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The Ming Dynasty: A Study Of Its Social Structure

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The Social Structure Of The Ming Dynasty

China has never abandoned the Confucian thinking and Confucian market values that stemmed from the Ming Dynasty in 1368. In Confucian’s ideal society there were four castes; the Shi, Nong, Gong, and Shang. Each had their own specified role to play in the economy as soon as they were born. The Shi were at the top of the food chain, they originally came from the warrior caste, but eventually began to integrate aristocratic scholars and educated bureaucracy into their ranks. They were highly respected because intelligent persons were hard to come by due to limited access to books and knowledge. The Nong- By status, these farmers were second only to the Shi. Due to periodic famine and agricultural deficiency in the country, farmers were seen as vital to the empire. The Gong were basically landless artisans and were seen as important because they possessed a unique skill which could be passed down to future generations by means of apprenticeship, inheritance, etc. The Shang did not produce any kind of agricultural or artisanal crop, they only traded and/or transported products that were made by the Nong and the Gong. Because of this, they were looked down on in society by those who thought them to be motivated by greed and only living off the labor of others. However, later on in the timeline, commercialization increased and the affluent Shang gradually became part of the land-owning upper crust.

The Economy during the Ming period of China’s history was truly no less than booming. Especially with new innovative agriculture methods being tested, and the trademark Ming porcelain being churned out at the speed of light. Farmers at this time in China were using innovative methods like crop rotation, and plowing powered by water. A positive impact of this was the large increase of the output of agricultural gain. Due to an excess of crop, a market economy developed, which allowed farmers to work with cash crops: a crop produced for its commercial value rather than for use by the grower. It was also pretty helpful when supporting the growing population. The manufacturing industry at this time made advancements in the speed and variety of products produced. Iron was being produced at an unprecedentedly fast rate, and tea, salt, and likewise industries became privatized as well, but what most notably was how the porcelain making industry grew to unrivaled heights; although, it did not originate in this era, the Ming Dynasty became largely known for its blue and white porcelain. Forced labor had been abolished and laborers were being paid; However, the base of Chinese industry was actually run by the powerful and wealthy merchants of the elite. In 1371 maritime trade is banned in China. In an attempt to cut down on piracy, sea trade is banned in China, and the only way that foreigners were allowed into China is if they are from a country that is part of the Imperial tributary system, but the ban does end in 1405. After this trade and commerce flourished, the Ming built canals, bridges, and roads which made access to trade with faraway markets easier. As a result of this, commercial metropolises such as; Beijing, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Xian, and Chengdu were successively formed. Economic development prospered as trade began to reach places as far as Japan and Europe. And more than 300M silver tails were brought into China by overseas trading. Between 1405 and 1433, the eunuch Admiral Zheng made seven voyages into the so-called Western Ocean, between the South China Sea to the east coast of Africa. The expeditions lasted two years at a time, but they played a vital part in exporting Chinese goods westward and bringing back to China cargoes of pepper, spices, and artifacts, gems, gold and silver.

The Ming government operated very similarly to the United States’ checks and balances, with the exception of the emperor; however his Censorate functioned with ministries parallel to America’s departments. Re-established in 1403, is the Censorate. Subsequently known as ‘censors’, these bureaucrats had direct access to the emperor. These people were the emperor’s “eyes and ears”, they oversaw administrators in order to check corruption, but ironically were regarded with disdain by the people, who told popular stories of righteous censors being corrupted and accepting bribes. The job of the grand secretariat was to help the emperor with paperwork and to work between the six ministries. The six ministries were each their own individual administrative departments, which oversaw several specialized tasks. The Ministry of Personnel handled all matters relating to government employees, from hiring, firing, assessment of work, promotions etc. The Ministry of Revenue was in charge of tax collection, state revenues, and currency. The Ministry of Rites was in charge of all official state ceremonies, reception of foreign leaders, and the priesthood. The Ministry of war was in charge of military administration, and they also ran the courier system. The Ministry of justice was responsible for the legal system and penal process; However, hey did not have jurisdiction over the Censorate. The Ministry of works oversaw government construction projects and maintenance of roads. They also were responsible for the standardization of weights and measures in the country.

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GradesFixer. (2019). The Ming Dynasty: A Study Of Its Social Structure. Retrived from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-ming-dynasty-a-study-of-its-social-structure/
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