Qing: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Qing

Include this on your site/blog:


(Redirected to Qing Dynasty article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Great Qing



Flag (1890–1912)

Gong Jin'ou (1911)
Territory of Qing China in 1820
Capital Shengjing

Language(s) Chinese
Government Monarchy
 - 1626–1643 Huang Taiji
 - 1908–1912 Xuantong Emperor
Prime Minister
 - 1911 Yikuang
 - 1911–1912 Yuan Shikai
 - Establishment of the Late Jin 1616
 - Renamed from "Later Jin" to "Great Qing" 1644
 - Captured Beijing June 6, 1644
 - Complete conquest of China 1662
 - Xinhai Revolution February 12, 1912
 - 1740 est. 140,000,000 
 - 1776 est. 311,500,000 
 - 1790 est. 300,000,000 
 - 1812 est. 360,000,000 
 - 1820 est. 383,100,000 
Currency Chinese yuan, Chinese cash
House of Qīng
Country China
Parent house
Titles Emperor of China
Founder Emperor Nurhaci
Final ruler Emperor Xuāntǒng (Pǔyí)
Current head Prince Héngzhèn
Founding year 1644
Deposition 1912: Monarchy dissolved
Ethnicity Manchu
History of China
History of China
3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors
Xia Dynasty 2100–1600 BCE
Shang Dynasty 1600–1046 BCE
Zhou Dynasty 1045–256 BCE
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn Period
   Warring States Period
Qin Dynasty 221 BCE–206 BCE
Han Dynasty 206 BCE–220 CE
  Western Han
  Xin Dynasty
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu & Wu
Jin Dynasty 265–420
  Western Jin 16 Kingdoms
  Eastern Jin
Southern & Northern Dynasties
Sui Dynasty 581–618
Tang Dynasty 618–907
  ( Second Zhou 690–705 )
5 Dynasties &
10 Kingdoms

Liao Dynasty
Song Dynasty
  Northern Song W. Xia
  Southern Song Jin
Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368
Ming Dynasty 1368–1644
Qing Dynasty 1644–1911
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic
of China

of China


The Qing Dynasty (Chinese: 清朝pinyin: Qīng CháoWade-Giles: Ch'ing ch'ao; IPA: [tɕʰiŋ tʂʰɑʊ̯]; Manchu: Daicing gurun.png, Von Möllendorff: Daicing gurun), also known as the Manchu Dynasty, was the last ruling dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 (with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917). It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China.

The dynasty was founded by the Manchu clan Aisin Gioro in what is today northeast China, (also known as Manchuria). Starting in 1644 it expanded into China proper and its surrounding territories, establishing the Empire of the Great Qing (simplified Chinese: 大清国traditional Chinese: 大清國pinyin: Dà Qīng GuóWade-Giles: Ta Ch'ing Kuo, or simplified Chinese: 大清帝国traditional Chinese: 大清帝國pinyin: Dà Qīng Dì GuóWade-Giles: Ta Ch'ing Ti Kuo). Complete pacification of China was accomplished around 1683 under the Kangxi Emperor.

Originally established as the Later Jin Dynasty (simplified Chinese: 后金traditional Chinese: 後金pinyin: hòu jīn) Amaga Aisin Gurun (Amaga aisin gurun1.png) in 1616, it changed its name to "Qing", meaning "clear" or "pellucid" in 1636, and captured Beijing with the help of Ming rebels in 1644.

During its reign the Qing Dynasty became highly integrated with Chinese culture. The dynasty reached its height in the 18th century, during which both territory and population were increased. However, its military power weakened hereafter and faced with international pressure, massive rebellions and defeats in wars, the Qing Dynasty declined after the mid-19th century. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown following the Xinhai Revolution, when the Empress Dowager Longyu abdicated on behalf of the last emperor, Puyi, on February 12, 1912.




Formation of the Manchu State

An Italian map showing the "Kingdom of the Nǚzhēn" or the "Jin Tartars", who "are have occupied and are at present ruling China", north of Liaodong and Korea, published in 1682

The Dynasty was founded not by the Han who form the majority of the Chinese population, but the Manchus, who are today an ethnic minority of China. The Manchus are descended from Jurchens (Ch: 女真, Man: Jušen.png Jušen), a Tungusic people who lived around the region now comprising the Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning and the Russian province of Primorsky Krai. What was to become the Manchu state was founded by Nurhaci, the chieftain of a minor Jurchen tribe in Jianzhou, in the early 17th century. Originally a vassal of the Ming emperors, Nurhaci in 1582 embarked on an inter-tribal feud that escalated into a campaign to unify the Jianzhou Jurchen tribes. By 1616 he had sufficiently consolidated Jianzhou region to proclaim himself khan of "Great Jin" in reference to the previous Jurchen dynasty. Historians refer to this pre-Qing entity as "Later Jin" to distinguish it from the first Jin Dynasty. Two years later Nurhaci announced Seven Grievances and openly renounced the sovereignty of Ming overlordship in order to complete the unification of those Jurchen tribes still allied with the Ming emperor. After a series of successful battles he relocated his capital from Hetu Ala to successively bigger captured Ming cities in the province of Liaodong, first Liaoyang (Man: dergi hecen) in 1621 and again in 1625 to Shenyang (later renamed Shengjing; Ch: 盛京; Man: Mukden1.png Mukden).

Relocating his court from Jianzhou to Liaodong provided Nurhaci a bigger power base in terms of human and material resources; geographically it also brought him in close contact with the Mongol domains on the plains of Mongolia. Although by this time the once-united Mongol nation under Genghis Khan had long fragmented into individual and at times hostile tribes, these disunited tribes still presented a serious security threat to the Ming borders. Nurhaci's policy towards the Mongols was to seek their friendship and cooperation, thus securing the Jurchens' western front from a potential enemy. Furthermore, the Mongols proved a useful ally in the war, lending the Jurchens their traditional expertise as cavalry archers. To cement this new alliance Nurhaci initiated a policy of inter-marriages between Jurchen and those Mongolian nobility compliant to Jurchen leadership, while those who resisted were met with military action. This is a typical example of Nurhaci's many initiatives that eventually became official Qing government policy. Some of Nurhaci's other important contributions include ordering the creation of a written Manchu script based on Mongolian script (Their ancestral Jurchen language already had a Jurchen script, which was derived from Khitan script which was derived from Chinese), and the creation of the civil and military administrative system that eventually evolved into the Manchu Banners the defining element of Manchu identity, thus laying foundation for transforming the loosely knitted Jurchen tribes into a nation.

Qing Dynasty era brush container

Nurhaci's unbroken series of military successes came to an end in January 1626 when he was dealt his first major military defeat by general Yuan Chonghuan while laying siege to the Ming city of Ningyuan. He died a few months later[1] and was succeeded by his eighth son Hung Taiji who emerged after a short political struggle amongst other potential contenders as the new Khan. Although he was an experienced general and the commander of two Banners at the time of his succession, Hung Taiji's reign did not start well on the military front. The Jurchens suffered yet another defeat in 1627 at the hands of Yuan Chonghuan. As before, this defeat was the result of the superior firepower of the Ming forces' newly acquired Portuguese cannons. To redress the technological and numerical disparity Hung Taiji in 1634 created his own artillery corps (Ch: 重军, Man: ujen chooha) from amongst his existing Han troops who cast their own cannons from European design with the help of captured Chinese artisans. In 1635 the Manchu's Mongolian allies were fully incorporated into a separate Banner hierarchy under direct Manchu command. Hong Taiji then proceeded in 1636 to invade Korea for the second time. This was followed by the creation of the first (two) Han Banners in 1637 (which eventually increased to eight in 1642). Together these military reforms enabled Hung Taiji to resoundingly defeat Ming forces in a series of battles from 1640 to 1642 for the territories of Songshan (松山) and Jingzhou (锦州). This final victory resulted in the surrender of many of the Mings' most battle hardened troops and the complete permanent withdrawal of remaining Ming forces from lands north of the Great Wall.

