Main events:

We finished last chapter when Nurchaci a former vassal of Ming court , from Aisin Gioro clan declared cease of tributary relations in new Manchu state in today’s Northeastern China  and his successors managed to pass through Great Wall and capture Beijing.

Prince Dorgon became de facto ruler as a regent together with Prince Jiarlang for new young Emperor Fulin(Shunzhi). Dorgon was very brutal warrior and committed many atrocities in captured areas. In 1645 he ordered to all Han male population to shave heads and beards and wear Manchu hairstyle in order to subordinate them. Those who refused were killed. Some estimates say several million were massacred by Manchu troops. Prince Dorgon also restricted trade in areas where Han people lived in order to make them less independent. Later this policy was softened. In 1650 Dorgon died and full power Emperor Shunzhi took. He also employed Han people in service. War with remaining Ming loyalists was ongoing. During second half of 17th century officials proclaimed Nurchaci as Emperor Taizu of Qing therefore legitimacy to Aisin Gioro clan as ruling one in China was given. In 1661 on power came Kangxi Emperor of Qing a one who was one of most successful in Qing dynasty and one of longest ruling emperors in China and in world. He finalized conquest of territories that were under Southern Ming control. There were launched large campaigns against them and soon was captured Fuzhou, Guizhou, Guangzhou and other areas where Ming loyalists were strong. Southern Ming survived until 1683 only thanks to capable army generals while emperors were not strong enough. Qing army composed of Han and Manchu soldiers committed various atrocities massacring population and most famous is massacre of Guanghzou.In 1661 one loyalist general to Southern Ming expelled Dutch troops from Taiwan and established his governance there. In 1683 Qing troops captured Taiwan too. In 1683 China was fully in control of Qing. Kangxi fought big wars against Oirat Mongols and Uighurs who controlled Xinjiang and areas of todays Mongolia. In 1720 Kangxi sent troops to Tibet in order to protect it from Mongol and Uighur invasions as demanded by Dalai Lama. There stayed Dalai Lamas theocracy but he recognized supreme authority of Beijing. It was again since Yuan dynasty Tibet was under full control of China. Kangxi Emperor initiated idea that China is land of all people in Asia not only Han Chinese and that Uighurs, Mongols, Manchus, Koreans and Tibetans should live in peace as one big Chinese family. Through many policies such as building replicas of various temples and other architecture imitations he wanted to show that China is multicultural land where all of mentioned ethnicities are represented. Also he employed all of them in state service but Han and Manchus dominated there in service. Later this policy Qianlong emperor continued.

QIng map
Qing dynasty in 1820, source:

Kangxi in 1680ies mediated in Vietnamese civil war and managed to achieve peace there in tributary state. Korea and Vietnam were tributaries of Qing China. Kangxi was at beginning tolerant towards Christian missionaries, but  they still continued challenging traditional Confucian rites, ancestral and natural worships he forbade them and expelled from China.

One of biggest achievements of Kangxi Emperor is Treaty of Nerchinsk signed in 1689 between Chinese Empire  and Russian Empire. In 1640ies while Qing dynasty was busy with conquering whole China Russians as part of campaigns in Siberia and Far East crossed Argun river and reached Amur banks( Heilongjiang river). There were several clashes but in order to avoid war both sides met in Nerchinsk. Songgotu was representative of China and Fyodor Golovin of Russia. Compromise was reached that Russians will withdraw northern from Amur and that border will be Argun river. Territory between Baikal and Argun was left to Russians. It is also symbolical treaty with which China and Russia established diplomatic relations on win-win and equal level. Their relationship was cooperative until 19th century. Kangxi imposed policy of strict isolation of China from other world. He even more decreased foreign trade. Kangxi believed that China s Middle Kingdom is most superior state in world and can be self-sufficient and doesnt have to depend on anyone else. Also he wanted to prevent Han people from getting too much wealth with trade and thus empowering them beyond state control. Kangxi also wanted to prevent foreign cultural influence fearing mostly Christian missionaries and thus closed trade too. Guangzhou, Songjian, Ningbo and Xiamen were only ports where restricted foreign trade remained.

