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Ming Dynasty

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The Ming Dynasty also called The Great Ming Empire) was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, though claims to the Ming throne (now collectively called the Southern Ming) survived until 1662. The dynasty followed the Yuan Dynasty and preceded the Qing Dynasty. The Ming dynasty emperors were members of the Zhu family. During the rule of Mongols, there were strong feelings against the rule of "the foreigners" among the populace, which finally led to a peasant revolt that pushed the Yuan dynasty back to the Mongolian steppes. The revolt, led by Zhu Yuanzhang, established the Ming Dynasty in 1368. This dynasty began as a time of renewed cultural blossoming, with Chinese merchants exploring all of the Indian Ocean and Chinese art (especially the porcelain industry) reaching unprecedented heights. Under Ming rule, a vast navy and army was built, with four masted ships displacing 1,500 tons and a standing army of one million troops. Over 100,000 tons of iron per year were produced in North China, and many books were printed using movable type. Some historians argue that Early Ming China was the most advanced nation on Earth at the time.

Contents

Origins

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Hongwu Emperor

The Mongol Yuan Dynasty ruled before the establishment of the Ming Dynasty. The Mongols' discrimination against Chinese is often considered the primary cause for the end of Yuan rule in China. Other causes include collusion with Tibetan lamas in depriving Chinese of their lands, paper currency over-circulation, which caused inflation to go up ten-fold during Yuan Emperor Shundi's reign, and the flooding of the Yellow River as a result of Mongols' abandonment of irrigation projects. In Late Yuan times, Chinese agriculture was a mess. When hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians were called upon to work on the Yellow River, the prospect of rebellion ripened. After many years of fighting, the rebel group led by Zhu Yuanzhang, the future Hongwu emperor, became the most powerful of the various Han Chinese groups and Zhu declared the foundation of the Ming Dynasty in 1368, establishing his capital at Nanjing and adopting "Hongwu" as his reign title.

Orphaned as a teenager, Zhu had entered a Buddhist monastery to avoid starvation. Sometime during this period, He joined a Buddhist secret society known as the White Lotus. Later, as a strong-willed rebel leader, he came in contact with the well-educated gentry Confucian scholars, from whom he received an education in state affairs. He then positioned himself as defender of Confucianism and neo-Confucian conventions, and not as a popular rebel. Despite his humble origins, he emerged as a national leader against the collapsing Yuan Dynasty. Zhu became one of the only two dynastic founders who emerged from the peasant class, the other being Han Gaozu of the Han Dynasty; Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping are the two other peasant revolutionaries to have ruled the world's most populous nation.

Having fought off the calamities of the Mongol invasion, and given the realistic threat to China still posed by the Mongols, Hongwu reassessed the orthodox Confucian view regarding the military as an inferior class to be subordinated by the scholar bureaucracy. Simply put, maintaining a strong military was essential since the Mongols were still a threat. As an aside, the name Hongwu means "Vast Military" and reflects the increased prestige of the military.

With a Confucian aversion to trade, Hongwu also supported the creation of self-supporting agricultural communities. Neo-feudal land-tenure developments of late Song and Yuan times were expropriated with the establishment of the Ming dynasty. Great landed estates were confiscated by the government, fragmented, and rented out; and private slavery was forbidden. Consequently, after the death of Yongle Emperor, independent peasant landholders predominated in Chinese agriculture.

Under Hongwu, the Mongol bureaucrats who had dominated the government for nearly a century under the Yuan dynasty were replaced by the Han Chinese. The traditional Confucian examination system that selected state bureaucrats or civil servants on the basis of merit and knowledge of literature and philosophy was revamped. Candidates for posts in the civil service or the officer corps of the 80,000-man army, once again, had to pass the traditional competitive examinations in the Classics. The Confucian scholar gentry, marginalized under the Yuan for nearly a century once again assumed its predominant role in the Chinese state.

Hongwu attempted to, and largely succeeded in, consolidating control over all aspects of government, so that no other group could gain enough power to overthrow him, and to buttress the country's defenses against the Mongols. As emperor, Hongwu increasingly concentrated power in his own hands and abolished the Imperial Secretariat, which had been the main central administrative body under past dynasties, after suppressing a plot for which he had blamed his chief minister. When the emperorship became hereditary, the Chinese recognized this and established the office of prime or chief minister. While incompetent emperors could come and go, the prime minister could guarantee a level of continuity and competence in the government. Hongwu, wishing to concentrate absolute authority in his own hands, abolished the office of prime minister and so removed the only insurance against incompetent emperors. Hongwu was succeeded by his grandson, but he was soon usurped by his uncle Chengzu, a younger son of Hongwu, who ruled as the Emperor Yongle from 1403 to 1424 and was responsible for moving the capital back to Beijing.

Hongwu noted the destructive role of court eunuchs under the Sung, drastically reducing their numbers, forbidding them to handle documents, insisting that they remained illiterate, and liquidating those who commented on state affairs. Hongwu had a strong aversion to the imperial eunuchs (a castrated court of servants for the emperor), capsized by a tablet in his palace stipulating: "Eunuchs must have nothing to do with the administration." Under his successor, however, they began regaining their old influence.

The emperor's role in this became even more autocratic, although Hongwu necessarily continued to use what he called the Grand Secretaries to assist with the immense paperwork of the bureaucracy, which included memorials (petitions and recommendations to the throne), imperial edicts in reply, reports of various kinds, and tax records.

During Hongwu's reign, the early Ming dynasty was characterized by rapid and dramatic population growth, largely due to the increased food supply and Hongwu's agricultural reforms. The population probably rose by at least 50 percent by the end of the Ming dynasty, stimulated by major improvements in agricultural technology promoted by the pro-agrarian state, which came to power in midst of a pro-Confucian peasant's rebellion.

The Hongwu Emperor increasingly feared rebelions and coups. He even made it a capital offence for any of his advisors to criticize him. A story goes that a Confucian scholar, who was so fed up with Hongwu's policies decided to go to the capital and berate the emperor. When he gained an audience with him, he brought his own coffin. After delivering his speech, he climbed into the coffin, expecting the emperor to execute him. Instead, the Emperor was so impressed by his bravery he spared his life.

