Monday, October 25, 2010

An Ilustrated History on the Rise & Fall of the Chinese Civilisation - From Ming Dynasty to Early Qing Dynasty

Excerpted form MingHuaTang (明華堂) Mr. Zhong's "An Illustrated History of China - From the Ming Dynasty to the People's Republic" (圖解中國從明初到共和國的故事), here I'm, presenting to everyone on the story of the rise & fall of Chinese civilisation. This story will begins in the final years of Yuan Dynasty & ends at the early Qing Dynasty (from year 1367 - 1645).

The purpose of me focusing more on this part is that I want to expose everyone on how during the height of Chinese civilisation during Ming dynasty, the advancement in science, technology, education, economy, military & culture has turned China into a world superpower & its eventual fall later which will lead to the demise of Chinese civilisation which still can be seen & felt among Chinese all around the world especially in the cultural aspect. Besides, being the last dynasty established by the Chinese, Ming dynasty is the last dynasty in China modern history which has the finest & the purest of the culture of the Chinese civilisation. I will try my best to translate the illustration as close as possible to the original wording which is in Chinese. No matter what, I hope everyone will enjoy what I'm presenting :D

The view of the Great Wall can be clearly seen in the background & just across this magnificent Great Wall, a fierce battle between two armies are ongoing. As the battle goes on, the side holding the Ming flag begins to gain an upper hand while the side which hold the Yuan Mongol flag starts to retreat, this indicate the centre of power in China once again returns to the Chinese.

Going through the mountainous range & back into the place behind the Great Wall, lies a grand & magnificent palace alongside the backdrop of serenity & tranquility ; this indicate that China under the rule of Ming dynasty, once again has a stable government & robust economy. The prosperity & stability enjoyed in China during the Ming dynasty provided a fertile ground for the development & advancement of the Chinese culture & civilisation for the next 260 years.

Cherry blossom blossomed around China once again, the beautifully blossomed flowers symbolise the "never give up" spirit of the Chinese.


Early Ming

After going through the Mongolian Yuan dynasty & years of war, China's economy & society is in a total mess. The newly established Ming government first task is to restore economic productivity & in the same time put the society back in order (recorded in historical documents). This picture depict the condition of that time, where the people rushed to the the government official for help after suffering from Mongolian Yuan dynasty & years of war.

Handing Out Farming Equipments & Food Relief
In order to restore agriculture productivity, Ming government start to hand-out farming equipments & food relief to the farmers around China. (recorded in historical documents)

Bountiful Harvest
After a period of restoring agriculture productivity, China's agriculture is steadily back on track.

Celebration for the Imperial Examination Top Scorer
As the agriculture sector is back on track, China's economy too is recovering steadily. Society once again value the importance of education. This picture depicts the celebration for the top scorer & in this picture we can see people rush to the street to congratulate the scholar & among the crowds are parents bringing along their child to witness the parade hoping that their child too will follow the footstep of the scholar in the future. At the right side of the picture, a poor lady was being congratulated by the people around for the success of her husband. She will no longer need to suffer as her husband is now an official of the government.

The Textile Factory
The textile industry is the first industry in China Ming dynasty to rise & prosper (recorded in historical documents). In this picture, the owner of the factory is telling his wife of his great plan & ambition for the future expansion of his business.

Treasure Ship's Shipyard
This picture depicts the building of the Zheng He's (Cheng Ho) Treasure Fleet for its future voyage. At the time of Ming dynasty, China has the world most advanced maritime technology & its naval fleets are the most powerful in the world. During the reign of Yong Le, Zheng He lead a fleet of 317 ships 7 times to the Western Sea (from year 1405  - 1433) but it was terminated & all outgoing sea activities were banned at the time of Xuan De Emperor due to high maintenance of the Treasure Fleet which leads to the depletion in money of the Treasury. The lack of naval fleets in the sea has lead to the increase of pirates activity along China's sea coast.

During the reign of Jia Jing, the fight against the pirates finally ended successfully & in the same time, the government finally realised that trading with other country through sea brings profit to the country and by the time of Long Qing Emperor, the ban on maritime activities were finally lifted. For the next 100 years, China will be trading heavily from East Asia to South Asia.

