Zhu Yuanzhang, or “Emperor Taizu of the Ming Dynasty”, was the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He led a poor life as a child. At one time, he even became a monk at Huangjue Temple. At the age of 25, Zhu Yuanzhang joined the Red Turban peasant rebel army led by Guo Zixing and got successive promotions for great battle achievements. In 1368 AD, he proclaimed himself the emperor of “the Great Ming” in Nanjing and adopted "Hongwu" as the title of his reign, establishing a unified feudal regime of the country.

At the beginning years of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang adopted policies to develop production and to restore the strength of the state, leading to an agricultural boom and reversing the stagnation in rural areas in the early Ming Dynasty. The restoration of agricultural production also helped the development of the handicraft industry and trade at the time. Meanwhile, Zhu Yuanzhang greatly valued financial resources of the people and promoted frugality.

After ascending the throne, Zhu Yuanzhang put great emphasis on the sturdiness and durability of the palaces, rather than on the grandeur and magnificence. He also had some historical stories painted on the wall as a reminder to him. In order to promote frugality, he had his carriages and daily articles made of bronze.

During his reign, Zhu Yuanzhang stepped up the effort to fight against corruption and to strengthen the country's law. The Criminal Law of the Ming Dynasty complied under Zhu Yuanzhang's direction was a representative code in the late fudual society of China.

In 1398 AD, Zhu Yuanzhang died of illness and was buried in the Xiaoling Tomb. In July, 2003, the Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty was inscribed on the World Heritage List under the category of “Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties”.