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The Ming Dynasty saw a publishing boom in China, with an avalanche of affordable books being produced for commoners.

Reference books were popular, as well as religious tracts, school primers, Confucian literature and civil service examination guides.

There was a sizable market for fiction, especially for stories written in colloquial language. Writer Feng Menglong had a popular series of humorous short stories that featured palace figures and ghosts and sold well among merchants and educated women.

Play scripts sold very well also. One well-regarded playwright was Tang Xianzu, who specialized in social satire and romance.

It was during the Ming Dynasty that full-length novels began to grow in popularity. Many were adaptations of ancient story cycles that had been part of oral traditions for centuries.

Book illustration also thrived during this period, with printing methods allowing for artists to carve their illustrations on wood blocks for easily reproducible images.

Using illustrations was a way that one publisher would make their books distinct from others, since there was an overlap of written content from publisher to publisher.

Ming rule was partly undone by enormous fiscal problems that resulted in a calamitous collapse. Several factors contributed to the financial trouble.

An agricultural disaster, the result of the lowest temperatures of the Little Ice Age , also helped deplete funds.

A drop in average temperatures resulted in earlier freezes, shortened growing seasons and produced pitiful harvests.

These circumstances lead to famine, which forced starving soldiers to desert their posts and form marauding gangs ravaging the countrysides.

By , the gangs were moving east, and the Imperial military proved incapable of stopping them. Soon after, the country was further decimated by flooding, locusts, drought and disease.

Rebellion and riots became commonplace. In , a group of rebels destroyed the dikes of the Yellow River and unleashed flooding that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

As the social order broke down and smallpox spread, two competing rebel leaders, Li Zicheng and Zhang, took control of separate parts of the country and both declared new dynasties.

Later that year, the semi-nomadic Manchu people prevailed over the chaos and became the ruling Qing Dynasty.

Cambridge Illustrated History of China. The Dynasties of China. We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. The Han Dynasty ruled China from B. Though tainted by deadly dramas within the royal court, it is also renowned for its promotion of Confucianism as the state religion and opening the Silk Road trade route to Europe.

The Tang Dynasty is considered a golden age of Chinese arts and culture. In power from to A. The Qin Dynasty established the first empire in China, starting with efforts in B.

The empire existed only briefly from to B. The Shang Dynasty is the earliest ruling dynasty of China to be established in recorded history, though other dynasties predated it.

The Shang ruled from to B. In , peasants digging a well near the city of Xian, in Shaanxi province, China, stumbled upon a cache of life-size, terracotta figures of soldiers at what was later determined to be the burial complex of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang B.

Sun Tzu is the reputed author of The Art of War It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. The position of prime minister was abolished.

Instead, the emperor took over personal control of the government, ruling with the assistance of the especially appointed Neige, or Grand Secretariat.

However, from the Yongle emperor onward, the emperors relied increasingly on trusted eunuchs to contain the literati. By decree of the emperor, a vast spying service was organized under three special agencies.

Struggles with peoples of various nationalities continued throughout the Ming period. Clashes with Mongols were nearly incessant. During the first decades of the dynasty, the Mongols were driven north to Outer Mongolia present-day Mongolia , but the Ming could not claim a decisive victory.

From then onward the Ming were generally able to maintain their northern border, though by the later stages of the dynasty it in effect only reached the line of the Great Wall.

On the northeast, the Juchen Chinese: Nüzhen, or Ruzhen , who rose in the northeast around the end of the 16th century, pressed the Ming army to withdraw successively southward, and eventually the Ming made the east end of the Great Wall their last line of defense.

But the brief occupation of Vietnam was met with determined local guerrilla resistance, and the Ming government quickly decided to restore the boundary to its original line.

It never again attempted to push southward. Also during the Ming, Japan became more aggressive. In the 15th century Japanese raiders teamed up with Chinese pirates to make coastal raids in Chinese waters, which were of a relatively small scale but were still highly disruptive to Chinese coastal cities.

