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.