Who Was The First Emperor Of The Ming Dynasty?

Taking time to understand Chinese culture means getting yourself acquainted with the names of the important emperors, as well as the dynasties they ruled, and the impact they had on ancient China, as well as modern China. Zhu Yuanzhang was one of the big names from ancient China, and below is all you need to know about him and his rule.

Who Was The Hongwu Emperor?

ming taizu

 Who Founded The Ming Dynasty? Zhu Yuanzhang, also known as Emperor Hongwu, is one of the most renowned names from ancient China. And the main reason for this is the fact that Emperor Hongwu was the founder and the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Emperor Hongwu ruled Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1398, and thanks to his reign, Ming Dynasty went on to rule China from 1368 to 1644.

He was, however, born Zhu Yuanzhang, a peasant that later became a monk, before turning into a rebel leader, and after many years in the rebellion, became the first emperor of the new Ming Dynasty.

Zhu Yuanzhang was born into a peasant family in 1328, where he was the youngest son out of 7 or maybe 8 brothers. But because of the family’s dire state of poverty, many of his brothers were given away by the family. And in the last 30 years that China was under the rule of the Yuan Dynasty that had ruled between 1279 to 1368, the country faced a great deal of trouble in the form of famine and other natural resources.

But in 1344, when Zhu Yuanzhang was 16 years old, his home was flooded, and afterward, his family died from the disease. Following this misfortune, young Zhu Yuanzhang took shelter in the monastery run by the Buddhists. Unfortunately, the monastery ran out of money soon after he got there, and he had to leave the monastery to beg for food. At the age of 24, he went back to the monastery, where he learned how to read and write. Unfortunately, his taking refuge in the monastery didn’t last too long since the monastery was destroyed by the Yuan troops.

After, Zhu joined one of the local rebel groups and later became part of the Red Turban Army that was guided by Buddhist and Zoroastrian beliefs. Zoroastrianism is known as the western religion which spread throughout Central Asia before the Islam religion.

Before the age of 30, Zhu was appointed the leader of the rebel Red Turban rather large army. And in 1356, his army was able to conquer Nanjing, which was a very important city located strategically in China, specifically, the Yangtze River, as well as the surrounding regions to the south. After this conquest, Zhu made the city of Nanjing his army’s capital. And in the 10 years that followed, Zhu successfully defeated all the other rival armies. And in 1368, in an attack of the Yuan Empire that was based in Dadu, or modern-day Beijing, he won over the Yuan empire, gaining control over the empire as the Yuan Court was forced to flee. However, the Yunnan area remained in Yuan’s rule up to 1380.

Zhu Yuanzhang Wife

His wife was called Empress Ma of the Ma Clan, and she lived between 1352 and 1382.

Zhu Yuanzhang Son

His son was called Zhu Shuang, who got married to Köke Temür’s sister, one of the generals from the Yuan Dynasty in 1371. The most popular of his sons, however, was his 4th son, Zhu Di, who became the Yongle Emperor and ruled the Ming people between 1402 and 1424.

Zhu Yuanzhang Tomb

Zhu Yuanzhang’s tomb is in a place called the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, located in China’s Nanjing region. The Ming Xiaoling is a renowned mausoleum in China, and it is the tomb of the Hongwu Emperor. It is located at the southern base of the Purple Mountain in Nanjing’s eastern suburbs. The mausoleum was the first to be created by the Ming Dynasty, and it is the largest of the imperial mausoleums in China.

What Did Emperor Hongwu Do?

In addition to defeating the Chinese Yuan Dynasty despite being born into a poor family and struggling to stay alive, leading a rebel army, and becoming the first emperor of the Ming people, Emperor Hongwu is also known for making some of the biggest changes to China. For starters, he oversaw the resurgence in the Han Chinese, establishing a dynasty that led to the most significant economic developments and growth, as well as the most flourishing arts scenes.

How Did Emperor Hongwu Die?

Emperor Hongwu died in 1398, aged 69, after ruling the Ming people for 30 years.

Hongwu Emperor Achievements

Some of the biggest achievements that the Hongwu Emperor is known for include:

  • Change in China’s foreign policies

The emperor decreed an embargo in the maritime policy that would suppress not only the actions of the merchants but also prevent attacks on the merchants by the pirates.

  • Policy changes towards the eunuchs

To make sure that the eunuchs didn’t have any ruling power, he changed the policies, and their powers were limited. He also introduced a centralized authority system/ government.

  • New Government Structures

By staffing his government with bureaucratic officials that had passed the imperial examinations based on the Neo-Confucian times, the officials of his government were not only well-educated but also very educated and loyal. The courts determined their appointments.

  • Issuance of paper currency

The other change initiated by Emperor Hongwu was the introduction or issuance of paper currency. Unfortunately, this ended with a high inflation rate.

  • Personal/ Secret Policy
embroidered Uniform Guard

After emerging as the rebel general and being the leader of the Ming people, he grew very suspicious of the people and came up with the private guard called the embroidered Uniform Guard that spied on the people acting as the emperor’s secret police.

  • Pro-Peasant Policies

His policies included the reduction of slavery and also pro-peasant policies that reduced starvation. There was also a large number of public works projects that ensured the peasants got to land. The cultivated land also increased a lot, and this led to a huge increase in the population size.

Why Was Zhu Yuanzhang Important?

He was the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty after defeating the red army and enacted policies that changed the economic state and the governance system of the Ming people in a positive direction, setting China up for success.

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