Ming Dynasty Versus The Spanish Empire
The period 1450-1750 AD was a very tumultuous time. Many empires fell and were built during this period and many empires used different methods to rise to power. For example, the Spanish Empire began when King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile married to unify Spain. The Spanish Empire grew when Columbus sailed the ocean blue across the Atlantic in 1492. On the other hand, the Ming Dynasty came to power in 1368 after a large revolt led by Zhu Yuanzhang, a distinguished commander in the Red Turban Movement. Yuanzhang’s forces successfully drove the Mongols out of China, effectively finishing the Yuan Dynasty. Unlike the Spanish, who “came and conquered”, the Ming Dynasty emphasized the importance of having complete internal control. However, both empires focused on maintaining power, gaining more political authority, and increasing economic and social wealth.
From 1450-1750, the Ming Empire utilized and focused on improving their bureaucracy, while the Spanish empire employed monarchical practices to gain and consolidate power. The Spanish expanded their empire by developing colonies and acquired silver to economically improve their empire, while the Ming Empire relied on trade and taxes instead of expansion. Despite these differences, both consolidated power by concentrating on the interior safety of their empire.
One large difference between their political empire buildings was the way they consolidated and established their political power. The Ming Dynasty relied on a bureaucracy that appointed those who passed the difficult civil service examinations with high marks as high ranking officials, while the Spanish empire relied on a monarchy established on arranged marriages. The Ming Dynasty relied on the civil service examinations to determine who deserved to be a top official. This method was efficient because it guaranteed that Ming officials were adequately equipped to serve in office and promoted fairness since it wasn’t based off their lineage. On the contrary, Spain was formed through the marriage of Ferdinand Isabella which merged two large empires. This worked better than the civil service exam because without the marriage, there would be no united Spain. This method also expanded Spain’s political power and empire as these two large empires merged to form and even stronger country.
Another difference between the two is the way these two empires choose to expand. While the Spanish expanded their empire by exploring new lands and discovering silver, the Ming expanded their economic wealth from trade. Beginning with Christopher Columbus’ voyage in 1492– when the Spanish discovered the New World—the New World was included in the Spanish Empire. Resources from the New World, like silver, economically benefitted the Spanish as they used it to trade. This method improved the Spanish empire through a large expansion of their empire and the boost of their economy. On the other hand, the Ming did not expand their empire because they constantly battled against their northern neighbors, the Mongols, and faced difficulty trying to maintain order with their current size. These problems, however, didn’t stifle the increasing wealth of the Ming Dynasty. Because Chinese silk and porcelain were coveted goods to the Europeans, China did not have to seek merchants because everybody wanted to trade with them. Consequently, while the Ming Dynasty did not focus on expanding their empire, China was economically stable because of their prosperous trade of desired goods.
One similarity between the Spanish Empire and the Ming Dynasty is that they both maintained their power by prioritizing on the interior safety of their empire. By doing this, both Spain and the Ming Dynasty prevented any internal threats from rising up. We can see Spanish focus on internal threats after Spain’s victory over Granada (the last Muslim stronghold in Spain) in 1492. Right after the expulsion of the Muslims, the Spanish signed a law that forced all Jews who did not convert into the national faith to be expelled. This helped the Spanish maintain power as it was less likely to have a religious internal threat inside their country. Similarly, the Ming Dynasty maintained power by focusing on their bureaucracies and interior protection. After Zheng He’s seventh voyage in 1433, which had been extremely successful, the voyages were ceased, because the Ming Dynasty feared invasion from the Mongols. While this was an external threat, the Ming worried about spies coming in and creating internal rebellion and thus, they repaired the Great Wall as it not only served as a defense against Mongol invaders, but against any internal rebellion that might have occurred. This helped them maintain power because if they had not reinforced the wall, then it is likely that an enemy would have entered China and destroyed their empire.
From the period 1450- 1750 AD, even though the Spanish were different from the Ming in the political and expansion policies, they were the same in their focus of the extinguishment of internal threats. However, another similarity between these two empires is that both empires maintained their political power by claiming that they were given the power by some religious authority. The Spanish thought that because they were Catholics, what they did was morally right, and whoever wasn’t a Catholic was always wrong. Thus, they created a slogan for their expansions into the New World which was “God, gold, and glory” and thus, their actions were justified. This belief that God gave only Catholics the morally correct stance strengthened the political power inside the Spanish empire. Meanwhile, the Ming used the Mandate of Heaven to validate their rule which led the people to believe that the emperor had been divinely chosen and deserved the utmost respect. Through their claims regarding their God-given authority, the Spanish and Ming were able to gain the respect and loyalty of the people they governed. While the methods of the Ming Dynasty and the Spanish differed, both were ultimately successful in making their empire wealthy, large, united, and prosperous.