Founding Revolt and rebel rivalry The Mongol -led Yuan dynasty — ruled before the establishment of the Ming dynasty. Explanations for the demise of the Yuan include institutionalized ethnic discrimination against Han Chinese that stirred resentment and rebellion, overtaxation of areas hard-hit by inflation , and massive flooding of the Yellow River as a result of the abandonment of irrigation projects.
Zhu Yuanzhang was a penniless peasant and Buddhist monk who joined the Red Turbans in ; he soon gained a reputation after marrying the foster daughter of a rebel commander. With the Yuan dynasty crumbling, competing rebel groups began fighting for control of the country and thus the right to establish a new dynasty. In , Zhu Yuanzhang eliminated his archrival and leader of the rebel Han faction, Chen Youliang , in the Battle of Lake Poyang , arguably the largest naval battle in history. Known for its ambitious use of fire ships , Zhu's force of , Ming sailors were able to defeat a Han rebel force over triple their size, claimed to be ,strong.
The victory destroyed the last opposing rebel faction, leaving Zhu Yuanzhang in uncontested control of the bountiful Yangtze River Valley and cementing his power in the south. After the dynastic head of the Red Turbans suspiciously died in while a guest of Zhu, there was no one left who was remotely capable of contesting his march to the throne, and he made his imperial ambitions known by sending an army toward the Yuan capital Dadu present-day Beijing in Reign of the Hongwu Emperor Portrait of the Hongwu Emperor ruled in —98 Hongwu made an immediate effort to rebuild state infrastructure.
In Hongwu had the Chancellor Hu Weiyong executed upon suspicion of a conspiracy plot to overthrow him; after that Hongwu abolished the Chancellery and assumed this role as chief executive and emperor, a precedent mostly followed throughout the Ming period.
Some , people were executed in a series of purges during his rule. However, he also sought to use the Yuan legacy to legitimize his authority in China and other areas ruled by the Yuan. He adopted many Yuan military practices, recruited Mongol soldiers, and continued to request Korean concubines and eunuchs.
Ming conquest of Yunnan In Qinghai , the Salar Muslims voluntarily came under Ming rule, their clan leaders capitulating around The Hui troops under General Mu Ying , who was appointed Governor of Yunnan, were resettled in the region as part of a colonization effort.
Roughly half a million more Chinese settlers came in later periods; these migrations caused a major shift in the ethnic make-up of the region, since formerly more than half of the population were non-Han peoples. Resentment over such massive changes in population and the resulting government presence and policies sparked more Miao and Yao revolts in to , which were crushed by an army of 30, Ming troops including 1, Mongols joining the , local Guangxi see Miao Rebellions Ming dynasty.
After the scholar and philosopher Wang Yangming — suppressed another rebellion in the region, he advocated single, unitary administration of Chinese and indigenous ethnic groups in order to bring about sinification of the local peoples.
Although the rammed earth walls of the ancient Warring States were combined into a unified wall under the Qin and Han dynasties, the vast majority of the brick and stone Great Wall seen today is a product of the Ming dynasty. After the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan dynasty by the Ming dynasty in , Manchuria remained under control of the Mongols of the Northern Yuan dynasty based in Mongolia. Naghachu , a former Yuan official and a Uriankhai general of the Northern Yuan dynasty, won hegemony over the Mongol tribes in Manchuria Liaoyang province of the former Yuan dynasty.
He grew strong in the northeast, with forces large enough numbering hundreds of thousands to threaten invasion of the newly founded Ming dynasty in order to restore the Mongols to power in China. The Ming decided to defeat him instead of waiting for the Mongols to attack. In the Ming sent a military campaign to attack Naghachu ,  which concluded with the surrender of Naghachu and Ming conquest of Manchuria.
The early Ming court could not, and did not, aspire to the control imposed upon the Jurchens in Manchuria by the Mongols, yet it created a norm of organization that would ultimately serve as the principal vehicle for the relations with peoples along the northeast frontiers.
