History of Ming Dynasty 1368–1644
Han people resumed their rule during the Ming dynasty. One distinction is the overseas expeditions during the period 1405–1433 led by Zheng He, a eunuch and confidante of the emperor of the Ming dynasty. According to Gavin (2003), on March 8, 1421 Zheng He sailed the largest fleet the world had ever seen from China. The fleet reached America 70 years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan.
The first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, was a homeless when he joined the Red Turban rebellion in the lower Yangtse region. Similar to the first emperor of Han Dynasty, he was very suspicious of the educated courtiers around him. This harsh governmental style was partly due to the influence of governmental institutions of the previous Mongol period that were marked by a strong centralization.
Zhu Yuanzhang began with popular policies by cutting taxes and fair government. He also repaid his political debts by awarding his supporters with lavish appointments in high positions. However, before his death he had toppled most of his own appointees. Zhu Yuanzhang had brought civil service entrance examination standard to a new plateau with his more elaborate curriculum. He meticulously compiled his law code in 20 years. These efforts were a mixed blessing to society. Zhu Li, uncle to the rightful new emperor Zhu Yunwen, wrestled the throne from his nephew in a four-year bloody civil war. He crowned himself emperor in 1402 as Chengzu. He had led successful northern expeditions against nomadic tribes, and in 1421 he then moved his capital to Beijing to further secure his kingdom.
The turning point of the Ming Dynasty from prosperity to decline was the reign of Emperor Shenzong. In the early period, under the wise assistance of a skillful chancellor, Zhang Juzheng, Emperor Shenzong made much improvement in the national economy, agriculture, water conservancy and military affairs. However, after the death of Zhang Juzheng, the emperor began to neglect state affairs. In his late reign, the Ming army was defeated by the leader of Manchu in the Battle of Sarhu. Since then, the Ming court fell into a passive state in confrontation with Manchu.
The end of the Ming Dynasty started from the last emperor, Emperor Chongzhen. The crisis of the Ming Dynasty was caused by the corruption of the court officials and the domination of the eunuchs. In that period, both the exploitation from the ruling class and natural disasters in successive years caused the people to live in extreme hardship. In 1628, rebel military forces launched battles in the northern area of Shaaxi Province. Among them, one of the leaders of the rebel army was named Li Zicheng, and he was deeply trusted and supported by most peasants. In 1644, Li Zicheng captured Xian and founded a new regime called Dashun. In the same year, Emperor Chongzhen hanged himself in Jingshan Hill of Beijing, signifying the end of the Ming Dynasty.