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FALL OF THE MING DYNASTY

Dikes and canals were repaired and/or constructed. Famine was alleviated. Taizu gave high priority to the strengthening of China's northern defenses. The Mongols made repeated incursions into China and remained a serious threat for nearly two centuries. The Great Wall was finally completed in the 1470s.

Under Yung Lo, shipbuilding became a major industry. Seven naval missions sailed forth into the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1433. Maritime trade flourished. China took control of the southern province of Yunnan. The neighboring states of Annam and Korea recognized Chinese suzerainty over them. New crops were introduced. Industries such as porcelain (Ming china), the manufacture of cotton cloth, silk weaving and iron forging developed rapidly during this period. In power terms, Ming China probably reached its peak in the early 15th century. According to Latourette, Yung Lo "vigorously maintained and [increased] Chinese prestige abroad and gave the Empire an energetic domestic administration" (Latourette 228). Architecture and many of the arts, such as drama, fiction and painting, thrived under the Mings until the mid17th century. The term Ming, which means "beautiful" or "glorious," appeared to be apt.

One of the first signs of incipient decay was what Kennedy calls China's decision under the weak emperors who followed Yung Lo "to turn its back on the world" (Kennedy 7). In the 15th century, China was technologically superior to Europe in many fields. In 1436 an imperial edict was issued forbidding the construction of oceangoing vessels. Foreign missions and voyages were banned. Trade and even contact with foreigners were officially discouraged. Chinese scholars and other members of the elite remained interested in Western science and products. The coastal cities continued to trade illicitly with Japan and the West. Later in the 16th century, Jesuit missionaries entered China. On the whole, China rem...

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