Kangxi Emperor, source:

Yongzheng came to power after Kangxis death in 1722. He ruled until 1735. He continued expansion to the west and strengthening borders in Qinghai. He took some parts of Outer Mongolia( name for todays Mongolia) from Dzungar Khanate.  Yongzheng sent 200 000 soldiers against Dzunghar Khanate 80 000 army which was invading Chinese Tibet. With difficulties at beginning Chinese army defeated Dzunghars and strengthened position in Tibet.  Yongzheng was prohibiting Manchus ,Chinese, Mongols and Tibetans to convert to Christianity stating that everyone should keep his own religion. He was speaking that Manchus can worship heaven by shamanistic rituals and follow Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese to follow Taoism and Buddhism.  Yongzheng Emperor promoted Sinocentrism and Confucian values. He was sending revisors all over country to discover corruption and supervise conditions of local governments. Inspectors had directly to report only to emperor so only he could initiate direct action.  In 1727 Russian Empire and Chinese Empire signed another treaty, this one in Kyakhta. China was represented by Tulishen and Russia by Sava Vladisavlevich( a Russian diplomat and aristocrat of Serbian origin). Treaty confirmed Sino-Russian border and established caravan trade at Kyachta town where tea and fur were exchanged. Kyachta was a Russian town where Sava Vladisavlevich founded an Orthodox church named after Serbian Saint Sava.  Sava Vladisavlevich was an first Russian permanent ambassador in China since 1725. He founded first Orthodox church in China on territory of Russian embassy in Beijing. Russian embassy in Beijing today is on the same place still.

In 1735 Emperor Yongzheng was succeeded by Qianlong Emperor. Qianlong was last successful emperor of China. He was even bigger Sinocentric than Yongzheng and Kangxi. Emperor Qianlong promoted unity of whole China, Han people with all other ethnic groups living in China. He considered that China is the center of the world a Middle Kingdom governed by Emperor with Mandate of Heaven. Qianlong favored radical Confucian branches and these scholars supported him. China was very isolated from outer world during his reign and became even bigger mystery for Western world. Trade was very limited as well as settlement of foreigners.

Qianlong liked and invested a lot in arts, promoted culture, and invested in building of palaces but later in part about society will be more about it. Qianlong emphasized on mutual cultural respect between all ethnic groups living in China. In 1755-1760 Qianlong initiated large scale campaigns against Dzungar Khanate  which kept Xinjiang and Outer Mongolia. Uighurs under Dzungar Khanate invited Qianlong emperor to send troops.and to fight against Mongols. Emin Khoja launched Uighur rebellion against Dzungars and joined arriving Qing troops. Thus Chinese forces captured whole Xinjiang and Outer Mongolia( most of todays Mongolia) and subordinated Dzungar Mongols.  As sign of thankfulness to Uighurs Qianlong Emperor built large mosque named after Emin Khoja in Turpan. Thus China again expanded to territories of Xinjiang that it captured during its biggest expansions and most stable periods of Han, Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties and to territories of Mongolia that were part of China during Yuan dynasty. In 1755 there was anti Chinese rebellion in Lhasa( Tibet) which was surpassed by Chinese troops under command of Qianlong. After that to Lhasa were sent two high commissioners that were accountable directly to imperial court to control work of Dalai Lama. Also even more imperial troops were concentrated to prevent attacks of Gurkhas from Nepal on Tibet. After their defeat in 1790 they had to pay tribute to China.

