Red Turbans

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The Red Turbans were a rebel group which harassed and later overthrew the Mongol leaders of China's Yuan Dynasty. The group was so named for the red headbands worn by its members, though these were not truly turbans.

The group's ideologies contained elements of Buddhist, Daoist, and other religious ideas, including some strains of millenarianism revolving around the Buddha Maitreya (J: Miroku), and its leaders advocated strict dietary restrictions, penance, and ceremonial rituals of certain sorts in which both men and women took part together.

One particularly prominent member of the Red Turbans, Zhu Yuanzhang, though not a prominent leader of the group in its earlier years, eventually went on to lead a successful rebellion against the Mongol leaders, taking Nanjing in 1356, and Beijing in 1368. Securing his own power, he called an end to the Yuan Dynasty, and the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, taking the throne as the Hongwu Emperor.


  • Robert Tignor, Benjamin Elman, et al, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, vol B, Fourth Edition, W.W. Norton & Co (2014), 430.