Home > Free Essays > History > World History > Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties

Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties Research Paper

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Sep 21st, 2021


Chinese civilization of the Middle Ages was one of the most advanced in that historical framework. By the time of the Crusades, the Chinese already used gunpowder, printing press, and paper. Their knowledge in natural sciences, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics defined the high advantage of China if compared to Mediaeval Europe. There are many explanations for such historical particularities: China was considered to be an isolated state for centuries as it’s geographically protected by mountains in the west and desert in the North and its geographical position guaranteed relative protection from the invaders. Moreover, the Chinese didn’t experience any religious domination which could prevent the society from gradual development, unlike Mediaeval Europe where all spheres of life were subordinated to regulations from the side of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, in many cases, the remoteness of China was the main reason for its failure in the wars against the Mongols and Manchus dynasty, as in the times of Empire’s decline, famine, or troubled times it became very vulnerable for the invaders.

Chinese culture and society after the invasion by Genghis khan

After the invasion of China by Genghis Khan in the 13th century, Chinese culture and society, in general, were experiencing a decline. The decline of China during these years can be explained by the decline of nationalism, national culture, and humiliation of the Chinese as an ethnic group. The further revolts against Mongols were mainly caused because of the discrimination policies towards Chinese and mainly because of discrimination towards Han Chinese. Mongols changed the Chinese system of government and administration giving the most miserable positions to the native Chinese. The highest official positions were taken by Mongols who were assisted by foreigners, Chinese role in the official hierarchy of the Yuan Dynasty was minimal.

Such conditions created a favorable environment for the growth of patriotism and a national sense of dignity among unsatisfied native Chinese of different social statuses. Many historians consider that this was the main reason which led to peasant revolts and the failure of the Yuan dynasty. But the opinion of such historians as Joseph Walker, for example, diverges with general opinion. He writes that the main reason for the rebellion was the over-circulation of paper money, which led to inflation in a relatively short period on the other hand with the refusal from irrigation projects caused by Yellow river flooding. Such events served as a catalyzer of peasant rebellions which spread all over the country. The leading role in the peasant revolution was played by Han Chinese led by a group of Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu Yuanzhang succeeded in the struggle against the Mongols and 1368 he established Ming Dynasty with residence in Nanjing. Zhu Yuanzhang took the title of Hong Wu and for the next 260 years, China was ruled by the members of the Zhu family.

Establishing of Confucianism

Hongwu started his reign with the great reformation of all spheres of life of the Chinese empire. As he was from a poor peasant family and later was a Buddhist monk, he understood quite well what eroded society and state from the inside. To reintroduce traditional Chinese values he established Confucianism as the state religion again, and from that time social and political life was based on the principles of Confucianism. Hongwu reorganized the army according to the military traditions of the Tang dynasty, also known as Wei-so. The Wei-so system was explained as a strong army with principles that included avoiding bonds between common soldiers and officers of different ranks. A strong army was one of the main priorities of Hongwu’s state, as he aimed to restore China’s superiority in the region by analyzing the fatal mistakes of former emperors. The main reform laid in the innovation of the military organization. Soldiers of the Ming dynasty were trained in their military districts and were mobilized during the time of war. When the war was over, soldiers returned to their districts and were mainly dismissed. Commanders had control over soldiers only during the time of war, which allowed to improve mobility of the army and avoided autocracy of commanders who didn’t have personal control over soldiers all the time. Such a method eliminated the personal dependence of soldiers and insured hierarchy and subordination in the army. On the other side, such military organization was very practical as it didn’t require supplying of the army with the provision regularly as it would create an additional burden on the state and peasantry.

Chinese agriculture

Hongwu made very progressive reforms in Chinese agriculture. To eliminate mass peasant poverty he supported the creation of self-supporting farming communities, which were often organized based on expropriated lands of landowners from the Song dynasty. For example in 1370, Hongwu ordered to distribute lands among landless peasants who reached the age of manhood and to protect their property rights it was stated that this land has a status of being untransferable in the future. Later Hongwu also liberalized landowning legislature by issuing laws that guaranteed freedom from taxation for the fallow lands which were brought for farming. Such practices were met with enthusiasm from the side of common peasants who expanded the area of cultivated lands several times (Brook, 1998).

Hongwu also insisted on the abolition of private slavery and in 1372 he ordered the release of innocent slaves who became victims of former famines, government also was buying out children from slavery who were sold by parents in the times of great famine.

