China 14-15th Century

Ming Dynasty: government and society

Chinese civilisation stretches from at least 2000BC. China was ruled by a series of dynasties until 1911. From 1368 to 1644, the Ming Dynasty was in power. The Emperor was an autocratic ruler who had absolute power over all aspects of life in his Empire. He ruled with officials, and with eunuchs. Eunuchs could have no family of their own and so were more loyal to the Emperor.

Section of the Great Wall of China. Picture source:

Travel and trade

Chinese technology was far in advance of anything in Europe at the time. Chinese inventions included the magnetic compass, paper, the wheelbarrow, suspension bridges, gunpowder, movable type and the mechanical clock.

The Great Wall of China was originally built two centuries BC. It was rebuilt during the Ming dynasty.

There were many cities in China at this time with populations of over 1 million. The city of Beijing was laid out under the Ming rulers. At the centre of Beijing is the Forbidden City, a sacred palace where the emperors lived.

The following information will still be developed for the ‘travel and trade’ topic: Ming shipbuilding and navigation skills. ”¢ Treasure fleet expeditions of Zheng He from 1405 to 1433. Please contribute activities and content for this section by clicking on the ‘contribute’ button.

Exploration of the world flourished during the rule of Ming Emperor Zhu Di Some historians believe that the Chinese sailed around the world in 1492. The Ming Empire had a great navy and sent representatives to other countries to ask for tribute in money or goods to show that they recognised the power of the Chinese Empire. They discouraged foreign ideas and thought that foreigners were stupid barbarians.

Trade and influence along the Asian sea routes

There was trade between Africa and China at this time. For example, a giraffe was sent from east Africa to the Ming Emperor as tribute.

After the Ming, the Chinese withdrew from sea travel and overseas trade. They became more inward looking and concerned about things only in China. This happened just as the countries of Western Europe were beginning to be interested in other parts of the world and were starting to trade and make conquests overseas. World history might possibly have been different if the Chinese had continued to be a great seafaring nation.

The following information will still be developed for the scientific and cultural achievements of the Ming dynasty:

- Women in China
- Rights of women and children
- Contact with Europeans

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