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Thread: Why did Ming and Song fail?

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    Senior Member Sugar's Avatar
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    Default Why did Ming and Song fail?

    Both the song and ming dynasty were times of great prosperity and both were founded with hopes of making China into an even greater and more dominant power than it already was. WHy did neither Song nor Ming live up to their potential despite the opportunities that were present during their respectives periods?
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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    They didn't fail, necessarily. Each of them lasted around three-hundred years. That's one-hundred years longer than the United States has been around so far.

    They didn't so much fail as they did run their course, and then powerful foreign invaders took over.

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    Here's a theory---If you believe in the old "mandate of heaven" concept, perhaps the last emperor of each Song/Ming dynasty was not doing his job properly, thus he lost his right to rule as emperor and the changes in the dynasties happened.

    It is said no dynasty's reign lasts forever, only the legacy they leave behind has some chances to remain and survive. Well, unless they pull a Qin Shui Huang and burn every record of things.

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    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sugar View Post
    Both the song and ming dynasty were times of great prosperity and both were founded with hopes of making China into an even greater and more dominant power than it already was. WHy did neither Song nor Ming live up to their potential despite the opportunities that were present during their respectives periods?
    they were prosperous--hence they got happy, fat, and lazy.
    Last edited by Ren Ying Ying; 05-05-08 at 02:01 AM.

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ren Ying Ying View Post
    they prosperous--hence they got happy, fat, and lazy.
    Which is another way of saying that they didn't fail; they just came to an end when their time was up.

    The Sung Dynasty was never a great military power (although I find that they are underrated in this area), but Sung is recognized as a high point of Chinese art, literature, philosophical thought, civic life, and scientific inquiry.

    The Ming Dynasty didn't produce as many cultural achievements as the Sung, but it was the preeminent power in East Asia during its time.

    Both dynasties lasted the average 300 years for Chinese dynasties; by comparison, the People's Republic of China is only around 60 years old.

    I wouldn't call that a *failure* exactly.

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    Senior Member Guo Xiang's Avatar
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    I agree with many opinions here... They were both great empires, but there is bound to have a couple of black sheep or uninterested emperors here and there which would ultimately be one of the main catalysts leading to the empires' downfall. And sometimes, even a half-decent or good emperor can come too late eg. Chongzhen.
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    Senior Member KeongJai's Avatar
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    because the mongolians attacked. and the manchus attacked later. You can't compare the economic/military/poliditical strength to republics today because all the calls aren't called by 1 person.

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    Senior Member Ian Liew's Avatar
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    The Song actually did rather well against the Mongols compared to all the other nations which folded like a pack of dominoes. The Xiangyang-Fancheng defense would probably have held out much longer if the Imperial courts provided sufficient support for their efforts. Given the amount of time the Mongols spent camping outside the two cities, there was more than enough time for the Imperial courts to mobilise and even start planning a proper defence, but sadly the Emperor was never aware of the dire situation, with his corrupt Prime Minister keeping him in the dark.

    The Ming Dynasty also did very well against the Manchus, with Yuan Chonghuan handing Nurhaci his first (and last, as Nurhaci never recovered and died) military defeat ever. Sadly, the imperial court was too far gone after the negligence of Zhengde, Wanli, Taichang and Tianqim and the corruption of Wei Zhongxian. Chongzhen would have done very well had he taken the throne in place of Zhengde, but with the adminstration he inherited from his brother, he needed wisdom in the face of the various political camps and agendas in the court. Chongzhen was conscientious, hardworking, diligent and realistic, but none of these qualities could make up for a lack of wisdom and an inability to make a decision and stick to it, easily having his decision swayed back and forth by eloquent officials. Even if he had the wisdom to govern the country properly, he probably still wouldn't have had the military might to deal with Li Zicheng and Abahai simultaneously anyway, but he did himself no favours even if he earned a lot of sympathy.

    In short, the Manchu and Mongol armies were powerful, but they couldn't possibly have broken China if the internal politics and corruption hadn't caused decay from within. A few generations of weak emperors and that was it.