The Ming government was gradually weakened by factionalism between civil officials, interference by palace eunuchs, the burdens of a growing population, and a succession of weak and inattentive emperors.

The Manchu drove out Li Zicheng and then remained, establishing the Qing dynasty. Despite the many foreign contacts made during the Ming period, cultural developments were characterized by a generally conservative and inward-looking attitude.

Ming architecture is largely undistinguished with the Forbidden City , a palace complex built in Beijing in the 15th century by the Yongle emperor and subsequently enlarged and rebuilt , its main representative.

The best Ming sculpture is found not in large statues but in small ornamental carvings of jade, ivory, wood, and porcelain. There were many new developments in ceramics, along with the continuation of established traditions.

Three major types of decoration emerged: Much of this porcelain was produced in the huge factory at Jingdezhen in present-day Jiangsu province.

The Ming regime restored the former literary examinations for public office, which pleased the literary world, dominated by Southerners. In their own writing the Ming sought a return to classical prose and poetry styles and, as a result, produced writings that were imitative and generally of little consequence.

Writers of vernacular literature, however, made real contributions, especially in novels and drama. Chinese traditional drama originating in the Song dynasty had been banned by the Mongols but survived underground in the South, and in the Ming era it was restored.

This was chuanqi , a form of musical theatre with numerous scenes and contemporary plots. What emerged was kunqu style, less bombastic in song and accompaniment than other popular theatre.

Under the Ming it enjoyed great popularity, indeed outlasting the dynasty by a century or more. It was adapted into a full-length opera form, which, although still performed today, was gradually replaced in popularity by jingxi Peking opera during the Qing dynasty.

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The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: The Mongol emperor Shundi Togon-temür was defeated in a popular uprising, and the Hongwu emperor, founder of the Ming dynasty , succeeded him in

Ming forces defeat Tibetans in Gansu [44]. Champa sends tribute to Nanjing [45]. Hu Weiyong plots to assassinate the Hongwu Emperor but gets arrested; the ensuing investigations lead to the execution of roughly 15, people [27].

Ming conquest of Yunnan: Ming forces take Qujing [47]. Ming forces conquer Yunnan [48]. The Hongwu Emperor relocates government agencies from the palace to outside the city walls of Nanjing [49].

The imperial examinations are reestablished [27]. Guo Huan is executed for embezzling 7 million piculs of grain [49]. Si Lunfa of Mong Mao rebels [50].

Ming campaign against the Uriankhai: Naghachu surrenders to Ming forces [51]. Battle of Buir Lake: Ming forces defeat Uskhal Khan Tögüs Temür [52].

Mong Mao is defeated by the Ming artillery corps utilizing volley fire [53]. Ming forces defeat Yi rebels in Yuezhou [54].

Si Lunfa surrenders to the Ming dynasty [54]. Nayir Bukha and Yaozhu surrender to Ming forces [55]. Ajashiri rebels and is suppressed [56].

Ming forces occupy Hami and retreat [57]. Ming forces sack Hami [58]. Tributary relations between Ming and Joseon are normalized [59]. Ming forces defeat Bolin Temür [60].

Si Lunfa is deposed and requests Ming aid in restoring him to power [61]. Si Lunfa is restored to power [62].

The Hongwu Emperor becomes ill [63]. The Hongwu Emperor dies [64]. Zhu Yunwen becomes the Jianwen Emperor [63]. Last recorded instance of human sacrifice in China [66].

The Jianwen Emperor returns Zhu Di 's sons [65]. A military official seizes two of Zhu Di 's junior officials on the charge of sedition [67].

Zhu Di launches an offensive on neighboring counties [67]. Zhu Di defeats a , strong army sent by the Jianwen Emperor [68]. The Jianwen Emperor 's forces lay siege to Beiping but are forced to retreat three weeks later [69].

