明朝开国皇帝朱元璋 Zhu Yuanzhang, the First Emperor of the Ming Dynasty
A combination of incompetent rulers and natural disasters led to peasant uprisings which overthrew the Yuan Dynasty.
Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398 AD) was a leader of one of these peasant uprisings. He was born into a poor peasant's family in Haozhou (today's Fengyang, Anhui Province). In March 1356, Zhu Yuanzhang captured Jiqing (today's Nanjing) and changed its name to Yingtian. With this major city as his base, he defeated not only the Yuan armies sent against him but also rival peasant rebel forces.
In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed himself emperor, historically known as Emperor Taizu, of the Ming Dynasty in Nanjing. In the autumn of the same year, the Ming army took Dadu, the capital of the Yuan Empire, putting an end to the rule of the Mongols. However, it took Zhu Yuanzhang nearly 20 more years to consolidate his hold over the whole country.
Emperor Taizu's first concern was to restore agricultural production, which had been severely disrupted during the wars. He encouraged peasants who had fled from their homes during the fighting to return to their fields and to open up new land. He advocated the planting of cash crops such as cotton, mulberries and hemp, offering tax exemptions as an incentive. By 1393, the area of agricultural land had grown to four times as big as that at the end of the Yuan Dynasty, and irrigation works had been expanded greatly. Emperor Taizu also extended preferential treatment to craftsmen. All these measures provided advantageous conditions for the further overall development of society, economy and culture nationwide. Emperor Taizu abolished the position of prime minister, and set up six offices known as "boards"in the central government, which were directly responsible to the emperor. This method strengthened the centralization of authority. At the same time, the emperor made a thorough overhaul of the existing laws, increasing the penalties for offenders.