence and all who knew their name trembled at their power. They mobilized the massive Chinese population to create equally massive public works. Finally they were the last truly Chinese Dynasty and the memory of rule by an Enlightened Chinese Emperor with the Mandate of Heaven became a serious aspiration for many Chinese for centuries to come.

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