In the south Qianlong also had to deal with few rebellions. In 1747-1749 and 1771-1776 there were rebellons of ethnic minorities in Sichuan and Yunnan. They were successfully ended by Chinese troops both times. Between 1765 and 1769 was fought war with Burma. Burma and China didnt have clear border and when Qianlong ordered strengthening border control Burma disagreed with it and refused to pay tribute anymore. In a few battles they were defeated by Chinese but China didnt conquer their lands just returned tributary system and strengthened border control. In 1786-1788 there was a large rebellion on Taiwan initiated by Heaven and Earth Sect. It was defeated by Chinese troops. In 1788-1793 Gurkhas supported by British Empire entered Tibet but were expelled by Chinese troops. It was aim of Britain to destabilize China and strengthen its influence there. China also had a war with Vietnam in 1788-1789. It happened because Le dynasty which was loyal to China and paid tribute was overthrown by Tay Son and Nguyen Hue. China intervened and returned Le Thong Emperor on throne. During Lunar New Year Le Thongs troops and Chinese troops were attacked in Hanoi and few days later defeated at Dang Da. Qianlong agreed to accept Nguyen Hue as new Vietnamese emperor but in case if he accepts tributary system.

Qianlong invested a lot in palaces and luxury but due to lack of trade budget started to have deficits and economy was sloping towards decline. China was isolated from trends in world and new industrial development. Corruption was on the rise too and one of most corrupt persons was Heshen one of closest Qianlongs advisors. Corruption, opression and population growth were occuring in last years of Qianlongs rule. In 1793 occured first British diplomatic mission to China. It is known as Macartneys embassy as he was first British envoy to China. Aim of Britain was to ask China to lower trade restrictions for British merchants that could access some trade with China in Guangzhou and few other cities. They also wanted to rent some ports for more free use. British wanted to establish completely free trade with China but China didnt want as it didnt have need to buy or sell more goods since it was self-sufficient. It is obvious that China if on meeting both parts equally treated and opened trade could experience industrial revolution too. At that time big inequality both in China and Britain was present so it is highly questionable whether majority of people would benefit from opening of China. It was not todays China which cares also about other people and tends to improve social wellbeing of everyone. Moreover British were aiming to pursue own trade and imperialistic goals while China didnt have actual need to buy more goods which it considered useless. Macartney embassy showed also how both powerful countries one of the East and another of the West showed mistrust and misconception of each other. They considered each other as barbarians and inferior to each other. It is most possible reason why talks ended without agreement. Problem is that both sides saw each other as inferiors and didnt want to make compromise considering own superiority. Maybe with different stances of both countries, outcome would be different. Qianlong expanded lease of Macau to Portugal and accepted one Dutch delegation in last years of his reign.

macarteny embassy
Qianlong and Macartney meet, source:

In 1796 Qianlong abdicated as he felt he is too old to govern. He gave throne to his son Jiaqing. Emperor Jiaqing governed between 1796 and 1820. More about him will be in next chapter. Simply with end of Qianlongs reign decline of imperial China started because of corruption, lack of innovation and population growth.

Culture and society:

Qing dynasty wasnt too oppressive towards Han people like Yuan dynasty was. There was no clear and open discrimination in most of the issues. At the beginning in order to impose loyalty Han were required to change hairstyles but later this rule was eased and they were not murdered if they wanted to keep traditional Han hairstyle. Only for state officials was required to adopt Manchu hairstyle. Qing court was aiming to establish social and ethnic harmony in all of Chinese borders and all cultures were equally represented. Next to the Chinese official languages were Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan and Uighur and most of documents were written in all of them. Nature of Qing China was closed country a mystery to foreigners, closeness to foreign influence, stagnation in  innovation and new technologies while Europe experienced industrial revolution.   Qing court also tried to prevent Han people from bandaging feet to women but unsuccessfully. Status of women deteriorated in comparison to Ming and drastically to Tang and Song dynasties. Sexuality was considered as taboo and women in presence of men were not allowed. Women were considered to be only in households and were prohibited from participation in public life, government and changing partners. Women were allowed to regulate life in household fully, to work in fields and sometimes to hunt. Women were allowed to participate in arts. In later Qing period there was a woman empress Ci Xi about which we will speak later.

State structure was not much different from the one of Ming dynasty. Qing court completely copied system of Ming with 6 ministries. Above six ministries was Grand Council established in 1720ies. It was main body to consult with emperor and make decisions. At beginning only Manchu officials were accepted there but soon also Han officials were accepted there.

