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Technology During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)

Bowl with crane

Bowl with crane, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), approx. 1400–1600. Northern China. Porcelaneous ware with overglaze polychrome decoration. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P2387.

Covered box with flowers

Covered box with flowers, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Reign of the Yongle Emperor (1403–1424). China. Red lacquer with carved designs. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60M309.A-.B.

Imperial court overvest

Imperial court overvest, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Reign of the Wanli Emperor (1573–1619), dated 5th day of the eleventh month, 1595. Silk satin embroidered in canvas stitch and satin stitch, and overembroidered in silver and gold couching. Museum purchase, City Arts Trust Fund, 1990.214.

Bowl with flower

Bowl with flower, Ming dynasty (1368–1644). China | Jingdezhen | Jiangxi province. Porcelain with underglaze decoration. Gift of Roy Leventritt, B69P20L.1.

Bowl with brown glaze

Bowl with brown glaze, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Reign of the Jiajing Emperor (1522–1566). China | Jingdezhen | Jiangxi province. Porcelain with brown glaze. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P1760.

Basin with dragons

Basin with dragons, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Reign of the Xuande Emperor (1426–1435). China, Jiangxi province. Porcelain with underglaze-blue decoration. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P2384.

Larger than the regular bowls which were a part of table sets, this shape was probably used at court or temples for the rituals of the monarchy. This piece displays an imperial-style motif, consisting of a five-clawed dragon running in clouds bordered by wavy patterns above and lotus panels below.

At the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), China was a world leader in the use of gunpowder-based weaponry, shipbuilding and navigation, and the production of porcelain and various other materials requiring technological knowledge. Many of these developments did not continue further into Ming rule. Confucianism did not encourage commerce, and this — combined with a strong belief in the superiority of their own culture — led the Ming emperors to close the country’s doors to foreign ideas and people, limiting access to a few port cities in the south. After the reign of the Yongle emperor (1403–1424), there was little geographic exploration.

Scientific investigation also lagged, and by the end of the dynasty China was importing weaponry and weapon technologies from Europe, where shipbuilding and navigational skills had become more advanced.

The developments that did occur during the Ming dynasty were largely focused on refinements in existing technologies. Examples of these refinements can be found in the lacquers, porcelains, and textiles.