4. China Under the Ming and Qing
During the era of Ottoman and Mughal rule, two dynasties governed China, the Ming and the Qing (ching). Both dynasties took power during times of upheaval. To restore order, they established strong, centralized rule and revived traditional Chinese values, including Confucian ideals.
The Ming Revival In the mid-1300s, China was in turmoil. The Mongol Yuan dynasty was still in power, but disease and natural disasters had weakened the Mongol grip. Bandits and rebels roamed the countryside. In 1368, a Chinese rebel army overthrew the Mongols. The rebel leader, Zhu Yuanzhang (JOO yuwen-JAHNG), took power and established the Ming dynasty. In Chinese, the word Ming means “brilliant.”
The new Ming emperor set out to restore traditional Chinese rule. He revived the state examination system, used to select officials for the civil service. This system of tests was based on the Chinese classics, especially the works of the philosopher Confucius. Under Ming rule, Confucian scholars were again elevated in Chinese society. Classical art and literature were held up as models for artistic expression.
The emperor also reformed the tax system and distributed land to Chinese peasants. Under the Ming, agriculture prospered. New crops such as potatoes and corn, brought from the Americas in the 1500s, increased the food supply. As a result, the Chinese population doubled during the first two centuries of Ming rule. Trade and commerce also increased, though Ming rulers—in traditional Confucian style—favored agriculture over business.
During his 30-year reign, Zhu Yuanzhang brought peace and stability to China. But he was also a despot who ruled with an iron hand. Fearing threats to his power, he had thousands of off...
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... more than a third of humanity. China could not sustain such growth forever, though. In the 1800s, it began to experience food shortages and famine. Once again, rebellions broke out and the dynasty faltered.
In some ways, China’s success under Qing rule also contained the seeds of its decline. For centuries, China had relied on its traditions to ensure stability, prosperity, and power. But as global interaction increased and the world began to change, this conservative approach hindered progress. China rejected new ideas in science, technology, and economics that might have brought increased productivity and wealth. Instead, it fell back on its old ways. This reluctance to change left China vulnerable to the growing power of Europe. The Qing dynasty lasted until 1911, but as a result of its policies by the late 1800s it was increasingly dominated by Western powers.
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