Ming was born in Suizhou (today Sui County, Hubei) in a farmer family. He changed the character of his surname to mean "Brilliance" later. He joined a rebel the Red Turbans led by Xu Shouhui in 1353. He was blind in the right eye during a battle.
In 1360, Xu was killed by Chen Youliang, so Ming left his group and proclaimed himself King Longshu (隴蜀王). Two years later, he proclaimed himself Emperor of Great Xia in Chongqing, with the era name of Tiantong (天統). In Great Xia, there was taxation, imperial examination, and a state religion of Buddhism.
In 1363, he attacked Prince Liang, Bolud Temür (孛羅帖木兒) in Yunnan. His plans to expand did not work out and he died in of illness at the age of 35. He was succeeded by his son, who changed the era name to Kaixi (開熙) and was destroyed by the Ming Empire.