Exploration to isolation

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This is the only surviving example in the world of a major piece of lacquer furniture from the "Orchard Factory" (the Imperial Laquer Workshop) set up in Peking during the early Ming Dynasty. Decorated in dragons and phoenixes it was made to stand in an imperial palace. Made sometime during the Xuande reign period (1426-1435) of the Ming Dynasty. Currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

( See the closeup for more detail )

Between 1405 and 1433, Ming emperors sent seven maritime expeditions probing down into the South Seas and across the Indian Ocean. The era's xenophobia and intellectual introspection characteristic of the era's increasingly popular new school of neo-Confucianism, thus did not lead to the physical isolation of China. Contacts with the outside world, particularly with Japan, and foreign trade increased considerably. Yongle Emperor strenuously tried to extend China's influence beyond her borders by encouraging other rulers to send ambassadors to China to present tribute. The Chinese armies reconquered Annam and blocked Mongol expansionism, while the Chinese fleet sailed the China seas and the Indian Ocean, cruising as far as the east coast of Africa. The Chinese gained a certain influence over Turkestan. The maritime Asian nations sent envoys with tribute for the Chinese emperor. Internally, the Grand Canal was expanded to its farthest limits and proved to be a stimulus to domestic trade.

The most extraordinary venture, however, during this stage was the dispatch Zheng He's seven naval expeditions, which traversed the Indian Ocean and the Southeast Asian archipelago. An ambitious Muslim eunuch of Hui descent, a quintessential outsider in the establishment of Confucian scholar elites, Zheng He led seven expeditions from 1405 to 1433 with six of them under the auspices of Yongle. He traversed perhaps as far as the Cape of Good Hope and, according to the controversial 1421 theory, the Americas. Zheng's appointment in 1403 to lead a sea-faring task force was a triumph the commercial lobbies seeking to stimulate conventional trade, not mercantilism.

The interests of the commercial lobbies and those of the religious lobbies were also linked. Both were offensive to the neo-Confucian sensibilities of the scholarly elite: Religious lobbies encouraged commercialism and exploration, which benefited commercial interests, in order to divert state funds from the anti-clerical efforts of the Confucian scholar gentry. The first expedition in 1405 consisted of 62 ships and 28,000 men--then the largest naval expedition in history. Zheng He's multi-decked ships carried up to 500 troops but also cargoes of export goods, mainly silks and porcelains, and brought back foreign luxuries such as spices and tropical woods.

The economic motive for these huge ventures may have been important, and many of the ships had large private cabins for merchants. But the chief aim was probably political, to enroll further states as tributaries and mark the reemergence of the Chinese Empire following nearly a century of barbarian rule. The political character of Zheng He's voyages indicates the primacy of the political elites. Despite their formidable and unprecedented strength, Zheng He's voyages, unlike European voyages of exploration later in the fifteenth century, were not intended to extend Chinese sovereignty overseas. Indicative of the competition among elites, these excursions had also become politically controversial. Zheng He's voyages had been supported by his fellow low eunuchs at court and strongly opposed by the Confucian scholar officials. Their antagonism was in fact so great that they tried to suppress any mention of the naval expeditions in the official imperial record. A compromise interpretation realizes that the Mongol raids tilted the balance in the favor of the Confucian elites.

By the end of the fifteenth century, imperial subjects were forbidden from either building oceangoing ships or leaving the country. Some historians speculate this measure was taken in response to piracy.

Historians of the 1960s, such as John Fairbank and Joseph Levinson have argued that this renovation turned into stagnation, and that science and philosophy were caught in a tight net of traditions smothering any attempt to venture something new. Historians who held to this view argue that in the 15th century, by imperial decree the great navy was decommissioned; construction of seagoing ships was forbidden; the iron industry gradually declined.

Ming military conquest

Ming Tai-zu / the Hong-wu reign (1368-98)

? Early in his reign, Zhu Yuan-zhang, the first Ming emperor, provided instructions as injunctions to later generations. These instructions included advice to the Chief Military Commission on those countries which posed a threat to the Ming polity and those which did not. He stated that those to the north were dangerous, while those to the south did not constitute a threat, and were not to be subject to attack. Yet, either despite this, or as a result of it, it was the polities to the south which were to suffer the greatest effects of Ming expansion over the following century.

? Yun-nan. In 1369, not long after Zhu Yuan-zhang founded his new dynasty, he sent proclamations for the instruction of ?the countries of Yun-nan and Japan. This early recognition of Yun-nan as a ?country? which lay beyond the Ming was to change very soon thereafter. By 1380, Yun-nan (still held by a Mongol prince) was considered to have been China?s since the Han dynasty, and 250,000 troops were deployed in an attack on the polity, taking Da-li, Li-jiang and Jin-chi in 1382. Thereby, the Ming founder took control of the major urban centres of the north-western part of what is today Yun-nan, including several Tai areas.

? By 1387, Ming Tai-zu had set his sights further and, in preparation for an attack on the Bai-yi (M?Mao) polity to the south. Under the commander Mu Ying, the Ming forces attacked the Bai-yi with fire arms, taking a claimed 30,000 heads. Si Lun-fa was subsequently dunned for all the costs of the military expedition against him, as a quid pro quo for recognising him as ruler of the Bai-yi.

? When a subordinate rebelled against Si Lun-fa in 1397, the Chinese state gave sanctuary to the fleeing Si Lun-fa, sent troops against Dao Gan-meng and restored Si Lun-fa, extracting vast tracts of land from him for this assistance. The Ming state also broke down his former territory into the polities of Lu-chuan, Meng-yang, Mu-bang, Meng-ding, Lu-jiang, Gan-yai, Da-hou and Wan Dian, all under separate rulers. This was the beginning of a policy which was to be pursued throughout the Ming, and which had such profound effects on the upland Tai polities.

? The new polities which were ?created? (or recognised) in Yun-nan under the first Ming ruler were known to the Ming as ?native offices? (tu si), as they were, initially, usually left under the control of the hereditary rulers, by which the Ming exerted control and engaged in economic expropriation through tribute demands and other levies. Che-li (Chiang Hung), for example, was established as a ?native office? in 1384. Here, then, we see the beginnings of the process by which formerly Southeast Asian polities were gradually absorbed into the Chinese polity.

? In the process by which they were gradually absorbed by the Ming, these polities were subjected to a wide range of tribute demands, labour levies and other levies, including troop provision. As an example, in the case of the Tai Mao polity of Lu-chuan/Ping-mian, the Ming court demanded 15,000 horses, 500 elephants and 30,000 cattle from the ruler Si Lun-fa in 1397. Subsequently, large silver demands (silver in lieu of labour) were levied on Lu-chuan. The annual amount of 6,900 liang of silver was initially set and then it was almost tripled to 18,000 liang. When it was realised that this was impossible to meet, the levy was reduced to the original amount. Diverse other levies were applied to the other polities and enforced through the use or threat of military force.