On the civil front, Hung Taiji, on the advice of surrendered Ming officials, set up a rudimentary bureaucratic system based on the Ming model of government. Hung Taiji's bureaucracy was staffed with an unprecedented number of Han Chinese, many of them newly surrendered Ming officials. However, the Jurchens' continued dominance in government was ensured by an ethnic quota for top bureaucratic appointments. Hung Taiji's reign also saw a fundamental change of policy towards his Han Chinese subjects. Whereas under Nurhaci all captured Han Chinese were seen as a potential fifth column for the Ming Dynasty and treated as chattel— including those who eventually held important government posts– Hung Taiji in contrast incorporated them into the Jurchen "nation" as full if not first class citizens, who were also obligated to provide military service and by 1648 less than one-sixth of the bannermen were of Manchu ancestry.[2] This change of policy not only increased Hung Taiji's power base and reduced his military dependence on those banners not under his personal control, it also greatly encouraged other Han Chinese subjects of the Ming Dynasty to surrender and accept Jurchen rule when they were defeated militarily. Through these and other measures Hung Taiji was able to centralize power unto the office of the Khan, which in the long run prevented the Jurchen federation from fragmenting after his death.

One of the defining events of Hung Taiji's reign was the official adoption of the name "Manchu" (Ch: 滿州; Man: Manju Manjui gisun.svg) for all Jurchen people in November 1635. And when the imperial seal of the Yuan emperors was presented to Hung Taiji by Ejei the son of Ligden, the last Qaghan (Khagan) of the Mongols, Hung Taiji in 1636 renamed the state from "Later Jin" to "Great Qing" and elevated his position from Khan to Emperor, suggesting imperial ambitions beyond unifying Manchu territories. The Mongols gave military assistance to the Manchus from the beginning of their rise almost up to the end of the Qing dynasty.[3] Some sources suggested that the name "Qing" was chosen in reaction to that of the Ming Dynasty (明) which consists of the Chinese characters for sun (日) and moon (月), which are associated with the fire element. The character Qing (清) is composed of the water (水) radical and the character for blue-green (青), which are both associated with the water element. Others suggested that the name change went a long way to rehabilitate the Manchu state in the eyes of the Ming-era Han Chinese, who, being heavily influenced by a Neo-Confucian education system, had regarded the former Jurchen Jin dynasty as foreign invaders.

Claiming the Mandate of Heaven

Pine, Plum and Cranes, 1759 AD, by Shen Quan (1682–1760). Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk. The Palace Museum, Beijing.

Hung Taiji died suddenly in September 1643 without a designated heir. Because Jurchens had traditionally "elected" their leader through a council of nobles, the Qing state did not have in place a clear succession system until the reign of Emperor Kangxi. The leading contenders for power at this time were Hung Taiji’s eldest son Hooge and Hung Taiji’s agnate half brother Dorgon. In the ensuing political impasse between two bitter political rivals a compromise candidate in the person of Hung Taiji’s five-year-old son Fulin was installed as Emperor Shunzhi, with Dorgon as regent and de facto leader of the Manchu nation. The Manchus' nemesis, the Ming Dynasty, was fighting for its own survival against a long peasant rebellion and was unable to capitalise on the Qing court’s political uncertainty over the succession dispute and installation of a minor as Emperor. The Ming Dynasty's internal crisis came to a head in April 1644, when the capital at modern day Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a minor Ming official turned leader of the peasant revolt. The last Ming, Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide when the city fell, marking the official end of the dynasty.

After easily taking Beijing, Li Zicheng led a coalition of rebel forces numbering 200,000[4] to confront Wu Sangui, the general commanding the Ming garrison at Shanhaiguan. Shanhaiguan is a pivotal pass of the Great Wall of China located fifty miles northeast of Beijing, and for years its defenses were what kept the Manchus from directly raiding the Ming capital. Wu, caught between a rebel army twice his size and a foreign enemy he had fought for years, decided to cast his lot with the Manchus with whom he was familiar, and made an alliance with Dorgon to fight the rebels. Some sources suggested that Wu's actions were influenced by news of mistreatment of his family and his concubine Chen Yuanyuan at the hands of the rebels when the capital fell. Regardless of the actual reasons for his decision,[5] this awkward and some would say cynical alliance between Wu and his former sworn enemy was ironically made in the name of avenging the death of Emperor Chongzhen. Together, the two former enemies met and defeated Li Zicheng's rebel forces in battle on May 27, 1644. After routing Li's forces, the Manchus captured Beijing on June 6, where Emperor Shunzhi was installed as the "Son of Heaven" on October 30. The Manchus who had positioned themselves as political heir to the Ming Emperor by defeating Li Zicheng, completed the symbolic act of transition by holding a formal funeral for Emperor Chongzhen. However the process of conquering the rest of China took another seventeen years of battling Ming loyalists, pretenders and rebels. It also involved huge loss of life, including the infamous Yangzhou massacre of 1645, when a ten-day rampage by troops in the city with the permission of Prince Dodo resulted in an estimated 800,000 deaths. The last Ming pretender, Prince Gui, sought refuge with the King of Burma, a vassal of the Ming Dynasty, but was turned over to a Qing expeditionary army commanded by Wu, who had him brought back to Yunnan province and executed in early 1662.

A Chinese paddle-wheel driven ship from a Qing Dynasty encyclopedia published in 1726.

The first seven years of Shunzhi’s reign were dominated by the regent prince Dorgon, who, because of his own political insecurity within the Manchu power structure, followed Hung Taiji’s example of centralizing power under his own control in the name of the Emperor at the expense of other contending Manchu princes, many of whom eventually were demoted or imprisoned under one pretext or another. Although the period of his regency was relatively short, Dorgon cast a long shadow over the Qing Dynasty. Firstly the Manchus were able to enter "China Proper" only because of Dorgon’s timely decision to act on Wu Sangui’s appeal for military assistance. After capturing Beijing instead of sacking the city as the rebels had done before them, Dorgon insisted over the protests of other Manchu princes on making it Qing’s capital and largely reappointed Ming officials to their posts. Setting the Qing capital in Beijing may seem a straightforward move in hindsight, but it was then an act of innovation because historically no major Chinese dynasty had ever "inherited" its immediate predecessor’s capital. Keeping the Ming capital and bureaucracy intact helped quickly stabilize the country and greatly sped up the Manchu process of conquest. However, not all of Dorgon’s policies were equally popular nor easily implemented.

One of Dorgon's most controversial decisions was his July 1645 edict (the "haircutting order") that forced all Han Chinese men to shave the front of their heads and comb the remaining hair into a queue, on pain of death.[6] To the Manchus, this policy was a test of loyalty and an aid in telling friend from foe. For the Han Chinese, however, it was a "humiliating act of degradation" that went against their traditional Confucian values.[7] The order was so deeply unpopular that it triggered strong resistance to Qing rule in Jiangnan until at least the late 1640s.[8]

On December 31, 1650, Dorgon suddenly died during a hunting expedition, marking the official start of the Shunzhi Emperor’s personal rule. Because the Emperor was only 12 years old at that time, most decisions were made on his behalf by his mother, the Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, who turned out to be a skilled political operator.

Although Dorgon's support had been essential to Shunzhi's ascent, Dorgon had through the years centralised so much power in his hands as to become a direct threat to the throne. So much so that upon his death he was extraordinarily bestowed the posthumous title of Emperor Yi (Ch: 義皇帝), the only instance in Qing history in which a Manchu "prince of the blood" (Ch: 亲王) was so honored. Two months into Shunzhi’s personal rule Dorgon was not only stripped of his titles, but his corpse was disinterred and mutilated.[9] to atone for multiple "crimes", one of which was persecuting to death Shunzhi’s agnate eldest brother, Hooge. More importantly, Dorgon’s symbolic fall from grace also signalled a political purge of his family and associates at court, thus reverting power back to the person of the emperor. After a promising start, Shunzhi’s reign was cut short by his early death in 1661 at the age of twenty-four from smallpox.[10] He was succeeded by his third son Xuanye, who reigned as the Kangxi Emperor.

