The historic apogee of Chinese culture, technological achievement, and military power was during the Ming Dynasty from the 14th to the 17th century. During that period, China established its cultural and political domination over all of East and Southeast Asia.
Gunpowder and paper money were but two of the innovations of the Ming and an encyclopedia was published encompassing everything then known. It was the most complete compendium of knowledge ever until the creation of Wikipedia.
It sent its navy, the most powerful in the world at the time, as far afield as Arabia and Africa, establishing a sphere of influence encompassing all of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and as far as the entrance to the Red Sea.