Ming Dynasty: 1368 - 1644 AD

Major Accomplishments: re-create Chinese cultural traditions like Confucianism and Civil Service Exam, China became rich from porcelin trade to Europe in exchange for silver, Ming Navy, great landscape painting

Ming Video:

Ming China 1368- 1644

Why did the Yuan Dynasty Fall?

  • Yuan Mandate of Heaven lost
  • Famine, floods, rebellions all caused people to believe the Mongols had lost the Mandate of Heaven or the t'ien ming
  • The Hongjinjun peasant army(army with red scarf in the head) was one of the important powers in overthrowing the Yuan Emperor


  • Capital moved to Beijing in 1421.
  • Forbidden City built for Emperors
  • Time of greatest wealth in Chinese history
  • last native Emperors in Chinese history.
  • first to deal with Europeans arriving
  • Population of about 100 million
  • Centralized authority
  • Emperor directly ruled rather than use chief ministers as Mongols had
  • New modernized and traditionally Chinese code of laws written
  • Civil service exam re-instated Chinese scholarship
  • Careful records kept (census, hereditary social hierarchy) and used to control peasants and strengthen kingdom

Ming Chinese Naval Power

  • expeditions sailed to E Asia, SE Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and E.Africa.
  • China was the world's greatest commercial naval power
  • 62 ships 27,000 crew led by Admiral Zheng He from 1405 - 1433
    including navigators, explorers, sailors, doctors, workers, Muslim teachers, and soldiers.
  • Treasure ships, 416 ft long
  • Horse ships, carrying tribute goods 339 ft
  • Troop transports, 220 ft long
  • Fuchuan warships, five-masted, 165 ft long
  • Patrol boats, eight-oared 120ft
  • Water tankers, with 1 month supply of fresh water. 415 ft
  • Modern historians suggest the ship size is exaggerated and say largest was probably about 250 ft long
  • Ming fleet extended Chinese influence

Tribute System

  • Tribute commitments from 35 countries
  • Fought pirates
  • In 1435 Confucian scholars convinced emperor Hongxi that the voyages were wasteful, encouraged foreign ideas, and would ruin China

MING Economy

  • China continued its shift from agricultural and rural to commercial and urban
  • Porcelain production and painting (China) became VERY important
  • China, marked by the Ming style of blue painting on a white ceramic background sold to Europe in exchange for silver from S. America
  • Commercial port cities including Beijing, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Xian and Chengdu formed to trade with Japan and Europe

Agricultural Developments

  • food production and new farming tools improved nutrition for peasants and city dwellers
  • stocking the rice paddies with fish, which fertilized the rice .
  • peasants grew cash crops, such as cotton for clothing, indigo for clothing dyes, and sugar cane.
  • dramatic population growth, largely due to increased food supply on account of the agricultural revolution.


  • Champa rice introduced from southeast Asia:
  • grown in a little over half the growing season
  • much larger harvests.
  • crop rotation

–        fields could be kept continuously in cultivation

–        while still maintaining their fertility

Reforestation of China

  • Hong-wu's most aggressive agricultural project involved reforestation beginning in the 1390's.
    • Nanjing was reforested with 50 million trees in1391; these trees became the lumber that built thnaval fleet put together by Yung-lo in the early1400's.• All in all, over one billion trees were planted inthis decade in a reforestation project that greatlyreplenished both the timber and the food supply.

Ming Industrial Development

  • textiles, paper, silk, and porcelain traded with Japan, Europe (especially Spain), India, SE Asia and Indonesian islands for
  • firearms, and American goods such as sugar, potatoes, and tobacco.
  • In exchange for raw goods such as silver—probably half the silver mined in the Americas from the mid-1500's to 1800 ended up in China
  • technological boom in every area from silk looms to paper manufacture to the development of new machines for planting, growing, and harvesting crops.

Tea Time

  • The Dutch imported tea from China and started the English and European love of tea
  • Dutch East India Tea Company and later the British East India Tea Company become powerful and wealthy from this trade
  • Trading tea to China was more profitable than trading silver to China as the Spanish had done

MING Religion/Philosophy

  • Neo-Confucianism
  • Matteo Ricci (Italian) the first Christian missionary started nearly 300 Catholic churches but Christian influence condemned in late Ming and early Qing
  • Muslims and Buddhists continued to grow in influence as well

MING Social Life

  • Cultural Renaissance

–        New art, literature and musical styles especially in opera

–        GREAT china dishes sold for huge profit to Europe

  • Still emphasizes landscape and nature scenes

MING Intellectual Life

  • Literacy increased and books became cheaper because of the printing press and a stable govt
  • Yongle Dadian was regarded as the biggest and earliest encyclopedia in the world.  
  • a man named Wan Hoo even tried to fly to the sky by sitting in a chair propelled by gunpowder sticks. Unfortunately, he failed.     

MING Great Wall

  • Great Walls had been built in earlier times, most of what is seen today was either built or repaired by the Ming. The brick and granite work was enlarged, the watch towers were redesigned and cannons were placed along the wall


  • Terrific art
  • China and sculpture important
  • Painting and other visual arts
  • Drama and poetry

Ming Vases
blue and white design that is common for Ming china


  • corruption of the court officials and the domination of the eunuchs. In that period, both the exploitation from the ruling class and natural disasters caused the rebellions that racked the country in the 17th century and

–        the aggressive military expansion of the Manchus.

  • By 1643 the government was bankrupt from fighting and the peasants were broke because of the constant taxes imposed to pay the armies to fight

The MING  ends

  • Northern Chinese Manchu slowly grew in power until they threatened the Ming Dynasty
  • Ming military grew weak so Ming often used Manchu to stop the “barbarians” from taking China 
  • One leader, Manchu rebel Li Zicheng, eventually decided to take China rather than protecting it.  He entered Beijing in 1644 as he did so the last Ming emperor,Chongzhen, hanged himself on a tree overlookiing the forbidden palace