Zhu Yuanzhang was born to a Chinese peasant family who were mostly wiped out by famine and he was raised in a Buddhist monastery where apart from learning to read and write he was taught skills that were to prove very useful in later years such as the importance of organisation and logistics. It was the Yuan dynasty of Mongols that ruled China but they were beset with economic problems and they were consumed with putting down rebellions that were getting stronger and stronger in direct proportion with the unhappiness of the general populace. When the Mongol clans of the Yuan Dynasty ransacked the monastery where Zhu Yuanzhang was staying he joined a local rebel group then joined the Zoroastrian Red Turban Army where he quickly rose through the ranks displaying great bravery and leadership. He became the groups leader and he strategised to conquer all in his path including his first big target the city of Nanjing (then called Jingshi). Having conquered Nanjing in 1356 he consolidated power around the Yangtze River and then continued his battles for 12 years until he finally achieved his ultimate goal of driving the Mongol government out of Beijing (then called Dadu) in 1368. With power in his grasp he established his own Dynasty and became the Ming Hongwu Emperor whereby he ruled with an iron fist for the next 30 years until his demise in 1398. Remembering his poor upbringing he took measures to help the peasant communities, he cultivated land for distribution to the peasants, repaired canals and created many public works projects that benefitted the poorest of society. Zhu introduced laws reflecting traditional Chinese values and he set up a system where the elders of a community would be responsible for justice following his imperial edicts restraining officials from evil. He disliked corruption and severely punished all such acts that rose to his attention. He set his own guideline of personal ethics which he stood by religiously as this Ming Hongwu Emperor was famously quoted as saying: "In order to protect my reputation and to preserve my life, I have done away with music, beautiful girls and valuable objects. Those who love such things are usually a success in the morning, a failure in the evening". As you can see he was very good for a one liner also so here is my compilation of 10 of the best Zhu Yuanzhang quotes
- Mini Bio
- Name: Yuanzhang Zhu
- Born: 21st October 1328, Haozhou, Henan Jiangbei, Yuan Empire
- Died: 24th June 1398, Jingshi, Zhili, Ming Empire
- Occupation: Soldier, founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty
- Era name: Hongwu; 23rd January 1368 – 5th February 1399
- Dynasty: Ming; Their era lasted for 276 years between 1368 and 1644
- Notable military achievements: Overpowering the ruling Yuan Dynasty and driving its Mongol hordes out of China
- Legacy: He is fondly remembered for restoring traditional Chinese culture and values
- Trivia: The era of the Ming dynasty is regarded as one of China’s three golden ages due mainly to its economic prosperity. The other two golden ages being the Han and Song period
- Quotes about the Ming Hongwu Emperor: Historian Patricia Buckley Ebrey said of him: "Seldom has the course of Chinese history been influenced by a single personality as much as it was by the founder of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang"
- Simon Leys was quoted as saying this about him: "an adventurer from peasant stock, poorly educated, a man of action, a bold and shrewd tactician, a visionary mind, in many respects a creative genius; Naturally coarse, cynical, and ruthless, he eventually showed symptoms of paranoia, bordering on psychopathy"
"Eunuchs must have nothing to do with the administration"
"Elders who act improperly, take advantage of the law to perpetrate wickedness, ignore public opinion, or cause trouble, shall be arrested by the other elders and sent to the capital"
"I will send forces to capture and exterminate your bandits, head straight for your country, and put your king in bonds"
"I personally went to the Taiping Gate and had them flogged many times and cut off their feet. Then I ordered them back to work as an example to others"
"Among the peasants in Henan and Shandong some are lazy and do not work hard at farming, thereby causing shortages of clothing and food"
"Using the elders to settle affairs is certainly appropriate for all authorities, how can there be anything that is not good"
"Make the people afraid to transgress by intimidating them with capital punishment is a superficial policy"
"Under less repressive laws it would not be necessary to plead for one's life and death would not be the outcome"
"To plead for one's life under repressive laws is like being a tethered fish in a pot, it is hard to stay alive"
"Each village shall set up a drum. During the months of cultivation, the drum shall be beaten at the fifth watch"