|Use the informational text and prior knowledge to discuss events that took place during the Ming Dynasty, including the construction of the Forbidden City and reconstruction of the Great Wall, sea voyages, and isolationism (7.26).
Emperors of the Ming Dynasty made many advancements during the empire’s reign in China. These advancements include the construction of the Forbidden City and reconstruction of the Great Wall, as well as its sea voyages. The imperial policy of isolationism eventually weakened China’s ability to resist Western influence.
The Forbidden City was built by emperors of the Ming Dynasty between the years 1406 to 1420. More than one million people worked on the construction of the expansive palace. An architectural marvel, the Forbidden City used the best materials from across China. When the palace was completed, the Emperor moved the capital of the empire to Beijing. The Forbidden City was designed using Ancient Chinese symbolism and philosophy. The buildings all faced south which stood for holiness. They also faced away from the north which symbolized the enemies of the Chinese, cold winds, and evil. The roofs of the buildings in the city were made with yellow tiles. Yellow was the exclusive color of the emperor and symbolized his ultimate power. The ceremonial buildings are arranged in groups of three. The number three represented heaven. The roof of the library was black to symbolize water in order to protect the writings from fire.
It wasn't until the rise of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 that the Great Wall of China as we know it today became a reality. The Ming Dynasty had to contend with a great number of attacks by minority tribes, so it made significant additions to the wall. The complexity and size of the Ming wall outdid all of its predecessors. Not only did the dynasty add length, it also added double and triple walls in some places to reinforce previously built structures and confuse attackers. The Ming Dynasty also increased the military prowess around the wall. Fortresses were placed intermittently along the length of the wall to store military supplies, and beacons were built to provide much-needed light. Another innovation to the wall that the Ming Dynasty introduced was guards. Guard towers were built at strategic points along the wall from which guards would send out smoke signals and fire cannons to notify each other of possible attacks. The only major downfall to these guard towers is that the guards sometimes fell prey to enemies’ bribes and allowed them access to the other side of the wall.
From 1405 until 1433, Ming emperors oversaw seven ocean expeditions that are unmatched in world history. These missions were astonishing as much for their distance as for their size: during the first ones, Chinese fleets traveled from China to Southeast Asia and then to India’s southwest coast. Eventually, Ming fleets traveled all the way to the Persian Gulf, and finally to the east coast of Africa. This was impressive enough, but Chinese merchants had traveled this far before. What was even more impressive about these voyages was that they were done with hundreds of huge ships and tens of thousands of sailors and other passengers. Over sixty of the three hundred seventeen ships on the first voyage were enormous "Treasure Ships," sailing vessels over 400 hundred feet long, 160 feet wide, with several stories, nine masts and twelve sails, and luxurious staterooms complete with balconies. The likes of these ships had never before been seen in the world, and it would not be until World War I that such an armada would be assembled again.
During the Ming dynasty, Chinese society began to change. This change was largely due to the efforts of the Ming emperors. Having expelled the Mongols, the Ming emperors worked to eliminate all foreign influences from Chinese society. As a result Chinese government and relations with other countries changed dramatically. They banned foreign trade and entered a period of isolationism, avoiding contact and the influence and technological advancements of other countries. In the end, this isolationism had serious consequences for China; in 1644 the Ming Dynasty was overthrown. By the 1800s the western world had made many technological advances. Soon, Westerners were able to gain influence in China’s affairs, and because of isolationism, China was too weak to stop them.
Many advancements were made during the Ming Dynasty’s reign in China. Ming advancements and achievements include the construction of the Forbidden City and reconstruction of the Great Wall, as well as its sea voyages. However, the late Ming Emperors’ policy of isolationism eventually led to Western intrusion in Chinese affairs.