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Ming Dynasty

Ming Dynasty

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Question 1

During Ming Dynasty, four “constitutional crises” led to destroying previous dynasty’s system of steady and orderly succession of power. Apart from that, there was a constitutional crisis that occurred due to charging Prime Minister Hu Weiyong. He was accused of wanting to replace Zhu’s dynasty by his own one. However, the main reason for his charge was a constitutional reality of his power. Thus, he could assign his supporters for all the important positions. The emperor did not like that he was excluded from governing the country, so apart from cancellation of the position of the prime minister, he also executed 40,000 state officials at all levels. This led to increasing the power of the emperor (Brook, 2010).

The first succession crisis occurred after the death of Zhu Yuanzhang, who appointed his oldest son to become an emperor. However, the son died earlier than his father, so the power was given to the prince’s oldest surviving son Zhu Yunwen according to the rules of primogeniture. This disappointed his uncles that also hoped to obtain a crown. Uncles were rightly afraid of moving of Zhu Yunwen to the Confucian model of rules instead of military traditions of his dynasty. The major contender among the uncles was Zhu Di. He obtained a control of the north and began a three-year civil war against his nephew. The war finished with a victory of Zhu Di. The emperor was believed to have died in fire. Zhu Di explained “pacification of the south” by playing the north-south card. He stated that the south started to move into evil ways and he needed to save his dynasty from improper guidance of officials. After that, Zhu Di became the Yongle emperor. However, this violated the rule that the power goes from a father to a son, not from a nephew to an uncle. In other words, a new emperor had a strong stench of illgitimacy. Therefore, he tried to use all the resources to hide this. For example, he started sea expeditions and began building a palace in Beijing where a new capital was located. This caused a severe financial burden. His son stopped building a palace but expeditions continued. One of their aims was to explain who the real emperor was (Brook, 2010).

Second crisis was called “Tumu crisis.” It occurred when Zhu Di’s grandson became an emperor. The problem was that he was only eight. This demonstrated the weakness of the imperial constitution, particularly the necessity to give power to a child due to early mortality and demands of the rules of succession. When the emperor was fifteen, he got all the power.  However, then he desired to command an expedition against Mongols and was taken as a hostage by foreign forces, and this also caused a crisis because there was not a policy for such a case (Brook, 2010).

The third crisis happened due to the great ritual controversy. After the death of an emperor Zhengde, the country’s officials decided to search a new ruler among Zhengde’s uncles and cousins because he did not have children. As a result, it was agreed that his cousin would become a new emperor. However, the court had to perform a posthumous adoption because constitution allowed giving the power only from a father to a son. The cousin did not agree with the following solution and insisted on making a posthumous ritual over his father. Everybody rejected the idea, and this started the crisis (Brook, 2010).

The fourth constitutional crisis was known as “foundation of the state.” It raised because the legitimacy of a dynastic succession was affected by naming a heir apparent correctly. When some emperor failed to do that, it led to a crisis. Thus, Wanli emperor wanted his third eldest son to become an heir apparrent instead of the eldest one. This started discussions that were called “foundation of the state.” In the end, Wanli agreed to give the power to the eldest son. However, this struggle had also a positive effect. In particular, the emperor was permanently absent from the court. In that period, the officially formed factions also appeared (Brook, 2010).

In conclusion, all the constitutional crises happened because the rules were not flexible, so every crisis altered into a succession crisis, and every decision of the issue came at a cost of the system’s ability to react to the future danger.

Question 2

Lineage and extended family belonged to a microcosm of society. People did not have control over administrative matrix, but they could make a kinship matrix. The status and identity greatly depended on whom the person was related to. A father was an important asset of this system because he provided the food, gave a surname, and was the link between brothers and sisters. However, family was not a closed organization. There were many growing lineages between families through women that married in and out. It allowed introducing new relations with neighbors, trading partners, and friends. The relations as well as different generations were demonstrated with the help of surnames. However, if kinship was a matrix for people to live, gender was its organizing principle. Gender introduced hierarchy by organizing social relations in such a way that men had more privileges than women did. For example, people who needed to keep their family small killed girls first. On the other hand, women provided complementarity. Particularly, they were necessary for the reproduction of families similarly to men. The organization of family life also considered this for dividing the labor, sending men to work and leaving women at home to weave (Brook, 2010).

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