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    If you had to pick one reason as the biggest reason why either dynasty fell, it's incompetence. It starts at the top. When you have good emperors and conscientious officials running the country, you can overcome strife caused by natural disasters and wars, but when you have corrupt eunuchs and officials dominating the Court and having the Emperor's ears, no matter how strong the foundation of the empire is, it will eventually crumble.

    Once you obtain power and stabilize your stronghold, you adopt Confucianism as a way of preserving order and legitimizing your rule. Then you get complacent, lazy, and stop trying to improve and strengthen.
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    Senior Member Trinie's Avatar
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    Well everything has to come to an end sometime... Even the ancient dynasties, like the Shang and ZHou dynasties which lasted around 600-800 years had to eventually come to an end. I guess I believe in "tian yi" because if something is meant to end at a certain time then it will....
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    I’m compiling and organizing the ultimate reason as The Faulty Dynasty System.

    The idea that a country can be POSSESSED and PASSED ON from father to son to grandson to great grandson like a piece of jade can NEVER work for long:

    1. Intuitively, just because old pa was a great leader doesn't mean his son, grandson, great grandson etc. are all great leaders. Even if we go strictly genetic, those “good leader genes” will get diluted by ˝ each generation, ‘cause pretty concubine mommies aren’t likely to be great leaders. Well science is not applicable everywhere anyway…

    2. The cozy sense of entitlement to the country breeds sons and grandsons who fight among themselves for the coveted throne, while never questioning the legitimacy of the actual content of dispute. They fight not to care for the country, but to get the passport to do whatever they want to the country. They win not by good leadership, but by fortune and/or ruthlessness.

    3. Which leads to the lack of accountability of the winner. Because the country is now in his “possession”, he can do whatever he wants (see 2). Any help or advice is taken not based on whether it is good, but whether it is pleasing to the emperor’s ears. The whole country’s fate hangs on the conscience (mostly lack of, see 2) of a single faulty human.

    4. Which results in what has been mentioned – incompetence. How many will give 100% when he can enjoy the same things even by doing -100%? Plus even 100% of a retard may not be very useful on objective terms. You need someone who’s both capable (see 1) and willing (see 3) – a rarity. And this guy really decides the competence (mostly lack of) of the whole government. Feeling secure yet?

    5. 1-4 won’t matter if the thing in question is a dead object. A piece of jade isn’t going to run away from an abusive master. But here we have a country - made up of living people. It is ALIVE. That means it has its own will and can struggle, get sick, become unhappy…

    6. Oh and add to all these, the fact that a country is not in an isolated bubble. Hey winner to the throne, you actually have competition! The jaded country in your possession actually looks pretty desirable to adrenaline-high guys from other countries!

    Given such a faulty system, I was actually surprised that it went on for so long, dynasty after dynasty. Even our invaders adopted it and perished in it. The hijacked Confucius ideas must have been such a great pain-killer to the point that the country felt numb altogether.

    Or perhaps, it is truly Tian Yi.
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    One reason why dynasties are not easy to overturn once it has established itself is that most of the founders of dynasties were very capable men, with capable aides at his side. They often established a strong foundation for the new dynasty such as building infrastructure, reforming the political and tax systems, destroying all dissension. The first 3 things often benefit the country and its people in the beginning until corruption and complacency sets in and the system gets abused. Given the size of the country, the difficulties of communications across countries, and the difference in language, it was very hard for potential rebels to coordinate and gather any strength in numbers unless many parts of the country experienced intolerable hardships at the same time so multiple rebellions erupt simultaneously. Localized rebellions are usually easily squashed.
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    That is true.

    I'm more thinking on the larger scale: why were the Chinese forever content with the dynasty system? Why didn't the Chinese question the legitimacy of one person and one family owning the whole country? Comparing with the west, why didn't we have the age of revolution?

