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

November 24, 2010

The reputation of the Chinese products that Admiral Zheng He took with him on his voyages brought him considerable honor and made him welcome everywhere he visited.

On his sixth voyage, he reached the African coast and twelve hundred envoys from sixteen African and Asian countries returned to China with Zheng He’s fleet.

In Beijing, the Ming Emperor presented these envoys with 40 thousand roles of silk and brocade.

Even before the Ming Dynasty, China had been sending diplomatic missions overland to the West for centuries and trade had extended as far as east Africa.

However, never before had a government-sponsored mission the size of Zheng He’s fleet been organized.  His voyages were a vivid demonstration of the economic and cultural prosperity of the Ming Dynasty.

 

In 1420, the year the Forbidden City was completed, the Yongle Emperor’s Bell was successfully cast. 

The Forbidden City is a testament to Chinese architecture and engineering while in Europe it was still the Middle Ages.

The Great Wall, which the Ming Dynasty had continued to build and strengthen, stretched from China’s eastern coast to the far northwest.

In 1637, the largest encyclopedia of ancient China was published — a comprehensive book covering science and handicraft technologies.

Another encyclopedia was published on agriculture.

A third described China’s geology in detail.

A fourth was the most comprehensive medical book in Chinese history, the Compendium of Materia Medica.

The greatest of China’s ancient literature was also written and published during the Ming Dynasty.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Ancient China’s Armada

August 8, 2010

When the Yongle Emperor died in 1424, China’s Hongxi Emperor stopped the voyages of China’s largest fleet. Source: BBC

A century later, about 1529, another Ming Emperor burned all records of the fleet. This decision to withdraw from the world may have resulted in China not being ready to confront the Western Imperial powers that would arrive in the 19th century starting the Opium Wars, which would devastate China.

The voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng Hi’s armada were rediscovered in Fujian province in the 1930s. The story was etched in a pillar. By the final, seventh voyage, the fleet had covered over 50,000 kilometers or 30,000 miles and was comprised of three hundred ships and 28,000 men.

By comparison, Christopher Columbus set sale in 1492 with 3 small ships and 88 men. Erik the Red, a Viking explorer, also crossed the Atlantic in even smaller ships to build a settlement in Greenland around 1,000 AD. Some archeologists suggest that the Phoenicians may have reached the Americas before the Vikings and Columbus around 500 BC. Some even say as early as 1500 to 1200 BC.

Today, a joint Chinese-Kenyan expedition of archaeologists plans to find and excavate a ship from Zheng Hi’s fleet, which may have sunk during a storm near the Lamu islands. Source: Old Salt Blog

Many layers of myth surround China’s ancient mariner. According to Kenyan lore, some of his shipwrecked sailors survived and married local women.

DNA tests have reportedly shown evidence of Chinese ancestry and a young Kenyan woman, Mwamaka Shirafu, was given a scholarship to study Chinese medicine in China, where she now resides. Source: Archaeology Daily

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. 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.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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