- The dynasty’s founder grew up in poverty. The man who started the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, survived by begging before joining a Buddhist monastery. When his monastery burned down, Zhu joined some rebels and rose through the ranks. By the time his men overthrew the Yuan Dynasty capital, the 40-year-old Zhu had distanced himself from the rebels’ esoteric teachings.
- The dynasty’s Beijing capital complex was called the Purple Forbidden City. In the early 15th century the emperor’s son supervised the transfer of the imperial capital to Beijing. The new Ming capital was surrounded by a massive wall. This large complex contained government offices and the imperial palace and could only be entered with the emperor’s permission.
- The Great Wall of China was finished during the Ming Dynasty. The oldest parts of the 4,500-mile-long Great Wall of China date back to the 7th century B.C., when Chinese rulers built fortifications to keep northern armies out. From 204 B.C. the earthen Great Wall was refurbished by hundreds of thousands of conscripted workers using local granite, limestone, and fired bricks of clay strengthened with sticky rice. The taller, thicker, longer wall integrated watchtowers, barracks, and storehouses.
- The dynasty’s greatest admiral, Zheng He, sailed a vast fleet as far as Africa. Born in 1371 into a Muslim family, Zheng had been captured by Ming troops and sent to serve the imperial family, becoming a trusted advisor to the future Emperor. Zheng’s seven maritime expeditions travelled the trade routes. Many countries agreed to form tributary relationships with China.
- Blue-and-white Ming Dynasty painted porcelain became popular throughout the East. Expert potters used local clay and imported Persian cobalt to create the Ming porcelain. Potters in Delft, Holland, eventually copied the style.
- The Ming Dynasty switched from paper currency to coins minted from imported silver. In 1639, a trade dispute cut off China’s silver supplies.
- A rebellion led by a postal worker brought down the last Ming emperor. The Ming government raised taxes to support the military, while neglecting other parts of China. Li Zicheng, an unemployed postal messenger, served in the imperial army and then joined a group of bandits, becoming a leader in a peasant rebellion. Ironically, Li’s victory spurred the Ming general to go over to the Manchus. This combined force then defeated the rebels and began the Qing dynasty.
Source: 7 Things You May Not Know about the Ming Dynasty
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