In the rural areas cotton growing spinning and

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In the rural areas, cotton growing, spinning, and weaving were introduced to mainland China from Hainan Island, and the Mongols encouraged the construction of irrigation systems. In general, however, farmers in the Yuan were overtaxed and brutalized, while dams and dikes were neglected. During the Yuan period, China’s population declined by perhaps as much as 40 percent, with northern China seeing the greatest loss of population; however, the Yangzi Valley actually saw a significant increase. Possible reasons for this pattern include warfare; the flooding of the Yellow River; north-south migration; and the spread of diseases, including the bubonic plague in the 1300s. A. The Fall of the Yuan Empire In 1368, the Chinese leader Zhu Yuanzhang brought an end to years of chaos and rebellion when he overthrew the Mongols and established the Ming Empire, taking the name Hongwu as his imperial name. The Mongols continued to hold power in Mongolia, Turkestan, and Central Asia, from which they were able to disrupt the overland Eurasian trade and threaten the Ming dynasty. The Ming Empire was also threatened on its northeastern borders by the Jurchens of Manchuria. The Jurchens, who had been influenced by Mongolian culture, posed a significant threat to the Ming by the late 1400s. V. The Early Ming Empire, 1368–1500 Ming China on a Mongol Foundation Former monk, soldier, and bandit, Zhu Yuanzhang established the Ming Empire in 1368. Zhu’s regime established its capital in Nanjing and made great efforts to reject the culture of the Mongols, close off trade relations with Central Asia and the Middle East, and reassert the primacy of Confucian ideology, which in turn served to bolster the position and primacy of the emperor himself. At a deeper level, the Ming actually continued many institutions and practices that had been introduced during the Yuan. Areas of continuity include the Yuan provincial structure that maintained closer control over local affairs; the use of hereditary professional categories; the Mongol calendar; and, starting with the reign of the Yongle emperor, the use of Beijing as capital. Between 1405 and 1433, the Ming dispatched a series of expeditions to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean under the Muslim eunuch admiral Zheng He. The goals of these missions were to reestablish trade links with the Middle East and bring Southeast Asian countries and their overseas Chinese populations under Chinese control, or at least under its influence. Zheng He’s expeditions retraced routes that were largely known to the Chinese already. The voyages added as many as fifty countries to China’s list of tributaries. However, there was no significant increase in long-distance trade and the voyages were, overall, not profitable. Many historians wonder why the voyages ceased and whether or not China could have gone on to become a great mercantile power or acquire an overseas empire. In answering this question, it is useful to remember that the Zheng He voyages did not use new

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