? The Hong-wu reign was marked by frequent sending of envoys to foreign polities and the court reception of foreign envoys from the maritime polities of Annam, Champa, Cambodia, Siam, Cochin, San Fo-qi, Java, Japan, Ryukyu, Brunei, and Korea. They were drawn to China by the trade concessions available to tribute envoys and the rewards given to the rulers who submitted the ?tribute?. However, the machinations of the Ming state meant that diplomatic links were also a major method by which court insiders within the system could gain influence and control. It was the failure to report the arrival of an envoy from Champa that led to Hu Wei-Yong (胡惟庸), the Ming prime minister from 1377 to 1380, being executed on charges of treason. The possible involvement of Hu Wei-yong in a wider range of unofficial links with the polities of Southeast Asia has already been discussed by Wolters. Suffice it to say that members of the Ming bureaucracy were likely already heavily involved in Southeast Asian maritime politics by the 1390s.

? In the early 1370s, the coastal people in China were forbidden to cross the oceans other than on official missions. Fu-jian military officials who had privately sent people across the seas to engage in trade were punished not long thereafter. The prohibition was restated in 1381 and 1384 and an imperial command ?strictly prohibiting people from having contact with foreign fan? was promulgated in 1390. The frequency of these prohibitions suggests that they were not very effective, and the reason given for the imperial command was that ?at this time in Guang-dong/Guang-xi, Zhe-jiang and Fu-jian, there were foolish people who did not know of this [the prohibitions] and frequently engaged in private trade with foreign fan.? The prohibition on going abroad to trade privately was reiterated in 1397. Whether these prohibitions actually affected maritime trade between southern China and Southeast Asia is something which is not immediately apparent from the Ming texts, and perhaps through further archaeological research it will be possible to piece together the ebbs and flows in maritime trade between China and Southeast Asia during this period.

Ming Cheng-zu / the Yong-le reign (1403-1424)

? Knowledge of the reign of Ming Tai-zu?s successor, the Jian-wen emperor (1399-1402), has been almost entirely lost to us as a result of the civil war and coup d?etat launched by his uncle Zhu Di. In the aftermath, Zhu Di he tried to eliminate all evidence of his nephew?s reign from the historical record. As such, the links between Ming China and Southeast Asia in this crucial period must remain in the realm of conjecture.

? The period of Yong-le, as Zhu Di was to name his reign, is however, very well-documented and it is this period in which many of the most dramatic Ming interactions with Southeast Asia occurred.

? Like his father, after coming to power, Zhu Di ordered the Ministry of Rites to send instructions to foreign polities requiring them to bring tribute to court. In the same year, he also established Maritime Trade Supervisorates in the provinces of Zhe-jiang, Fu-jian and Guang-dong, in order to control the sea trade with all foreign polities. In 1405, it was ordered that hostels be established under each of the above-noted provinces to look after the foreign envoys who would come from abroad. It was already apparent at this early stage of the reign that the Yong-le Emperor was planning to have much to do with maritime Asia.

? At the same time, the new emperor was also anxious to advertise the cultural superiorities of the Ming to the rest of the known world and to this end, he distributed 10,000 copies of Biographies of Exemplary Women (烈女傳) to various non-Chinese polities for their moral instruction. Whether any motifs from this Chinese text have appeared in Southeast Asian literature has not yet, it appears, been studied. Court calendars were also distributed to Southeast Asian polities by the Ministry of Rites.

? A number of major military expeditions into Southeast Asia were also to occur during the Yong-le reign.

? The invasion of Đại Việt. In 1406, in an effort to increase Ming influence and power in Đại Việt, the polity which was known to the Ming as An-nan, the Yong-le emperor attempted to send a puppet ruler named Chen Tian-ping (Trần ThiꮠB쮨) into that polity. Trần ThiꮠB쮨 was killed as he proceeded into the country.

? This killing by the Vietnamese became the immediate pretext for Yong-le to launch a huge invasion of the polity, a move obviously planned well before the event. In that same year of 1406, two huge Chinese armies were sent along two routes, via Yun-nan and Guang-xi, into Đại Việt. Chinese forces claimed seven million of the Vietnamese killed in this initial campaign to take the polity. In 1407, Jiao-zhi became Ming China?s 14th province, and remained so until 1428, when the Ming withdrew. However, this 21-year period was one of almost incessant fighting.

? As soon as the Ming forces had taken control of the polity, the changes began. In the first year, 7,600 tradesmen and artisans (including gun founders) captured in Đại Việt were sent to the Ming capital at today?s Nan-jing. This stripping of some of the most skilled members of the society would undoubtedly have had extensive social effects on Vietnamese society.

? Subsequently, more Chinese and non-Chinese troops were brought into the region to maintain some semblance of control, and a wide range of new organs of civil administration were established, By 1408, Jiao-zhi had 41 subprefectures, and 208 counties, all being administered in a Chinese mode, but many staffed by Vietnamese. Regardless of how much political hegemony was thrown off in the late 1420s, when the Ming were driven out, the administrative legacy of the Chinese occupation must have had a major and wide-ranging impact on the societies of the polity. In a claimed effort to further inculcate Chinese ways, Confucian schools were established and Chinese persons were appointed to teach in them.

? The year 1407 also saw a new Maritime Trade Supervisorate being established at Van-don (Yun-tun) City in Jiao-zhi, while two further such offices were established at Xin-ping (新平) and Shun-hua (順化) in 1408. Thus, within two years, three maritime trade supervisorates had been created in this new province, the same number as existed in the rest of China. This was a clear indication of the desire of the Ming to control maritime trade to the south and exploit the economic advantage of such control.

? Other economic exploitation involved grain taxes, annual levies of lacquer, sapan wood, kingfisher feathers, fans and aromatics, and the imposition of monopolies on gold, silver, salt, iron and fish. In addition, eunuchs were sent to Jiao-zhi with the task of treasure collecting for the Emperor, but an equal amount of treasure collection appears to have been done for themselves. The rapaciousness of the eunuchs, at least as depicted in Ming accounts, was such that even the emperors intervened on appointments. The Hong-xi Emperor objected to the re-sending of the eunuch Ma Qi to Jiao-zhi, when he attempted to have himself reappointed to control the gold, silver, aromatics and pearls of the region in 1424.

? By 1414, the Ming was sufficiently well entrenched in the north of С̣i Viꦡmp;#803;t to allow it to push further, establishing four further subprefectures in a region south of Jiao-zhi which had formerly been administered by Champa. The role which the Chinese occupation of С̣i Viꦡmp;#803;t in this period played in the later southward expansion of the Vietnamese state and eventual destruction of the Cham polity should not be ignored.

? But the levies and demands made on the new province by the Ming meant that its capacity to feed itself suffered. Instituted kai-zhong system. On numerous occasions in the 1420s, it was necessary to arrange transport of grain from Guang-dong and Guang-xi into Jiao-zhi. Such deficiencies would have had profound effects on social structure and social stability in the region, compounded by the warfare and imposition of Chinese norms. The range of colonial policies which the Ming pursued undoubtedly had wide-ranging effects both on the society at the time as well as on the future development of the Vietnamese state.