Divine Engine Division
Divine Engine Division (神機營) was one of the three elite military divisions of the Ming dynasty stationed around the capital Beijing. Established during the early part of the Ming Dynasty (at the time of Yong Le Emperor), its main purpose is to research & develop new firearm weapons for the Ming dynasty Armed Forces. The Divine Engine Division also provide training in the use of firearms. During the fight against the Japanese sea pirates, Divine Engine Division provided General Qi JiGuang's army which consist of 3100 soldiers, 256 canons, 8 heavy bombardment canons; every armed divisions will be provided with 128 armed vehicles and every armed vehicles consist of 2 light canons, 4 Arquebuses & 4 rocketeers. In average, every 12 soldiers will be equipped with a canon and around 50% of the 3100 soldiers were equipped with firearms; this indicate that at the time of Ming dynasty, China has already began to revolutionised its Armed Forces which use firearm weapons as it standard weapon.

The Night View of a City
The picture depicts the night view of a city during the Ming dynasty. As the economy of China is moving fast, lots of business opportunities can be found in the city & people start to migrate into the city. As more & more people shift into the city, the city population expand out of the city wall.  The prosperity in the cities of China during Ming dynasty has shown the world that Chinese civilisation is alive & thriving again.

Dong Lin Academy
"The sound of the wind, the sound of the rain, the sound of students studying, is all you can hear; Family matters, national matters, world matters, all these are the matters concerned here." The phrase just now, depicts the situation in the picture. It is a depiction of Dong Lin Academy when it was still open.

During the late Ming dynasty, corruption in the government is getting worse & social divide in the society is getting bigger, this has prompted intellectuals of that time to take actions against all these problems.

In 1604, during the Wanli era, Gu Xiancheng (顧憲成, 1550-1612), a Ming Grand Secretary, along with Gao Panlong (高攀龍, 1562-1626), a scholar, restored the Dong Lin Academy (was originally built in A.D. 1111 but later fell into disuse) with the financial backing of local gentry and officials. During the Academy period of operation, philosophical seminar will be held frequently. A large seminar will be held annually while small seminar will be held monthly & both of these seminars will last for 3 days. The philosophical seminar were run by members and disciples like Gao Panlong 高攀龍, Qian Yiben 錢一本, Xue Fujiao 薛敷教, and Shi Menglin 史孟麟. 

Their discussions are mainly on the rampant corruption & bad governance of the government but the main target is on the monopolisation of the tax collection on salt by the eunuchs. They also discussed on ways to improve the situation such as the abolishing the monopoly on salt tax, urged for more transparency to fight against corruption & urged on the government to develop the southeast region of China. Besides that, people from Dong Lin also advocate for freedom of expression. The discourses of the members of the Dong Lin Academy received widespread resonance among state officials and literates. Their influence on China society of that time is very deep and their active participation in politics alongside with their public discussion on current issues has given China society a chance to transform into a modern society which we are familiar today.

Ming Reinforced Korea in Imjin War
From year 20 of Wan Li era (1592) until the year 26 the same era (1598), with the sending of more than 100 000 troops, 6 years of reinforcing Korea in defence against Japanese invasion has come to an end with the Korean & Chinese claiming victory. However, the victory came at an enormous cost to the Ming government as this war nearly caused the government's treasury to run dry and also due to this war, the Ming military will not get enough fund to upgrade itself. As the consequence of this, for the next 20 years after the war, Ming military will not be able to curb the rise of the Manchu Later Jin (later renamed Qing) and the rise of Manchurian will eventually put the death nail on Ming dyansty. No matter what, this war has also brought peace to the region as the Japanese will not invade again for the next 300 years.

Peasant Uprising (1640 - 1645)
The picture depict rare natural disaster which caused China to suffer 20 years of drought which caused widespread destruction in agriculture production. Due to that, famine started to spread across China and as a result, large amount of peasants & farmers started to revolt against the government.  The situation was made worst by years of bad governance & corruption which were turning from bad to worse; social divides between poor and rich too has reached the stage of no turning back and in the end the whole of China was up and against the Ming government. In the picture, Duke of Chuang, Li Zicheng, the most prominent leader in the peasant uprising was being welcomed by the farmers.

