Climate, disasters, wars and the collapse of the Ming Dynasty

  • Qian Liu
  • Gang LiEmail author
  • Dongyan Kong
  • Bingbing Huang
  • Yuxin Wang
Original Article


Based on the historical records of natural disasters and human wars of the final 35 years in the late Ming Dynasty (1610–1644 AD) obtained using different spatial scales, a set of grading systems were established to classify, grade and present these records and their spatiotemporal characteristics. From natural and human perspectives to quantitative analyses of the direct causes of the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, the author draws conclusion regarding a total of six immediate factors, which were, according to the rate of contribution from high to low, internal rebellions, drought, inter-ethnic conflicts, locust, flood and external wars. Among these causes, human factors accounted for approximately 47%, while natural factors accounted for approximately 53%. Attribution analysis indicated that the basin areas in east China were sensitive to climate change during the Ming Dynasty. Severe drought and locusts in a cooling environment were the main natural causes, while frequent internal rebellions and inter-ethnic conflicts influenced by financial crisis were the major human factors. Although natural factors accounted for a greater percentage than human factors in the rate of contribution to the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, they were the only external factors impacting social development and changes.


Climate change Natural disasters Human wars Collapse of the Ming Dynasty Spatiotemporal characteristics Quantitative research 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Urban and Environmental SciencesNorthwest UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Earth Surface System and Environmental Carrying CapacityNorthwest UniversityXi’anChina

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