? Invasion of Yunnan polities under Yong-le. Prior to Yong-le?s invasion of the Vietnamese polity in 1406, he engaged himself in further expansion into the polities of Yun-nan. By 1403, he had created new military guards on the distant border, with two Independent Battalions, directly under the Regional Military Commission, being established at Teng-chong and Yong-chang in 1403. These were to be the bases from which the subsequent further occupation and control of the Tai regions was to be pursued. In the same year, new Chief?s Offices were established in Yun-nan, at Zhe-le Dian, Da-hou, Gan-yai, Wan Dian and Lu-jiang, and in 1406 a further four Chief?s Offices were established under Ning-yuan Guard in what is today Sip Song Chau Tai in Vietnam. When the Tai polities did not accord with what the new Ming emperor required, military actions were launched against them. In 1405, for example, the senior Chinese representative in Yun-nan, Mu Sheng, launched an attack on Ba-bai (Lanna).

? After some sort of recognition or acceptance of the superior position of the Ming court, Chinese clerks or registry managers were appointed to the ?native offices? to ?assist? the traditional ruler, and ensure that Ming interests were served. Chinese clerks were appointed to carry out Chinese language duties in the native offices of Yun-nan in 1404, while similar circulating-official clerk positions (to be filled by Chinese) were established in seven Chief?s Offices in Yun-nan in 1406.

? The ?native office? polities were then subject to demands in terms of gold/silver in lieu of labour (差發銀/金), administered by the Ministry of Revenue, and also required to provide troops to assist in further Ming campaigns. Mu-bang, for example, was required to send its troops against Ba-bai (Lanna) in 1406. This pattern of exploitation continued through the reign.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ming_military_conquest" === Yun, China history forum

Decline of the Ming, the aborted commercial revolution

Long wars with the Mongols, incursions by the Japanese into Korea, and harassment of Chinese coastal cities by the Japanese in the sixteenth century weakened Ming rule, which became, as earlier Chinese dynasties had, ripe for an alien takeover. See Qing Dynasty for an account of these events.

Historians debate the relatively slower "progression" of European-style mercantilism and industrialization in China since the Ming. This question is particularly poignant, considering the parallels between the commercialization of the Ming economy, the so-called age of "incipient capitalism" in China, and the rise of commercial capitalism in the West. Historians have thus been trying to understand why China did not "progress" in a similar pattern since the last century of the Ming dynasty. In the early 21st century, however, some of the premises of the debate have come under attack. Economic historians such as Kenneth Pomeranz have begun to argue that China was technologically and economically equal to Europe until the 1750's and that the divergence was due to local conditions such as access to natural resources from the new world.

Much of the debate nonetheless centers on contrast in political and economic systems between East and West. Given the causal premise that economic transformations induce social changes, which in turn have political consequences, one can understand why the rise of capitalism, an economic system in which capital is put to work to produce more capital, was somewhat of a driving force behind the rise of modern Europe. Capitalism after all can be traced in several distinct stages in Western history. Commercial capitalism was the first stage, and was associated with historical trends evident in Ming China, such as geographical discoveries, colonization, scientific innovation, and the increase in overseas trade. But in Europe, governments often protected and encouraged the burgeoning capitalist class, predominantly consisting of merchants, through governmental controls, subsidies, and monopolies, such as British East India Company. The absolutist states of the era often saw the growing potential to excise bourgeois profits to support their expanding, centralizing nation-states.

This question is even more of an anomaly considering that during the last century of the Ming dynasty a genuine money economy emerged along with relatively large-scale mercantile and industrial enterprises under private as well as state ownership, such as the great textile centers of the southeast. In some respects, this question is at the center of debates pertaining to the relative decline of China in comparison with the modern West at least until the Communist revolution. Chinese Marxist historians, especially during the 1970s identified the Ming age one of "incipient capitalism," a description that seems quite reasonable, but one that does not quite explain the official downgrading of trade and increased state regulation of commerce during the Ming era. Marxian historians thus postulate that European-style mercantilism and industrialization might have evolved had it not been for the Manchu conquest and expanding European imperialism, especially after the Opium Wars.

Post-modernist scholarship on China, however argues that this view is simplistic and at worst, flat out wrong. The ban on ocean going ships, it is pointed out, was intended to curb piracy and was lifted in the Mid-Ming at the strong urging of the bureaucracy who pointed out the harmful effects it was having on coastal economies. These historians, who include Jonathan Spence, Kenneth Pomeranz, and Joanna Waley-Cohen deny that China "turned inward" at all and point out that this view of the Ming Dynasty is inconsistent with the growing volume of trade and commerce that was occurring between China and southeast Asia. When the Portuguese reached India, they found a booming trade network which they then followed to China. In the 16th century Europeans started to appear on the eastern shores and founded Macao, the first European settlement in China.

Other historians usually link the "premature" development of European-style mercantilism and industrialization to the decline of the Ming dynasty.

The role of state support is the focus of much of this debate on the official downgrading of commerce. During the early years of the Ming Dynasty, Hongwu laid the foundations for a state uninterested in commerce and more interested in extracting revenues from the agricultural sector. With little understanding of economic processes of markets, Hongwu, backed by the Confucian scholar gentry, just accepted the Confucian viewpoint offhand that merchants were solely parasitic. In a typically Confucian viewpoint, Hongwu felt that agriculture should be the country's source of wealth and that trade was ignoble and parasitic. Perhaps this view was accentuated because of his background as a peasant. As a result, the Ming economic system emphasized agriculture, unlike that of the Sung dynasty, which had preceded the Mongols and relied on traders and merchant for revenues. The laws against the merchants and the restrictions under which the craftsmen worked, remained essentially as they had been under the Sung, but now the remaining foreign merchants of Mongol time also fell under these new laws, and their influence quickly dwindled.

Although the late Ming, following contacts with the Europeans, saw the emergence of a genuine silver money economy (due, in large part, to trade with the New World via the Spanish and Portuguese), due to the attendant development of relatively large-scale mercantile and industrial enterprises under private as well as state ownership (most notably the great textile centers of the southeast), the Ming age was probably not one of "incipient capitalism" due to the predominance of the political realm over the economic. As mentioned, Hongwu laid the foundations for a state uninterested in commerce and more interested in extracting revenues from the agricultural sector. The state extracted most of its revenues from agriculture, not commerce, providing it little incentive to stimulate commerce. Although commerce was stimulated by the flow of silver from the New World, used to pay for Chinese exports of tea, silk, and ceramics, and although Chinese businessmen devised a way of mass-producing cheaper types of porcelain to satisfy European markets, comparing economic patterns to the those in Europe during the genesis of capitalism illustrate why state backing of capitalism was crucial. In Europe these early capitalists, who generated most of their profits from the buying and selling of goods, were protected and encouraged by governmental controls, subsidies, and monopolies. The bourgeoisie, after all, were a viable new taxbase for the crown in Europe but not to the same extent in China.