Legal system was based on Ming legal system and Qing dynasty adopted Qing Code based on Ming Code.

Administrative division was based on provinces. There were in total 18 provinces including Zhili, Xinjiang and Taiwan province. Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Manchuria  and Tibet were divided on own leagues. There were 8 vice roys who governed the provinces. To these regions and provinces were sent periodically imperial commissions in order to check how the affairs are going, detect corruption or some other malfunctions and report directly to Grand Council and emperor. Beside tittle of Emperor of China Qing emperors held tittles Khan of Mongols, guardian of Tibetan Buddhism and guardian of Muslims in order to gain legitimacy over other territories. In Tibet main governor was Dalai Lama but he was supervised by imperial commissions from Beijing and Chinese army was widely present on Tibet. Dalai Lama governed very oppressively in Tibetan theocracy where serfdom was typical.

8 Banner system was special military-social system in which all Manchurian households were registered to serve army. From 8 Banner system Han people were completely excluded while some exceptions were made. This system wasnt only for serving army but for paying taxes too. It consisted of territories of Manchuria. 8 Banner army was a special and elite army of Qing dynasty. Major army was Green Standard Army mostly composed of Han Chinese.

Social structure during Qing dynasty was usually same as in previous dynasties. On top  were bureaucrats, aristocrats, scholars and military generals both Han and Manchu which composed majority of the elite. Imperial examination was still determining position of the individuals but becomes less available for non elite circles due to corruption, nepotism and more oppression over lower classes. Scholars were lower by power than bureaucrats, aristocrats and generals but were more respected than those. There were still 4 occupations like in ancient China but some of them were excluded from social life. But Qing court issued new law that divides all people on common and other people. Common people were considered legally as good people and to this category belonged most of citizens and they included scholars, generals, artisans, merchants, peasants, aristocrats and bureaucrats. They were allowed to take imperial examination formally but there was  a lot of oppression towards peasants, merchants and artisans.  Peasants were officially respected but in practice were completely powerless and were abused by officials, aristocrats and army. Often they were not allowed to take imperial examinations because of lack of money, connections and oppressive nature of the system. In category of other or mean people were street entertainers, prostitutes, actors and slaves.  Slavery was partially reestablished during Qing dynasty and included usually unsuccessful peasants or poor city dwellers who didnt have money to pay taxes. Slaves had to serve officials and aristocrats could be sold, punished or liberated. So basically waged labor which existed in Ming dynasty ceased to exist.

manchu women cloth
Qing style clothing influenced by Manchu, source:
manchu male
Male clothing, source:

In northern areas, northern from Beijing only Mongols and Manchus were allowed to live. Only in case of necessity Han Chinese were allowed to settle there such as when there was big famine by end of 1790ies and in order to receive aid millions of people from  Central and Eastern China were allowed to move to the north of Beijing.

Economy of Qing China was stable in the first period. Trade was limited but it brought high income to merchants and state thanks to taxing. Most of trade was concentrated in cities such as Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Xiamen but also in the north via caravans. Silk, jade, tea and porcelain were mostly exported. Trade was more controlled by state and movement of foreign merchants was only allowed in few port towns. Foreign commodities were widely inspected, highly taxed and only than allowed for sale. In domestic economy primary focus was on production of iron and food industry. Also textile industry was developing rapidly during 18th century. State had monopoly over food production in order to control hunger and prevent it and many state merchants got a lot wealth in food production. Qing court was preventing too high wealth growth on merchants and prevented innovation  and more exploration of resources. When merchants got too rich they had to pay more taxes and were limited to expand their business in limits of  money quota. Also those too rich were restricted to search new sources of resources by mining. This restrictive measures prevented innovation in new resources, new technologies and bigger surplus in trade. Population growth was great and from 150 million in 1644 it grew up to 300 million by end of 18th century. By end of 19th century population grew to 450 million. Population growth, lack of trade and new technologies, vast spendings on luxury led to decline in economy, increase of poverty and famine. But still China until mid 19th century stayed worlds largest economy by GDP.

