Dynasties | Ming Dynasty 1368-1644

The period of Ming rule is seen of peaceful continuation of previous Chinese dynasties. Apart from a period of global exploration under Emperor Yongle contact with 'barbarians' was restricted and life was rather introspective.

The founder of the Dynasty Zhu Yanzhang came from peasant stock (the son of an itinerant labourer) studied as a Buddhist before becoming a rebel. His military campaigns in Southern China soon brought sufficient momentum to challenge the rotting remnants of the Mongol Dynasty in the north and by 1387 had once more returned all of China to Han Chinese rule.

In the West imports of vast amounts of Ming porcelain specifically made for export led to the permanent association of china with the country of principal origin. Scholars see this as the time when Europe rapidly caught up with and overtook China. It was a period without the urge to improve and innovate. Maybe this was due to the Chinese historical view that the glories of the past can not be equalled, let alone surpassed.


Zhengtong/Tianshun1436-1449, 1457-1464

Ming ceremonial figures
Buried undergrounf for 300 years these stone figues stand guard at the restored Ming Ancestral Tombs. The 42 stone carvings include two pairs of unicorns, six pairs of lions, two pairs of stone columns, one pair of groom and horses, one pair of horses, three pairs of civilian officials, two pairs of military officers and two pairs of court attendants. Each status is about four metres high and weights twenty tons. The tombs were builf 1386 to 1413 by Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming dynasty, for his grandfather and great-grandfather. The stone statues stood guard at the entrance to the tombs. A flood of the Hongze Lake in 1680 washed away all the buildings of the Ming tombs and the statues remained submerged until 1982.

Ming wooden figures
Painted wooden tomb figures representing two grooms with their horses and a servant carrying a stool.
Ming dynasty (AD 1368-1644) Height of horse 32cms Unearthed in 1971 at Zouxian, Shandong province.

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