Zhu Di invades Shanxi [69]. Zhu Di 's forces deal heavy casualties upon the imperial army [69]. Zhu Di lays siege to Dezhou [69].

Zhu Di lifts the siege of Dezhou and returns to Beiping [69]. Zhu Di 's forces fall to explosives and suffer heavy casualties in Shandong , forcing their retreat [70].

Zhu Di 's forces deal a heavy defeat to the imperial army near Dezhou [70]. The imperial army forces Zhu Di to retreat north to Beiping [70].

The Jianwen Emperor restricts the size of Buddhist and Taoist landholdings [71]. Imperial forces are expelled from the Beiping region [70]. Zhu Di conquers northwestern Shandong [72].

Zhu Di takes Xuzhou [72]. Zhu Di defeats imperial troops in Suzhou [72]. Zhu Di is repulsed by imperial troops in Anhui [72]. Zhu Di defeats imperial forces at Lingbi [72].

Zhu Di 's forces cross the Huai River [72]. Zhu Di takes Yangzhou [72]. Zhu Di is stopped at the Changjiang across from Nanjing [72]. Zhu Di ascends the throne as the Yongle Emperor [73].

The Yongle Emperor commissions the Yongle Encyclopedia [74]. The Yongle Emperor settles loyal Uriankhai near Daning [76].

Orders are issued for the construction of "seagoing transport ships" [77]. The Yongle Emperor creates the Jianzhou Guard [78].

Japanese missions to Ming China: Ashikaga Yoshimitsu sends an embassy to the Ming dynasty declaring himself "your subject, the King of Japan", and receives trading privileges [79].

Orders are issued for the construction of 50 "seagoing ships" [80]. Engke Temiir of Kara Del receives the title of prince from the Ming court [81].

Tamerlane launches an invasion of the Ming dynasty but dies on the way [81]. Empirewide imperial examinations are resumed [83].

Zheng He and 27, men depart from Nanjing on ships, of which 62 are treasure ships, "bearing imperial letters to the countries of the Western Ocean and with gifts to their kings of gold brocade, patterned silks, and colored silk gauze, according to their status.

Construction of new palace buildings in Beijing begins [75]. Treasure fleet visits Malacca and Java before heading up the Straits of Malacca to Aru, Samudera Pasai Sultanate , and Lambri , where the people are described as "very honest and genuine," and from there 3 days to the Andaman Islands , and then 8 more days to the west coast of Ceylon where the king reacts with hostility.

The fleet departs for Calicut , which is described as "the Great country of the Western Ocean" [85]. Treasure fleet defeats Chen Zuyi 's pirate fleet at Palembang and installs Shi Jinqing as "grand chieftain ruling over the native people of that place" [86].

Deshin Shekpa, 5th Karmapa Lama arrives in Nanjing to perform religious ceremonies [87]. Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam: The Yongle Emperor announces the formal incorporation of Jiaozhi into the Ming dynasty [82].

Treasure fleet arrives back at Nanjing [88]. Wang Hao is ordered to refit "sea transport ships" in "preparation for embassies to the countries of the Western Ocean" [89].

The Yongle Emperor issues orders for the second voyage and to confer formal investiture on the king of Calicut [90]. The Yongle Emperor summons Javanese envoys to demand restitution for killing Chinese and settles for 10, ounces of gold [91].

A eunuch Grand Director departs with an imperial letter for the king of Champa [90]. Zheng He departs with a fleet of ships and takes a route similar to the first voyage with the addition of stops at Jiayile , Abobadan , Ganbali , Quilon , and Cochin [92].

The Yongle Encyclopedia is completed [93]. Ironwood wadding is added to Ming cannons, increasing their effectiveness. Orders for the construction of 48 treasure ships are issued from the Ministry of Works in Nanjing [95].

Orders are issued for the third voyage [96]. The Galle Trilingual Inscription is produced [97]. Oirats receives princely titles from the Ming court [81].

Treasure fleet returns to China [92]. Ming forces are defeated by Öljei Temür Khan [98]. Zheng He departs with 27, men, taking the usual route [97].

