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
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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