    It's not like we didn't have enlightened thinkers. We have had them very early on: Taoist Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi both emphasizing "wu wei" and pointing out the harms a powerful ruler brings to the people. They are contemporaries of Confucius Kong Zi and Meng Zi respectively. Throughout the century, Chinese have adopted the strange paradigm of “Nei yong huang lao, Wai zun ru shu” (Taoist on the inside, Confucianism on the outside). We do like Taoist philosophy, we just don’t want to apply it on our precious dynasty system.

    We Chinese just seem to have a deep-rooted "Emperor Complex". We overturn Emperors and dynasties, but not the dynasty system. In fact, people rebel against the emperor so that they can become the emperor themselves. The complex still lingers in popular culture (and in the mainland communist system) to this day. Wuxia is “Emperor-ism on the inside, Taoist on the outside”. Our heroes kept yearning for the Taoist carefree life, but only after they have conquered the whole world and bent everyone’s mind to accept and hail their ways. They were happy to hide away in their carefree palace only after they have satisfied their desire as emperors.

    Why did the dynasty system stay for so long?
    We kept it because we love it. The Power of an Emperor, legitimized by the Mandate of Heaven.

    If only that emperor is me.
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    Senior Member Sugar's Avatar
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    To correct my question, I don't mean that the Ming and Song failed as a dynasty, but more on what caused each's downfall
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    Moderator Suet Seung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sugar View Post
    To correct my question, I don't mean that the Ming and Song failed as a dynasty, but more on what caused each's downfall
    Okay, who's with me when I say burn her at the stake!!!!!!!

    If so, let me go gather the wood and somebody get the gasoline and lighter.
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    Quote Originally Posted by expression View Post
    Why did the dynasty system stay for so long?
    We kept it because we love it. The Power of an Emperor, legitimized by the Mandate of Heaven.

    If only that emperor is me.
    The system kept itself churning basically. Confucianism, of which I am not a fan, is about hierarchy and preserving hierarchical order. It is the perfect ideology for those in charge to adopt to legitimize their rule. It is about looking backwards or preserving the present but not forwards. It helped that other contemporary ideologies were not good for governing.

    China was egoistical about itself. It never realized that while it WAS the greatest countries at one time, other countries were fast passing it by. The Manchus were most at fault for having their heads in the sand, but I don't think Han rulers, had they not gotten their butts whooped by Manchus, would have done better.

    And if you look at the rest of the world, monarchy prevailed not just in China, but everywhere else until the last 300-400 years.

    Then when republics began sprouting elsewhere, China was too closed a country for the Western ideologies to take any sort of foothold. Those in charge would definitely make sure that it didn't. It wasn't until the Manchus finally acknowledged that it sucks after being crushed in the Opium War that it began sending students overboard to study. Once that flood gate opened and exposure to the West increased, that's when the Chinese intellectuals began to see alternatives to the dynastic system.
    ---

    PS, when I was studying Chinese History in college, I was amazed by how moronic the Chinese officials + royalty were. They knew nothing. The kind of superstitious and delusional ideas that they had were laughable.

    It's really incredible that China was never fully conquered. The only thing that saved it was its vast size and the rivalry among Western nations.
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    Senior Member Sugar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suet Seung View Post
    Okay, who's with me when I say burn her at the stake!!!!!!!

    If so, let me go gather the wood and somebody get the gasoline and lighter.
    I don't get a trial?
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    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sugar View Post
    I don't get a trial?
    what do you think this is...freedom of trial? j/k

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    The problem of dynasty is the last few generation just enjoy the luxury left by the previous generations. They have no idea how to hard their ancestor worked for what they now have. They simply believe they deserve everything and never worry about the case of falling of the dynasty....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    They didn't fail, necessarily. Each of them lasted around three-hundred years. That's one-hundred years longer than the United States has been around so far.

    They didn't so much fail as they did run their course, and then powerful foreign invaders took over.
    You just can't compare dynasty in ancient society to modern democratic countries. Ancient dynasty will never last because throne is passing down from one family and the ruler can do whatever he wanted even if it is against the law. On the other hand, in democratic society, we elect our own leader and there is balance of power which I believe is crutially important. Country like the US may get poorer, the standard of living may go down, ect...., but the country will never fall like those ancient dynasty....

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