Population growth in the early years of the Ming dynasty

The early years of the Ming dynasty are also marked by considerable population growth (50% growth during the reign of ZhuYuanzhang) achieved by well-planned and reforms in state administration, taxation, and the agricultural sector. Historical chronicles describe prosperity as follows:

During his reign, grain production was so abundant that rice rotted in the granaries. In many aspects Yongle’s military and civil achievements outshone those of his father.” (Pi-Ching, 2002).

Bureaucratic apparatus of the Ming dynasty

The bureaucratic apparatus of the Ming dynasty was developed under the traditions of Confucianism. Officials had to pass a special exam before they could hold a position. Their activity was strictly supervised and those accused of corruption or serious faults could be even sentenced to capital punishment. The most traditional form of punishment for bureaucrats was public whipping, it’s often mentioned in historical chronicles that the scare-crow of a former official served as a decoration of the office of a newly appointed official. It’s important to note that Ming introduced a well-developed suppressive mechanism of violence and tortures to common practice in China. Peasant revolts were always bloodily suppressed by state troops as “dynasty consigned them to the status of rebels, from which there were the only two exits, dynastic overthrow or suppression. ”(Robinson, 2002) The absolutism of Ming emperor’s is described as follows: “In the final analysis, Yongle’s brutality and ruthlessness mixed with a moral tone and high ideals would make him the perfect absolutist monarch–a man who believed himself to be the one and only master of the entire world” (Pi-Ching, 2002 ).

Trade during the mid-Ming dynasty

Under the Ming dynasty, China experienced a revival of international trade that was lost in earlier centuries. Even though during the early years of the Ming dynasty private trade was prohibited and merchants were discriminated against, illegal trade was flourishing in bordering provinces. Later private trade prohibition was abolished as the state did not employ the possibility of private trade taxation as this article of treasury income was not utilized. Trade during the mid-Ming dynasty was among the main articles of state income, as Chinese merchants were trading all over Asian Pacific and even reached African shores and established colonies on the island of Madagascar. Monetary reforms during the Ming epoch and later refusal from paper money which produced hyperinflation during the reign of the first emperors stimulated silver import to the country and promoted the policy of mercantilism, which guaranteed free exchange of currency together with the basis for the economy’s stability expressed in the accumulated amount of silver.

Last emperors of the Ming dynasty

Yet, the power of the Ming Empire starting from the late 16th century was shaky. The last emperors of the Ming dynasty shifted their activities from autocratic state rule to enjoyment of luxuries, which dramatically weakened the state machine from the inside.

In the late 16th century, a considerable threat appeared from the side of Manchus(ethnicity which is considered to be decedents of Tungucian people of Siberia), people who populated territories of Mongolia. Machus understood that it was impossible to defeat the Chinese army alone, as it was well organized and had very talented generals. Yet, Manchus made an emphasis on the total militarization of society upbringing warriors from childhood. Manchus hired former generals and officers of the Chinese army to train their troops in the Chinese tradition. After several decades of wars and treaties with neighboring states in the west, Manchus appeared able to organize a strong and numerous army to start the invasion. Starting from the late 1620’s Manchus made several attempts to defeat the Chinese army, but only succeeded in the 1640s. In the 1630-1640s Chinese empire suffered numerous peasant rebels, which ended with the victory of peasant leader y Li Zicheng over official Beijing of Ming. Yet, Li Zicheng’s victory only brought disorientation and chaos to the country, which was masterly used by Manchus who gained the support of the Chinese elite and suppressed rebels. Manchus in many respects continued the political and administrative course of the Ming empire improving bureaucratic apparatus and continuing centralization: “The Qing model involved the use of new technologies, the establishment of special forms of local government, the planting of agricultural colonies, and the development of commerce and trade. All of these were done with the overt or hidden threat of force. Once the use of force declined, so did the effectiveness of Chinese control. One of the particular features of Qing (and later) expansion was the settling of involuntary migrants in the border regions–convicts, disbanded soldiers, disgraced officials, and the desperately poor. These unhappy migrants were as unwelcome in their new “homes” as they were in their places of origin. The use of the borderlands as oubliettes may be one of the most serious flaws in the centuries-long march to the west. It has ensured that the idea of moving west is a dismal one that few people have ever accepted with anything but resignation, while at the same time convincing the inhabitants of the borderlands that they are being punished by having undesirables foisted on them..” (Lary, 2005) By the 17th century Manchus improved state legislature and conducted several financial reforms to eliminate corruption and embezzlement of state funds by officials. Unlike the Ming dynasty, Manchus saw the basis of state prosperity in territorial expansion:

The urge to dominate and control the western regions, to bring them to heel, was not achieved cheaply. To fund its huge campaigns, to put the huge armies into the field, the Qing rulers were forced to commit most of their resources to the project. The Qing state and society were organized for war, not for peace. The costs of this expansion were enormous. This was an imperial overreach, ultimately too costly for the state to bear. While there were strong and determined emperors like Kangxi and his grandson Qianlong, the momentum kept the expansion going, but once it had reached its full expansion, the gradual decline of the dynasty…” ( Lary, 2005).

