Here is a general overview of the government given by Michael Knight, senior curator of Chinese Art of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.


Prior to the Ming Dynasty, China was ruled by the Mongols.

Zhu Yuan Zhang, a commoner, proclaimed himself emperor, Hong Wu, and called his dynasty the Ming ( which means "brilliant") after he took his army across the Yellow River (Huang He) to capture the Yuan capital city of Dadu.
Zhu-Yuanzhang.jpg

Zhu Yuan Zhang (Emperor Hong Wu):
  • reinstated the civil-service exam- a test to see who was the best qualified for positions in the government
  • used meritocracy- government officials can earn positions and promotions based on their ability and work ethic
  • very suspicious, oversaw and administered government officials directly and therefore was very harsh in rule
  • made decisions in secret with eunuchs (men who had their testicle cut off so that they could not have any children) because they would not have sons that go against him
eunuchs.jpg
  • got rid of the Imperial Secretariat (group of high-ranking officials who headed different departments within the the government's bureaucracy) and appointed eunuch to do their jobs.
  • created a secret police of eunuchs who would be loyal and report anyone talking bad about him, or plotting against him. These people were then executed.


Another video of the Ming Dynasty and the various emperors after Zhu Yuan Zhang (Emperor Hong Wu).

Emperors of the Ming Dynasty


Personal Name
Posthumous name (short form)
Temple Name
Era Name
Reign years
Name by which
most commonly known
Zhū Yuánzhāng
朱元璋
Gāodì
高帝
Tàizǔ
太祖
Hóngwǔ
洪武
1368-1398
Hongwu Emperor
Zhū Yǔnwén
朱允炆
Huìdì
惠帝
None given²
Jiànwén
建文
1398-1402
Jianwen Emperor
Zhū Dì
朱棣
Wéndì
文帝
Chéngzǔ, 成祖 or
Tàizōng, 太宗
Yǒnglè
永樂
1402-1424
Yongle Emperor
Zhū Gāochì
朱高熾
Zhāodì
昭帝
Rénzōng
仁宗
Hóngxī
洪熙
1424-1425
Hongxi Emperor
Zhū Zhānjī
朱瞻基
Zhāngdì
章帝
Xuānzōng
宣宗
Xuāndé
宣德
1425-1435
Xuande Emperor
Zhū Qízhèn
朱祁鎮
Ruìdì
睿帝
Yīngzōng
英宗
Zhèngtǒng, 正統
1436-1449;
Tiānshùn, 天順
1457-1464
1435-1449;
1457-1464³
Zhengtong Emperor
Zhū Qíyù
朱祁鈺
Jǐngdì
景帝
Dàizōng
代宗
Jǐngtài
景泰
1449-1457
Jingtai Emperor
Zhū Jiànshēn
朱見深
Chúndì
純帝
Xiànzōng
憲宗
Chénghuà
成化
1464-1487
Chenghu Emperor
Zhū Yòutáng
朱祐樘
Jìngdì
敬帝
Xiàozōng
孝宗
Hóngzhì
弘治
1487-1505
Hongzhi Emperor
Zhū Hòuzhào
朱厚照
Yìdì
毅帝
Wǔzōng
武宗
Zhèngdé
正德
1505-1521
Zhengde Emperor
Zhū Hòucōng
朱厚熜
Sùdì
肅帝
Shìzōng
世宗
Jiājìng
嘉靖
1521-1566
Jiajing Emperor
Zhū Zǎihòu
朱載垕
Zhuāngdì
莊帝
Mùzōng
穆宗
Lóngqìng
隆慶
1566-1572
Longqing Emperor
Zhū Yìjūn
朱翊鈞
Xiǎndì
顯帝
Shénzōng
神宗
Wànlì
萬曆
1572-1620
Wanli Emperor
Zhū Chángluò
朱常洛
Zhēndì
貞帝
Guāngzōng
光宗
Tàichāng
泰昌
1620
Taichang Emperor
Zhū Yóujiào
朱由校
Zhédì
悊帝
Xīzōng
熹宗
Tiānqǐ
天啟
1620-1627
Tianqi Emperor
Zhū Yóujiǎn
朱由檢
Zhuānglièmǐn
莊烈愍
Sīzōng
思宗
Chóngzhēn
崇禎
1627-1644
Chongzhen Emperor