Manchu methods of maintaining control

Queue Order

Manchu as a minority ruling class imposed Queue Order to force other ethnicities into submission.

Before capturing Beijing, the Later Jin government implemented a mandatory shaving of the hair in Liaodong in the early 1620s, which led to a rebellion of the Han Chinese of this area in 1622 and 1625. Nevertheless, the Later Jin government responded swiftly to this rebellion by killing the educated elite and plain folks, resulting in more than 500,000 people dead, and instituting a stricter separation between Han Chinese and Manchus by prohibiting intermarriage between them.[11]

After capturing Beijing in the previous year, Qing Prince Dorgon issued another decree in 1645 that any man who did not adopt the Manchu hairstyle within ten days would be executed. The slogan of the Queue Order is: "To keep the hair, you lose the head; To keep your head, you cut the hair."[12] Han Chinese's revolt against this rule was wide spread, resulting in massive killing of Han ethnic throughout the country. One well documented massacre was the triple massacres at Jiading, in which General Li Chengdong, a Han Chinese general who previously served the Ming Dynasty but later surrendered to the Qing,[13] ordered troops to carry out three separate massacres on the Jiading inhabitants within a month, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. At the end of the third massacre, there was hardly any living person left in this city.[11]

Literary inquisition and censorship

The Manchu rulers used literary inquisition to silence opposition. The accusation of individuals began with the authority's own interpretation of the true meaning of the corresponding words. Single characters and the neutrality of the sentence were judged by authorities. If the authority decided these were derogatory or cynical towards the rulers, persecution would begin.

Literary inquisition began with isolated cases in Shunzhi and Kangxi times, then evolved into a pattern. There were 53 cases of literary persecution during Qianlong's reign.[14]

Kangxi emperor and consolidation

The Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662–1722)

At sixty one years, Kangxi had the longest reign of any Chinese Emperor. But more importantly, apart from its length, Kangxi’s reign is also celebrated as the beginning of an era called “Kang-Qian Golden Age” (Ch: 康乾盛世) during which the Qing Dynasty reached the zenith of its social, economic and military power.[citation needed] Kangxi’s long reign started when he was eight years old upon the untimely demise of his father. In order to prevent a repeat of Dorgon's dictatorial monopolizing of imperial powers during the period of regency, Emperor Shunzhi on his deathbed hastily appointed four senior cabinet ministers to govern on behalf of his young son. The four ministers—Sonin, Ebilun, Suksaha, and Oboi—were chosen for their long service to the emperor, but also to counteract each others' influences. Most importantly, the four were not closely related to the imperial family and laid no claim to the throne. However as time passed, through chance and machination, Oboi—the most junior of the four ministers—was able to achieve political dominance to such an extent as to become a potential threat to the crown. Even though Oboi's loyalty was never an issue, his personal arrogance and political conservatism led him to come into ever escalating conflict with the young Emperor. In 1669 Kangxi, through trickery, disarmed and imprisoned Oboi—a not insignificant victory for the fifteen-year-old Emperor, as Oboi was not only a wily old politician but also an experienced military commander.

The Manchus found controlling the "Mandate of Heaven" a daunting task. The vastness of China's territory meant that there were only enough banner troops to garrison key cities forming the backbone of a defence network that relied heavily on surrendered Ming soldiers. In addition, three surrendered Ming generals were singled out for their contributions to the establishment of the Qing dynasty, ennobled as feudal princes (藩王), and given governorships over vast territories in Southern China. The chief of these was Wu Sangui (吳三桂), who was given the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou, while generals Shang Kexi (尚可喜) and Geng Jingzhong (耿精忠) were given the Guangdong and Fujian provinces, respectively.

Pilgrim flask, porcelain with underglaze blue and iron-red decoration. Qing dynasty, Qianlong period in the 18th century.

As the years went by, the three feudal lords and their territories inevitably became increasingly autonomous. Finally, in 1673, Shang Kexi petitioned Kangxi Emperor, stating his desire to retire to his hometown in Liaodong (遼東) province and nominating his son as his successor. The young emperor granted his retirement, but denied the heredity of his fief. In reaction, the two other generals decided to petition for their own retirements to test Kangxi's resolve, thinking that he would not risk offending them. The move backfired as the young emperor called their bluff by accepting their requests and ordering all three fiefdoms to be reverted back to the crown.

Faced with the stripping of their powers, Wu Sangui felt he had no choice but to rise up in revolt. He was joined by Geng Zhongming and by Shang Kexi's son Shang Zhixin (尚之信). The ensuing rebellion lasted for eight years. At the peak of the rebels' fortunes, they managed to extend their control as far north as the Yangtze River (長江). Ultimately, though, the Qing government was able to put down the rebellion and exert control over all of southern China. The rebellion would be known in Chinese history as the Revolt of the Three Feudatories.

To consolidate the empire, Kangxi Emperor personally led a series of military campaigns against Tibet, the Dzungars, and later Russia. He arranged the marriage of his daughter to the Mongol Khan Gordhun to avoid a military conflict. Gordhun's military campaign against the Qing failed, further strengthening the Empire. Taiwan was also conquered by Qing Empire forces in 1683 from Zheng Keshuang, grandson of Koxinga. Koxinga had conquered Taiwan from the Dutch colonists to use it as a base against the Qing Dynasty. By the end of the 17th century, China was at its greatest height of power since the Ming Dynasty.

Kangxi Emperor also handled many Jesuit missionaries that came to China. A series of missionaries, including Tomás Pereira, Matteo Ricci, Martino Martini, Johann Adam Schall von Bell, Ferdinand Verbiest and Antoine Thomas, also held significant positions as mathematicians, astronomers and advisers to the Emperor.

Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors

The Putuo Zongcheng Temple of Chengde, built in the 18th century during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.

The reigns of the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723–1735) and his son the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796) marked the height of Qing's power. During this period, the Qing Dynasty ruled over 13 million square kilometres of territory.

After the Kangxi Emperor's death in the winter of 1722, his fourth son Prince Yong (雍親王) succeeded him as the Yongzheng Emperor. Yongzheng remained a controversial character because of rumours about him usurping the throne, and in the late Kangxi years, he was involved in great political struggles with his brothers. Yongzheng was a hardworking administrator who ruled with an iron hand. His first big step towards a stronger regime came when he brought the State Examination System back to its original standards. In 1724, he cracked down on illegal exchange rates of coins, which was being manipulated by officials to fit their financial needs. Those who were found in violation of new laws on finances were removed from office, or in extreme cases, executed.

"The reception of the Diplomatique (Macartney) and his suite, at the Court of Pekin". Drawn and engraved by James Gillray, published in September 1792.

Yongzheng showed a great amount of trust in Han officials, and appointed many of his proteges to prestigious positions. Nian Gengyao was appointed to lead a military campaign in place of his brother Yinti in Qinghai.

More territory was incorporated in the northwest. A toughened stance was directed toward corrupt officials, and Yongzheng led the creation of a grand council, which grew to become the de facto cabinet for the rest of the dynasty.

The Yongzheng Emperor died in 1735. This was followed by the succession of his son Prince Bao (寶親王) as the Qianlong Emperor. Qianlong was known as an able general. Succeeding the throne at the age of 24, Qianlong personally led the military in campaigns near Xinjiang and Mongolia. Revolts and uprisings in Sichuan and parts of southern China were successfully put down.

Around 40 years into Qianlong's reign, the Qing government saw a return of rampant corruption. The official Heshen was arguably one of the most corrupt in the entire Qing Dynasty. He was eventually forced into committing suicide by Qianlong's son, the Jiaqing Emperor (r. 1796–1820).

