Over 276 years, 17 emperors ruled the Ming dynasty in a period that saw stability, economic growth, maritime exploration and international trade. The prevention of Mongol resurgence was paramount, with northern garrisons positioned at strategic points and a huge standing army of over one million men. The Great Wall of China was a further bulwark against invasion. Yet, as time went by, there were recurring Mongol attacks, increased Manchu threats and repeated harassments from Japanese pirates. These dangers, combined with increased Confucian influence in court, led to a policy of isolationism and self-sufficiency. In the 16th century, the Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea and the Chinese intervened to help the Koreans, moving their army from Manchu territory and leaving northern areas without suitable defense. These empty Ming garrisons and the decline of the dynasty as a whole led to the rise of the Manchus and ultimately the fall of the Ming dynasty.
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