Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty – Part 3/4

November 27, 2010

The Yongle Emperor’s father, Zhu Yuanzhang (Emperor Hongwu) would have seen his son as unfilial, which means not observing the obligations of a child to a parent—even after the parent is dead.

When Yongle opened China, he demonstrated disrespect for his parent. Instead, he should have continued supporting the closed-door policy his father had instituted.

In Chinese society, to maintain a well-controlled country or a peaceful world requires the children to love and respect his or her parents even after death.

In fact, filial piety is not only a foundation of morality in China but also a fundamental basis of Chinese culture.

This also explains why each of China’s current presidents continues supporting the policies of the former president and Deng Xiaoping.

For change to take place in China, it usually comes slowly. Filial piety is the reason the People’s Liberation Army did not remove Mao during the Cultural Revolution and waited until he was dead to act.

Mandarin with English subtitles

However, when the Yongle Emperor acted against his father’s wishes, he demonstrated courage because he knew many in the imperial court would consider him unfilial.

Emperor Yongle commissioned building the great fleet that Admiral Zheng He sailed as far as Africa. 

Admiral Zheng He was selected to command because he was an organizer, a diplomat and could be trusted. He was not a merchant or a conqueror.

Although during this time, many Chinese immigrated to Southeast Asia, the Yongle Emperor had no interest in establishing colonies outside China.

In the north, it was a different story. Emperor Yongle had to deal with ceaseless attacks by the Mongolian tribes.

For the first time in centuries, an emperor sent a Chinese army of 100,000 beyond the Great Wall to end this threat and bring peace to China.

When the nomadic tribes retreated, a larger army was raised and sent after them.

Return to Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty – Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


Ming Dynasty (1368-1643 AD) – Part 1, 3/3

November 22, 2010

After moving the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, the Yongle Emperor ordered that a huge bell be made to commemorate his exploits.

The reason for moving the capital was to consolidate defenses in the north since the Mongols, Manchu and other nomads lived to the north and were a threat to an agricultural culture such as China.

In March of 1418, the master bell makers were called to Beijing. The Yongle Bell was to be 6.94 meters tall (almost 23 feet), 3.3 meters wide at the mouth (almost 11 feet) and weigh 46.5 tons.

Producing such a massive bell even today would be an extraordinary job. The master bell makers used the clay mould casting technique—a method used for three thousand years so the Chinese were experienced.

Since there wasn’t a furnace large enough to melt that much bronze, the bell makers used several furnaces at once — another example of an assembly line.

The bell was poured in one casting, which meant that the furnaces had to be coordinated to poor the molten bronze. To be successful, there could not be one mistake.

Because of the threats to China from northern nomads, the five thousand kilometer long Great Wall had been built as a first line of defense from invasion.

The Great Wall was high, long and solid since it was constructed of massive slabs of stone. Construction had started two thousand years earlier and work had continued up to the Ming Dynasty.

During the twenty-eight years between 1405 and 1433 AD, the fleet commanded by Zheng He made seven voyages to Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and Africa’s east coast.

Ming navigators kept detailed charts and the fleet was never lost while at sea.

Return to Ming Dynasty (1368-1643 AD) – Part 1, 2/3


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD) – Part 1, 1/3

November 21, 2010

The Red Turban Rebellion was started in the middle of the fourteenth century by Chinese peasants against the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty.

The Red Turban ideology included elements from White Lotus, a Buddhist sect from the late Southern Song Dynasty.

Soon, the White Lotus Society, led by Han Shantong, became the center of anti-Mongol sentiment. After Han Shantong was caught and executed, his son, Han Liner, came to power claiming to be the incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha.

When the Yung Dynasty fell in August 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang was the leader of the White Lotus Society (also known as the The Millennium Cult, with similarities to today’s Falun Gong religious cult).

Yuanzhang came from a poor background and did not trust the educated elite. He created an extremely authoritarian regime with harsh policies and ruled China from the city of Nanjing.

It would take several years before China recovered from the destruction caused by the rebellion.

The first hundred and fifty years of the Ming Dynasty saw an improvement in agricultural technology never before seen in China, which encouraged the development of the handicrafts industry and commerce.

Since the Roman Empire, products from China had already been known for their high quality and craftsmanship. During the Ming, these products reached even higher qualities.

The Yongle Emperor (1402 – 1424) moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing where he built a new city.

In fact, after being neglected for decades, the Yongle Emperor had the Grand Canal restored.

The Yongle Emperor also send the Muslim, eunuch Admiral Zheng He with a huge fleet across the oceans to Africa and possibly to the Americas well before Columbus set sail. The emperor’s goal was to gain respect from distant foreign nations.

To build the Ming fleet required techniques and technologies never seen in the world. To achieve this feat, the Chinese invented what has been credited to Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1915 — an assembly line five centuries before Ford.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.