Chinese Unification under Ming Dynasty

The Hongwu Emperor (Chinese: 洪武帝; Wade-Giles: Hung-wu Ti; October 21, 1328 – June 24, 1398), known variably by his given name Zhu Yuanzhang (Chinese: 朱元璋; Wade-Giles: Chu Yuan-chang) and by the temple name Taizu of the Ming (Chinese: 明太祖) was the founder and first emperor (1368–98) of the Ming Dynasty of China. His era name, Hongwu, means "great military power".

In the middle of the 1300s, with famine, plagues and peasant revolts sweeping across China, Zhu became a leader of an army that conquered China, ending the Yuan Dynasty and forcing the Mongols to retreat to the Mongolian steppes. With his seizure of the Yuan capital Dadu (present-day Beijing), he claimed the Mandate of Heaven and established the Ming Dynasty in the year 1368.

Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed himself emperor and "Hongwu" was adopted as the title of his reign.
Under Hongwu, the Mongol bureaucrats who had dominated the government for nearly a century under the Yuan Dynasty were replaced by Han Chinese. Hongwu revamped the traditional Confucian examination system, which selected state bureaucrats or civil servants on the basis of merit and knowledge of literature and philosophy, mostly the Classics. Candidates for posts in the civil service, or in the officer corps of the 80,000-man army, once again had to pass the traditional competitive examinations, as required by the Classics. The Confucian scholar gentry, marginalized under the Yuan for nearly a century, once again assumed their predominant role in the Chinese state.

The rejection of things associated with the Mongols also continued into other areas. These included Mongol dress, which was discarded, and Mongol names, which stopped being used. Indeed, attacks on Mongol-associated items and places also included the attack of palaces and administrative buildings used by the Yuan rulers.

Zhu Yuanzhang vowed revenge against the Yuan Dynasty and joined a number of rebel movements. Through a combination of his forceful personality, clever maneuvering and ruthlessness, Zhu Yuanzhang positioned himself as a leader of a rebel group known as the Red Turbans.

In 1356 Zhu Yuanzhang’s rebel army captured Nanjing. He became an extremely popular leader and defeated his rival in the Red Turban army Chen Youliang for supremacy of the Yangze River Valley. The ailing Yuan Dynasty was unable to stop Zhu Yuanzhang’s advances and the Mongols fled rebel armies in 1368. Zhu Yuanzhang then became the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.