In eyes of many people, China was way ahead of world in terms of politics, military, economy, technology, and culture before Ming Dynasty. Many believe that it was during Qing Dynasty that China lagged behind world. Is it really true? I made a more complete comparison between Ming Dynasty and Western countries simultaneously on four main aspects of politics, military affairs, technology and culture, trying to see if Ming Dynasty was lagging behind world.1. Early Ming Dynasty (1368-1449)
From founding of Ming Dynasty to succession of Tumubao in 1449, this is early stage of Ming Dynasty. This period of time was most powerful period of Ming Dynasty. Politically, system of prime ministers was abolished, a cabinet system was created, and autocratic monarchy was strengthened; Ming Dynasty territory reached its peak during Yongle period and it was able to control as far north as outer Xing'an. Mountains, west to Turfan, east to North Korea, and south to Vietnam. The vast territory of China, with an area of about 7 million square kilometers, was largest country in world at that time. In terms of economy, Ming Dynasty pursued a policy of emphasis on agriculture, suppression of trade, and embargoes on sea, and commercial tax revenue was less than one-sixth of that of Song Dynasty. At same time, a military settlement system was introduced, relying on army to cultivate land itself to feed millions of soldiers.
At same time, European countries were mostly in transition to nation-states. Portugal is earliest nation-state in Europe, it formed independently in 11th century, and other countries later. In 1320 Poland united and began to grow stronger. In 1385, Poland and Lithuania began to unite to become overlord of Central Europe. Britain and France are going through Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) and nobles of two countries are dying out en masse, setting stage for England and France's move towards centralization. Spain captured Granada in 1492, ending an 800-year renaissance. In Eastern Europe, Moscow principality got rid of control of Mongols and embarked on path of unification of Luo principality.
Although European countries are still relatively weak in terms of national power, small countries at this time already have beginnings of a modern representative system. In 1215, British nobility and subjects forced king to sign Magna Carta, and royal power began to be limited. In 1265 British Parliament was formed. In subsequent development in Britain, two traditions were formed - "the king under law" and "the king under Parliament". In 1302, first three-level conference took place in France, and bourgeoisie entered political arena. At beginning of Ming Dynasty, parliaments appeared in many European countries. Compared to rise of absolutism under Ming Dynasty, political system in Europe was considerably more developed.
British Houses of Parliament
Economically, European countries began to break away from subsistence economy of estate system and moved on to era of commodity economy. The development of commodity economy of Europe contributed to rise of cities, in 10th century. cities were reborn in various European countries. With emergence of city, a bourgeois class arose, leaving agriculture and specializing in industrial and commercial production. In handicraft production, monopoly guilds appeared, and in trade, some commercial unions (for example, Hanseatic League). Commercial prosperity contributed to rise of financial industry. In 1346, Bank of Genoa, earliest bank in world, was founded. Later, Medici Bank and Fulger Company were founded one after other. Some countries began to promote "mercantilism". In order to monopolize eastern spice trade, Prince Henry of Portugal began supporting maritime traffic in 1411, and in 1442 began establishing colonies on west coast of Africa. Although economic scale of Ming Dynasty was great, subsistence farming had an absolute advantage. Therefore, Western economic model at that time surpassed the Chinese one.
Prince Heinrich (1394–1460)
Cultural aspects. The Renaissance in Europe has been on rise for decades. As early as 1300, Dante wrote famous Divine Comedy, Petrarch wrote Africa in 1342, and Boccaccio wrote Africa in 1348. In addition, well-known artists such as Giotto and Masaccio appeared. Their proposals: give importance to human values and protect basic human rights; create a unified nation-state against pope and feudal aristocracy; create a society governed by law, and draw up an ideal plan for future of society At same time, Chinese thought became rigid, Cheng-Zhu's neo-Confucianism became orthodox thought, and stereotypical essays and literary studies appeared.
Dante (12665–1321): Forerunner of Renaissance
In field of science, Europe has not yet escaped dark age of Middle Ages, but westward spread of technologies such as printing and gunpowder, as well as development of hand factories, contributed to progress of European technology. In 1439, Germans invented printing press, which greatly contributed to cultural renaissance of Europe.Second, mid-Ming Dynasty (1449-1582)
In 1449, change of fortress of Tumu took place, and Ming dynasty went from prosperity to decline. Subsequently, internal and external turmoil of Ming dynasty continued to occur, and Oirats, Tatars, and Japanese pirates in Mongolian highlands continued to invade. Domestically, there were coups such as capture of gate and Renyin Palace, but fortunately there were also "Hongzhi Zhongxing", "Jiajing New Deal" and Zhang Jiuzhen's reforms that allowed Ming Dynasty to maintain its rule. From an economic point of view, military settlement system of Ming Dynasty was disintegrating, and this was reflected in government revenues, so Yuegang had to implement "single port trade".
At same time, Hundred Years War between Britain and France ended in Europe, and two countries created a single nation-state. Russia rose in Eastern Europe, and in 1472 Grand Duke of Moscow announced that he would inherit legacy of Eastern Rome. In 1547, Ivan IV came to throne, he was officially crowned as tsar, and Russian Empire was officially established. He weakened power of nobility, established a centralized system in Russia, and soon embarked on path of expansion, in fact uniting Volga region. The Habsburg dynasty became ruler of Western Europe, and at its peak owned Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and other regions. At same time, Great Britain and France, which appeared in Europe, were preparing to start a war against Habsburg dynasty.
