Ming Dynasty Facts

Under The Ming

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The Ming dynasty, founded in 1368 upon the defeat of the Mongols, first established its capital in Nanjing, and on account of its relegation Dadu was renamed ‘Beiping’(Northern Peace). With the accession of the dynamic third Ming emperor, Yongle, the dynasty entered a period of vitality and expansion. He reestablished Beijing as the capital in 1421, giving the city its modern name, which means Northern Capital, and which Europeans later romanized as ‘Peking’.

Much of present-day Beijing was built during the period that immediately followed. In contrast to the unplanned, sprawling cities of the south, traditional concepts of town-planning were employed, and no where was this more evident than in the grid layout of Beijing. The foundations of Khanbaliq were, of course, already there, but they were now extended; walls were built and moats were dug. As Beijing flourished, the city originally established by the Tartars became too small, and in 1553 a new outer wall, or Chinese City, was built to enclose the suburbs that had burgeoned out to the south.

Within the boundaries, a massive building and renovation program created some of the most striking testimonies to Ming confidence and power. Over 200,000 workmen laboured to build the Forbidden City between 1407 and 1420. Though the palace buildings have been restored and rebuilt many times since then, the plan remains essentially the same. The Temple of Heaven (a magnificent example or Ming architecture) and the Temple of Agriculture (which no longer exists) were erected in the Outer City. Mindful of their mortality, the early Ming emperors planned and prepared their own burial grounds in a methodical and grandiose fashion chat can be seen at the Ming tombs. Nor was the defence of the realm neglected: the finest sections of the Great Wall to the north of Beijing were constructed during this period.