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Reasons for the Collapse of the Ming Dynasty Research Paper


Introduction

The Ming Dynasty was a superpower kingdom in China that ruled from 1368 to 1644 (Brook, 2010). The dynasty transformed China greatly for the 276 years that characterized its reign. It took control over china after the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty that was governed by Mongols.

Historians describe Ming as one of the greatest dynasties in the history of China because of its good leadership that created an orderly and social society (Brook, 2010). The dynasty was the last one that was governed by the Han Chinese ethnic group.

Their rule ended after its decline ad collapse during the reign of Emperor Shenzong. He implemented several policies that worked against the empire. The policies worked in favor of their enemies.

The fall of the empire was mainly caused by rampant corruption in the dynasty’s courts and the bad rule of the eunuchs (Brook, 2010). Bad leadership and natural calamities were major causes of poverty and hardship among the people.

The people were so fed up with living in hardship that they started rebelling against the emperor. One of the leaders who served in the rebel army led the people to revolt against the emperor Weizong. In 1644, Li Zicheng captured Xian and put it under his rule.

Reasons for the collapse of the Ming Dynasty

Many factors contributed to the collapse of the Ming Dynasty. Reasons for the collapse of the Ming Dynasty include rampant corruption and misappropriation of funds, influence of the eunuchs, economic breakdown due to scarcity of silver, natural disasters, rise of the Manchus, and rebellion by peasants (Erey, 1993).

The effects and influence of these factors culminated into the collapse of the Ming Dynasty.

Bad reign of the Wanli emperor

The Wang Empire was severely affected by the Imjin War that it waged against the Japanese. The war drained most of the finances that the dynasty had amassed over the years.

When Wanli became the ruler of Wang, his rule was characterized by great achievements such as economic prosperity and significant social integration and growth (Erey, 1993). He easily achieved this because he had chosen advisors to help him rule the dynasty.

In addition, he put great efforts and attention to the dynasty’s state affairs. His allies were very significant during his reign. For example, his secretary formed great alliances with senior officials that served in the government (Erey, 1993).

However, after his departure, senior officials started forming political factions whose main goal was to oppose the rule of the Wanli Emperor. As the factions grew stronger and became more influential, Wanli secluded himself and communicated with his ministers through the eunuchs.

This change in administrative roles weakened his administration. It led to massive corruption because Wanli’s senior officials had to bribe the eunuchs to have their messages delivered to the emperor (Erey, 1993).

Influence of eunuchs

A new system of governance emerged when eunuchs assumed the role of intermediaries between the emperor and senior officials (Huang, 1981). Emperors developed different rules and regulations that were aimed at regulating the influence of the eunuchs.

For example, the Hongwu Emperor did not allow eunuchs to participate in politics or gain knowledge of how to read. However, this changed during the reign of the Yongle Emperor.

During his reign, eunuchs assumed great administrative roles and were responsible for managing the dynasty’s workshops and armies (Huang, 1981). In addition, they held administrative roles such as appointment and promotion of officials.

As a result, the eunuchs developed their own system of governance that differed from that of the dynasty’s civil service. During the reign of emperors that came before Wanli, the eunuchs had little influence on the governance of the dynasty. However, during the reign of Wanli, they received more power from the emperor.

The emperor allowed them to collect taxes, and appoint and promote officials (Huang, 1981). Their new roles led to a period of tyrannical governance. The reign of Wanli had several tyrannical eunuchs that contributed to the collapse of the empire.

For example, Wei Zhongxian tortured individuals who openly criticized his rule, and controlled the court of the Tianqi Emperor thus denying justice to the people (Huang, 1981). He used the dynasty’s money to construct palaces and temples in his honor.

In addition, he appointed his friends and relatives into administrative roles even though they were unqualified for the jobs. His domination of courts led to great instability because justice was not awarded and corruption was massive.

The negative effect of the massive corruption in courts was augmented by rebellion among the people, natural calamities, and invasion by rival dynasties (Huang, 1981). Despite the defeat of Wei by Chingzen, corruption did not stop. It became a core cause of the dynasty’s collapse.

Economic constraints and natural disasters

Silver was the main medium of exchange that was used in the Wang Dynasty. However, towards the end of the reign of Wanli and during the reign of his two successors, there emerged a scarcity of silver (Huang, 1981).

As a result, Philip IV of Spain made efforts to eradicate illegal smuggling of silver to china from Peru and New Spain. He advocated for legal shipping of silver from America through Spanish ports. In 1639, the reigning regime in China stopped trade relations with European countries (Huang, 1981).

This further contributed to worsening the scarcity of silver. This had severe consequences on the dynasty because paying taxes was impossible considering that silver was the main medium of exchange. People started to hoard the little silver they possessed.

This caused an increase in the exchange rate of copper and silver. The exchange rate adversely affected farmers because they sold their produce in copper and paid their taxes in silver (Huang, 1981). They had to buy silver with the copper they earned in order to pay taxes.

Natural disasters were another cause of the collapse of the Ming Dynasty. Famines were frequent in the dynasty due to the cold and dry weather of the region (Hansen, 1997). Other natural calamities include flooding during the rainy season.

The effects of natural calamities was augmented by poor irrigation projects, tax increase that overburdened the people, military desertions, and unsuccessful projects that were started to control flooding (Roberts, 1999).

The government was financially unstable and could not offer any help that could have eradicated the problems. In addition, a pestilence killed a large portion of the dynasty’s population.

An earthquake that took place during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in 1556 killed more than 830,000 and reduced the political strength of the Ming Dynasty (Roberts, 1999).