Ming forces defeat Arughtai east of the Greater Khingan and withdraw to Nanjing [98]. Dredging and reconstruction of the Grand Canal begins [].

Treasure fleet returns to Nanjing []. The Yongle Emperor sends Yishiha to explore northern Manchuria [78]. Ashikaga Yoshimochi refuses the Yongle Emperor 's request to suppress Japanese pirates [].

The Yongle Emperor issues orders for the fourth voyage []. Shells are used as ammunition in the Ming dynasty.

Zheng He departs from Nanjing and takes the usual route with the addition of 4 new destinations: Ming dynasty sends Yishiha to the Nurgan Regional Military Commission to create postal stations and spread Buddhism [].

Ming forces engage Oirats at the Tuul River , suffering heavy casualties, but ultimately prevail through the use of heavy cannon bombardments [].

Chöje Shakya Yeshe visits Nanjing []. The Grand Canal is reconstructed []. Treasure fleet arrives back in Nanjing [].

Zheng He 's colleague is sent on a mission bearing gifts to Bengal []. The Yongle Emperor bestows gifts upon ambassadors from 18 countries [].

The Yongle Emperor issues orders for the fifth voyage []. Treasure fleet returns to China. Ambassadors present exotic animals to the Ming court including a giraffe imported from Somalia by Bengalis [].

Orders are issued for the construction of 41 treasure ships [95]. During the Lantern Festival , the Ming imperial palace puts on a display of pyrotechnics involving rockets running along wires which light up lanterns, illuminating the palace.

Construction of the Altar of Heaven is completed []. Beijing officially becomes the capital of the Ming dynasty [].

Orders are issued for the sixth voyage and envoys from 16 countries including Hormuz are given gifts of paper and coin money, and ceremonial robes and linings [].

The Yongle Emperor orders the suspension of the treasure voyages []. Orders are issued to Zheng He to provide Hong Bao and envoys from 16 countries passage back to their countries; the treasure fleet takes its usual route to Ceylon where it splits up and heads for the Maldives , Hormuz , and the Arabian states of Djofar, Lasa, and Aden, and the two African states of Mogadishu and Barawa ; Zheng He visits Ganbali [].

Treasure fleet regroups at Samudera Pasai Sultanate and visit Siam before heading back to China []. Ming forces are dispatched against Arughtai but fail to engage him in combat and return to Beijing [].

The Yongle Emperor launches an offensive against Arughtai only to find out he had already been defeated by the Oirats [].

Zheng He is sent on a diplomatic mission to Palembang to confer "a gauze cap, a ceremonial robe with floral gold woven into gold patterns in the silk, and a silver seal" on Shi Jinqing 's son Shi Jisun [].

The Yongle Emperor leads an expedition against the remnants of Arughtai 's horde but fails to find them []. The Yongle Emperor dies [].

Zhu Gaozhi becomes the Hongxi Emperor and terminates the treasure voyages []. Metropolitan exam graduates fill posts down to the county magistrate [83].

The Hongxi Emperor dies []. Zhu Zhanji becomes the Xuande Emperor []. Zhu Gaoxu rebels []. Zhu Gaoxu is defeated []. Ming dynasty sends Yishiha to the Wild Jurchens to construct shipyards and warehouses [].

Ming forces are withdrawn from Jiaozhi [99]. Uriankhai raid Ming borders and the Xuande Emperor personally leads troops to repel them [].

The Xuande Emperor conducts a major military review on the outskirts of Beijing []. Mounted infantry carrying hand cannons are employed by the Ming army.

The Xuande Emperor orders a tax reduction on all imperial lands []. The Xuande Emperor issues orders for the seventh voyage []. Treasure fleet departs from Nanjing [].

Liujiagang Inscription is erected []. The Changle Inscription is erected and the fleet departs from Changle [].

