Friday, October 04, 2013

Ming : Revolutionaries or Rebels ?

Ming : Revolutionaries or rebels ?

Andre Willers
4 Oct 2013
Synopsis :
The Founder of the Ming Dynasty started as a rebel , then grew into a revolutionary .
Discussion :
1.A quick recap :
The Mongols conquered the Chinese and enslaved them .
2. In typical divide-and-conquer fashion , they suborned Chinese landowners as proxy slave masters . (Mongols specialised in this , due to their small numbers . See Middle East Christians and Muslims , Russian boyars , etc)
3. Zhu Yuanzhang (see Appendix A) was an ugly man . But like Socrates , his arguments could not be gainsaid .  
4.He started as a peasant rebel , then metamorphosed into a Revolutionary . Incorporating both the peasants and the landowners into a Chinese Flowering that is still the envy of the world . (Considered buying a Ming vase lately ?)
5. Interesting is the comparison with Trafalgar . Both were water battles decisive in the future pathways of the society .
6. Pyongang Lake is much more complex , though . It was a combined land-sea operation , and very large numbers of combatants were involved .
7.But the decision was on water .
8.Note the tactics , strategies and technology . By this time the Chinese had equalled or surpassed Mongols in the arts of war .
But so had the proxy reactionaries . Civil war ensued .This is it’s history .
9. Where Zhu Yuanzhang got the Mandate of Heaven from is that he did not massacre the oppressors . He incorporated them into the body politic .
10.Remember , Chinese families have a member in every faction . A simple safeguard in an old society .
Killing large segments of societies will isolate the ruler from any support base whatsoever .
11.Not even Mao tried it . He tried Re-education . Stalinism in China would lead to another Ming-style revolution .
The definitive Slave Rebellion .
The only example of a large society destroying slavery from the inside , without outside help .
12. Zhu Yuanzhang’s Legacy .
He started as an ugly slave in a caste-ridden society and left it free with every Chinese with a bit of the Mandate of Heaven in his knapsack .
A salute is called for .


Appendix A
The Battle of Poyang Lake
by Joshua Gilbert

In late August 1363 AD the two main contenders for control of China, Zhu Yuanzhang and Chen Youliang, faced off on Poyang (also called Boyang) Lake, the largest freshwater body of water in China. In the end Zhu Yuanzhang would win the battle and go on to found one of China’s greatest dynasties: the Ming.

 The circumstances that would lead to Poyang Lake are tied to the fall of the Yuan Dynasty. When Khubilai Khan founded his Yuan Dynasty in 1271 many of the Chinese resented it. In fact they never regarded the Yuan as a legitimate dynasty, but as a foreign occupation army. As time would show very few Yuan Emperors were capable and they became more decedent and sinicized over time. In the 1320s a massive famine swept China and 7 to 8 million people died of starvation. The inability of the Yuan to handle the crises was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Many secret societies devoted to the destruction of the Yuan popped up all over the land.

In 1325 the first rebellion broke out. The central Yuan government in Dadu (modern Beijing) was paralyzed and unable to act. Further the Yuan Army had denigrated into an ineffectual force. The wealthy landowning class realized the uprising, which was made of peasants, threatened them just as much as the Yuan. So they armed their own private armies and saved the Yuan from collapse. But the next time they would not be so lucky. In 1344 a flood broke the dams along the Huang He. The Yuan called up 170,000 peasants to fix the dams. But instead the peasants rose in revolt in 1352, and from there snowballed out of control. More rebellions broke out all over the country, and this time the landowners could not save the Yuan. By 1355 the dynasty was for all intents and purposes dead, although the Yuan Emperor remained in power until 1368.

Among the various rebel groups, many of which were religious in nature, the most powerful was the Song regime. The Song regime was originally a combined Buddhist-Manichean sect called the White Lotus, and became the Song regime in 1355. The titular leader was Han Lin'er, the Minor Prince of Brilliance, and the son of Han Shantong, the sect’s founding father. But true power lay in the hands of the so called Red Turban (the military arm of the White Lotus) generals and in particular with a former beggar named Zhu Yuanzhang.

Zhu had been a Buddhist monk, but left his monastery to join the Song. Despite being so ugly that he was compared to a pig in looks Zhu was a strong and charismatic leader. People came to him in droves and Zhu rose quickly among the Song. In 1356 Zhu Yuanzhang conquered Yingtian (modern Nanjing) and from there abandoned the last vestiges of his Buddhist past, proclaiming himself the defender of Confucianism and the people. The Confucian scholars in return began to invent for him a claim to The Mandate of Heaven, the principle by which the Chinese considered no one could rule with out. Zhu could now effectively make his own claim to power, but Zhu Shen, a scholar, persuaded him to hold off. Saying:
"Build high walls, stock up rations, and don’t be too quick to call yourself a prince"
The battles are discussed , until the decision point . Then he went after the Mongols .
“until 1367 when he unified the south. That same year Zhu Yuanzhang finally attacked the Yuan remnants in the north for the first time, sending Xu Da with the task of capturing Dadu. He also sent Liao Yongzhong to attack the Mongols in Guangdong and Guangxi.

In 1368 Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed a new dynasty in Yingtian, the Da Ming (taking inspiration from the name of his former superior, the Little Ming King). Yingtian’s name was changed to Nanjing, meaning southern capital. Furthermore Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed himself Emperor Ming Taizu (Great Ancestor), with the era name Hongwu (Immensely Martial). It is by his era name that he is best recorded in history. By 1369 the new emperor had chased the last vestige of Mongol rule out of China, marking the beginning of Ming rule over the entire country. The Ming dynasty would go on to rule for 300 years, ending at the hands of the Manchus of Qing in 1644.

In conclusion the Battle of Poyang Lake was the decisive battle in the wars between the various rebel groups and by wining the battle Zhu Yuanzhang ensured his supremacy, eventually paving the way for the foundation of Ming rule.


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