Arts in Qing China were developed highly but there was tight state control over them.  Classical Chinese arts were widely promoted by emperors mostly Kangxi and Qianlong. They considered Chinese arts as center of culture and real old ancient quality and great characteristic of prosperity. Painting was one of most present arts during Qing dynasty and was highly based on Ming style in painting.  Free style was allowed in painting and very diverse works appeared. Among most famous painters were Six Masters of early Qing, Four Masters of Anhui, Eight Masters of Nanjing and Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou.  However freedom in painting was restricted only in erotic and nudity paintings which were completely banned. Prior to  this was allowed in Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties while Qing court banned it.  Painted porcelain was very present except blue red color was widely used.  Literature reached great expansion. During Qing period there were printed and reprinted 3400 books in total. Some of them were of periods of other dynasties but some originated from Qing period.  Historical books, novels, romance and adventure stories were written. Most famous literary works were The Scholars published in 1750 by Wu Jingtzi,  Shen Fu finished in 1807 Six Records of Floating Life, Pu Songling wrote in 1740 Strange Stories of Chinese Studio. Also forth classic great novel was written during Qing period. It is Dream of Red Chamber printed in 1791 by Cao Xueqin.  It is a work about an aristocratic family in of Qing era about events, dramas, plots and decline of the family. Poetry was also very popular even Qianlong Emperor by himself wrote a lot of poems. Classical Chinese styles were predominant and most famous poets were Gong Dingzi, Wu Weiye, Qian Qiany, Nara Singde, Wang Shizhen… Most famous poetic work was compilation of 300 poems of Tang dynasty. Qianlong Emperor established strict control over literature works and big censorship. All works that contained erotic topics, anti Manchu ideas, anti imperial or anti governmental ideas, irony towards imperial court or corruption were prohibited. Prohibition and burning of works was best case for authors as in other cases they could be jailed or executed. Music in that time was very diverse except dominant Chinese classical music popular was also Manchu music, Mongol, Tibetan and Uighur music. Jingxi appeared during Qing dynasty. It is classical Peking Opera. Peking Opera was initially popular among elite circles but later among the commoners too. Peking Opera involves various instruments, dances and topics which are related to history, romance, drama and legends.

Beijing opera, source:

Architecture of Qing China mostly involved Chinese classical architecture but also Mongol, Tibetan and Uighur styles became popular. Biggest amount of money went to the large imperial gardens what was one of causes of decline in economy. On names of halls in Forbidden City was emphasized on harmony rather than supremacy like during Ming period. Some shamanic Manchu elements were added to Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven where ceremonies of worshiping Heaven were still held and were primary source of legitimacy. Former residence of Qing emperors since times of Nurhaci Mukden Palace( located in Shenyang)  now served palace where emperors went once or twice a year. Qianlong expanded the palace. In 1750 was finished Summer Palace located 15km out of center of Beijing. Today it is located in suburbs of Haidian district and is one of largest imperial palaces. It contains elements from all of China- large lake known as Kunming Lake, stones from southern provinces, street that imitates Suzhou, Tibetan temple and Chan Buddhist pagoda.

Yiheyuan, source:
2013-06-20 11.02.41
Suzhou street, Yiheyuan

Also there was built Yuanmingyuan palace very close to Summer one. It was 5 times bigger than Forbidden City. Yuanmingyuan was initially built by Kangxi and later finished by Qianlong. It is vast area composed of pavilions, mazes and 3 large lakes.  Qianlong invited architect and jesuit Giuseppe Castaglione in 1747 to build European style gardens withing Yuanmingyuan. There was built European style palace, garden and fountain with very advanced water pump system. Construction was one of masterpieces of Qianlongs rule. Qianlong wanted to be as powerful European rulers and have such palace too and emphasize his supremacy in the world. In suburbs near summer palaces were also built several pavilions, villas, pagodas and temples in area of Xiangshan and Yuquan. Xiangshan as I mentioned before was area initially inhabited by Taoist hermits and later were built pavilions during Jin dynasty( 1115-1234) and one temple. During Yuan and Ming dynasties place was popular for imperial family to rest in nature and hunt. Also temples were built in 14th century where Buddhist monks resided. Most famous 14th century temple is Azure Clouds Temple.  Qianlong built 5 villas and one big temple and many pavilions. He used to go there to hunt and spend time with concubines.

