The Ming and Qing dynasties are regarded as the most successful dynasties in the history of China. Before them, China was ruled by the Yuan dynasty governed by the Mongols (Nosotro). The Chinese perceived this to be a foreign domination of their country and the Mongols were therefore expelled from China in 1368 to pave way for the Ming dynasty which ruled up to 1800 (“the flow of history”,351). Japanese civilization during this time shares some similarities with the Chinese civilization. Like the Chinese, the Japanese were ruled by a dynasty known as the Tokugawa dynasty (1338-1639). Their leaders also came to power through revolts such as the1441 revolt and assassination of shogun ((“the flow of history”, 367).
Under Zhu Yuanzhang and the Ming dynasty, China prospered. He was one of the key figures who had led the rebellion against the Mongols and became the first Ming emperor (Nosotro). The capital was moved to Beijing and it soon became a major city housing the emperor’s palace which was referred to as the Forbidden City. This city best demonstrates the nature of Chinese architecture and culture. Spreading on a horizontal plane, it had a more harmonious and well balanced effect which reflected the Taoist spirit. The effect of the design was horizontal stability which emphasized that the rule under the Son of Heaven (a title that was used to refer to Chinese emperors in the Ming dynasty) was permanent (“the flow of history”351). On the other hand, Japan during this period did not exactly prosper and was rife with civil war. It was ruled by tyrants; Oda Nobunaga, from 1551 and after him Toyotomi Hideyoshi and later Ieyasu Tokugawa who were all cruel and like Chinese emperors, had absolute power.
Chinese bureaucracy and Confucian scholars largely contributed to governance. The emperor had absolute power and a large bureaucracy to assist in ruling and to become a civil servant; one had to be examined on Confucian principles (Nosotro). The Ming tried to provide a fair and just government by reinstating these civil service exam systems which restored the Mandarins as the most powerful people. Their economic policy of exempting peasants who relocated to ruined areas from tax helped revive the economy of china. The Jesuits in china (Matteo Ricci) played a major role in the civilization of china by bringing Christianity and providing them with an idea of western science and technology. The Jesuit leader, Matteo Ricci won favor of the Chinese emperor by presenting him with a clock and the Jesuits were thus able to enter china and evangelize it (“The flow of history”, 351-352). Like the Chinese, the Japanese culture was also influenced by the Jesuit missionaries and many of them converted to Christianity. However, Japan’s culture was also influenced by Buddhism which had two sects: Zen and Amida. Amida Buddhism came to have the same principles as Christianity.
Chinese trade prospered during this time through their maritime expeditions and one of their biggest profits was from porcelain. The Mandarins are thought to have pressured the emperor into ending these expeditions due to the profits that the merchants were making. This led to a trade decline and partly caused decline of the Ming dynasty due to loss of trade revenues (“the flow of history”352). This coupled with widespread corruption led to a rebellion and the Manchus took power thereby forming the Qing dynasty in 1644 (Nosotro). Like the Chinese, the Japanese were also open to foreign trade and mostly traded with the Portuguese. They also traded indirectly with China, using the Portuguese as middlemen to get silk (“the flow of history”, 368).
Both countries also took the same approach pertaining to foreign policies. They were very suspicious of foreigners and adopted isolationist policies. China put heavy regulations on foreign trade (“the flow of history”, 367-368) and Japan, under the leadership of Tokugawa banned foreigners. For the two centuries that followed, Japan isolated itself from the world and tried to develop on its own (“the flow of history”, 370).
- Nosotro, Rit. “Ming and Qing Dynasties.” Hyperhistory.net. 15 June 2006, 18 Feb. 2009 <http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/comp/cw18mingqingt1aw.htm>.
- “The flow of History: Prehistory, the ancient Middle East and classical Asia”, Vol. 1 2007.