If you ask anyone what single object they associate with China - the most common answer will undoubtedly be a Ming vase. Although most people will be unaware of the dates of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), almost everyone is aware of the fragility of its porcelain, its rarity and value. Porcelain is however just one part of the story of one of the most glorious epoques of China's past. By focusing on the significant years of the early Ming dynasty and through the themes of court people and their lives, extraordinary developments in culture, the military, religion, diplomacy and trade, this book brings the wider history of this fascinating period to colourful life. This was an era of great voyages of exploration, an expnasion of trade and diplomacy. Long before the regular arrivals of Europeans in China, court-sponsored expeditions were sent to Asia, the Middle East and the African coast, bringing back knowledge of and objects from lands thousands of miles away gold, gems and foreign fashions.This period also witnessed the compilation of the worlds first comprehensive encyclopaedia; major building projects such as the Forbidden City and Ming tombs; the creation of extraordianry textiles, paintings, ceramics, gold, jewellery, furniture, jade and lacquer. The engaging narrative is richly illustrated with over 250 images of some of the finest pieces ever made in China, drawing on the objects specially selected for the British Museums major exhibition.