Facts of the Qing Dynasty
Location of Capital: Beijing
Emperors: Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong, Jiaqing, Daoguang, Xianfeng, Tongzhi(Cixi), Guangxu, Puyi
Replaced by: Republic of China(1912-1949)
Rise of the Qing Dyansty
Before Qing's establishment, there was a regime called 'Latter Jin' that had been set up by Nurhachu, leader of the Man Ethnic Minority. Actually, Man people were the offspring of the Nuzhen people who had always been living in Northeast China. After reunifying all the Nuzhen tribes, Nurhachu proclaimed himself emperor in 1616. Thus a new regime called Latter Jin was founded in Hetu Ala (in current Liaoning Province) during the reign of Emperor Shenzong of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).
Early Period of the Qing Dynasty
In 1644, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty had hanged himself after the capital was conquered, and China was in chaos for months. The Qing (Jurchen, Mongol, and Ming) army swept south. In October 30, 1644, about 5 months after the Qing army occupied the capital, Hong Taiji's son Fulin became the Emperor Shunzhi, and he announced the new dynasty was founded.
Emperor Shunzhi (ruled 1644–1661)
Emperor Shunzhi (1638–1661) was a 5-year-old when his father died in 1643 and he was named emperor. During his rule, the main priority of the court was to conquer the rest of the empire and establish a government for the new empire.
1. The Regent Dorgon Led the Government (1643-1650)
Dorgon was the regent and ruled on behalf of the child emperor. When Dorgon died in 1650, Emperor Shunzhi started to rule personally when he was 13 until he died at 24 in 1661.
His policies of reappointing the Ming officials helped the empire to stabilize and prosper. The Manchus did not destroy Beijing
and decimate the population as was commonly done. Instead, they persuaded Ming officials and military leaders to surrender to them.
2. The Hairstyle Massacre in 1645
In 1645, Dorgon decreed that Ming men must shave away their hair apart from Manchu-style pigtails. This started the queue hairstyle that is seen in movies about the Qing Empire.
This hairstyle was humiliating, but helped him to identify resisters. According to Confucius, we are given our body, skin and hair from our parents, which we ought not to damage. Traditionally adult Han people did not cut their hair. Dorgon said, "Keep your hair, lose your head; keep your head, cut your hair." Tens of thousands who resisted were massacred. But opinions about the queue did change over time. After 286 years people had accepted it, and when the Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1912 many people refused the new government's call to cut their queue !
3. Imperial Examinations Continued (1646–1911)
In 1646, Dorgon reestablished the imperial examinations, held every three years, and in this way, he gained the support of large numbers of literati and the bureaucracy. A problem in the empire increasingly became the lack of modern education. The empire concentrated on Imperial Examinations, studying ancient philosophical and religious texts.The Qing rulers did little to promote the knowledge of the world. Instead, they were isolationist.
At the beginning, the Qing court carried out a series of policies to revive the social economy and alleviate the class contradiction. In politics, following Ming's ruling pattern, the imperial rulers continued to strengthen the centralized system. Meanwhile, the court resumed the 'Sheng' administrative system that established by Yuan(1271 - 1368). Especially, in the frontiers like Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongol and Taiwan Island, the court set out to enhance the power of the imperial ruling.
Middle Period of the Qing Dynasty
By the middle of the 18th century, the feudal economy of the Qing Dynasty reached a zenith, spanning the reign of Emperor Kangxi, Emperor Yongzheng and Emperor Qianlong. So that period was usually called 'the golden age of three emperors'.
In that period, both culture and science were much more prosperous than any other periods. The notable book, The Imperial Collection of Four, was edited in that period. Also, a group of scholars and artists such as Cao Xueqin (writer of A Dream of Red Mansions), Wu Jingzi (writer of The Scholars) and Kong Shangren (writer of The Peach Blossom Fan) gradually appeared. In the field of science, the achievements in architecture were outstanding.
Later Period of the Qing Dynasty
After the middle period, all kinds of social contradictions increasingly surfaced and Qing began to decline. Under the corrupt ruling of the later rulers, various rebellions and uprisings broke out. The Westernization Movement, the Reform Movement of 1898 and the Taiping Rebellion were the most influential ones, but none of them had ever succeeded in saving the dying Qing Dynasty.
Emperor Jiaqing (ruled 1796–1820)
During the 1800s, the dynasty seemed somewhat successful because the population kept growing and the territory stayed intact, but the empire modernized too slowly, and the ruling court dealt poorly with a rapidly changing world and numerous uprisings. Protestant evangelical Christianity was introduced by Western missionaries, andtens of thousands of Chinese converted.The missionaries set up numerous schools and hospitals, educating tens of thousands of students and educating doctors and nurses in Western medicine. They also set up colleges and universities.
Emperor Daoguang (Ruled 1821-1851)
Trade Wars and Opium Wars with Europeans were broken (1838, 1854). In the 1800s, Europeans easily defeated the Qing army and navy, and forced the Qing to give them trading ports. The British wanted greater Qing Empire trade, but the Qing court wanted to keep out British opium and influence. Britain defeated China twice in 1838 and 1854 (the Opium Wars) to force trade treaties, and gained Hong Kong until 1997 under the Treaty of Nanking of 1842.
Emperor Xianfeng (Ruled 1851–1861)
1. Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864)
The leader of the Taiping Rebellion was Hong Xiuquan. His quasi-Christian movement had some forward-thinking idealswhich the Qing Dynasty disagreed with (he banned slavery, men using concubines, arranged marriages, opium use, foot binding, torture, and the worship of idols, and he wanted women to have more equality in society). He made Nanjing his capital, and his army seemed ready to attack Beijing
. However, Britain and France sent troops to aid the Qing army. In 13 years, about 25 million people died.
Empress Dowager Cixi (ruled 1861–1908)
Empress Dowager Cixi's son (Emperor Tongzhi) "reigned" from 1862 to 1874, and her nephew (Emperor Guangxu) "ruled" from 1875 to 1908. But it is said that she was the real ruler during this long and crucial period of time.
1. Japanese Took Taiwan and Liaoning (1894–5)
The Japanese modernized remarkably quickly in the latter part of the 19th century, and started to attack the Qing Empire and take territories for colonies. The Qing Dynasty lost the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), and the Japanese made Formosa (Taiwan) and Liaoning (the northeast corner of China, i.e. Manchu
ria, once the Manchu
homeland) a part of their empire. Taiwan became an industrial colony.
2. Emperor Guangxu Imprisoned by Cixi (1898)
In 1898, the Empress Dowager blocked her nephew from reforming the government and imprisoned him. He died from arsenic poisoning in 1908. People suspect that Cixi killed him the day before she died. Some suspect she was poisoned too.
3. The Boxer Rebellion (1900)
In 1900, a rebellion started among the poor, led by people who studied martial arts, so it was called the Boxer Rebellion. At first their goal was to overthrow the government and expel or kill foreigners. But Cixi supported the movement secretly, so the leaders supported the Qin
g Dynasty. The US sent a detachment of troops in the war against the Boxers, and the Qin
g court was forced to pay war reparations to the US. The US used these funds to build Tsinghua University, now China's top-ranking institution.
4. Ending of the Qing Dynasty
In 1908, when Cixi and the emperor suddenly died, Puyi became "the last emperor" — 2-year-old Emperor Xuantong. The empire's official ruler was a prince regent Zaifeng, Puyi's father. Finally, the Revolution of 1911 led by Sun Yat-sen broke out and overthrew the Empire of Qing
, bringing two thousand years of Chinese feudal monarchy to an end.