Qing Dynasty

The founding of the Qing Dynasty

Ruled by Manchu from the north, the Qing was the last dynasty in China. In 1616, Nurhaci, the leader of Nuzhen nationality, established the Later Jin in northeast part of China, which was renamed the Qing by Huangtaiji, the son of Nurhaci in 1636. Huangtaiji changed Nuzhen to Manchu. In 1644 when the peasant army led by Li Zicheng overthrew the Ming, Emperor Congzheng committed suicide. The Qing army took the opportunity to cross the Shanhai Pass and defeated Li's peasant army. In the same year, Emperor Shunzhi entered Beijing which was made capital of the Qing Dynasty. The Qing then put down all peasant uprisings and the resistant forces of the Southern Ming and gradually unified the whole country.

Qing Dynasty during 17th and 18th

To prevent internal conflict, the Qing pursued a policy of rewarding land cultivation and reducing or exempting taxes, thus promoting economic development both in the hinterland and at the frontiers. The period extending over the reigns of Emperors Kangxi (1622-1723), Yongzheng (1723-1736) and Qianlong (1736-1796) was the Qing at its heyday. By mid-18th century, its economic development reached a new height. This new prosperity saw power become more centralised, national strength increased; social order well-maintained and population amounted to near 300 million by the end of the century. During the reign of Emperor Kangxi, Taiwan became part of the country and the Sino-Russian Treaty of Nerchinsk was signed to determine the eastern border between the two countries. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, Xinjiang was incorporated into China after the Jungars and Uygurs were defeated. The early Qing emperors not only resolved the long conflict between nomads and peasants that had plagued China throughout history, but also took a series of measures to develop the economy, culture and transportation in the frontier areas. As a result, they consolidated national unification and laid the foundation for modern China's territorial boundaries. The Qing Empire once occupied an area of more than 12 million square kilometres, covering Baerkashi Lake and the Cong Mountains in the west, the Ehuocike Sea and Kuye Island in the northeast, the coastlines in the east, including Taiwan and other small islands, the South China Sea Islands in the south, Guangxi, Yunnan and Tibet in the southwest, north of the Gobi Desert and the Outer Xing'an Mountains in the north.

In the realm of literature, during the reigns of Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong, several large works such as the Encyclopaedia of Chinese writings (Confucian classics, history, philosophy and belles-lettres) and A Collection of Books Ancient and Modern, Dictionary of KangXi, were compiled, which made important contribution to Chinese history and culture. But feudal ethics and rites dominated society. Qing government persecuted many intellectuals, banning and destroying works that did not meet with its approval.


Qing Dynasty during 19th

During the mid-Qing Dynasty, social conflicts finally began to surface. Among the many revolts, the uprising of the White Lotus Sect, which lasted for nine years, put an end to the golden age of the Qing. The Opium War of 1840 and foreign aggression saw many unequal treaties signed between the Qing and Western imperialist powers. All these treaties demanded China to cede territories, pay indemnities and/or open trading ports. Eventually China became a semi-feudal and semi-colonised country. With its corrupt politics and conservatism, the Qing Dynasty rapidly declined. With its legitimacy waning daily, the Qing government imposed more taxes in order to pay for war expenses and indemnities, placing heavy burdens onto the people, especially the peasants. External aggression and domestic oppression sparked off a series of anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movements such as the Taiping Rebellion and the Nian Army Uprising. Under these circumstances, the Qing government was forced to carry out reforms, like the Self-strengthening Movement and the Hundred-Day Reform, in order to save and revitalise China. But all these measures failed. At last, the Revolution of 1911, a revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, overthrew the Qing Dynasty. That year, Chinese feudalism, which had lasted more than two thousand years, drew to a close. China entered a new era. And the Qing Dynasty since 1644 had ten emperors and lasted 268 years