Ming Dynasty Achievements include building great wall of china,the ability to create & maintain a large administrative system,woodblock print, etc
The History of China is particularly interesting and long drawn out. It has seen several dynasties rise and fall, the Qing, the Ming, the Yuan dynasties, etc. are almost synonymous with the idea of “Imperial China.” A massive country, China has its fair share of culture and diversity, with several ethnic groups of prominence, the Machus in North East, the ubiquitous Han, and even the Steppe people from Mongols, etc. are some of the ethnic groups that played the most central role in Chinese History.
Among its several dynasties, one holds a special role in the minds of enthusiasts and historians alike- the “Ming Dynasty”. The Ming Dynasty ruled over a massive empire, covering the expanse of China, from the rich and fertile area around the Yellow River to the arid lands of Tibet. The Ming Dynasty rose to prominence under the guise of the all-powerful Hongwu Emperor- Zhu Yuanzhang, who established the Ming Dynasty, with himself as its first member. The key feature of Imperial China is that of the “Mandate of Heaven”, an expression representing the divine justification of the Emperor’s rule, natural disasters were interpreted as a sign that the “Mandate of Heaven had been withdrawn from the Emperor, which would result in rebellions and uprisings. As China was ravaged by famine, plagues, and revolts, The Hongwu Emperor gathered forces to drive out the Mongol Yuan Dynasty out of China back to the Steppes, from where they had once poured in the days of Genghis Khan. The Hongwu emperor claiming the “Mandate of Heaven” started off the reign of one of history’s most powerful dynasties.
The Hongwu Emperor presided over an era characterized by unparalleled reforms. China’s administration was and to an extent still is a mammoth of a task, and in those times without access to modern technology, endless records had to be compiled, studied and conclusions are drawn out. But the Hongwu Emperor, himself had come from very humble origins, he knew how the peasant was oppressed and suffered. While some succeeded, and some failed, perhaps the greatest feature of the land reforms, he issued an edict, which allowed for peasants to receive ownership of any new land which was fallow, that they brought under cultivation. This decree was widely popular, the period around this edict witnessed an unprecedented increase in land under cultivation. Hongwu’s reign allowed for a great deal of religious and minority tolerance, and he initiated several programs to repair and build new Mosques in the country.
While he presided over reforms, created a very strict social order, centralized and consolidated power, his ultimate aim was to ensure the security of the nation from the defeated yet still very strong Mongols. He promulgated societal structures, hereditary in nature for different categories. But the single most crucial and important one was that of “Military Households” who were obligated in a hereditary manner. This was to ensure a social class of soldiers, these soldiers manned a massive army, over a million strong.
But with time, came age, which led to conflicts as regards the succession of Dynasty, ending with Zhu Di, one of the Hongwu Emperor’s most influential sons burning the Imperial palace along with the intended successor- Jiangwen, grandson of the Honwu Emperor.
Zhu Di, proclaiming himself as the “Yongle Emperor”, reversed many of his father’s policies. He created the Imperial City in Modern Day Beijing, with the infamous Forbidden City at its center, the Military continued to occupy the Central seat in Imperial planning, with the Yongle Emperor commissioning a massive multipurpose navy.
While the succession carried on, with the highs and lows of the Ming Dynasty. Now let’s take a more detailed look into the ming dynasty’s achievements & accomplishments over China. Having to administer over an insanely large amount of area from a Central Authority led to reliance and usage of Grand Secretaries who led the top agencies of the government. The Grand secretaries were very well learned, competent, well versed in Confucian literature. A vast number of bureaucrats throughout the nation appeared for the highly competitive Imperial examinations to get a possible seat at the extremely prestigious Hanlin Academy. The Grand secretariat was part of the Imperial Authority and acted in more of a “coordinating” role. While exclusive organs of the state existed in the form of Ministries, each suited to their functional role. The vast bureaucratic apparatus was staffed by scholarly officials, who were only selected based on their merit, even provincial quotas were enacted to prevent the concentration of power to bureaucrats belonging from certain regions, specifically the more prosperous ones. These Scholar officials had to pass rigorous testing, which mainly relied on knowledge of Confucian texts to test the applicants, these tests were open to all and highly competitive to ensure maximum qualities and abilities in the scholar-officials. The ability to create and maintain such a large administrative system is perhaps the greatest achievement of the Ming Dynasty.
