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Beijingfuturesdreams, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

China's Dynastic History -- Ming Dynasty

Ming Dynasty

Perhaps one of the most famous of all Chinese dynasties, the Ming Dynasty witnessed another shift in the cultural and economic richness. The first long term trade relationships with Europe, a stable system of governance, and a revitalization of internal trade routes helped the Ming Dynasty of flourish.

Due to the increased trade with Europe, the Ming Dynasty saw little in terms of innovative scientific or mathematic work during the period. However, their adoption of European mechanical and hydraulic engineering practices allowed their own development of technologies. Similarly, Western practices in astronomy like the Ptolemaic model and telescope technology further augmented China’s own knowledge base.

The development of gunpowder based military technologies was also a combined effort between the East and West. Multi-stage rockets, land and water mines, and the first hand held cannon’s were all jointly developed by Chinese and European minds. The speed at which these innovations were shared was like nothing else seen in the world to date, which led to gunpowder’s quick adoption around the world as military technology.

Socio-politically, the Ming dynasty witnessed interesting trends in the rise of two of the four major class divisions. The scholar-class was elevated to new positions of power as governors outside of the capital, Nanjing. Governors, elected on the basis of examination results, were given authority to ensure the fulfillment of national policy, as well as the power to instate some local codes. They were also bequeathed with a large amount of wealth for the development of their jurisdiction.

The Merchant class, though traditionally seen as a lower echelon of society in preceding dynasties, saw a fascinating evolution into powerful societal components. Their ability to acquire materials and wealth was relied upon heavily by the Scholarly governors. As merchant’s learned how to levy this power, their influence in regional and even national development became greater. For the first time, historical records began to take notice of their contributions, and the Merchant’s were able to climb into the elite of Chinese society.

Much more information can be found online, and your local library. We highly recommend using BOTH of these resources for a more detailed look at the famous Ming dynasty. Below are some additional links to help get you started:

Wikipedia Entry

University of Southern California: East Asian Library
The Ming Tombs (pdf)
China History Forum

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