Ming dynasty sends Yishiha to present seals to Ming-allied Jurchens and to repair the Yongning Temple []. Zheng He dies [].

Treasure fleet departs from Hormuz and heads back to China []. Relations between Ming and Japan are renewed [].

Treasure fleet arrives back in China []. Ma Huan publishes his Yingya Shenglan []. Gong Zhen publishes his Xiyang Fanguo Zhi [].

The Northern China Plain and Shandong suffer from drought and plagues []. Ming dynasty bans building seagoing ships [].

Fei Xin publishes his Xingcha Shenglan []. Shanxi and Shaanxi experience drought []. Flooding strikes northern Jiangsu [].

Ming carries out a punitive expedition against Si Renfa of Mong Mao for attacking neighboring tusi , but fails to defeat him []. Flooding strikes the northern China Plain and Shandong [].

Famine strikes Zhejiang []. Ming forces attack Mong Mao []. Mong Mao is defeated but Si Renfa escapes to Ava []. Empress Zhang Hongxi dies [].

Ming forces defeat Si Jifa but fail to capture him []. Famine strikes Shanxi and Shaanxi []. Ava hands over Si Renfa to Ming in return for their support in attacking Hsenwi [].

Drought and a plague epidemic strike Zhejiang []. Si Renfa is executed. Floods strike Jiangnan []. Ye Zongliu rebels with a group of silver miners in Zhejiang [].

Famine strikes northern Jiangsu []. Deng Maoqi rebels with a group of tenant farmers northwest of the Fujian and Jiangxi border [].

Ming forces kill Ye Zongliu , but his rebels remain intact and retreat further south to siege Chuzhou []. Yellow River dikes burst [].

Drought and locust plague strike northwest China []. Drought strikes Jiangnan []. Ming forces invade Mong Yang for harboring Si Jifa , but he manages to escape again [].

Deng Maoqi 's rebels are defeated []. Esen Taishi of the Oirats and de facto ruler of the Northern Yuan launches an invasion of the Ming dynasty [].

The Ming rearguard is defeated []. Ye Zongliu 's rebels are defeated []. Zhu Qiyu becomes the Jingtai Emperor [].

Esen Taishi lays siege to Beijing but fails to take it and withdraws after 5 days []. Yellow River dikes burst again causing the river to change course slightly [].

The Zhengtong Emperor is released and arrives back in Beijing , where he is kept under house arrest by the Jingtai Emperor [].

Yao and Miao people rebel in Guizhou and Huguang []. Famine strikes Shandong []. Yao and Miao rebels are suppressed [].

Northern China experiences flooding []. Unusually heavy snowfall causes starvation in Suzhou and Hanzhou []. Xu Youzhen finishes repairs on the Yellow River dikes [].

Widespread drought affects Central China []. Miao people in Huguang rebel and are suppressed []. The former emperor is reinstated by the military and becomes the Tianshun Emperor [].

Rebellion of Cao Qin: Cao Qin rebels and tries to storm Beijing but gets arrested and is forced to commit suicide []. Hou Dagou of the Yao people rebels in Guangxi [].

Documents of the treasure voyages are removed from the archives of the Ministry of War and destroyed by Liu Daxia on the basis that they were "deceitful exaggerations of bizarre things far removed from the testimony of people's ears and eyes," and that "the expeditions of Sanbao to the Western Ocean wasted tens of myriads of money and grain, and moreover the people who met their deaths [on these expeditions] may be counted in the myriads.

Although he returned with wonderful precious things, what benefit was it to the state? This was merely an action of bad government of which ministers should severely disapprove.

Even if the old archives were still preserved they should be destroyed in order to suppress [a repetition of these things] at the root. Ming forces defeat and capture Hou Dagou but the rebellion continues anyways [].

Miao people rebel in Hunan as well as the Sichuan - Guizhou border and are suppressed []. Liu Tong rebels near Xiangyang and is defeated [].

