The Ming dynasty (pre-1521)

Authored by: Peter Ditmanson

Routledge Handbook of Imperial Chinese History

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138847286
eBook ISBN: 9781315726878
Adobe ISBN:


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Over 276 years, the Ming dynasty spanned a remarkable period in Chinese history, marked by dramatic economic growth, the emergence of a vibrant urban culture, and the dawn of relations between China and Europe. The dynasty was established upon the ashes of the crumbling Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), in which much of the realm was devastated by wars, epidemics and natural disasters. Under these desperate conditions, the founding warlord, Zhu Yuanzhang, sought to create a new stable order, based upon an idealized agrarian economy with trade and mobility tightly controlled. The subsequent evolution of the Ming society, economy and polity went far beyond what he imagined and strained the framework that he left behind. This chapter summarizes the original designs of the Ming founder and the evolution of Ming society and institutions over the century after his death (Map 15.1).

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