In the issues of foreign politics Manchus promoted China’s isolation on state-level reducing any possible contacts with Western World including sea trade.


In conclusion it’s important to note that despite the attempts of such charismatic emperors as Hung Wu of the Ming dynasty and emperors of Manchus dynasty Qing, China’s geographical isolation, its ethnically diverse population, and bordering undeveloped states played a key role in the decline of both dynasties. There is no argument that both Manchus and Ming were very progressive in the early stage, but their decline was inevitable. Ming came to power due to the growing nationalism of the Chinese and hyperinflation caused by paper money together with other misfortunes such as famine and epidemics. During the Song dynasty, the Chinese empire represented a relatively consolidated society, with Chinese of different social classes who could unite under one idea for national liberation from the Mongolian political elite. China up to the 14th century was in decline, there was not a big difference between eastern and western provinces which was an important factor in the mobilization against the Yuan Mongol dynasty. The period of the Ming empire decline was different from the decline Yuan dynasty, as by that time China was a regional political and economical leader, which expanded its borders and had regional influence over the territories of modern Mongolia and the Russian Far East in the north, eastern Turkestan in the west and Tibet and Indo-China peninsula in the south. It was promoting protectionist policies over the neighboring states and was the dominant trading partner of these states and nomadic tribes. Understandably bordering territories of China were inhabited by different confessional and ethnic minorities, which were guaranteed certain protection from the central government of Beijing. But after 100 years of prosperity under the Ming dynasty, the epoch decline started. It was rather a crisis in centralized Unitarian administration than an economical or political crisis.

Chinese lacked unity and integrity. Neither a strong army nor high economical and financial potential could guarantee safety for the country which lacked universal integrity. Volunteer isolation of China from its Western neighbors and the absence of any desire to establish contacts with European powers contributed to the decline of the Ming Empire. The economical and social gap within the provinces was obvious: eastern provinces which had better climatic and geographic position were prosperous due to farming and intensive trade with Indonesia, India, and Japan (even though that open trade with Japan was banned for a long time). That’s why the invasion of Manchus didn’t meet a forced and united resistance from the side of Chinese society which was involved in class struggle and prolonged peasant revolts. It was merely a fault of the central government and the emperor, which substituted totalitarian rule by the authoritarian plutocracy of his officials. That’s why the foundation of the Manchus Qing dynasty is seen more like the change of ruling elites rather than the invasion and occupation. Han Chinese ethnic elite was replaced by Manchus who in many respects continued the political course of the Ming dynasty but also initiated the expansion of Chinese state on neighboring states in the West and Southwest. The decline of the Qing empire is explained by different reasons as well. After the invasions were over, militarized Manchus lost their potential as once hordes of Mongols lost it when they reached Eastern Europe. Its artificial isolationism only deepened the process of inevitable decline and future dependence on colonial powers of Europe.


Brook, T. The Confusions of Pleasure: commerce and culture in Ming China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Lary, D. China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Asia Journal article by; Pacific Affairs, Vol. 78, 2005.

Robinson, D. Brook, T. Bandits, Eunuchs, and the Son of Heaven: Rebellion and the Economy of Violence in Mid-Ming China Journal article China Review International, Vol. 9, 2002.

Pi-Ching, Hsu Perpetual Happiness: The Ming Emperor Yongle Journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 122, 2002.

Huang, R. 1587, A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.

This research paper on Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Research Paper sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2021, September 21). Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties. https://ivypanda.com/essays/founding-of-two-dynastiesming-and-qing/


IvyPanda. (2021, September 21). Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/founding-of-two-dynastiesming-and-qing/

Work Cited

"Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties." IvyPanda, 21 Sept. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/founding-of-two-dynastiesming-and-qing/.

1. IvyPanda. "Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties." September 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/founding-of-two-dynastiesming-and-qing/.


IvyPanda. "Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties." September 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/founding-of-two-dynastiesming-and-qing/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties." September 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/founding-of-two-dynastiesming-and-qing/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Founding of Ming and Qing Dynasties'. 21 September.

Powered by CiteTotal, best citing machine
More related papers