In 1796 open rebellion by the White Lotus Society against the Qing government broke out. The White Lotus Rebellion continued for eight years, until 1804, and shattered the myth of the military invincibility of the Manchus.

Rebellion, unrest and external pressure

A common view of 19th-century China is that it was an era in which Qing control weakened and prosperity diminished. Indeed, China suffered massive social strife, economic stagnation and explosive population growth which placed an increasing strain on the food supply. Historians offer various explanations for these events, but the basic idea is that Qing power was, over the course of the century, faced with internal problems and natural disasters which were simply too much for the antiquated Chinese government, bureaucracy, and economy to deal with.

Flag of Qing Dynasty, 1862–1890

The Taiping Rebellion[15] in the mid-19th century was the first major instance of anti-Manchu sentiment threatening the stability of the Qing dynasty, a phenomenon that would only increase in the following years. Hong Xiuquan, a failed civil service candidate, led the Taiping Rebellion, amid widespread social unrest and worsening famine. In 1851 Hong Xiuquan and others launched an uprising in Guizhou Province, established the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace with himself as king, claiming he often had visions of God and was the brother of Christ. Slavery, concubinage, arranged marriage, opium smoking, footbinding, judicial torture, and the worship of idols were all banned. However, success and subsequent authority and power led to internal feuds, defections and corruption. When British and French answered the Manchu rulers' call for help by sending troops equipped with modern weapons, the fate of the Taiping Rebellion was sealed.[16] The rebellion not only posed the most serious threat towards the Manchu rulers; it was also "the costliest (human life) civil war in history and second bloodiest war of any kind, being only exceeded in casualities by WW II. Between 20 and 30 million people died during its fourteen-year course from 1850 to 1864."[17] However, the horrific number of casualties of this rebellion and the complete devastation of a huge area in the south of the country have to a large extent been overshadowed by another significant conflict. Although not nearly as bloody, the outside world and its ideas and technologies had a tremendous and ultimately revolutionary impact on an increasingly weak and uncertain Qing state.

There were revolts by the Muslims and the Miao people of China against the Qing Dynasty, most notably in the Dungan revolt (1862-1877) in the northwest and the Panthay rebellion (1856-1873) in Yunnan.

One of the major issues affecting nineteenth-century China was the question of how to deal with other countries. Prior to the nineteenth-century, the Chinese empire was the hegemonic power in East Asia. Under its imperial theory, the Chinese emperor had the rights to rule "all under heaven". Depending on the period and dynasty, it either ruled territories directly or neighbors fell under its hierarchical tributary system. Historians often refer to the underlying concept of the Chinese empire as "an empire with no boundary". However, the 18th century saw the European empires gradually expand across the world, as European states developed stronger economies built on maritime trade. European colonies had been established in nearby India and on the islands that are now part of Indonesia, whilst the Russian Empire had annexed the areas north of China. In 1793, Great Britain attempted to forge an alliance with China, sending the Macartney Embassy to Hong Kong with gifts for the Emperor, including examples of the latest European technologies and art. When the British delegation received a letter from Beijing explaining that China was unimpressed with European achievements, and that George III was welcome to pay homage to the Chinese court, the deeply offended British government aborted all further attempts to reconcile relations with the Qing regime.

Xi Wang Mu ("Godmother of the West"), a Daoist deity, decor on a Qing dynasty porcelain plate, famille-rose style, Yongzheng Emperor period, 1725 AD.

When the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, world trade rapidly increased, and as China's vast population offered limitless markets for European goods, trade between Chinese and European merchants expanded during the early years of the 19th century. This increased trade, though, led to increasing hostility between European governments and the Qing regime.

In 1793, the Qianlong Emperor stated to the British Ambassador Lord Macartney that China had no use for European manufactured products.[18] Consequently, leading Chinese merchants only accepted bar silver as payment for their goods. The huge demand in Europe for Chinese goods such as silk, tea, and ceramics could only be met if European companies funnelled their limited supplies of silver into China. By the late 1830s, the governments of Great Britain and France were deeply concerned about their stockpiles of precious metals and sought alternate trading schemes with China—the foremost of which was addicting China to opium. When the Qing regime tried to ban the Opium Trade in 1838, Great Britain declared war on China.

In this political cartoon, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, France, and Japan are dividing China

The First Opium War revealed the outdated state of the Chinese military. The Qing navy, composed entirely of wooden sailing junks, was severely outclassed by the modern tactics and firepower of the Royal Navy. British soldiers, using modern rifles and artillery, easily outmaneuvered and outgunned Qing forces in ground battles. The Qing surrender in 1842 marked a decisive, humiliating blow to China. The Treaty of Nanking, which demanded reparation payments, allowed unrestricted European access to Chinese ports, and ceded the island of Hong Kong to Great Britain. It revealed many inadequacies in the Qing government and provoked widespread rebellions against the already hugely unpopular regime.

The Western powers, largely unsatisfied with the Treaty of Nanking, only gave grudging support to the Qing government during the Taiping and Nien Rebellions. China's income fell sharply during the wars as vast areas of farmland were destroyed, millions of lives lost, and countless armies raised and equipped to fight the rebels. In 1854, Great Britain tried to re-negotiate the Treaty of Nanking, inserting clauses allowing British commercial access to Chinese rivers and the creation of a permanent British embassy at Peking. This last clause outraged the Qing regime, who refused to sign, provoking another war with Britain. The Second Opium War ended in another crushing Chinese defeat, whilst the Treaty of Tianjin contained clauses deeply insulting to the Chinese, such as a demand that all official Chinese documents be written in English and a proviso granting British warships unlimited access to all navigable Chinese rivers.

Rule of Empress Dowager Cixi

Political map of Asia in 1890, showing late-Qing China (centre, in light brown).

The Empress Dowager Cixi (Tsu hsi), concubine to the Xianfeng Emperor (r. 1850–1861) came to power in 1861 during the Xinyou coup, when, with the help of Prince Gong, she ousted eight regents (led by Sushun) whom the Xianfeng emperor had appointed on his deathbed to rule for the child emperor Tongzhi, Cixi's son. For 47 years in the Tongzhi era (1862-1874) and during the reign of her nephew the Guangxu Emperor (1875-1908), Cixi was the de facto ruler of China and the Qing empire. She was known for "ruling from behind the curtain" (垂簾聽政).

By the 1860s, the Qing dynasty had put down the rebellions with the help of militia organized by the gentry. The Qing government then proceeded to deal with the problem of modernization, which it attempted with the Self-Strengthening Movement. Several modernized armies were formed, including the much renowned Beiyang Army; however, the fleets of "Beiyang" were annihilated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), which produced calls for greater and more extensive reform. After the start of the 20th century, the Qing Dynasty was in a dilemma. It could proceed with reform and thereby alienate the conservative Manchu faction at court and the conservative gentry, or stagnate and alienate reformers as well as an increasingly large number of people opposed to Qing or Manchu rule.[citation needed]

Ten years into the reign of Guangxu (r. 1875–1908), western pressure on China was so great that she forcefully gave up all sorts of power.[citation needed] In 1898 Guangxu attempted the Hundred Days' Reform, in which new laws were put in place and some old rules were abolished. Newer, more progressive-minded thinkers like Kang Youwei were trusted and recognized conservative-minded people like Li Hongzhang were removed from high positions. But the ideals were stifled by Cixi and Guangxu was jailed in his own palace. Cixi concentrated on centralizing her own power base. On her sixtieth birthday, she spent over 30 million taels of silver for the decorations & events, funds that were originally planned to improve the weaponry of the Beiyang Navy.

