Little Bits of History

More Than Vases

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 23, 2013
Zhu Yuanzhang

Zhu Yuanzhang

January 23, 1368: The Hongwu Emperor ascends to the throne of China, beginning the Ming Dynasty. The Dynasty lasted until 1644, covering 276 years of Chinese history. Zhu Yuanzhang became Hongwu Emperor and ruled over approximately 72,700,000 people. His rule lasted for 30 years and he established his capital at Nanjing. He replaced Mongol bureaucrats with his own Han Chinese associates.

Dynastic rule began in China before 2700 BC with the Three August Ones and the Five Emperors ruling for over 600 years. Dynasties lasted for as few as 15 years and up to hundreds of years. They spanned the centuries from thousands of years BC to 1912 when the final dynasty – Qing – fell to rebellion and poor leadership as well as a changing landscape in world affairs.

The penultimate dynasty was responsible for building a vast military structure. There was a huge navy with many four-masted ships displacing as much as 1,500 tons as well as a standing army of 1,000,000 troops. By 1600 the population of China had reached 150,000,000 so the percentage of military to citizens was still less than 1%. The nation produced more than 100,000 tons of iron ore per annum or roughly 2 pounds per inhabitant. They also printed many books using movable typeface.

The founder of the Ming Dynasty had a legal code drawn up that was overseen by the Emperor himself. His code was comprehensive and easily understood. Loopholes were eradicated in order to prevent minor authorities from being able to erroneously interpret the law. The laws addressed family relationships and improved the treatment of slaves. Hongwu embraced Confucianism, especially the elevation of agriculture and the parasitic view of merchants. Even so, commerce increased throughout the Ming Dynasty even in these early stages.

“From nobody to upstart. From upstart to contender. From contender to winner. From winner to champion. From champion to Dynasty.” – Pat Riley

“What luck for rulers that men do not think.” – Adolf Hitler

“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” – John Quincy Adams

“Revolution is not a onetime event.” – Audre Lorde

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Zhu Yuanzhang was born in 1328 and was 40 years old when he rose to power. He was one of several children, many of whom were given away because the family was too poor to support them. After a flood and plague killed his family, except for him and one brother, Zhu joined a Buddhist monastery. He stayed only a short time before that, too, fell on hard times and it was destroyed by an army putting down a local rebellion. Zhu joined the rebels against the Yuan Dynasty and rose rapidly to become a commander. He amassed a power base and in 1356 his army conquered Nanjing which would become the base of operations and the official capital of the Ming Dynasty.

Also on this day: Shaanxi Earthquake – In 1556, the deadliest earthquake on record strikes central China.
Greenbriar Ghost – In 189, Elva Zona Heaster was murdered but did not leave this mortal coil.
Poppies – In 1912, the International Opium Convention was signed.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on January 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

    One part of the 1,000,000 man army was that it was operated similiar to the reserve and national guard systems now here in the United States. The active army personel rotated with the “reserve” troops and the reserve troops trained in their spare time. The national guard similiarity was that the old regional smaller armies kept recruiting and supplying new soldiers- the old system was not destroyed by the new emperors. In the 1960s Mao taught me the ways he respected the old ways while building the new China-similiar to the way the Ming-era emperors did, as Mao learned as a child. Knowing this of Mao I watched many leaders outside Chine think of China as being a state that split up everything to be equal and stuff like that but they were completely wrong.

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