January 23 - 1368 - Zhu Yuanzhang Declares Himself the Hongwu Emperor
Typically, emperors are members of royal houses or noble families or high ranking military castes. The Hongwu Emperor, who overthrew the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty and consolidated control over all of China, was actually a poor peasant from a farming family named Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu was orphaned at 16 after a serious drought and famine, which is when he became a novice at a Buddhist monastery. When the monastery could not afford keeping him, he became a wandering beggar. Finally, as a young man, he joined a rebellion group known as the Red Turbans, who were fighting the Yuan Emperors. Zhu would turn out to be the best, most capable general, becoming leader of the Red Turbans and then controlling Southern China. From Nanjing, he would declare the formation of the Ming Dynasty and make himself the "Hongwu Emperor." Within a year, he would unseat the Yuan from the North and control all of China, going on to reform the way Chinese government and society functioned.