In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, following the murder of the German Ambassador by the Righteous Harmony Society, the Eight-Nation Alliance entered China as a united military force for the second time. Cixi reacted by declaring war on all eight nations, only to lose Beijing under their control within a short period of time. Along with the Guangxu Emperor, she fled to Xi'an. As a military compensation, the Alliance listed scores of demands on the Qing Government, including an initial hit list which had Cixi as No. 1. Li Hongzhang was sent to negotiate and the Alliance backed down from several of the demands.

Dowager Cixi, the dragon lady

Painted silk textile, 45 x 29 1/2 in. (114.3 x 74.93 cm), Qing Dynasty, China, mid-18th century

Many historians described Dowager Cixi as one of "the most formidable women in modern history", who could become a terrible enemy if she was antagonized. She was described to be "power hungry, ruthless and profoundly skilled in court politics".

The Boxer Rebellion's rebels' initial objectives were to overthrow the Manchu imperial court and expel all "foreign devils" from China. Dowager Cixi had decided to remotely control and, at the same time, intensify the Boxer movement through her ministers. Not long after, the Boxers' banner had a new slogan: "Support the Qing; destroy the foreigner!". In early 1900 an imperial edict released by the dowager stated that 'secret societies were part of Chinese culture and were not criminal'.[19]

From 1889 to 1898 the dowager lived in the summer palace in semi-retirement. After losing to Japan in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), the young Emperor Guangxu initiated the 'Hundred Days Reform'. The dowager then returned to the Imperial Court to call off the emperor's reform, and at the same time put him under house arrest and ordered eunuchs faithful to her to keep watch.

In 1899 she supported the Boxer Rebellion, during which thousands of Catholic and Protestant missionaries were killed; some were beheaded or skinned alive.[citation needed] Tens of thousands of Chinese Christian converts were killed too.[citation needed]

When the troops of the Eight-Nation Alliance marched into Peking, she fled the capital only to accept peace terms by paying the foreign powers huge amounts of silver. Before her death, on November 15, 1908, she allegedly ordered her trusted eunuchs to poison the emperor.[20] In a different version, Yuan Shikai was alleged to have executed both the emperor and dowager using a pistol.

Fall of the dynasty

Yuan Shikai was an adept politician and general.

By the early twentieth century, mass civil disorder had begun and continuously grown. Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu emperor both died in 1908, leaving a relatively powerless and unstable central authority. Puyi, the eldest son of Zaifeng, Prince Chun, was appointed successor at age two, leaving Zaifeng with the regency. This was followed by the dismissal of General Yuan Shikai from his former positions of power. In mid 1911 Zaifeng created the "Imperial Family Cabinet", a ruling council of the Imperial Government almost entirely consisting of Aisin Gioro relatives. This brought a wide range of negative opinions from senior officials like Zhang Zhidong.

The Wuchang Uprising succeeded on October 10, 1911, and was followed by a proclamation of a separate central government, the Republic of China, in Nanjing with Sun Yat-sen as its provisional head. Numerous provinces began "separating" from Qing control. Seeing a desperate situation unfold, the Qing government brought an unwilling Yuan Shikai back to military power, taking control of his Beiyang Army, with the initial goal of crushing the revolutionaries. After taking the position of Prime Minister (內閣總理大臣) and creating his own cabinet, Yuan went as far as to ask for the removal of Zaifeng from the regency. This removal later proceeded with directions from Empress Dowager Longyu. With Zaifeng gone, Yuan Shi-kai and his Beiyang commanders effectively dominated Qing politics. He reasoned that going to war would be unreasonable and costly, especially when noting that the Qing Government had a goal for constitutional monarchy. Similarly, Sun Yat-sen's government wanted a Republican constitutional reform, both aiming for the benefit of China's economy and populace. With permission from Empress Dowager Longyu, Yuan began negotiating with Sun Yat-sen, who decided that his goal had been achieved in forming a republic, and that therefore he could allow Yuan to step into the position of President of the Republic. In 1912, after rounds of negotiations, Longyu issued the Imperial Edict bringing about the abdication of the child emperor Puyi.

The collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912 brought an end to over 2,000 years of imperial China and began an extended period of instability of warlord factionalism. The unorganized political and economic systems combined with a widespread criticism of Chinese culture led to questioning and doubt about the future. China's turbulent history since the overthrow of the Qing may be understood at least in part as an attempt to understand and recover significant aspects of historic Chinese culture and integrate them with influential new ideas that have emerged within the last century.[citation needed] In the 1930s, Imperial Japan invaded Manchuria (Manchu's homeland) and founded Manchukuo in 1934, with Puyi, as the nominal regent and emperor. After the invasion by the Soviet Union, Manchukuo collapsed in 1945.

Qing government and society

Administrative divisions

Territories and tributary states of Qing China (territories are in purple, and tributary states are in yellow)

Qing China reached its largest extent during the 18th century, when it ruled China proper as well as Manchuria (Northeast China), Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet, at approximately 13 million km2 in size. There were originally 18 provinces, all of which in China proper, but later this number was increased to 22, with Manchuria and Xinjiang being divided into provinces. Taiwan, originally part of Fujian province, became a province of its own in the 19th century, but was ceded to Imperial Japan following the First Sino-Japanese War by the end of the century. In addition, many surrounding countries, such as Korea (Joseon Dynasty), Vietnam and Nepal, were tributary states of China during much of this period.

  1. Outer Mongolia - 4 aimags
  2. Inner Mongolia - 6 leagues
  3. Dariganga - special region designated as Emperor's pasture
  4. Köbsgöl
  5. Tannu Urianha
  6. Köke Nuur league
  7. Alshaa khoshuu-league (League-level khoshuu)
  8. Ejine khoshuu-league
  9. Kobdo league
  10. Tianshanbei
  11. Tianshannan
  12. Eighteen provinces (China proper provinces)
    1. Zhili
    2. Henan
    3. Shandong
    4. Shanxi
    5. Shaanxi
    6. Gansu
    7. Hubei
    8. Hunan
    9. Guangdong
    10. Guangxi
    11. Sichuan
    12. Yunnan
    13. Guizhou
    14. Jiangsu
    15. Jiangxi
    16. Zhejiang
    17. Fujian (incl. Taiwan until 1885)
    18. Anhui
  13. Additional provinces in the late Qing Dynasty
    1. Xinjiang
    2. Taiwan (until 1895)
    3. Fengtian
    4. Jilin
    5. Heilongjiang

Qing appointments

The Qing dynasty was characterized by a system of dual appointments by which each position in the central government had a Manchu and a Han assigned to it. The Han Chinese appointee was required to do the substantive work and the Manchu to ensure Han loyalty to Qing rule.[21] The distinction between Han and Manchus extended to their court costumes. During the Qianlong Emperor's reign, for example, members of his family were distinguished by garments with a small circular emblem on the back, whereas Han officials wore clothing with a square emblem; this meant that any guard in the court could immediately distinguish members of the imperial family from the back view alone.[citation needed]

With respect to Mongolia, Tibet, Chinese Turkestan and Dzungaria (Zungaria)[22] the Qing maintained imperial control, with the emperor acting as Mongol khan, patron of Tibetan Buddhism and protector of Muslims. However, Qing policy changed with the establishment of Xinjiang province in 1884. During The Great Game era, taking advantage of the Hui uprising in northwest China, Yakub Beg invaded Xinjiang from Central Asia with support from Imperial Russia, and made himself the ruler of the kingdom of Kashgaria. The Qing court sent forces to defeat Yakub Beg and Xinjiang was reconquered. In early 20th century, Great Britain sent an expedition force to Tibet and forced Tibetans to sign a treaty. The Qing court responded by asserting sovereignty over Tibet, resulting in the 1906 Anglo-Chinese Convention signed between Britain and China. The British agreed not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet, while China engaged not to permit any other foreign state to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet.[23]

Qing Dynasty vases, in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

Central government agencies

The Qing Dynasty inherited many important institutions from the preceding Ming dynasty. The formal structure of the Qing government centered around the Emperor as the absolute ruler, who presided over six Ministries (or Boards) (Ch.: Liubu 六部), each headed by two presidents (Ch: Shàngshū, 尚書; Ma: Aliha amban.svg Aliha amban) and assisted by four vice presidents (Ch: Shìláng, 侍郎; Ma: Ashan i amban.png Ashan i amban). In contrast to the Ming system, however, Qing ethnic policy dictated that appointments were split between Manchu noblemen and Han officials who had passed the highest levels of the state examinations. The Grand Secretariat (Ch: Nèigé 內閣; Ma: Dorgi yamun.png Dorgi yamun), which had been an important policy-making body under the Ming, lost its importance during the Qing and evolved into an imperial chancery. The institutions which had been inherited from the Ming dynasty formed the core of the Qing "outer court," which handled routine matters and was located in the southern part of the Forbidden City.