Cultural activities largely flourished and thrived in the Ming times, especially in the more stable regions of the country, with stability being a pronounced characteristic of the Ming times. Literacy in China was long a very privileged and uncommon phenomenon in China. Knowledge of reading and writing classical Chinese was mainly tied to the upper classes in the societal order of China under the Ming Dynasty. But there emerged a different market due to the growing prominence of Vernacular Chinese out of the elite classes. People with basic literacy and education now had written media for their own usage, short stories, novels, and the likes suddenly found themselves a huge market. These circumstances and conditions allowed for the perfect budding ground for literary arts, which witnessed a widespread growth in their creation as well as their consumption.
An increase in prosperity led to the growth of “connoisseurship” among the elite classes of the society, who collected artworks and other artifacts. This encouraged artists to continue to develop priceless art. Painters and artists of the time innovated the existing drawing techniques in China and developed their own creative and refined ways. The lacquerware and the porcelain became just as prominent mediums of expression for artists just as the canvas. The designs on them would contain highly complex and intricate artistic drawings and patterns. The homes of the prosperous households would contain exquisite pieces of arts, furniture with patterns, porcelain wares with patterns, etc. were all arranged in such households to give the most aesthetically pleasing look.
China had long been visited by foreign missionaries, traders, and all manners of visitors, but in the Age of Century during the 16th Century is when the international contact of Imperial China began to grow and would bring about advancements in the Chinese strategy but would eventually lead to far-reaching consequence and would even in a way contribute to the collapse of the Ming. The Ming Dynasty-era Imperial China mainly relied on paper notes on base coins as forms of currency but had to resort to transactions in silver and gold ingots as forgeries had led to the massive devaluing of the currency in a form of hyperinflation, the Chinese economy while tremendously large was very bloated. Foreign trade brought in potato and Maize, easy to cultivate in large quantities, abating the hunger issues in parts of China, even creating population growth. Soon the Europeans developed a taste for Chinese goods and poured in silver, all manners of currency to get the Chinese goods. This revitalization was exactly what China needed, this influx of foreign silver reinvigorated the Chinese currency. Farmers now had the silver to pay the government with taxes, which very much obliged in collecting them so.
In its large and very interesting History, the Qing dynasty brought several achievements in the name of Imperial China. Created an era of stability, raised one of the largest standing armies-over a million strong, built a large and mighty fleet, brought up advancements for the Chinese society. They linked various sections and gave the Great Wall of China its current form. But like all good things, the Ming Dynasty also ended. While the foreign trade had brought new innovation and helped the Chinese economy, eventually circumstances, like the “Little Ice Age” and with foreign silver cut off, the Chinese economy’s long sputtering began to collapse. The Little Ice age gravely affected Chinese agriculture, leading to famines and massive food shortages. The sudden dearth of Silver in the Chinese economy made tax payment and collection impossible. All the factors indicating a loss of the “Mandate of Heaven”, an irony compared to how the Hongwu Emperor had established the Ming Dynasty. The new and emerging power in the Northeast- the Manchus began endless and exhausting raids into China. With the deteriorating internal condition of China, Li Zicheng, a former member of the Army rebelled in the deplorable conditions, and with his forces defeated the underpaid and underfed Ming Army. And in the end, the Manchus crossed the Great Wall after a former Ming General opened up the gates, the Manchus went on to take the mantle of the next ruling Dynasty of “Imperial China” and would be the last.