Mongols rebel at Guyuan []. The Mongol rebellion at Guyuan is suppressed []. The governor of Liaodong , Chen Yue , attacks the Jurchens and demands bribes from Jurchen embassies [].

Remnants of Liu Tong 's rebels rebel again []. Liu Tong 's rebels are defeated []. Ming forces launch an attack on Hami in conjunction with Mongol allies but retreat when the Mongols abandon them [].

Yu Zijun directs the reconstruction and extension of the Great Wall of China to seal off Ordos from the south [].

Miao people rebel in Hunan and are suppressed []. Vagrant population around Xiangyang rebel until the government allows them to claim lands with reduced taxes [].

Miao people rebel in Sichuan []. Number of eunuchs passes 10, []. The Chenghua Emperor falls ill []. The Chenghua Emperor dies [].

Zhu Youtang becomes the Hongzhi Emperor []. Europe reaches parity with China in health, fertility rate, life expectancy, and human capital []. Yellow River floods but Liu Daxia successfully directs the river to flow south of Shandong , stabilizing the course of the Yellow River until the 19th century [].

National military reforms switch to recruiting volunteers for local units []. 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 , [85] [86] [87] [88] [89] 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 , [92] 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. 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.

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. 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: 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.

Not only was the blurring of town and country evident, but also of socioeconomic class in the traditional four occupations Chinese: 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.

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. Clashes with Mongols were nearly incessant.

During the first decades of the dynasty, the Mongols were driven north to Outer Mongolia present-day Mongolia , but the Ming could not claim a decisive victory.

From then onward the Ming were generally able to maintain their northern border, though by the later stages of the dynasty it in effect only reached the line of the Great Wall.

On the northeast, the Juchen Chinese: Nüzhen, or Ruzhen , who rose in the northeast around the end of the 16th century, pressed the Ming army to withdraw successively southward, and eventually the Ming made the east end of the Great Wall their last line of defense.

But the brief occupation of Vietnam was met with determined local guerrilla resistance, and the Ming government quickly decided to restore the boundary to its original line.

It never again attempted to push southward. Also during the Ming, Japan became more aggressive. In the 15th century Japanese raiders teamed up with Chinese pirates to make coastal raids in Chinese waters, which were of a relatively small scale but were still highly disruptive to Chinese coastal cities.

The Ming government was gradually weakened by factionalism between civil officials, interference by palace eunuchs, the burdens of a growing population, and a succession of weak and inattentive emperors.

The Manchu drove out Li Zicheng and then remained, establishing the Qing dynasty. Despite the many foreign contacts made during the Ming period, cultural developments were characterized by a generally conservative and inward-looking attitude.

Ming architecture is largely undistinguished with the Forbidden City , a palace complex built in Beijing in the 15th century by the Yongle emperor and subsequently enlarged and rebuilt , its main representative.

The best Ming sculpture is found not in large statues but in small ornamental carvings of jade, ivory, wood, and porcelain. There were many new developments in ceramics, along with the continuation of established traditions.

Three major types of decoration emerged: Much of this porcelain was produced in the huge factory at Jingdezhen in present-day Jiangsu province.

The Ming regime restored the former literary examinations for public office, which pleased the literary world, dominated by Southerners.

In their own writing the Ming sought a return to classical prose and poetry styles and, as a result, produced writings that were imitative and generally of little consequence.

Writers of vernacular literature, however, made real contributions, especially in novels and drama. Chinese traditional drama originating in the Song dynasty had been banned by the Mongols but survived underground in the South, and in the Ming era it was restored.

This was chuanqi , a form of musical theatre with numerous scenes and contemporary plots. What emerged was kunqu style, less bombastic in song and accompaniment than other popular theatre.

Under the Ming it enjoyed great popularity, indeed outlasting the dynasty by a century or more. It was adapted into a full-length opera form, which, although still performed today, was gradually replaced in popularity by jingxi Peking opera during the Qing dynasty.

We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles.

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Ming Dynasty - Mobil6000 -

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