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The Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), officially known as the Empire of the Great Ming, was the penultimate imperial dynasty of China. Established by Zhu Yuanzhang in the wake of the Red Turban Rebellion that overthrew the Mongol Yuan dynasty, it saw a return to native Chinese rule, though it would ultimately be the last imperial dynasty to carry this title.

While the dynasty maintained millennia of Chinese prestige as the premier power in the region, it differed from its predecessors in the establishment of a secret police, the Jinyiwei, an increasingly isolationist attitude towards trade, and a decline in scientific development. Because its founder was a former peasant who had to deal with a court run by the traditional nobility, the government began with an atmosphere of distrust that precipitated a series of widespread purges. Through these purges, Zhu Yuanzhang, better known as the Hongwu Emperor, set a precedent for the violent purges that would frequently ignite throughout the entire course of the dynasty. At least some of these purges were initiated under the auspices of the Templars, and the Chinese branch of their archenemy, the Assassins, was nearly exterminated during this era.

In spite of these excesses, the dynasty was also responsible for major achievements such as the restoration of the Grand Canal, the expansion of the Great Wall, the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the voyages of exploration conducted by the fleet admiral Zheng He. Literature, poetry, and music thrived, and some of the most famous Chinese novels were produced in this period.

In the 17th century, famine, epidemic, and economic disaster gave rise to massive rebellions throughout the country. The Manchus, newly unified under an empire they dubbed the Great Qing, seized advantage of this turmoil to conquer the entirety of China in 1644, ending the Ming dynasty, and inaugurating what would be the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history.

History

From 1491 to 1521, China was ruled by the Zhengde Emperor who used his favorite concubine Shao Jun to spy on his eunuchs and accompany him during the war with the Mongols in the north.[1]

The heir-less Zhengde Emperor's death in April 1521 brought disarray to the imperial court. The Templar eunuchs Eight Tigers used this opportunity for plotting to control China by controlling the most influential people in court. They placed the Zhengde Emperor's cousin Zhu Houcong on the throne and ruled China through his stead.[1]

In 1524, the Eight Tigers triggered the Great Rites Controversy to hunt down officials who tried to oppose the Jiajing Emperor, specifically purging the Chinese Assassins. They managed to chase and kill the Mentor Zhu Jiuyuan, who was in Italy seeking help with the now Assassin Shao Jun and eradicate most of the Brotherhood.[1]

After receiving training with the legendary Master Assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze,[2] Shao Jun returned to China in 1526 to exact vengeance with her old Mentor Wang Yangming. By using a Precursor box, they assassinated the majority of the Eight Tigers until Zhang Yong retrieved the box upon killing Wang Yangming.[1]

In 1532, Jun traveled to the Great Wall in pursuit of Zhang Yong, the last Tiger, who was planning to let the Altan Khan and his Mongols invade China. The Assassin killed the Mongol scouts and closed the Wall's gates, preventing the invaders from breaching her home. Among the chaos of bombardment from the Mongols, Shao Jun managed to kill Zhang Yong, eliminating the Templar threat in China.[1]

From 1542 to 1550, China was continually harassed by the Mongols. The Jiajing Emperor eventually ended the conflict by offering the Mongols special trading rights and expanded Beijing by building the Outer City. He developed an interest in alchemy in his later years, a fascination which led to his death after the Assassins played on his desire to drink the elixir of life and arranged for him to ingest a lethal dose of mercury.[1]

The dynasty collapsed after the Manchu invaded and conquered the Ming, establishing the Qing dynasty.

References

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