The Ming Dynasty was founded by Zhu Yuanzhang (also known as Emperor Hongwu) in 1368. Zhu Yuanzhang was born into a poor peasant family in China’s Anhui province in 1328. After his parents died, he became an orphan at 12 years old and joined a Buddhist temple. He later became a monk and studied Buddhist teachings while living there. After escaping from the temple during a rebellion, Zhu Yuanzhang eventually joined a militia composed of peasants and became a commander. He was able to gain control of a large area surrounding the Yangtze River, unifying the smaller statelets of this region. This allowed him to gain enough power and support to successfully overthrow the Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty in 1368 and become the first emperor of the Ming dynasty.
Zhu Yuanzhang reigned for 48 years, creating a strong and prosperous dynasty. He reformed many laws that had been imposed by the Yuan dynasty, such as introducing a new legal code and making tax reforms that allowed for the advancement of agriculture in the region. The capital of the Ming dynasty, Nanjing, was built under his reign and provided stability for the people. He also established a Confucian-based philosophy that promoted education and meritocracy. Zhu Yuanzhang also constructed elaborate tombs and monuments to honor his dynasty and legacy.
After Zhu Yuanzhang’s death, his son Zhu Yunwen became the second emperor of the Ming dynasty. He followed in his father’s footsteps, continuing the prosperity of the dynasty by reducing taxes and increasing the amount of arable land in China. He also organized important government exams, which allowed candidates to take part in the civil service, helping to promote the practice of meritocracy.
However, towards the end of his rule, Zhu Yunwen’s policies began to fail, leading to the empire’s instability. This led to a civil war between the northern and southern parts of the country, and eventually, the downfall of the Ming dynasty in 1644.
Even though the Ming dynasty only lasted 276 years, it is considered one of the most influential and prosperous dynasties in Chinese history. The accomplishments of Zhu Yuanzhang and Zhu Yunwen helped shaped the culture, laws, and people of China into what it is today.