Although Hongwu's rule saw the introduction of paper currency, capitalist development would be stifled from the beginning or at least limited from reaching its true potential. Not understanding inflation, Hongwu gave out so much paper money as rewards that by 1425 the state was forced to reintroduce copper coins given that the currency was worth 1/70 of its original value.

State control (but not necessarily support) of the Chinese economy and for that matter, of society in all its aspects, remained the dominant characteristic of Chinese life in Ming times as earlier. Concentrating power would also have disastrous implications if the emperor were incompetent or uninterested in government. The key issue in this decline was the Ming political innovation of concentrating all power in the hands of the emperor. Western historians also argue that the quality of the emperors declined and this was exacerbated by the centralization of authority.

As mentioned, since the era of Hongwu the emperor's role this became even more autocratic, although Hongwu necessarily continued to use what he called the Grand Secretaries to assist with the immense paperwork of the bureaucracy, which included memorials (petitions and recommendations to the throne), imperial edicts in reply, reports of various kinds, and tax records.

Hongwu increasingly concentrated power in his own hands and in 1380 abolished the Imperial Secretariat, which had been the main central administrative body under past dynasties, after suppressing a plot for which he had blamed his chief minister. When the emperorship became hereditary, the Chinese recognized this and established the office of prime or chief minister. While incompetent emperors could come and go, the prime minister could guarantee a level of continuity and competence in the government. Hongwu, wishing to concentrate absolute authority in his own hands, abolished the office of prime minister and so removed the only insurance against incompetent emperors. Hongwu was succeeded by his son, but the latter was soon usurped by Cheng Zu, who ruled as the Emperor Yongle from 1403 to 1424 and responsible for moving the capital to Beijing).

Yongle was also very active and very competent as an administrator, but an array of bad precedents was established. First, although Hongwu maintained some Mongol practices, such as corporal punishment, to the consternation of the scholar elite and their insistence on rule by virtue, Yongle exceeded these bounds, executing the families of his political opponents, murdering thousands arbitrarily. Second, despite Hongwu's strong aversion to the eunuchs, encapsulated by a tablet in his palace stipulating: "Eunuchs must have nothing to do with the administration," his successors revived their informal role in the governing process. Hongwu, unlike his successors, noted the destructive role of court eunuchs under the Song, drastically reducing their numbers, forbidding them to handle documents, insisting that they remained illiterate, and liquidating those who commented on state affairs. Third, Yongle's cabinet or Grand Secretariat, would become a sort of rigidifying instrument of consolidation that became an instrument of decline. Earlier, however, more competent emperors time supervised or approved all the decisions of this council. Hongwu himself was generally regarded as a strong emperor who ushered in an energy of imperial power and effectiveness that lasted far beyond his reign, but the centralization of authority would prove detrimental under less competent rulers.

Fall of Ming dynasty


Translated by Sephodwyrm http://www.tiexue.net/bbs/dispbbs.aspx?boardid=14&ID=467743

Ten chances that the Ming dynasty could have saved itself from destruction

1. In the Jia Jing era, the secretary of the military department Xia Yan proposed to recover the Yellow River loop region. However, he was framed of charges of treason with the Mongols by the evil Yan Song and executed by the emperor Jia Jing.

Discussion: The Ming dynasty was a hardliner on having bureaucrats leading the army. The military department was usually filled with stubborn Confucianists that hardly know anything about the army. It was a rarity that a talent such as Xia Yan could put forward a proposal with strategic thought. At that time, the Mongols were split into inter-warring factions. The Qaghan of the Dadan (Tartars) have requested surrender with the gift of the plains of the Yellow River loop region. However, the Ming dynasty threw this great opportunity out of her door in an act of utmost foolishness. The difficulties that the dynasty faced latter on against the Manchus was a result of this as the Yellow River loop plains were in the hands of the Mongols, leading to a lack of horses.

The infantry based Ming army faced tremendous setbacks facing the charges of the Manchu cavalry. Also, the Manchus also used their access throughout Mongol controlled regions to attack Beijing by surprise. If the Yellow River loop region was in the hands of the dynasty, not only could it provide large number of war horses to train a quality cavalry army, the dynasty could also use this plains as a base to prevent the spread of Manchuria into Mongolia. This was an important move to keep the Manchus in check. However, the dynasty was busy infighting and abandoned such an important strategic region. What sorrow!

2. After the death of Zhang Juzheng, his reforms were completely abolished and his family sentenced.

Discussion: In the late Ming dynasty, the national income did not exceed 20 million taels of silver, and even with the tributes it did not exceed 30 million. The tributes also led to riots and rebellions everywhere. It did not seem right that a dynasty boasting tremendous social productivity would have a imbalanced national budget. The biggest err in tax collection in this era was that the greatest taxes were paid by the poorest group. With such a preposterous taxing policy, it was impossible for the peasants not to form rebellious movements.

The 1 Whip Policy as put forward by Zhang Juzheng was in reality taxing proportional to one?s property and evening out the difference between the haves and have-nots. At the same time, land distribution and ownership were reworked to pre vent acquisition to moderate social conflicts. In the 10 years tenure of Zhang Juzheng, the national income rose to over 80 million taels, even exceeding that during the great prosperity of Kang Xi and Qian Long. In the first 9 years of Wan Li, the state coffers were full and the barns were stocked. Even an extreme disaster of 10 years in which there was no production could be held out by the savings. Even the Wen-Jing era of Han dynasty could not surpass this great wealth.

However, the great swindling emperor Wan Li abolished the reforms of the premier (Shou Pu, not Xiang Guo as in the passage) and replaced it with the old ways. The Shan Dong and Su Zhou peasants rose up against it. The pathetic state of the dynasty?s coffers in the late era and the uprisings throughout China had their roots in this abolishment. If the Ming dynasty could have kept the reformations, at least the problem of internal strife could be solved and there would be sufficient manpower and resources to deal with the intrusions of the Manchus. With such a robust productivity, even Manchuria would be overwhelmed.

3. The battle of Sar Hu that resulted in the destruction of 4 Ming armies and the rise of Manchuria

Discussion: Even till this day people are still trying to figure this battle out. How can an army of 100000 led by famed generals still lose to Nurhachi?s 60000 Jurchens? In reality, the Ming dynasty was doomed to defeat from the start. The state coffers are empty and the military wages were docked. The morale of the army was extremely low (a result of emperor Wan Li?s taxation scheme). Furthermore, the strategy of striking the enemy with 4 separate army groups was foolish.

