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Chinese History - Ming dynasty map and geography

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The Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644) was, after more than 400 years, the first that was able to reunite China under a native government. Its first capital (jingshi 京師) of Ming Dynasty was located in modern Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu. The Yongle Emperor 永樂 (r. 1403-1424) decided to move the capital to the north, partially to get rid of the domination of the southern elite, but also, to be closer to the frontier to the Mongols, and be able to control them in a more efficient way. The new capital was and ancient site of the capital of the Yuan dynasty 元 (1279-1368). It was called "Northern Capital" Beijing 北京, and is identical to the modern Beijing. The former, now "Southern Capital" Nanjing 南京 was from them on the secondary capital of the Ming empire.
The Ming empire was divided into provinces (sheng 省), an institution that had been created as local ad-hoc copies of the central secretariat during the phase of conquest. The names, sized and seats of the Ming provinces are largely identical to those of modern China. The provinces were divided into supreme prefectures (fu 府) and secondary prefecturs (zhou 州).

The Provinces (sheng 省) of the Ming Empire
provinceseat of governor
Jingshi 京師, Bei Zhili 北直隸 (modern Hebei)Shuntianfu 順天府 (modern Beijing)
Shandong 山東省
includes the Liaodong peninsula
Jinan 濟南府
Shanxi 山西省Taiyuan 太原府
Shaanxi 陜西省Xi'an 西安府
Henan 河南省Kaifeng 開封府
Huguang 湖廣省 (modern Hubei and Hunan)Wuhan 武漢府
Jiangxi 江西省Nanchang 南昌府
Sichuan 四川省Chengdu 成都府
Yunnan 雲南省Yunnan 雲南府 (modern Kunming 昆明)
Guizhou 貴州省Guiyang 貴陽府
Guangxi 廣西省Guilin 桂林府
Nanjing 南京, Nan Zhili 南直隸 (modern Jiangsu)Yingtianfu 應天府 (modern Nanjing 南京)
Zhejiang 浙江省Hangzhou 杭州府
Guangdong 廣東省Guangzhou 廣州府
Fujian 福建省Fuzhou 福州府

To prohibit the northern nomad tribes to undertake raids on Chinese soil and territory, the "Great Wall" (violet line in the map) was rebuilt.
During the 16th century, pirate attacks on Chinese coastal cities were quite severe. Many pirates were of Japanese origin, but most of them were Chinese. The Ming government therefore decided to evacuate the whole coastline and forced peasants to settle down in the hinterland.
The Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to conquer Korea (Chosòn), a state that was subject to Ming China in the tribute system. Ming China was therefore obliged to fight againt the Japanese invaders.
Peasants and adventurers rose against the Ming government in the provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi in the early 17th century, before attacking the capital Beijing.
Dutch and Portuguese merchants founded the first Western colonies in Macau and in Providentia and Zeelandia in Taiwan. The islands of Taiwan and Hainan were at that time not yet incorporated into the Chinese empire.
While the Mongols lost their threat for the Ming empire, a new people rose in the northwest: the Jurchens, descendants of the federation that had once founded the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234), harassed the northeastern border of the Ming empire, and in 1644 took the chance to take over the ruins of the rebellion-ridden Ming. Shortly before, the Jurchens had adopted the name Manchus. They founded the Qing empire 清 (1644-1911).
Unlike earlier Chinese empires, the Ming were never able to conquer the northwestern territories. These were inhabited by various Uyghurian communities. Tibet was wholly independant, but formally delivered tributes to the Ming court, just as Vietnam that was ruled by the Tran Dynasty 陳朝 (1225-1400), and later the Lê Dynasty 黎朝 (1428-1558).


2000ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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