In order not to let the routine administration take over the running of the empire, the Qing emperors made sure that all important matters were decided in the "Inner Court," which was dominated by the imperial family and Manchu nobility and which was located in the northern part of the Forbidden City. The core institution of the inner court was the Grand Council. It emerged in the 1720s under the reign of the Yongzheng emperor as a body charged with handling Qing military campaigns against the Dzungar Mongols, but it soon took over other military and administrative duties and served to centralize authority under the crown.[24] The Grand councillors (Ch.: Jūnjī dàchén 軍機大臣) served as a sort of privy council to the emperor. However, the Manchu nobility continued to exercise considerable influence over the political and military affairs of the Qing government well into the reign of the Qianlong emperor.[citation needed]

The Six Ministries and their respective areas of responsibilities were as follows:

  • Board of Civil Appointments (Ch: Lìbù, 吏部; Ma: Hafan i jurgan.png Hafan i jurgan)
The personnel administration of all civil officials - including evaluation, promotion, and dismissal. It was also in charge of the 'honours list'.
  • Board of Finance (Ch: Hùbù, 户部; Ma: Boigon i jurgan.png Boigon i jurgan)
The literal translation of the Chinese word 'hù'(户) is 'household'. For much of the Qing Dynasty's history, the government's main source of revenue came from taxation on landownership supplemented by official monopolies on essential household items such as salt and tea. Thus, in the predominantly agrarian Qing dynasty, the 'household' was the basis of imperial finance. The department was charged with revenue collection and the financial management of the government.
2000-cash banknote from 1859
  • Board of Rites (Ch: Lǐbù, 禮部; Ma: Dorolon i jurgan.png Dorolon i jurgan)
This Board was responsible for all matters concerning court protocol. It organized the periodic worship of ancestors and various gods by the Emperor, managed relations with tributary nations, and oversaw the nationwide civil examination system.
  • Board of War (Ch: Bīngbù, 兵部; Ma: Coohai jurgan.png Coohai jurgan)
Unlike its Ming Dynasty predecessor, which had full control over all military matters, the Qing Dynasty Board of War had very limited powers. First, the Eight Banners were under the direct control of the Emperor and hereditary Manchu and Mongolian princes, leaving the ministry only with authority over the Green Standard Armies. Furthermore, the ministry's functions were purely administrative—campaigns and troop movements were monitored and directed by the Emperor, first through the Manchu ruling council, and later through the Grand Council.
  • Board of Punishments (Ch: Xíngbù, 刑部; Ma: Beidere jurgan.png Beidere jurgan)
The Board of Punishments handled all legal matters, including the supervision of various law courts and prisons. The Qing legal framework was relatively weak compared to modern day legal systems, as there was no separation of executive and legislative branches of government. The legal system could be inconsistent, and, at times, arbitrary, because the emperor ruled by decree and had final say on all judicial outcomes. Emperors could (and did) overturn judgements of lower courts from time to time. Fairness of treatment was also an issue under the apartheid system practised by the Manchu government over the Han Chinese majority. To counter these inadequacies and keep the population in line, the Qing maintained a very harsh penal code towards the Han populace, but it was no more severe than previous Chinese dynasties.
A postage stamp from Yantai (Chefoo) in the Qing Dynasty
  • Board of Works (Ch: Gōngbù, 工部; Ma: Weilere jurgan.png Weilere jurgan)
The Board of Works handled all governmental building projects, including palaces, temples and the repairs of waterways and flood canals. It was also in charge of minting coinage.

In addition to the six boards, there was a Lifan Yuan unique to the Qing government. This institution was established to supervise the administration of Tibet and the Mongolian lands. As the empire expanded, it took over administrative responsibility of all minority ethnic groups living in and around the empire, including early contacts with Russia—then seen as a tribute nation. The office had the status of a full ministry and was headed by officials of equal rank. However, appointees were at first restricted only to candidates of Manchurian and Mongolian ethnicity. To the south, Manchuria was separated from China proper by the Inner Willow Palisade, a ditch and embankment planted with willows intended to restrict the movement of the Han Chinese into Manchuria, as the area was off-limits to the Han until the Qing started colonizing the area with them later on in the dynasty's rule.[25]

Even though the Board of Rites and Lifan Yuan performed some duties of a foreign office, they fell short of developing into a professional foreign service. This stemmed from the traditional imperial world view of seeing China as the centre of the world and viewing all foreigners as uncivilized barbarians unworthy of equal diplomatic status.[citation needed] It was not until 1861—a year after losing the Second Opium War to the Anglo-French coalition—that the Qing government bowed to foreign pressure and created a proper foreign affairs office known as the Zongli Yamen. The office was originally intended to be temporary and was staffed by officials seconded from the Grand Council. However, as dealings with foreigners became increasingly complicated and frequent, the office grew in size and importance, aided by revenue from customs duties which came under its direct jurisdiction.

Imperial Household Department

The Imperial Household Department was unique to the Qing dynasty. It was established before the Qing defeat of the Ming, but it became mature only after 1661, following the death of the Shunzhi emperor and the accession of his son Kangxi.[26] The Department's primary purpose was to manage the internal affairs of the Qing imperial family and the activities of the inner palace (in which tasks it largely replaced eunuchs), but it also played an important role in Qing relations with Tibet and Mongolia, engaged in trading activities (jade, ginseng, salt, furs, etc.), managed textile factories in the Jiangnan region, and even published books.[27] The Department was manned by booi (Chinese: baoyi 包衣), or "bondservants," from the Upper Three Banners.[28] By the nineteenth century, it managed the activities of at least 56 subagencies.[29]


Beginnings and early development

The Qianlong Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Twelve: Return to the Palace (detail), 1764—1770, by Xu Yang

The development of Qing military system can be divided into two broad periods separated by the Taiping rebellion (1850–1864). The early Qing military was rooted in the Eight Banners first developed by Nurhachi as a way to organize Jurchen society beyond petty clan affiliations. There are eight banners in all, differentiated by colours. The banners in their order of precedence were as follows: yellow, bordered yellow (i.e yellow banner with red border), white, red, bordered white, bordered red, blue, and bordered blue. The yellow, bordered yellow, and white banners were collectively known as the 'Upper Three Banners' (Zh: shang san qi 上三旗) and were under the direct command of the Emperor. Only Manchus belonging to the Upper Three Banners, and selected Han Chinese who had passed the highest level of martial exams were qualified to serve as the Emperor's personal bodyguards. The remaining Banners were known as "The Lower Five Banners" (Zh: xia wu qi 下五旗) and were commanded by hereditary Manchu princes descended from Nurhachi's immediate family, known informally as the "Iron Cap Princes" (Zh: tie maozi wang 鐵帽子王). Together they formed the ruling council of the Manchu nation as well as high command of the army.

