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Ming Dynasty China

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The declining quality of Mongol rule led to massive revolts in China and neighboring lands. Finally, in 1368, the Mongol court was driven out of China, back into central Asia.

The leader of the revolt against the Mongols founded the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This dynasty is noted for some spectacular achievements. In the early 15th century a dramatic series of voyages took Chinese fleets as far as the African coast. The complex of imperial palaces known today as the  Forbidden City in Beijing was largely completed under the Ming, as was defensive system known as the Great Wall of China (though building on earlier defenses going back to the 4th century BCE).

Under the Ming, China experienced a large measure of tranquility, but the regime became increasingly inept as time went by. Violent strife at court, between the eunuchs and the high officials of the civil service, paralyzed decision-making at the heart of government. The administration became more and more corrupt and oppressive. In the mid-17th century instability rocked Ming China, and the dynasty came to a violent end when a people from across the frontier (close relatives of the Mongols) breached the empire’s defenses and drove the Ming court from power. This people were the Manchu, and the dynasty they established was called the Qing.