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QING DYNASTY

The Qing Dynasty (also known as the Manchu Dynasty) was the second time when the whole of China was ruled by foreigners, the Manchu. The first time was during the Yuan Dynasty when China was controlled by the Mongols. The Qing Dynasty lasted from 1644-1911. The Qing maintained power through 152 years by 4 emperors: Shunzhi (1644-1661), Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722), Yongzheng (1722-1736), and Qianglong Emperor (1736-1796). The Qing adopted the Ming template as it formed its government . Manchus and Chinese dually worked in the same position, by appointment through the examination system, which became known as the Manchu-Chinese diarchy. However, the Manchus were exempt from the examination system because of the Manchu's dominance.

Militarily, the Qing was among the best. In 1626, the Manchu dynasty formed banner system that would be loyal to the emperor, Chinese bannermen (up to 24) fought alongside the Manchus during its conquests, providing military and personnel supplies to the Manchus that ensured the success of the conquests. The bannermen were considered more trustworthy than some of the Chinese officers that had changed sides. The bannermen also functioned as a talent pool from which civil bureaucrats could be chosen.

The Manchus maintained their domination of the Chinese by preserving their own identity. Summers were spent in Manchuria, which was closed to the Chinese. They banned intermarriage among the Chinese, continued to speak their own language and did not make their documents available to the Chinese. They retained military strength over the Chinese by separating the duties of the Chinese troops and of the Manchu troops. The Chinese were not trained as a striking force. They also had a unique way of keeping the Mongols away. They first immobilized and divided the Mongols under a similar fashion as the Ming had done. However, they then supported the Yellow Lamaist sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which was a popular religion of the Mongols, and focused their attention on Lhasa, as a center of worship.

The Qing adopted and strictly enforced Manchu hair and dress. They required the Chinese men to shave their heads and wear queues. Failure to do so would result in his head to be decapitated. Interestingly, the Qing allowed the growth and decoration of finger nails, which showed the potential for one's virility and wisdom. A custom the Qing did not attempt to change, was the preference for agriculture over trade. The Qing favored an isolationist policy, which proved fatal. The lack of trade hurt China economically.

There was tremendous growth in areas of literature and the arts. 26,000 volumes of the encyclopedia were accomplished. Additionally, one of the best novels written, "Story of the Stone" broke ground as very explicit in the expression of emotion, which is not typical of the Chinese. Poets expanded their programs, and one play encompassed 240 acts that took over two years to perform on stage.

Painting took another leap with the introduction of some ideas introduced by European missionaries.

Although the Chinese did not take the European ideas to heart, it did help the Chinese expand color schemes, especially in porcelain. European missionaries were allowed into China and influenced Chinese ideas about science. However, Christianity was later outlawed when European ships with Christian sailors began looting the Chinese coast. Another reason for the outlawing of Christianity was disputes among the missionaries over papal authority that was also contrary to Chinese policy.

During the reign of Qianglong, the borders of China were expanded to their greatest extent ever. Strong economic prosperity, coupled with Qianlong's success in preserving the Inner-Asian empire (encompassing Xingjiang and Mongolia), was quite remarkable. These achievements were strongly acknowledged by the British, with whom Qianlong received often.

On the other hand, there were several domestic contradictions, in particular to the increasing popular uprisings, which were quelled. The first uprising was in 1774 in Shantung, then in 1775 another uprising occurred, this time it was led by the secret society known as the Society of the White Lotus. In 1813 during the reign of Qianglong's successor, another uprising occurred which was led by the secret society known as the Society of Heaven's Law. The government, while they succeeded in suppressing the uprisings, did not succeed in alleviating the impoverishment that had led to these uprisings.

The impact of the west was also felt for the first time in China. Great Britain began to import opium, causing severe hardship for the Qing empire and its citizens. During the T'ang Dynasty, opium was used for medicinal purposes, now it is cause for derelict behavior and the demise of the Chinese society as a whole. Eventually, the illegal trade of opium that could not be stopped, forcing China close to bankruptcy. After what became known as the Opium Wars in 1839, China was forced to sign a treaty with the British, granting the British trading rights and leasing Hong Kong as its own colony and ports.

The most noted female ruler was the Empress Dowager, Tz'u Hsi who ruled from 1862 - 1908. She was ruthless during her reign, executing anybody that did not support her political and economic reforms. Tz'u Hsi had the former emperor executed, and the next day, she too died, albeit of natural causes. However, before her death she placed a two year old, Mo Ti on the throne. This further weakened the government and strengthened the revolutionaries. Mo Ti's reign lasted from 1909-1911, who was deposed by the Republicans, effectively ending the Qing Dynasty.

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Dynasties of Asia
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For additional history and background, click the links below.

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