Famous for its intrigues and acting as the eunuch's secret service was the so-called Western Depot (xichang).
Princes and descendants of the first Ming emperor were given nominal military commands and large land estates, but without title (compare the Han and Jin Dynasties, when princes were installed as kings).
While China was never conquered by any other power (except by Japan during World War II) from the sixteenth century on, the European powers gained many concessions and established several colonies which undermined the Emperor's own power.
The Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty ruled before the establishment of the Ming Dynasty.
The Ming emperors took over the provincial administration system of the Mongols, and the 13 Ming provinces (sheng) are the origin of the modern provinces.
On the provincial level, the central government structure was copied, and there existed three provincial commissions: one civil, one military, and one for surveillance.
The Censorate (duchayuan; before: yushitai) surveiling the work of imperial officials was also an old institution with a new name.