The emperor Wu of Han?s first campaign against the Xiong Nu used the same strategy. The Xiong Nu dealt defeat against each army group and even Li Guang?s army was completely annihilated. Thus, future campaigns saw dividing the army into separate groups as a taboo. Indeed, a series of victories were achieved. It is a lethal mistake to divide one?s army whilst fighting against a nomadic army. The enemy is in the dark while your army is exposed.

Being unfamiliar with the terrain, the separate armies could meet with ambushes and destroyed piecemeal. If the Ming dynasty had instead kept the 100000 in 1 army, the Manchus could only perform harassing maneuvers and could not achieve their objectives of annihilation. Even if the campaign was unfruitful, a disastrous defeat could have been prevented. This foolish idea was the brainchild of Yang Hao who was a man of no talents and achieved his position through his relations with the eunuchs. In the 7 years war with Korea versus Japan, he fled in the battle of Wei Shan and messed up this golden opportunity, allowing Daojin Hongyi (I know its Shimazu something) to escape under the very nose of the Ming army.

However, the emperor Wan Li had forgotten about this mistake and gave the overall command of such an important war to this useless person. The secretary of the military department, Sun Chengzong, had voiced his doubts but he was ignored. Even if the army was divided in 4, there were still chances of victory. If the armies were led properly, cooperated with one another, careful in maneuvers and with the leadership of quality marshals, the Jurchens would still be defeated. Both Xiong Tingxi and Sun Chengzhong were considered well rounded generals, but the emperor Wan Li did not use them and instead allowed Nurhachi overturn the tables in a single war, and declared autonomy from the dynasty from that point on. Docking wages, preposterous stratagem, bad leaders, if the dynasty could have made 1 less mistake the disastrous defeat could have been prevented. The Manchus would not have risen to such heights. Such disappointment!

4. Last year of Tian Qi, first year of Chong Zhen, the Manchus invaded Choson twice. Choson requested for aid. The Ming emperor ignored it and prevented the Liao Dong army from assisting Choson. Choson was destroyed and Choson became a vassal of Manchuria.

Discussion: Everyone says that emperor Wan Li is an idiot, but from this incident, the emperors Tian Qi and Chong Zhen were even worse. No matter how stupid he was, Wan Li still understood that the relations between Choson and China are analogous to that between the lips and the teeth and spent 7 hard years fighting the Japanese. If people say that the Ming dynasty was a dynasty with a backbone, look at the deeds of these 2 emperors! Was abandoning Choson an act of courage? Losing Choson meant losing China. Even their grandfather Wan Li knew it, how can they not understand this fact?

The Manchus invaded Choson with close to 100000 men, which was basically their entire army. The Liao Dong garrison at the Ning Mian defense line was not below 200000, and they could either assault the Manchuria itself or block the Manchus? line of retreat at the Yalu River. Both would seal the fate of the Manchus. And Choson were holding out valiantly at that time and was close in leading the Manchus into a quagmire. However, the Ming dynasty chose to sit back and look on as an ally was getting annihilated. Of course, the dynasty just underwent the great battle of Ning Yuan and needed to consolidate the defenses.

Even if the Liao Dong army was insufficiently prepared, the Ming army numbered 2 million, and there were Ming navies docked at Shan Dong and Jiang Su. With the maritime abilities of the dynasty, assisting Choson was definitely within the abilities of the dynasty. With the Liao Dong garrison holding out at the Ning Mian line, the dynasty could mobilize the army and navy from elsewhere to assist Choson. With the navy cutting the retreat at the Yalu River, even if one does not achieve complete victory, Choson would still be saved from annihilation. But the inaction of the dynasty was a great disappointment. Prior to the loss of Choson, the majority of the tribes of Mongolia still stood by the dynasty.

After the loss of Choson, almost all of them submitted to Manchuria, resulting in numerous intrusions of the Manchus into the Central Plains through Mongol territory. What?s worse, the abundance of natural resources of Choson provided the Manchuria with greater strength. If Choson was not lost, the Ming dynasty could have a base to recover Liao Dong. Losing Choson is like losing an arm. How hateful is such a mistake?!

5. Last year of Tian Qi, Yuan Chonghuan signed a truce with Manchuria, but was maligned by the eunuchs and their supporters and forced to resign. The truce was broken henceforth.

Discussion: There was a Qin Kuai in the Song dynasty, and since then the Chinese has viewed signing a truce with distaste as though that signing a truce is equivalent to treason. However, signing truces should be considered as a neutral affair, the key is viewing under what situation is the truce being negotiated and the conditions involved. When emperor Gao Zu of Han agreed to marriage ties with the Xiong Nu, and the alliance of Wei Shui between emperor Tai Zong of Tang with the East Turks, viewing the truces and the conditions without the geopolitical situation would easily led one to think that both were indignant to the pride of the country.

But it was the work of these treaties that won China time to rest and prepare for war. After these periods of rest, Emperor Wu of Han achieved victories in his counterattack of the Xiong Nu and emperor Tai Zong of Tang annihilated the East Turks. However, the Ming emperors were extremely myopic and were roused to great anger hearing about the truce, as though that signing a truce was equivalent to selling out their ancestral lands. In reality, signing a truce with the Manchus was extremely advantageous to the Ming dynasty. The domestic government of the dynasty was corrupt and the region within the passes was hit by famine year after year. Peasant movements started throughout this region.

The Ming army was forced to march back and forth between the Guan Zhong region and the Liao Dong fronts and could hardly cope with such pressures. The dynasty needed time to take care of her domestic problems and reestablish production. A small indignity to consolidate power was best. Furthermore, the Manchus did not even think of gaining the Central Plains. They did not request for Ming princesses nor the title of Emperor. Even complete independence was not mentioned in the treaty. The Manchus only hoped for a noble title such that they would be on equal footing with the princes of the dynasty. This treaty had no indignity to speak of nor would it harm the budget of the dynasty. Overall losses would be even less than the marriage ties between the Han dynasty and the Xiong Nu.

Moreover, once signed, Manchuria and the Ming dynasty would be in a static phase. The dynasty had ample resources and time to recover Liao Dong. With the manpower and national might of Manchuria, the Manchus would definitely be defeated in attrition. If the Ming emperors have the mind set on the recovery of the lost territories, the defeat of the Jurchens would be only a matter of time. However, the Ming emperors displayed a ridiculous flair of indignity over this matter. After this, Li Zicheng?s uprising and a 2 front war against domestic rebellions and external invasions proved to be too much for the Ming army, leading to the destruction of the dynasty.

6. In the battle of the first encirclement of Beijing by the Manchus, Huang Taiji used a reverse stratagem and killed Yuan Chonghuan. The Ming dynasty destroyed their great wall. After that incident, the Manchus made multiple incursions to the capital through Mongolia and dealt severe blows to the dynasty.