By the end of the Hongwu reign, the essentials of a policy toward the Jurchens had taken shape. Most of the inhabitants of Manchuria, except for the wild Jurchens, were at peace with China. In , the Ming dynasty under Yongle Emperor established the Nurgan Regional Military Commission on the banks of the Amur River , and Yishiha , a eunuch of Haixi Jurchen derivation, was ordered to lead an expedition to the mouth of the Amur to pacify the Wild Jurchens.
After the death of Yongle Emperor, the Nurgan Regional Military Commission was abolished in , and the Ming court ceased to have substantial activities there, although the guards continued to exist in Manchuria. By the late Ming period, Ming political presence in Manchuria had waned considerably. Relations with Tibet Main article: Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming dynasty A 17th-century Tibetan thangka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra; the Ming dynasty court gathered various tribute items that were native products of Tibet such as thangkas ,  and in return granted gifts to Tibetan tribute-bearers.
Wylie states that censorship in the Mingshi in favor of bolstering the Ming emperor's prestige and reputation at all costs obfuscates the nuanced history of Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming era. Some believe it was a relationship of loose suzerainty that was largely cut off when the Jiajing Emperor r. The most powerful of Hongwu's sons, Zhu Di, then the militarily mighty disagreed with this, and soon a political showdown erupted between him and his nephew Jianwen.
Under the pretext of rescuing the young Jianwen from corrupting officials, Zhu Di personally led forces in the revolt; the palace in Nanjing was burned to the ground, along with Jianwen himself, his wife, mother, and courtiers.
Zhu Di assumed the throne as the Yongle Emperor — ; his reign is universally viewed by scholars as a "second founding" of the Ming dynasty since he reversed many of his father's policies. Construction of a new city there lasted from to , employing hundreds of thousands of workers daily.
Beginning in , the Yongle Emperor entrusted his favored eunuch commander Zheng He — as the admiral for a gigantic new fleet of ships designated for international tributary missions. The Chinese had sent diplomatic missions over land since the Han dynasty BCE — CE and engaged in private overseas trade , but these missions were unprecedented in grandeur and scale. He also used the military to expand China's borders.
The chief eunuch Wang Zhen encouraged the Zhengtong Emperor r. However, this scheme was foiled once the emperor's younger brother assumed the throne under the era name Jingtai r. Holding the Zhengtong Emperor in captivity was a useless bargaining chip for the Oirats as long as another sat on his throne, so they released him back into Ming China. Tianshun proved to be a troubled time and Mongol forces within the Ming military structure continued to be problematic.
On 7 August , the Chinese general Cao Qin and his Ming troops of Mongol descent staged a coup against the Tianshun Emperor out of fear of being next on his purge-list of those who aided him in the Wresting the Gate Incident. In the beginning of his reign, Wanli surrounded himself with able advisors and made a conscientious effort to handle state affairs. His Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng —82 built up an effective network of alliances with senior officials.
However, there was no one after him skilled enough to maintain the stability of these alliances;  officials soon banded together in opposing political factions. Over time Wanli grew tired of court affairs and frequent political quarreling amongst his ministers, preferring to stay behind the walls of the Forbidden City and out of his officials' sight. The Hongwu Emperor forbade eunuchs to learn how to read or engage in politics. Whether or not these restrictions were carried out with absolute success in his reign, eunuchs during the Yongle Emperor's reign and afterwards managed huge imperial workshops, commanded armies, and participated in matters of appointment and promotion of officials.
The eunuchs developed their own bureaucracy that was organized parallel to but was not subject to the civil service bureaucracy. He ordered temples built in his honor throughout the Ming Empire, and built personal palaces created with funds allocated for building the previous emperor's tombs. His friends and family gained important positions without qualifications.
Wei also published a historical work lambasting and belittling his political opponents. The Chongzhen Emperor r. Economic breakdown and natural disasters Further information: Europeans in Medieval China Spring morning in a Han palace, by Qiu Ying — ; excessive luxury and decadence marked the late Ming period, spurred by the enormous state bullion of incoming silver and by private transactions involving silver.
During the last years of the Wanli era and those of his two successors, an economic crisis developed that was centered on a sudden widespread lack of the empire's chief medium of exchange: The Portuguese first established trade with China in , .