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(mĭng), dynasty of China that ruled from 1368 to 1644. The first Ming emperor, Chu Yüan-chang (ruled 1368–98), a former Buddhist monk, joined a rebellion in progress, gained control of it, overthrew the Mongol YüanYüan
, Mongol dynasty of China that ruled from 1271 to 1368. It was a division of the great empire conquered by the Mongols. Kublai Khan, who adopted the Chinese dynastic name Yüan in 1271, swept down from N China, which the Mongols had ruled since the 1230s, and
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 dynasty, and unified all of China proper. He set up a strong, centralized government and carried out economic recovery programs. He abolished the office of prime minister, thereby strengthening the autocratic power of the emperor. The emperor Yung Lo (reigned 1402–24) moved (1421) the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, which developed into a magnificent city. The dynasty, which never created a viable taxation policy, always had fiscal problems. Seven great naval expeditions, under the command of the Grand Eunuch Cheng Ho, were sent at considerable cost to SE Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, and E Africa for tribute and trade (1405–33). These voyages ceased in 1433 and never resumed. Christian missionaries penetrated the Chinese hinterlands, and Europeans, such as Matteo RicciRicci, Matteo
, 1552–1610, Italian missionary to China. He entered the Society of Jesus, and in Rome he studied under Clavius. Ricci was sent to the Indies (1578), and he worked at Goa and Cochin until 1582, when he was called to Macau to enter China.
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, brought Western ideas to the Ming court. The Ming was generally a period of stability and prosperity. There were notable achievements in literature, philosophy, and the arts. Wang Yang-ming (1472–1529), the great Ming neo-Confucian philosopher, developed an activist approach to moral training and self-cultivation. The huge Yung-lo Encyclopedia (Yung-lo ta-tien), which included all major works in Confucian classics, history, philosophy, and miscellaneous subjects, was compiled in the early 15th cent. Four great novels, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin (All Men Are Brothers), Journey to the West, and The Golden Lotus, were written in this period. Drama in the Southern style, painting, and architecture reached great heights. The delicate monochromatic porcelain of the Ming period is often considered the finest achievement of Chinese ceramics. Incompetent emperors, oppressive taxation, and factionalism in government in the later years of the dynasty incited revolts among peasants in the border regions and prepared the way for the Manchu conquest of China (see Ch'ingCh'ing
or Manchu
, the last of the Imperial dynasties of China. Background

The Ch'ing dynasty was established by the Manchus, who invaded China and captured Beijing in 1644, and lasted until 1911.
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See R. Huang, 1587: A Year of No Significance (1981); F. F. Mote and D. Twitchett, ed., The Cambridge History of China (Vol. 7, 1988).



Chinese imperial dynasty (1368–1644). Founded by Chu Yuan-chang upon the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan dynasty.

In the early 15th century, the Ming dynasty pursued a course of external expansion. In 1407, Chinese troops seized Vietnam. Seven naval expeditions under the command of Cheng Ho were dispatched to regions of the South Seas and the Indian Ocean. As a result of attempts by the Portuguese to establish themselves in China, the Ming emperor Wu Tsung in 1521 forbade Europeans entry to China and closed all ports to them, with the exception of Aomen (Macao).

The aggravation of social contradictions and the growth of class struggle under the Ming dynasty led to a peasant war in the 1620’s. The rebels, led by Li Tzu-ch’eng, took possession of the capital in Peking in 1644 and overthrew the Ming dynasty. A portion of China’s feudal nobility went over to the side of the Manchus, who were at that time invading China, and aided them in crushing the peasant rebellion and in establishing the Manchurian Ch’ing dynasty in China.

Toward the end of Ming rule, the first contacts between Russia and China were established, including the dispatch of I. Petlin to Peking by the Tobol’sk voevoda (military governor) in 1618.



1. the imperial dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644
2. of or relating to Chinese porcelain produced during the Ming dynasty, characterized by the use of brilliant colours and a fine-quality body