As Qing power expanded north of the Great Wall in the last years of the Ming Dynasty, the Banner system was expanded by Nurhachi's son and successor Hung Taiji to include mirrored Mongolian and Han Banners. After capturing Beijing in 1644 and as the Manchu rapidly gained control of large tracts of former Ming Dynasty territory, the relatively small Banner armies were further augmented by the Green Standard Army (Zh: 綠營兵) which eventually outnumbered Banner troops three to one. The Green Standard Army so-named after the colour of their battle standards was made up of those Ming troops who had surrendered to the Qing. They maintained their Ming era organization and were led by a mix of Banner and Green Standard officers. The Banners and Green Standard troops were standing armies, paid for by central government. In addition, regional governors from provincial down to village level maintained their own irregular local militias for police duties and disaster relief. These militias were usually granted small annual stipends from regional coffers for part-time service obligations. They received very limited military drill if at all and were not considered combat troops.

Peace and stagnation

A red lacquer box from the Qing Dynasty.

Banner Armies were broadly divided along ethnic lines, namely Manchurian and Mongolian. Although it must be pointed out that the ethnic composition of Manchurian Banners was far from homogeneous as they include non-Manchu bondservants registered under the household of their Manchu masters. As the war with Ming Dynasty progressed and the Han Chinese population under Manchu rule increased, Hung Taiji created a separate branch of Han Banners to draw on this new source of manpower. However these Han bannermen were never regarded by the government as equal to the other two branches due to their relatively late addition to the Manchu cause as well as their Han Chinese ancestry. The nature of their service—mainly as infantry, artillery and sappers, was also alien to the Manchurian nomadic traditions of fighting as cavalry. Furthermore, after the conquest the military roles played by Han Bannermen were quickly subsumed by the Green Standard Army. The Han Banners ceased to exist altogether after Emperor Yongzheng's Banner registration reforms aimed at cutting down imperial expenditures.

The socio-military origins of the Banner system meant that population within each branch and their sub-divisions were hereditary and rigid. Only under special circumstances sanctioned by imperial edict were social movements between banners permitted. In contrast, the Green Standard Army was originally intended to be a professional force.

After defeating the remnants of the Ming forces, the Manchu Banner Army of approximately 200,000 strong at the time was evenly divided; half was designated the Forbidden Eight Banner Army (禁旅八旗 Jìnlǚ Bāqí) and was stationed in Beijing. It served both as the capital's garrison and Qing government's main strike force. The remainder of the Banner troops was distributed to guard key cities in China. These were known as the Territorial Eight Banner Army (駐防八旗 Zhùfáng Bāqí). The Manchu court keenly aware its own minority status reinforced a strict policy of racial segregation between the Manchus and Mongols from Han Chinese for fear of being sinitized by the latter. This policy applied directly to the Banner garrisons, most of which occupied a separate walled zone within the cities they were stationed in. In cities where there were limitation of space such as in Qingzhou (青州), a new fortified town would be purposely erected to house the Banner garrison and their families. Beijing being the imperial seat, the Regent Dorgon had the entire Chinese population forcibly relocated to the southern suburbs which became known as the "Outer Citadel" (外城 wàichéng). The northern walled city called "Inner Citadel" (內城 nèichéng) was portioned out to the remaining Manchu eight Banners, each responsibled for guarding a section of the Inner Citadel surrounding the Forbidden City palace complex (Zh: 紫禁城 Zǐjìnchéng; Ma: Dabkūri1.png Dabkūri dorgi hoton).

The policy of posting Banner troops as territorial garrison was not to protect but to inspire awe in the subjugated populace at the expense of their expertise as cavalry. As a result, after a century of peace and lack of field training the Manchurian Banner troops had deteriorated greatly in their combat worthiness. Secondly, before the conquest the Manchu banner was a "citizen" army, and its members were Manchu farmers and herders obligated to provide military service to the state at times of war. The Qing government's decision to turn the banner troops into a professional force whose every welfare and need was met by state coffers brought wealth, and with it corruption, to the rank and file of the Manchu Banners and hastened its decline as a fighting force. This was mirrored by a similar decline in the Green Standard Army. During peace time, soldiering became merely a source of supplementary income. Soldiers and commanders alike neglected training in pursuit of their own economic gains. Corruption was rampant as regional unit commanders submitted pay and supply requisitions based on exaggerated head counts to the quartermaster department and pocketed the difference. When the Taiping rebellion broke out in 1850s the Qing Court found out belatedly that the Banner and Green Standards troops could neither put down internal rebellions nor keep foreign invaders at bay.

Transition and modernization

General Zeng Guofan

Early during the Taiping rebellion, Qing forces suffered a series of disastrous defeats culminating in the loss of the regional capital city of Nanjing (南京) in 1853. The rebels massacred the entire Manchu garrison and their families in the city and made it their capital. Shortly thereafter a Taiping expeditionary force penetrated as far north as the suburbs of Tianjin (天津) in what was considered Imperial heartlands. In desperation the court ordered a Chinese mandarin Zeng Guofan (曾國藩) to organize regional and village militias (Tuányǒng 團勇 and Xiāngyǒng 鄉勇) into a standing army called tuanlian to contain the rebellion. Zeng's strategy was to rely on local gentries to raise a new type of military organization from those provinces that the Taiping rebels directly threatened. This new force became known as the Xiang Army (湘軍), named after Hunan region where it was raised. The Xiang Army was a hybrid of local militia and a standing army. It was given professional training, but was paid for out of regional coffers and funds its commanders—mostly members of the Chinese gentry—could muster. The Xiang Army and its successor the Huai Army (淮軍) created by Zeng's colleague and pupil Li Hongzhang (李鴻章) were collectively called Yongying (勇營).

Prior to forming and commanding the Xiang Army, Zeng had no military experience. Being a classically educated Mandarin his blueprint for the Xiang Army was taken from a historical source—the Ming Dynasty General Qi Jiguang (戚繼光) who, because of the weakness of regular Ming troops, had decided to form his own "private" army to repel raiding Japanese pirates in the mid-16th century. Qi's doctrine was based on Neo-Confucian ideas of binding troops' loyalty to their immediate superiors and also to the regions in which they were raised. This initially gave the troops an excellent esprit de corps. Qi's Army was an ad hoc solution to the specific problem of combating pirates, as was Zeng's original intention for the Xiang Army, which was raise to eradicate the Taiping rebels. However, circumstances led to the Yongying system becoming a permanent institution within the Qing military, which in the long run created problems of its own for the beleaguered central government.

Qing troops training in Western drill

Firstly, Yongying system signalled the end of Manchu dominance in Qing military establishment. Although the Banners and Green Standard armies lingered on as parasites depleting resources, henceforth the Yongying corps became Qing government's de facto first-line troops. Secondly the Yongying corps were financed through provincial coffers and were led by regional commanders. This devolution of power weakened the central government's grip on the whole country, a weakness further aggravated by foreign powers vying to carve up autonomous colonial territories in different parts of the Empire in the later half of the 19th century. Despite these serious negative effects the measure was deemed necessary as tax revenue from provinces occupied and threatened by rebels had ceased to reach the cash-strapped central government. Finally, the nature of Yongying command structure fostered nepotism and cronyism amongst its commanders whom as they ascended the bureaucratic ranks laid the seeds to Qing's eventual demise and the outbreak of regional warlordism in China during the first half of the 20th century.

