The Chinese are one of the three playable civilizations featured in Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties based on the Great Qing Empire (大清帝國) during the reign of Kangxi (康熙) in the early modern era. They are widely considered to be an offensive civilization and similar to the Russians in employing lots of cheaper, comparatively weaker units.
The Chinese have the largest number of unique units in the game, and have second highest population cap, at 220 (the Haudenosaunee are capable of a 225 population cap through Earth Mother Ceremony in the Community Plaza). In addition to this, many Chinese wonders spawn free units, allowing for a numerical advantage. The Chinese also train units relatively fast although these units, like the Russians, are slightly weaker than ordinary units. Not all of the Chinese units are weak, however; the Flying Crow, a form of ballistic rocket, can be spawned with the Confucian Academy wonder while the Flamethrower, a devastating anti-melee infantry unit, can be trained from the castle from the Colonial Age. Instead of a separate barracks and stable, the Chinese train their troops in the joint War Academy.
The Chinese army has various units not seen in other civilizations, such as the Chu Ko Nu, a crossbow unit with an enhanced firing rate and easy to mass, but with low hit points, or the Changdao Swordsman, a cheap hand infantry unit, like a weak version of the Halberdier or Samurai, that can serve as an anti-cavalry troop in numbers. The Chinese also have interesting cavalry units such as the Iron Flail, a heavy horseman, the Steppe Rider, a raiding unit, the weakest heavy cavalry yet nevertheless the most useful heavy cavalry of China, the Keshik, a cheap mounted archer, and Meteor Hammer, which specializes in wrecking artillery. They have great upgrades, which makes their troops become very powerful, such as the "Double-Faced Armor" and the "Old Han Reforms" Home City Cards.
The Ming Dynasty, beginning in 1368 and continuing until 1644, was a period of great stability in China, but also of tightening authority under an autocratic leadership. Its founder was a simple peasant, Zhu Yuanzhanga, a man who spent his formative years in a Buddhist monastery only to abandon those views for a form of neo-Confucianism and a growing mistrust of foreign influence. In the waning years of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, famine, unrest, and bitterness plagued China’s native Han populace, and tempers had reached a breaking point. In the eyes of the people, the once mighty Yuan Dynasty was little more than an illegitimate foreign empire lording over them from afar. Leading a peasant revolt against the Mongols, Zhu Yuanzhanga forced them out of Dadu, present day Beijing, and unified China under him.
Taking the title “Hongwu,” meaning “vast military,” the first emperor of the Ming established his capital in Nanjing and focused his attention on centralizing power, abolishing the office of prime minister and developing a warrior class that ranked higher than any class of civil servant. He also turned his attention to economic recovery and improving peasant life, lowering land taxes, stocking granaries to guard against famine, and maintaining the great rivers of China, the Yellow and the Yangtze. Predictably, his Confucian point of view led him to support the creation of local, agricultural based communities, diminishing the importance of trade with the outside world, and lowering the prestige of merchants as a class.
Although his policies benefited the people, encouraging a sharp jump in population due to agricultural reforms, the Hongwu Emperor was often ruled by his own paranoia and ignorance. He constantly feared rebellions and coups, or an invasion by the former Mongol rulers. These suspicions caused him to declare it a capital offense for any advisors to criticize his ideas. Not understanding inflation, he issued paper currency in such large amounts that by 1425 the money was worth 1/70 of its original value, causing a return to copper coins.
The second ruler of the Ming Dynasty, the Jianwen Emperor, held power for a short four-year reign (1398-1402) before being toppled by his uncle in a coup that ushered in the next great age of China. Zhu Di, the Yongle Emperor, ruled from 1404 to 1424, often called the “Second Founding” of the Ming. “Yongle” means “perpetually jubilant.” During this two-decade period, the capital of China was moved from Nanjing to Beijing, where the newly built Forbidden City became the nucleus of Chinese power and would remain so for the next 500 years. To preserve Chinese culture and literature, the Yongle Emperor commissioned the writing of the "Yongle Encylopedia", one of history’s greatest achievements.
Arguably, the most enduring and influential event of the Yongle period was the emperor’s sponsorship of the fabled treasure fleets, China’s only major attempts at seafaring exploration. Part truth and part legend, the seven treasure expeditions began in 1404 and ended in 1424, the year of the emperor’s death. Commanded by the eunuch admiral, Zheng He, the voyages helped to strengthen trade with China’s diplomatic partners in Southeast Asia, and opened new relationships with lands as far west as the coast of Mozambique and Madagascar; and, if some theories are to be believed, the fleets may have even discovered the New World years before Columbus even set sail in search of his route to the Orient.