Yuanmingyuan Western Mansion
2013-06-19 11.21.25
Xiangshan resort,

300km from Beijing next to Chengde in todays Hebei province was built large Chengde Mountain Resort. It is largest palace of imperial China preserved until today and it contains sceneries of almost whole China.  It was constructed between 1703 and 1793 by Kangxi and Qianlong. Aim of this palace was for imperial family to have rest in shadow of mountains and to escape heats of Beijing summer. Palace included classical Chinese landscapes from different areas of China, lakes,  halls, pagodas, pavilions and villas.  Palace includes sceneries from various parts of China including Mongol grasslands and yurts. Natural landscape combines lakes, pines, smaller hills, rocks and grasslands. Around palace were built 8 temples which are built in Chinese, Tibetan and Mongol style. Most famous temple is Putuo Temple which imitates Putuo Palace of Tibet. Since Kangxi emperors started to spend there almost half of the year.  Main goal of replicating various sceneries of China was to promote harmony of all ethnic groups and to emphasize of unity of all people in one country-one China. Another reasons were that emperor could emphasize that he has China in small and that he is supreme figure in all China. Also it was with purpose for emperor to enjoy various sceneries without need to travel too far.

chengde resort
Chengde Mountain Resort

Qing China was multireligious and quite tolerant society but there were some preferences over one religion than others. Taoist books were now only allowed in Taoist temples and were banned from imperial libraries and Tao Te Qing  wasnt subject of imperial exams anymore. It was part of imperial examination  since Tang dynasty but now was abolished. But Qing emperors used Taoist based worship of Heaven which dates from Zhou dynasty. Taoism was freely followed by people and temples were freely built. During middle of 17th century Quanzhen sect again took major seat in White Cloud Temple in Beijing. Chan Buddhism was also widespread in cities, villages and among people. A lot of temples were built in cities and their suburbs too.  Confucianism was highly promoted and state ideology but conservative version only.

Azure Clouds Temple,

Free thinkers and those who challenged original Confucian system were banned. Tibetan Buddhism was mostly promoted by Qing emperors as they were its followers. Qing emperors held tittle of guardian of Tibetan Buddhism. It was a tool of Qing emperors to control Tibet a remote region and therefore wisely they maintained strong ties with lamas.  We mentioned building of Tibetan monasteries in summer palaces. Also in middle of Beijing in 17th century Tibetan Yonghe Temple was built which is today one of largest Beijing temples. In 1780 on Xiangshan hills Qianlong built large Zhao Miao Tibetan monastery to serve as residence for Panchen lama who was invited to Qianlongs birthday.  Islam was also respected and legal religion. There were a lot of mosques in todays Shaanxi, Ningxia and Xinjiang. Qing emperors invested in some mosques too in Beijing, Xian and Guangzhou. However a lot of Muslims were against Qing rule initially Hui siding Ming supporters and in late 18th century Uighur rebellions in Xinjiang. More about Muslim rebellions will be in next chapter. Christianity was not much preferred because it was associated with too much of foreign influence and missionaries. Emperor Yongzheng banned all jesuits because he perceived them as a treat to existing social order and culture especially after they criticized Chinese rituals. He also prohibited to Manchu people to convert to Christianity. Han converts were at that time rare and Qianlong had a bit more tolerant attitude towards jesuits and slightly allowed them to enter China but on limited scope.

2013-06-19 13.48.06
Tibetan Zhao Miao Temple
2013-06-21 10.28.13
Yonghe temple



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