Rise of the Manchu

The rise of the Manchu was a major cause of the collapse of the Ming Dynasty. The Manchu comprised Manchurian tribes that were consolidated by Nurhaci, a Jurchen leader who united the Jurchen tribes after a feud with the Mind Dynasty (Roberts, 1999).

Nurhaci offered his military support to Ming during the Invasion of Korea by Japan. However, Ming declined the offer but instead honored him for offering them his help. Jurchen later overtly renounced the sovereignty of Ming.

This was aimed at gaining the support of Jurchen tribes that were supporters of the Ming Emperor (Roberts, 1999). This led to a military feud between the Manchus and the Ming Dynasty.

However, the Ming dynasty successfully resisted the invasion of the Manchu because they had better and more powerful weapons than the Manchus. Despite their superiority, they were unable to reclaim their rule over the Manchus.

The Manchus remained a threat to the rule of the Ming emperor. They launched several raids on Ming that destabilized the dynasty significantly because they avoided open battles with the Ming Armies (Roberts, 1999).

In addition to the raids, the dynasty was further weakened by conflicts among the ministers. The Manchus developed a strategy to attack Ming. They halted raids and instead focused on developing weapons and forming associations with other dynasty’s that were against the sovereignty of Ming.

The Ming Empire was further compromised by liaisons between their government officials and Manchu (Hansen, 1997). Ming’s officials were recruited by Manchu as their advisors.

Owing to these associations, the Manchu were able to conquer Inner Mongolia in 1633. As a result, they recruited Mongols into their armies and expanded conquered certain strongholds that were under Ming’s control (Roberts, 1999).

Rebellion by peasants

Rebellion in the dynasty began in the early years of 1630s when the government failed provide certain supplies that the people needed. This failure was despite the fact that the people were living in abject poverty.

The leader of the rebellion was known as Li Zicheng. He received support from the people because he had promised them to abolish taxes levied on agricultural products as well as carry out land reforms (Roberts, 1999).

Li’s army grew gradually into a strong and powerful army that strived to solve the problems of the people. For example, it took land from landowners and divided it among the people, fulfilling the land reform that had been promised by Zicheng (Roberts, 1999). This won them the favor of the people.

People were tired of living in poverty while paying high taxes. The Chinese military could not withstand the constant assaults from Manchus and the peasants who had formed rebellion groups. As Zicheng received more support from the peasants, he established the Dashun Dynasty (Hansen, 1997).

He later launched an attack on Beijing that marked the end of the reign of Chingzen. During the raid that led to the fall of Ming Dynasty, Chingzen committed suicide because he lacked a strong army to resist the attack. He was the last emperor of Ming and his death marked the collapse of the dynasty (Roberts, 1999).

After the death of the emperor, Ming had several strongholds that were not yet conquered by the Manchu. However, their individual efforts to resist attacks were insufficient to enable them to reclaim their dynasty from the Manchus.

Conclusion

The Ming Dynasty was a superpower kingdom in China that took control over china after the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty that was governed by Mongols. Historians describe Ming as one of the greatest dynasties in the history of china. Its collapse was mainly due to poor leadership and inefficient policies.

The main causes of the collapse include rampant corruption and misappropriation of funds, influence of the eunuchs, economic breakdown due to unavailability of silver, natural disasters, rise of the Manchu, and rebellion by peasants.

The Imjin War drained most of the finances that the dynasty had amassed over the years. When Wanli became the ruler of Wang, his rule was characterized by great achievements such as economic prosperity and significant social integration and growth. Eunuchs also contributed significantly to the collapse of the dynasty.

They held great administrative roles and were responsible for managing the dynasty’s workshops and armies. In addition, they participated in administrative roles such as appointment and promotion of officials.

As a result, the eunuchs developed their own system of governance that differed from that of the dynasty’s civil service. The dynasty experience severe economic constraints when silver because unavailable. Farmers were forced to pay higher taxes because taxes were paid in silver and they sold their produce in copper.

The rise of the Manchu was a major cause of the collapse of the Ming Dynasty. They forced an army that attacked Ming until they the Manchu took full control.

Finally, frequent rebellions by peasants culminated into the collapse of the Ming dynasty. The peasants were motivated by the promise of land reforms and eradication of poverty. The death of Chingzen marked the collapse of Ming Dynasty.

References

Brook, T. (2010). The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming dynasties. New York: Harvard University Press.

Erey, P. (1993). Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. New York: Free Press.

Hansen, V. (1997). The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600. New York: Cengage Learning.

Huang, R. (1981). 1857, a Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline. New York: Yale University Press.

Roberts, J. (1999). A Concise History of china. New York: Harvard University Press.

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IvyPanda. (2020, January 23). Reasons for the Collapse of the Ming Dynasty. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/reasons-for-the-collapse-of-the-ming-dynasty/

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"Reasons for the Collapse of the Ming Dynasty." IvyPanda, 23 Jan. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/reasons-for-the-collapse-of-the-ming-dynasty/.

1. IvyPanda. "Reasons for the Collapse of the Ming Dynasty." January 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/reasons-for-the-collapse-of-the-ming-dynasty/.


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IvyPanda. "Reasons for the Collapse of the Ming Dynasty." January 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/reasons-for-the-collapse-of-the-ming-dynasty/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Reasons for the Collapse of the Ming Dynasty." January 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/reasons-for-the-collapse-of-the-ming-dynasty/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Reasons for the Collapse of the Ming Dynasty'. 23 January.

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