|Hongwu emperor, né Zhu Yuanzhang (r. 1368–1398). “Vast Military” emperor. Zhu was a peasant who rose to power as the first Ming emperor from beginnings as a warlord in the anti-Mongol cause (Red Turban Rebellion). Famously squat and ugly, he governed from his new capital at Nanjing, which he had first captured in 1368, intensely and with good intentions, but increasingly as his reign progressed out of cruel suspicion, in despair, and alone. He learned from the Mongols to guard the frontier with garrisons (military colonies) located at strategic choke points, and tried to create a self-sufficient, professional military and standing army. His swelling suspicions led to frequent and bloody purges, of a character partway reminiscent of Stalin, in which not merely enemies but entire extended families and whole communities were beheaded: in 1380 he executed 40,000 people who were in the slightest way associated with a conspiracy by his former prime minister. In his deepening paranoia he hamstrung the bureaucracy, to better concentrate power in the Imperial Court. Over time, that precedent and legacy meant that successive Ming courts became profoundly corrupt, detached from the people, and eunuch-dominated. See alsoGreat Wall.|
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Publication information: Book title: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations. Volume: 2. Contributors: Cathal J. Nolan - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 731.
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