Colonial expansion is main theme of this era. Portugal began establishing colonies in West Africa in 1442. In 1487 Portugal reached Cape of Good Hope, in 1492 Columbus discovered America, in 1497 da Gama arrived in India, in 1522 Magellan's fleet completed a circumnavigation. After that, colonies of two countries were established around world: Spain occupied most of America and Philippines and monopolized 80% of world's gold and silver; Portugal created numerous colonial strongholds along coast of Africa and Asia, and blocked Malacca Strait (the Ming dynasty did not know about this), monopolized trade with East.
Colonial expansion contributed to rapid development of capitalism, there was a trade revolution and a price revolution. The commercial revolution means that fundamental changes have taken place in European system of government, modern companies, modern banks and stock exchanges have appeared. In 1531, a stock exchange was established in Antwerp, and European companies and firms also set up over 1,000 agencies here. A price revolution is an influx of large quantities of gold and silver into Europe, causing prices to rise sharply. Many aristocrats abandoned exploitation of fixed land rents and turned to capitalist industry and commerce, such as "enclosure movement" in Britain. This led to disintegration of aristocratic forces in Europe from within. Craft workshops in Netherlands, England and France became main force of social production in Europe.
The Antwerp Stock Exchange was founded in 16th century
In realm of thought, Europe entered heyday of Renaissance. Among artists who appeared during this period were da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and others. Machiavelli, Thomas More, Jean Bodin, and others appeared in political science: Machiavelli advocated creation of a legal national state and was father of modern European political science; Jean Bodin is one of founders of modern theory of international law. . In addition, a religious reform movement also emerged in Europe, and secularized religion took hold in Europe. At same time, Yangming theory of mind appeared during Ming dynasty, but its essence was only a revival of theory of Mencius, and it did not go beyond category of Confucianism.
In field of science and technology, West has completely surpassed China. In 1543, Copernicus published On Motion of Celestial Bodies and advanced "heliocentric theory", while most Ming Dynasty intellectuals only recognized "round heaven and earth". Bruno believed that space and time are infinite. The Italian mathematician Cardano established binomial theorem and definition of binomial coefficient, and also published Cardano's formula for general solution of cubic algebraic equations. His students found a solution to equation of fourth degree. The German mathematician Regmontan wrote first work in Europe on trigonometry independent of astronomy. In field of medicine, Vesalius laid foundations for theory of modern medicine, Servetus discovered small blood circulatory system. Even in terms of military technology, Europe was ahead of Ming dynasty, which began to import artillery from Europe, European ships could cross ocean, and Ming ships could only sail along coast.
Copernicus (1473–1543): father of modern astronomyIII, late Ming dynasty (1582–1644)
With death of Zhang Jiuzhen, Wanli Emperor came to power, and Ming Dynasty was officially on its way to extinction. In last 60 years of Ming Dynasty, eunuchs continued to monopolize power, and peasant uprisings broke out.
At this time, West is already a completely new West. From 1618 to 1648, a 30-year religious war broke out in Europe, Protestant alliance led by France and Great Britain defeated Catholic alliance supported by Spain and Austria, Spanish hegemony waned, and France began to dominate Western Europe. Russia in Eastern Europe embarked on path of expansion. In 1598, Siberian Khanate joined Tsarist Russia, and by 1636 Russians had reached coast of Okhotsk and began to invade area around Lake Baikal and Amur basin.
From an economic point of view, mercantilism has become a trend in Europe. The development of Netherlands as a rising star of colonial expansion is even more surprising. In 1581, Northern Netherlands became independent, and then world's first joint-stock company, East India Company, was created. By end of Ming Dynasty, Netherlands became a "sea coachman", occupying Indonesia, Taiwan, coast of Brazil, New York and South Africa as colonies. Britain and France also tried to catch up with Netherlands by seizing remaining land in North America and infiltrating India. Queen Elizabeth of England vigorously carried out overseas expansion and even supported pirate robbery. France has established itself as a manufacturing base for European luxury goods.
The East India Company, founded in 1602: world's first joint-stock company
From point of view of ideology, with formation of modern European states, modern European theories of state began to take shape. Grotius (1583-1645) advanced theory of national sovereignty and became founder of modern theory of natural law and father of modern international law. In field of philosophy, philosophy of rationalism began to rise, and Descartes was a representative figure, who laid philosophical and theoretical foundation of Enlightenment. The thoughts of Ming Dynasty of same period were mainly neo-Confucianism of Cheng Zhu and Lu Wang Xinxue, in short, they did not go beyond category of traditional Confucianism. At end of Ming Dynasty, deviant Li Zhi emerged because he questioned hypocrisy of Confucianism, he was considered a "heretic" and eventually died in prison.
The 17th century was era of "scientific revolution" in Europe, a large number of scientific achievements appeared, and countries also created academies of sciences to promote development of science. In field of physics, Galileo discovered three laws of free fall, throwing objects and pendulum, and also invented telescope; Kepler Using mathematics to study astronomy, three laws of planetary motion were proposed in 1609. Mathematically, Descartes established coordinate system in 1637 and founded analytic geometry; Farm set methods Introduces finding tangents, finding maximum and minimum values, and definite integrals. From a biological point of view, Harvey discovered that "the heart is center of blood circulation and source of energy", becoming founder of modern physiology. In short, modern world science has risen in Europe, while Ming Dynasty at same time is still in process of generalizing traditional technologies.
Kepler's Three Laws
Conclusion: Comparing China and Europe in early, middle and late stages of Ming Dynasty, we can conclude that Europe has basically surpassed China in every way. Judging by strength of its national power, Europe surpassed it around middle of Ming Dynasty; in terms of political system, economic system, and ideological development, China under Yuan Dynasty had already begun to lag behind Europe, not to mention Ming Dynasty. . In short, since about 13th century, Europe has gradually moved towards center of world, and China has gradually become rigid and declined.