Emperor Chong Zhen Hanged Himself at JingShan Hill
In April 1644, as the peasant army led by Li Zicheng is quickly approaching Beijing, in order to not fall into the hand of the rebel, the last emperor of Ming hanged himself on a tree in JingShan Hill. He died at the age of 33. Before his death, he wrote a suicide note saying that he is not responsible for the end of Ming dynasty instead it was the misunderstanding of the ministers over him & disunity among them that caused the downfall. He also wrote that he died in shame & if the rebel got their hand on his corpse, they may tear his corpse into pieces as he wishes to use this way to apologise for the suffering of his people. It also noted in his note that, he is hoping for any just & patriotic rebel to help him execute all his ministers & generals but reminded them not to touch the normal people.

Chinese Traitor Leading the Way for the Manchu into China
In 1644, Ming's border guard, General Wu Sangui, in order to take revenge against the death of his father which was killed by Li Zicheng, decided to join force with the Manchu & open the gate of the Great Wall at ShanHai Pass to let the Manchu enter into China.

Jiangyin's Battle of Resistance Against Manchu Qing's Queue Order
This picture depicts the battle scene in Jianying & on top of the wall are the people of Jiangyin holding banner which wrote, "Head can roll, hair can't be shaved!". In 1645, the newly established Qing dynasty enacted a law requiring all Chinese to adopt the Manchu traditional hairstyle & costume, any person who disobey will face death. Due to that, the whole of China once again staged an uprising against the Qing government. In this battle of Jiangyin, in order to resist the newly enacted law, Chinese soldiers and the civilians of Jiangyin staged an uprising & fought valiantly against 24 000 Qing's troops. They hold the Manchus for 81 days, inflicting heavy casualties on them, resulting in the lost of 3 dukes, 18 generals & approximately 10 000 death of armed personnel on the Qing's side.


The battle of resistance in Jiangyin still ends with the Manchurian Qing's army winning the battle. As they broke through the city's defence, the Manchu army started to plunder the city off its valuable, killing anyone they can see, raping girls they can find & kidnapping beautiful ladies to be sent as gift to the royals & high ranking officials. All these were done to punish & retaliate against the Chinese for their disobedience & their resistance. No matter what, the ultimate motive for the Manchurian Qing government to commit such war crimes was to terrorise, subdue & force the Chinese to obey the ruling of Manchurian Qing dynasty & in the same time, made them adopt the culture & costume of the Manchurian. The purpose of them forcing the Chinese to adopt the costume, hairstyle & culture of the Manchu is to let the Qing government detects any Ming Dynasty loyalist (considered rebel) and in the same time destroyed the pride of the Chinese in order to let the Qing government an easy control of the Chinese so that the day to day governance will run smoothly.

Jiangyin is not the only place that suffered such tragedy, it happens all around China during the early Qing dynasty. Yangzhou Massacre (楊州十日, 1645 AD) & Jiading Massacre (嘉定三屠, 1645 AD) are among the famous tragedies in China history for their unimaginable cruelty & high casualties. The death toll of these two combined are 1 million. All this killing didn't end there, as the imposition of this order was not uniform; it took up to 10 years of martial enforcement for all of China to be brought into compliance with a death toll estimating 30millions(mostly Chinese).

Some people will ask, "Why didn't they comply with the government of the day?"

The answer is simple; culture is the spirit for a society, traditional clothing is part of the culture & it also acts as an identity for a society; if any part of it is missing then that society is as good as dead. That is why the Chinese during that time were willing to fight until the end because they knew, once they give up, Chinese civilisation will come to an end.

So, did the Chinese successfully defended their cultural integrity from being encroach by the Manchu? Sadly, for most part such as Chinese traditional costume, Chinese rituals, Chinese rites & Chinese etiquette were lost after the Qing dynasty was established.

Luckily in recent years, Chinese around the world start to realise the problem & since then afford to bring back the lost culture was being made extensively. It will be a matter of time for us to be able to see Chinese don on their Hanfu and bow to each other as a form of greeting.

You might be interested in this too:


Vincy said...

Well translated! I always wanted to know more about the history of China. Thanks for the translation!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Sin! Wow. I was speechless when you said you translated it for 3 days straight. Very well translated. :)

Haven't finished reading all but will do soon. P/s: after I'm done with jeong's & family law's tutorial classes. :D

Anonymous said...

ERRATA: Jiaqing is a Qing (so-called) dynastic era name. Jia_Jing_ is the era name of the emperor we now know as Ming Shizong.

Aced said...

@Torguqin: Aik, typo mistake. Thanks for pointing out the mistake :D Btw, like your site. :D