Discussion: There are 2 major mistakes in this incident. The first of them is executing Yuan. Even idiots would know this. Everyone throughout the state knew that Yuan was innocent apart from the people of Beijing as well as the emperor. Yuan led his force in a thousand li assault and intercepted the Manchu army, halting their attack. Although brilliantly won, even Yuan himself admitted that intercepting a 100000 strong Manchu army with 9000 cavalrymen is a gamble. The victory, henceforth, is won through fortunes. Afterwards Yuan adopted a defensive tactic to wait for reinforcements.

The Manchus were denied access to the city fortress. They thus pillaged and raped the surrounding countryside to vent their frustrations. The people of Beijing thus blamed this on Yuan. The ignorance of the peasants is understandable, but Emperor Chongzhen?s lack of knowledge about military affairs is preposterous. Waiting for reinforcements is a sound tactic everyone understands except for the emperor. Killing Yuan also broke the morale of the 200000 Liaodong garrison. They have fought for an idiot with their lives, and in the end their general was executed in at the market square. Who could fight for such a dynasty with loyalty? After the death of Yuan, his many subordinates surrendered to the Manchus. Although Zu Dashou never gave advice while he was in the service of Manchus, his men became the vanguard of the destruction of the Ming dynasty. Kong Youde and others were even made princes and marquises. As a result of the increased defections, the Liao Dong defense lines became increasingly weak.

The second mistake would be a tactical error. The 130000-strong Manchu army is an isolated strikeforce and this in itself is a grave military mistake. The various passes along the Great Wall were still under Ming control. If the Ming dynasty could force the enemy to a long standstill, gather up a large force to strengthen the Great Wall defenses (which is not really difficult for the dynasty) and trap the Manchu army in a pocket, that 130000 men army would be vanquished. Even if Huang Taiji could execute a successful breakthrough, the spirit of the Manchu army would be broken (the Russians used such a tactic against Napoleon).

If the Ming dynasty was even more adventurous, they could order Zu Dashou to lead the Liao Dong garrison to attack Manchuria while reinforcing the capital. The Manchu army would be forced to protect their heartland and intercepted halfway through (the stratagem of surrounding Wei to rescue Zhao). This would be a direct strike into the heart of Manchuria and destroy the Manchus in a single pitched battle. Unfortunately Emperor Chongzhen cannot differentiate between the patriots and traitors and knows nothing about the military, and was content in forcing the Manchus on a retreat. The dynasty thus lost an opportunity to vanquish Manchuria.

7. In the last years of Ming dynasty, the area within the pass suffered a great drought that lasted for 8 years. The peasants were forced to revolt. Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong led these peasant revolts and the dynasty was thrown into chaos. The Ming dynasty achieved successes in oppressing these revolutions.

Zhang Xianzhong surrendered and Li Zicheng was defeated. A period of peace was achieved, but the natural calamity continued. The dynasty did not undertake any aid policies, forcing the peasants to revolt again. Li Zicheng managed to recover and toppled the Ming dynasty in the end.

Discussions: The Ming dynasty managed to suppress the first revolt of Li Zicheng despite fighting a 2 front war. This was indeed the blessings from heavens and a great opportunity for the dynasty to recover. Some people may say that the destruction of the Ming dynasty is due to heaven?s will. However, if one study history closely, both the Han and Tang dynasties suffered from such plight. In the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang dynasty, the area within the pass suffered a continuous drought for a decade. The disastrous years lasted for 4 years. Emperor Gaozong applied the advices of the premier, Fei Yan, and decisively stopped any military excursions against the West Turks. The 100000 men army was mobilized to repair irrigation works instead. All effort was directed in relieving the victims and alleviating the suffering. Although the drought continued to wreak havoc for 7 years, but the area within the pass showed no signs of severe famine.

After the Tang dynasty managed to achieve internal stability, the dynasty sent a military excursion to Xi Yu (the western frontier), destroy the West Turks and extending Tang influence and control to the Pamil plateau. In the 2nd year of Kaiyuan of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, the area within the pass suffered from a locust swarm never seen in a century. The government officials were cruel and extorted unreasonable taxes. The combination of natural calamity and human oppression drove the peasants to a revolt. Emperor Xuanzong ordered premier Yao Chong to lead the campaign in vanquishing the locusts and executed 42 corrupt officials to pacify the people. All the princes and great officials were ordered to give up their wages to provide aid. These policies turned the situation around and created the prosperity of Kaiyuan. Thus, natural calamities are not fearful.

The most important factor is human intervention. The disasters of Ming dynasty can be allocated such: 70% human error. The officials were greedy and extorted taxes from the victims. The state increased taxes without thought of the disasters, eventually leading to peasant revolt. The Ming dynasty could have decisively chose policies to alleviate suffering after suppressing Li Zicheng?s first revolt: make necessary changes to the government officials and taxation policies, allocate the wealth of Jiangnan to aid the victims (the canal between the capital at Beijing at Hangzhou makes this possible), and initiate a major water works project to prevent the Yellow River from flooding (the manpower and technology of Ming dynasty is capable of such) to pacify the masses, then Li Zicheng?s movement would be unable to attract anyone. The fall of the capital to the peasant army would not have occurred. Unfortunately, when dealing with natural disasters, Emperor Chongzhen cannot even compare to the weak Emperor Gaozong of Tang.

8. The battle of Songshan between Ming and Manchuria saw 130000 Ming soldiers pitted against the 100000-strong Manchu army. The Ming general Hong Chengchou established a stratagem of encroachment and static defensive warfare, relying on superior firearms and defenses to halt any Manchu assault. This nearly forced the Manchu army into a disastrous standstill.

However, the idiot Emperor Chongzhen was greedy for a grand victory and issued 4 direct imperial commands to force Hong Chengchou on a direct assault. Hong Chengchou wept bitterly and knew that the Ming army would be defeated if they sally out to attack. In the end, Hong was indeed defeated and captured. This battle is the biggest pitched battle between the 2 main forces of Ming dynasty and Manchuria. After this disaster, the Ming lost all their fortresses beyond the passes. Shanhai Pass became the frontline. The Manchus now have the initiative of the war.

Discussion: Being the biggest pitched battle between Ming and Manchuria, this battle would decide the fate of the Manchu kingdom. If the Ming dynasty was to achieve victory, the Manchus would go down in history. If the Manchus won, the Ming dynasty would thus have no staging ground outside the passes. 100000 banner troops is almost the entirety of the armed forces of Manchuria, and the Ming dynasty mobilized all their elite forces. The beginning stages of the battle were in favor of the Ming dynasty. Although Hong lacks in spirit, his military capabilities is still fairly strong (possibly at the level of Yuan Chonghuan).

