Shawn Ng

Zhu YangZhang 朱元璋


Zhu YangZhang (朱元璋, 21 October 1328 – 24 June 1398), was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty.

Recently I just finished watching the 百家讲坛 - 明太祖朱元璋 (Lecture Room - Zhu YangZhang) and decided to write about this. Lecture Room is a Chinese television program where scholars from various disciplines provide lectures. The literal translation of the show is The Hundred Schools of Thought Forum. This series is about Zhu YangZhang.

Before watching this series, I am more knowledgeable about Chinese dynasties before the Song dynasty. Because in my opinion, imperial China is the world's strongest country till the Yuan dynasty. Naturally, I wasn't interested in understanding the imperial China that peaked.


Qin dynasty (221 - 207 BC). Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇嬴政

  • Unified China
  • Created imperial China's centralized power
  • Standardized language, currency & units of measurement
  • Built the great wall of China

Han dynasty (202 BCE) to the Sui dynasty (619), is a period that I find boring.

Tang dynasty (618 - 907), Tang Taizong 唐太宗李世民

  • Peace and stabilization
  • Expanded territory
  • Created the golden age of imperial China

Song dynasty (960 - 1279)

Yuan dynasty (1271 - 1368), Genghis Khan 元太祖铁木真

  • History's greatest conqueror


Zhu Yangzhang is a unique emperor as he is the only China emperor that comes from the lowest social class. He is the best example of a self-made man.

Zhu Yangzhang's achievements:

  • Take back China from Mongolian
  • Recover Han Chinese social status and culture
  • Further centralized emperor's power
  • Did the most for the peasant in entire China's history
  • Anti-corruption measures

As someone who comes from nothing, Zhu Yangzhang understands the problems that peasants faced. He was a victim of a corrupted official when he was young. Learning from his experience, he created policies that make peasants' lives better. His anti-corruption measures are more comprehensive than previous emperors as he understands how corrupted officials think and operate.

However, because he came from the lowest social class, he is very cautious with the peasants, as he shows that anyone can become an emperor. Anyone who showed an inch of defiance will be dealt with overly harsh punishment.

All in all, Zhu YangZhang serves as an inspiration that you can achieve anything. 

Published: 2021-03-09 | Updated: 2022-07-12

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