The Rise of Western Power: When China Ruled the Sea Essay

The Rise of Western Power: When China Ruled the Sea Essay

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The rise of Western power is a relatively recent development in the modern era. Previously the world could be seen as polycentric with overlapping spheres of influence (Marks 34). However, by the fifteenth century, China held considerable economic and military power, leading the world in size, population, agriculture, and commerce (Mungello 1). China also excelled in technology, military strength, learning, and the fine arts (Mungello 2). Leading China through its glory days was the Ming Dynasty which endured more than 250 years until its decline in 1644 (Dardess 1).
Before the Ming dynasty, China had become little more than a portion of the Mongol Empire. Hongwu, formerly Zhu Yuanzhang, became the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty after the successful rebellion that pushed the Mongols out of China (Roberts 119). The Ming Dynasty became known for its effective and organized government system that provided the foundation for the prosperity that would characterize the Ming Dynasty for the next two centuries (Mungello 2). The Prince of Yan, later known as Yongle, became emperor after a rebellion and usurping his nephew, Jianwen, in 1403 (Roberts 120) Yongle quickly cemented his position by restoring prior regiments and asserting his power by dispatching a series of seven two-year sea expeditions between 1405 and 1433 (Roberts 126). Many have speculated that Yongle’s grand expeditions were actually searches for Jianwen, who according to rumor was still alive. However, it is most likely that the ships were sent to gain recognition of Yongle as a ruler (Roberts 126). The great commander of these expeditions was Zheng He, who led the expeditions from China all the way to the African coast (Roberts 126).
Zheng He was a Chines...

... middle of paper ...

...e was little more than a memory and legend, providing little resistance to the new European explorers (Levathes 20).

Works Cited

Dardess, John W. Ming China, 1368-1644. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, Inc, 2012.
Levathes, Louise E. When China Ruled the Seas. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
Marks, Robert B. The Origins of the Modern World. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2007.
Mungello, D. E. The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publsihers, Inc, 1999.
Pagden, Anthony. Peoples and Empires. New York, New York: Modern Library Edition, 2001.
Roberts, J.A.G. A Concise History of China. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Wade, Geoff. "The Zheg He Voyages: A Reassessment." JOurnal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (2005): 37-58.

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