What was the Ming Dynasty?
When European traders began to sail directly to China with huge amounts of silver from South America, the Ming emperors were able to find all kinds of things to sell to Europeans in exchange for the silver, especially porcelain, silk, and tea.
The Chinese economy used more and more silver. But about 1580, the supply of silver ran out. This, combined with the Little Ice Age, made the Ming emperors seem like they were doing a bad job, and in 1644 the Ming Dynasty collapsed.
Manchu China and the Qing Dynasty
The Qing dynasty ruled China from 1644 AD until 1911 – nearly three hundred years. Over time, they fell more and more under European control, until by the late 1800s under the Empress Cixi they were unable to defend China against British warships and troops with modern weapons.
The Republic of China
In 1911, the idea of a government run by the people reached China. Rebels forced the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty to abdicate (quit) and formed the Republic of China.
The Republic of China formed a modern Chinese army, and gradually also transformed Chinese culture and agriculture, creating a modern society that is now once again one of the richest in the world.
Bibliography and further reading about Chinese history: