Week 8: Rebuilding of Order

Lecture 1: The Ming Emperorship

I. Disintegration of Mongol rule

  1. Factionalism
  2. Decline of military power
  3. Militarization of local society

II. The Rise of Zhu Yuanzhang (a.k.a. The Hongwu emperor; Taizu)

  1. Family background
  2. Rise to power

III. The Hongwu Reign (1368–98)

  1. Style of rule
  2. Policies
  3. Management problems

IV. Other Ming Emperors

  1. The Ambitious: The Yongle emperor (r. 1403–24)
  2. The Incompetent: The Zhengtong (r. 1436–49) and Zhengde (r. 1506–21) emperors
  3. The Bored: The Wanli emperor (r. 1573–1620)

V. Concluding Thoughts


Lecture 2: Reconstructing Social Order

I. Central Administration

  1. 2 capitals—Nanjing and Beijing
  2. 6 ministries—personnel, revenues, rites, war, public works, punishments
  3. Imperial clan

II. Military Administration

  1. Guards (wei) and Battalions (suo)
  2. Frontier administration—institution of chieftaincy

III. Provincial Administration

  1. 13 provinces
  2. Administration commission
  3. Surveillance commission
  4. Military commission

IV. Local Administration

  1. Administrative units—prefecture … subprefecture … county … canton … township … ward … courier stations
  2. Local control—li jia
  3. Censuses (1371 and others)



  1. What were Taizu's main concerns in his Ancestral Instructions?
  2. What was Taizu's vision for local societies? What did he believe was the proper role for the state?
  3. What are the similarities and differences between Taizu's various instructions and proclamations and modern-day national constitutions?


Ming China

Physical Map

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Source: National Museum of Chinese History, ed., A Journey into China's Antiquity, vol. 1 (Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers, 1997), pp. 8–9.


Physical Map by Satellite

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Administrative Map

Map of Modern China: Administrative Divisions

Source: SACU




  • Brook, Timothy. The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan And Ming Dynasties. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.
  • Farmer, Edward L. Zhu Yuanzhang and Early Ming Legislation. Leiden: Brill, 1995.
  • Mote, Frederick W., and Denis Twitchett, eds. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 7, The Ming Dynasty, pt. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • Schneewind, Sarah. A Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006.
  • Tsai, Shih-shan Henry. Perpetual Happiness: the Emperor Yongle. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.


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