Zhu Yuanzhang, the leader of the Red Turbans, founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368 after leading a successful rebellion against the Yuan dynasty that discriminated and socially excluded the Han ethnicity. Lasting for 276 years, the Ming Dynasty was the last dynasty in China to be ruled by the Han ethnicity.
Zhu Yuanzhang; Emperor Taizu of the Hongwu Era
In the early Ming, the nation's economy soon recovered and progressed to its highest level. The Hongwu Emperor's (Zhu Yuanzhang) achievements made him one of the most outstanding statesmen in Chinese history. He also removed the eunuchs from administrative power, forbidding them to learn to read or engage in politics.
When Emperor Yingzong ascended to the throne in 1436, the Ming Dynasty began its decline, mainly due to the monopoly of eunuchs (despite previous efforts by the Hongwu Emperor to keep them out). Corruptive officials levied heavy taxes on peasants, triggering countless uprisings. At the same time, the Ming Dynasty faced the danger of attacks from external forces. The Nüzhen of the northeast (later renamed the Manchu) became powerful and finally overthrew the Ming Dynasty in 1644 during a storm of peasant uprisings.
The Great Wall
The repair and reconstruction of the Great Wall began during the Hongwu Emperor's reign. Although the rammed earth walls of the ancient Warring states were combined into a unified wall under the Qin and Han dynasties, the vast majority of the brick and stone Great Wall as seen in present day Beijing is a product of the Ming Dynasty. The Great Ming Code was also published in 1397, protecting the slaves and free citizens.
AD1405 - AD1433: Zheng He's Expeditions
The golden age of the Ming Dynasty thrived under the Yongle Emperor's reign. During this period, the Chinese presence and foreign relations were further strengthened via Eunuch Zheng He's 7 naval expeditions to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean from 1405 to 1433. Unfortunately, the Vice President of the Ministry of War burnt the court records documenting Zheng He's voyages in 1429; it was one of many events signaling China's shift to an inward foreign policy.
The Ming regime also strengthened its relations with ethnic minority groups, promoting economic and cultural exchanges among different nationalities. Its jurisdiction extended to the inside and outside of the Hinggan Mountains, Tianshan Mountains and Tibet.
AD1420: Completion of the Forbidden City Palace
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, an important monument today, was completed in 1420 in Beijing after 20 years of construction. It was the imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, serving as a home for emperors and their household as well as the ceremonial and political centre of the government.
AD1581: Christian Missionaries
In 1581, Christian missionaries Matteo Ricci (an Italian Mathematician) and Lazaro Cantteo visit China and were warmly received by Ming court. Ricci was welcomed at the imperial court and he introduced Western learning into China. The Jesuits followed a remarkable and successful policy of accommodation to the traditional Chinese practice of ancestor worship. Eventually, at the prompting of the Jesuits' enemies, this approach was condemned by the Pope and later Catholic missions failed to enjoy the same success.
AD1581: Single Whip Reform
In the same year, the Single Whip Reform installed by Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng ordered that all land taxes in China to be paid in silver. This change impacted even the lowliest Chinese peasant who could no longer pay his taxes in kind. Instead, he had to purchase silver. This was implemented most because of the large amount of silver pouring into China from the Spanish Empire mines and the resulting domestic need increased silver's global price.
It is worth remembering that under the Song and Yuan Dynasties, China had the world's first functioning paper currency system. Instead of restoring confidence in paper money (after the late Yuan and especially the early Ming destroyed its value by over-printing it), the Ming Dynasty followed the private sector's turn to silver. Had they not done so, Chinese history would have been quite different.
AD1616: Nanjing Missionary Case
The clash between the Chinese practice of ancestor worship and the Catholic doctrine led to the deportation of foreign missionaries.
Emperor Shenzong of the Wanli Era
Shen Huai, a high ranking official in Nanjing, advised the Wanli Emperor repeatedly that Catholicism should be banned for the following reasons; the Western missionaries were spies; Catholicism taught Chinese not to respect parents and worship ancestors; Western missionaries stole proprietary Chinese knowledge; Catholicism practiced weird customs like baptism, confirmation and allowed male and female followers to study in the same room (forbidden by the conservative Chinese society).
Shen Huai arrested dozens of missionaries in Nanjing, on July 21 and August 14 and questioned them relentlessly. Urged by the Anti-Catholic movement, Emperor Wanli passed a law on December 28, deporting all foreign missionaries back to their homeland.
AD1644: Fall of the Ming Dynasty
Shanhai Pass in Present day China
In 1644, General Wu Sangui betrayed the Ming Dynasty by opening the gates of the Great Wall at Shanhai Pass to let the Manchu soldiers through into China. It is commonly believed that he led to the ultimate destruction of the Ming Empire and the establishment of the Qing Empire.
However, Wu Sangui did not side with the Manchurians until after the defensive capability of the Ming Empire had been greatly weakened and the political apparatus destroyed by the rebel armies of Li Zicheng. Wu was about to join the rebel forces of Li, who had already sacked Beijing. Consequently, Wu Sangui is remembered today as a traitor and opportunist by the common Chinese folk