Beiyang Army in training

By the late 19th century, China was fast descending into a semi-colonial state. Even the most conservative elements within the Qing court could no longer ignore China's military weakness in contrast to the foreign "barbarians" literally beating down its gates. In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the capital Beijing was captured and the Summer Palaces sacked by a relatively small Anglo-French coalition force numbering 25,000. Although the Chinese invented gunpowder, and firearms had been in continual use in Chinese warfare since as far back as the Song Dynasty, the advent of modern weaponry resulting from the European Industrial Revolution had rendered China's traditionally trained and equipped army and navy obsolete. The government attempts to modernize during the Self-Strengthening Movement were in the view of most historians with hindsight piecemeal and yielded little lasting results. Various reasons for the apparent failure of late-Qing modernization attempts have been advanced including the lack of funds, lack of political will, and unwillingness to depart from tradition. These reasons remain disputed.[30]

Losing the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 was a watershed for the Qing government. Japan, a country long regarded by the Chinese as little more than an upstart nation of pirates, had convincingly beaten its larger neighbour and in the process annihilated the Qing government's pride and joy—its modernized Beiyang Fleet then deemed to be the strongest naval force in Asia. In doing so, Japan became the first Asian country to join the previously exclusively western ranks of colonial powers. The defeat was a rude awakening to the Qing court especially when set in the context that it occurred a mere three decades after the Meiji reforms set a feudal Japan on course to emulate the Western nations in their economic and technological achievements. Finally, in December 1894, the Qing government took some concrete steps to reform military institutions and to re-train selected units in westernized drills, tactics and weaponry. These units were collectively called the New Army (新式陸軍), the most successful of which was the Beiyang Army (北洋軍) under the overall supervision and control of an ex-Huai Army commander, the Han Chinese general Yuan Shikai (袁世凱), who exploited his position to eventually become Republic president, dictator and finally abortive emperor of China.

See also


  1. ^ Officially Qing court history states that Nurhachi died from illness. However because the cause of death mentioned is unusually vague, some historians[citation needed] propose that based on historical circumstantial evidence and through reading official Ming court history (Ch:《明熹宗实录》) Nurhaci might have died from cannon wounds sustained at the siege of Liaoning.
  2. ^ History » The early Qing dynasty » The rise of the Manchu
  3. ^ Bernard Hung-Kay Luk, Amir Harrak-Contacts between cultures, Volume 4‎, p.25
  4. ^ The exact figure of Li Zicheng's forces at the battle of Shanhai Guan is disputed. Some primary sources, such as the official Qing & Ming Court histories (Ch: 《清世祖实录》, 《明史》), cite 200,000, whereas other sources cite figures varying from 60,000 to 400,000.[citation needed] In view of established tradition of victors inflating the strength of their vanquished enemies to play up the magnitude of their victories, as well as armies inflating their own strength to bolster morale, these official figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.[citation needed] Modern historians generally estimate Li's army to be no larger than 100,000.
  5. ^ The motivation for Wu's actions, apart from obvious self-preservation, was never fully explained. Most primary sources including the Ming and Qing official court histories are understandably biased against a person who turned "traitor" to both parties.
  6. ^ Wakeman (1985), 646-50.
  7. ^ The Classic of Filial Piety (Xiaojing 孝經) states that "a person's body and hair, being gifts from one's parents, are not to be damaged" (身體髮膚,受之父母,不敢毀傷). Under the Ming dynasty, adult men did not cut their hair but instead wore it in the form of a top-knot (Wakeman [1985], 648 n. 183).
  8. ^ Wakeman (1985), 651-80.
  9. ^ This event was recorded by Italian Jesuit Martin Martinius in his account Bellum Tartaricum with original text in Latin, first published in Rome 1654. First English edition, London: John Crook, 1654.
  10. ^ Contrary to mainstream historical opinion, a 1912 manuscript copy of an earlier document titled "Chronicles of the Rebellion of Prince Yanping" (Ch: 《延平王起义实录》) discovered in 1992 by a descendant of Koxinga claimed that Emperor Shuzhi was killed by a cannon barrage from Koxinga’s Navy while personally directing the campaign to capture the island of Taiwan.[citation needed]
  11. ^ a b Ebrey (1993).
  12. ^ Tong and Chan (2001), 44.
  13. ^ Faure (2007), 164.
  14. ^ "In Chinese:康乾盛世”的文化專制與文字獄". www.big5.china.com. http://big5.china.com.cn/city/txt/2007-03/08/content_7927803.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  15. ^ Eduardo Real: ‘’The Taiping Rebellion’’.
  16. ^ "The Taiping Rebellion, 1851-64". University of Maryland web site. http://www-chaos.umd.edu/history/modern2.html. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  17. ^ "Manchus". Answer.com. http://www.answers.com/topic/manchu. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  18. ^ For a translation of the emperor's letter, see Têng Ssu-yü and John King Fairbank, eds., China's Response to the West: A Documentary Survey, 1839–1923 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979).
  19. ^ "BOXER REBELLION // CHINA 1900". HISTORIK ORDERS, LTD WEBSITE. http://www.historikorders.com/chinaboxer.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  20. ^ "科学报告:光绪皇帝死于砒霜中毒 Scientistific report:Guangxu died of arsenic poisoning". epochtimes.com. http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/8/11/3/n2317769.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  21. ^ "The Rise of the Manchus". University of Maryland web site. http://www-chaos.umd.edu/history/imperial3.html#regain. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  22. ^ Map of China 1900.
  23. ^ Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting Tibet (1906)
  24. ^ Bartlett (1991).
  25. ^ Elliott (2000), 603-46.
  26. ^ Rawski (1998), 179.
  27. ^ Rawski (1998), 179-180.
  28. ^ Torbert (1977), 27.
  29. ^ Rawski (1998), 179; Torbert (1977), 28.
  30. ^ Wakeman.


  • Bartlett, Beatrice S. Monarchs and Ministers: The Grand Council in Mid-Ch'ing China, 1723–1820. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991.
  • Ebrey, Patricia. Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
  • Elliott, Mark C. "The Limits of Tartary: Manchuria in Imperial and National Geographies." Journal of Asian Studies 59 (2000): 603-46.
  • Faure, David. Emperor and Ancestor: State and Lineage in South China. 2007.
  • Rawski, Evelyn S. The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998. ISBN 0520212894.
  • Smith, Richard Joseph. China's Cultural Heritage: The Qing Dynasty, 1644-1912. Westview Press, 1994. ISBN 0813313473.
  • Têng, Ssu-yü, and John King Fairbank, eds. China's Response to the West: A Documentary Survey, 1839–1923. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.
  • Tong, Chee Kiong, and Kwok B. Chan. Alternate Identities: The Chinese of Contemporary Thailand. 2001.
  • Torbert, Preston M. The Chʻing Imperial Household Department: A Study of Its Organization and Principal Functions, 1662-1796. Harvard University Asia Center, 1977. ISBN 0674127617.
  • Wakeman, Frederic. The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth-century China. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985. ISBN 0520048040.
  • Waley-Cohen, Joanna. The culture of war in China: empire and the military under the Qing Dynasty. I.B. Tauris, 2006. ISBN 1845111591.
  • Woo, X.L. Empress dowager Cixi: China's last dynasty and the long reign of a formidable concubine: legends and lives during the declining days of the Qing Dynasty. Algora Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1892941880.

Further reading

  • Cotterell, Arthur. (2007). The Imperial Capitals of China - An Inside View of the Celestial Empire. London: Pimlico. 304 pages. ISBN 9781845950095. 
  • Elliot, Mark C. (2001). The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 
  • Paludan, Ann. (1998). Chronicle of the China Emperors. London: Thames & Hudson. 224 pages. ISBN 0-500-05090-2. 
  • Peterson, Willard (ed.). (2002). The Cambridge History of China, Volume 9, Part One: The Ch'ing Empire to 1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24334-3, 9780521243346.
  • Spence, Jonathan (1990). The Search for Modern China. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 
  • Jonathan Spence (1997). God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 
  • Struve Lynn A. (1968). Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm: China in Tigers' Jaws. Yale: Yale University Press. 312 pages. ISBN 0300075537, 9780300075533. 
  • Li Bo, Zheng Yin, "5000 years of Chinese history". Inner Mongolian People's publishing corp, ISBN 7-204-04420-7 (2001).

External links

Preceded by
Shun Dynasty (ending 1644)
Southern Ming Dynasty (ending 1662)
Dynasties in Chinese history
1644 – 1912
Succeeded by
Republic of China


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address