The period from 1368 to 1840 was the Ming and Qing dynasties in Chinese history. The Ming and Qing dynasties saw further strengthened centralism and highly swelling imperial power.
At the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the situation of class differences and national contradictions was deteriorating, which triggered large-scale peasant insurgence. In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang headed a peasant army to pull down Yuan rule, defeat the leaders of other peasant uprisings and establish the Ming Dynasty with its capital in Yingtian (Nanjing, Jiangsu Province).
Emperor Taizu Zhu Yuanzhang and Emperor Chengzu Zhu Di of the Ming Dy-nasty enforced imperial power by abolishing the prime minister, creating the system of Grand Secretariat and setting up secret services to enforce control over grassroots thinking and cultural circles. They moved the capital to Beijing during their reign, formulating the basic structure of the Ming Dynasty system of centralized monarchic despotism. At the same time, the rulers of the early Ming Dynasty implemented economic policies to encourage cultivation of wastelands, reduce corvee and taxes, reward those who planted cash crops and lift the social status of the craftsmen, which helped recover and develop the economy. The Yongle Period (1403-1424) of Emperor Zhu Di saw social stability and strong national strength and was another prosperous time in Chinese history.
In the early days of the Wanli Period (1573-1620), Premier Zhang Juzheng reformed the taxation and corvee systems and implemented the Single-Whip Reform to combine the original land taxes, corvee and incidental taxes into one and levy taxes based on land area. The reform stimulated development of the commodity economy and more than 30 industrial and commercial cities emerged south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. New changes similar to capital-ism in western countries emerged in the production relation-ship and labor combination in the handicraft workshops, indicating the early emergence of capitalist relationships.
The Manchu, who established the Ming Dynasty, were a new federation of ethnic groups formed after Nurhachi unified the tribes of Nuzhen during the late Ming Dynasty. Nurhachi proclaimed himself as Khan and established a kingdom named Late Jin. His son Huangtaiji ascended the throne and proclaimed himself emperor in Shengjing and changed the title to Qing. After entering Shanhaiguan Pass, the Qing army seized land on a large scale, forced the poor as their servants and compelled the residents in southeastern coastal areas to move inward for 30-50 li. They also forced the Han people to shave their hair and comb plait with the threat of "if you want to live, you must cut your hair; if you keep your hair, you will be killed" to follow the system of the Qing, making it a symbol of the reign of Manchu nobility. The policies of ethnic group oppression and the backwardness of the production relationship implemented in the early Qing Dynasty worsened the social economy, which had been seriously damaged by years of civil war and the trend of evolving into a modern society was interrupted.
The cruel policies implemented in the early Qing Dynasty aroused fierce resistance and the campaigns against the Qing rulers speeded up the conquering of the savage conquerors by advanced civilization. The basic crisis of the separation between the land and the laborers at the end of the Ming Dy-nasty was removed with the peasant warfare. A favorable condition was created for policy adjustment for the recovery of economic development in the early Qing Dynasty. During the reigns of Emperor Kangxi, Emperor Yongzheng and Emperor Qianlong, the social economy developed rapidly and reached a new height in the history of China.
The Ming and Qing dynasties saw further strengthened centralism and highly swelling imperial power.
The Six-Department System from the Sui and Tang dynasties remained basically unchanged during the Ming and Qing dynasties, while the Three-Min-istry System was adjusted and reformed to further reduce the power of the prime ministers and enforce the power of the emperor.
During the period of Hongwu (1368-1398) of the early Ming Dynasty, the Zhongshu Ministry was cancelled and the post of prime minister was removed too. The emperor was in direct charge ofthe six departments and handled state affairs in person. Zhu Yuanzhang set up Diange Daxueshi to help him handle state affairs and documents and offer consultation. The cabinet system was developed during the Yongle Period (1403-1424). In the early Ming Dynasty, the cabinet had no power in deciding any state affairs independently and was only the assistant of the emperor. But the power of Daxueshi became increasingly strong and the cabinet head was actually like the prime minister of earlier times.