Moreover, the men led by Hong were the Ningmian garrison left by Yuan armed with the best firearms. If fighting defensively, the Manchus would lose gravely. Zu Dashou?s defection also increased the might of the Ming dynasty and shook the Manchu lines. Although the Ming army may have numerical superiority, the field battle capabilities of the Ming army were vastly inferior, and this was accentuated even more in large scale warfare. On the surface it may appear to be a struggle between the armies, but in reality it is a struggle of money, food and logistics combined. All this depends on national production. Manchuria was both smaller and weaker, and a fast victory would be their only choice. Hong?s stratagem of static defense would be the best tactic for the Ming army. In a few more months the Manchu army would be forced to give up the fight.

Just when victory is at hand, Emperor Chongzhen could not wait. In comparison to the dynasty?s ignorance of the battle of Ningyuan, Emperor Chongzhen viewed the battle of Songshan as a top priority. However, it became a disaster because of his focus. Emperor Wu of Han came up with his own military guidelines in dealing with the Xiong Nu because he knew about military affairs from his youth and had complete knowledge of the Xiong Nu. Emperor Chongzhen was nowhere near Emperor Wu but wanted fame. His 4 issues of imperial command were even worse than Qin Hui?s 12 gold imperial seals. Yue Fei brought back his whole army, but Chongzhen?s command destroyed the army of 130000 and the whole front. Everyone would condemn Hong for his act of treason. It can be agreed that Hong?s latter acts was indeed treasonous, but we must remember that he fought to exhaustion before being captured. Who can remember Chongzhen?s idiocy?

Why would anyone have any loyalty to such an idiot? Even Huang Zongxi, the surviving scholar of the Ming dynasty, cannot forgive this act. In his <<Criticisms of Chongzhen>>, the scholar criticized the emperor heavily for this act. When we think of this battle, we are filled with regrets and great disappointment. The fate of a dynasty and a people was changed by the 4 imperial issues of an emperor.

9. After the fall of Beijing, the South Ming dynasty was established. A short while latter, the Manchu army would cross the Yangtze and occupy Nanjing without bloodshed. The South Ming government falls.

Discussion: The South Song dynasty faced the similar dynasty but lasted a few decades. The South Ming dynasty, however, was vanquished shortly afterwards. Although Emperor Gaozong of Song was foolish, he was better than Emperor Hongguang. Gaozong at least knew how to organize the northern refugees into the fierce Yue army to fight against the invaders. Emperor Hongguang didn?t know anything apart from leading a hedonistic life. The Ming garrisons still number several hundred thousand along the Yangtze River. But a useless emperor with a couple treasonous ministers was sufficient to betray the whole state. The resistance put up by the people of Jiangnan and the Ming soldiers were spirited. Jiading, Jiangyin and Yangzhou all dealt severe blows to the Manchu army.

The Manchu army put the cities to the sword to vent their frustrations as a result. If Emperor Hongguang was at least as spirited as Emperor Gaozong, and if the Ming army were united as one, using the Yangtze River as a natural barrier, the Manchus would not have been able to cross easily. If the worst come to pass, the Ming dynasty would be forced to come to a standstill against the Manchus across the Yangtze River. Even if the Ming dynasty could not regain the lost territories, it would still stand. Some may say that the people of Jiangnan were weak and Jiangnan would not be able to stand. But from the records of history, the natives of Jiangnan put up a brave fight and were exemplifications of the last courage and dignity of the Chinese. Even if they were defeated, they would still be remembered. The people have no thought of selling out the state. Most of the troops were determined to fight to the last.

The true traitors were the Emperor, the well paid ministers, the members of the royal house and those corrupt Confucian scholars that read the book of the sages and full of the notion of social hierarchy. <<The Peach Fan>> was sung for a millennium: 3000 troops surrendered, but none of them were girls. Some may say that Shakespeare?s <<Hamlet>> is the greatest tragedy. But <<The Peach Fan>> exceeds that in my opinion. This play uncovered a truce: why would we lose our state and why we were slaughtered.

10. After the establishment of the Yongli government, general Li Dingguo dealt a series of defeats against the Qing at Yunnan, Guizhou, killing 2 Manchu princes. The Qing army at the southwest was completely lost. Numerous Han troops within Qing territory also raised their banners to answer the call of the Yongli government.

Li Dingguo thus officially requested the Yongli Emperor to attack Sichuan, seizing Bashu and Hanzhong before the Manchu main force makes their drive south so as to open the way up to the Central Plains. However, Emperor Yongli was worried that Li Dingguo would obtain more prestige than him, and thus ordered him to stay put and allocated part of his forces to Sun Kewang. Sun Kewang unexpectedly revolted and Yongli government experienced a civil war. Although the revolt was put down, the South Ming dynasty was gravely weakened. This also allowed the Manchu army enough time to gather forces. Soon afterwards, Wu Sangui would lead an expedition into Yunnan and destroy the Yongli government.

Discussions: This is the best opportunity in the battle against the Qing to reclaim the lost territories. Although the Manchus have a million armed men, 2/3 of them were Han and most of them were still sitting on the fence and their loyalty was in question. Li Dingguo dealt successive defeats against Kong Youde and Nikan Wailan and killed the 2 princes. This was a crushing defeat for the southwest influences of the Qing and sent ripples of doubt across the Han soldiers of the Qing dynasty.

The governor of Huguang officially requested the Qing government to send in the 8 banners as the Han soldiers dare not fight against Li Dingguo. If the Qing were forced to send reinforcements, they would only arrive within a few months. At the same time, Zheng Chenggong was tying down the Qing army at Fujian. Although Sichuan was blessed with natural barriers, entering Sichuan from Guizhou was far easier than entering Sichuan from the Central Plains. If Hanzhong was seized, then one can easily take the 800 li Qin Chuan in an offense or easily retreat to a strong defensive position. If such a tactic was successful, the Ming dynasty would be in a strong position to recover the lost lands. Compared to the numerous foolish emperors of the Ming dynasty, emperor Yongli was better.

Accepting Li Dingguo?s army of the Great West was a great proof of his ambition. Unfortunately, he also inherited the paranoia of his ancestors and dared not assign critical tasks to Li Dingguo. He also relied on eunuchs, and even trusted the bad egg Sun Kewang. This was a repetition of the foolishness of the Ming emperors. The Ming dynasty had no lack in talented men, but the emperors were useless and trusted the wrong men. In the end, this good opportunity was also lost. Li Dingguo was forced to retreat to Burma and died there. Yongli was capatured by Wu Sangui and was strangled by a bow string. The Ming dynasty had finally been destroyed.

From this, the Manchus were not the ones that destroyed the Ming dynasty, but we buried ourselves.

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