QING (MANCHU) DYNASTY (1644-1912)

QING DYNASTY

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Empress Guo Zong
The Qing (Ching, Ch’ing, Manchu) Dynasty (1644-1912) was China's last dynasty. The Manchu emperors were unpopular because they were not Han Chinese, they descended from horsemen to the north and opened up China to exploitation from the West. Even so they made many improvements in the lives of ordinary Chinese and expanded China to its present size.

In the first year of the Shunzhi period (1644), the army of Qing attacked Shanhaiguan and took over the central power of China. Beijing was set as the capital. The Qing Dynasty founded by the ruling class of Manchus ruled China for over 260 years. During this period, the most outstanding emperors who contributed the most to history were Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong.

Maxwell K. Hearn of The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “In 1644, the Manchus, a semi-nomadic people from northeast of the Great Wall, conquered the crumbling Ming state and established their own Qing (or Pure) dynasty. During the first half of this period, the Manchus extended their rule over a vast empire that grew to encompass new territories in Central Asia, Tibet, and Siberia. The Manchus also established their hegemony over Chinese cultural traditions as an important means of demonstrating their legitimacy as Confucian-style rulers." [Source: Maxwell K. Hearn, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org \^/]

Sebastien Roblin wrote in This Week: The Qing Dynasty “expanded China's borders to their farthest reach, conquering Tibet, Taiwan and the Uighur Empire. However, the Qing then turned inward and isolationist, refusing to accept Western ambassadors because they were unwilling to proclaim the Qing Dynasty as supreme above their own heads of state.” [Source: Sebastien Roblin, This Week, August 6, 2016]

Qing Dynasty Rulers (Name: Reign Title, Reign Dates): 1) Shizu: Shunzhi (1644–61); 2) Shengzu: Kangxi (1662–1722); 3) Shizong: Yungzheng (1723–35); 4) Gaozong: Qianlong (1736–95); 5) Renzong: Jiaqing (1796–1820); 6) Xuanzong: Daoguang (1821–50); 7) Wenzong: Xianfeng (1851–61); 8) Muzong: Dongzhi (1862–74); 9) Tezong: Guangxu (1875–1908); 10) (Pui): Xuantong (1909–11).

Also see Sections on China in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries

Websites on the Qing Dynasty Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Qing Art cosmopolis.ch ; Qing Dynasty Explained drben.net/ChinaReport ; Recording of Grandeur of Qing learn.columbia.edu Ming and Qing Tombs Wikipedia Wikipedia : UNESCO World Heritage Site: UNESCO World Heritage Site Map ; Good Websites and Sources on Imperial China: List of Emperors and Other World Historical Leaders friesian.com/sangoku ; List of Emperors PaulNoll.com ; Wikipedia Long List with references to major historical events Wikipedia ; Wikipedia shorter list Wikipedia etext.virginia.edu

Forbidden City: FORBIDDEN CITY factsanddetails.com/china; Wikipedia; China Vista ; UNESCO World Heritage Site Sites World Heritage Site ; Maps China Map Guide Links in this Website: Temple of Heaven: Wikipedia Wikipedia UNESCO World Heritage Site UNESCO World Heritage Site Map on China Map Guide China Map Guide

Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)

Books: 1) Cambridge History of China multiple volumes (Cambridge University Press); 2) The Last Emperors: A Social History of the Qing Imperial Institutions by Evelyn S. Rawski (University of California Press, 1999); 3) Book:Forbidden City by Frances Wood, a British Sinologist; 4) Emperor of China: Self Portrait of Kang Xi” by Jonathon Spence; 5) Chronicle of the Chinese Emperor by Ann Paludan.. You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com.


18th century Qing China


Manchu's Rise to Power

Manchu success against their Asian adversaries was due to their ability to marry Mongol military technique with Chinese administrative government. They had less success against the European invaders. In the 19th century, Manchu archers were mowed down by European guns and canons.

Manchu began invading China from the northeast in 1618. They were initially held back by the Great Wall of China. In 1644, when rebels stormed Beijing and the Ming Emperor committed suicide, Ming generals saw their only hope of survival was forming an alliance with the Manchus. In an act of desperation a military commander in the northeast opened a major gate in the Great Wall to Manchus in hope they would help restore the royal family. After the peasant were easily defeated, the Manchus turned their weapons on the Ming and marched into Beijing in June 1644 and declared a new dynasty, the Qing.

In 1644 when the Manchus invaded China and first established the Qing dynasty, Ming loyalists fled to Japan, where the Tokugawa shogunate gave them sanctuary in Nagasaki. Both shogunate and the loyalists, convinced that China was in the corrupting hands of foreigners, viewed Japan as the potential heir of Chinese Confucian civilization. Indeed, for Japan until the modern era China had always embodied the highest values of civilization. [Source: Christal Whelan, Daily Yomiuri, December 4, 2011]

Decline and Fall of the Ming Dynasty

Long wars with the Mongols, incursions by the Japanese into Korea, and harassment of Chinese coastal cities by the Japanese in the sixteenth century weakened Ming rule, which became, as earlier Chinese dynasties had, ripe for an alien takeover. In 1644 the Manchus took Beijing from the north and became masters of north China.

The Ming court was very corrupt. Some court eunuchs and civil servants made small fortunes by setting fires and getting kickbacks from the contractors who repaired the damage. Others embezzled money that was intended to buy food for the court elephants.

In its final years the Ming Dynasty was weakened by corruption, power-hungry eunuchs and political trouble on its borders. The decline was accelerated after a costly war against Japan over Korea. After Manchu invasions from the north, the great 16th century historian Zhang Dai wrote that Beijing was overrun with “unemployed soldiers and clerks, laid off couriers, miners, landless laborers driven from the desiccated farms, refugees from the Manchu-dominated areas north of the Great Wall, Muslim and other traders who had lost their money as the Silk Road trade faltered."


Ming army


Peasant Rebellions and Manchu Invasion

The Ming dynasty finally collapsed as a result of a peasant rebellion launched in the Shaanxi province after a devastating famine there and an invasion of Manchus from the north. The last Ming emperor killed himself by hanging himself from a tree in the northern edge of the Forbidden City rather that being captured.

In the early 17th century, persistent drought and famine driven by the Little Ice Age accelerated the collapse of the Ming dynasty. Two major popular uprisings swelled up, led by Zhang Xianzhong and Li Zicheng, both poor men from famine-hit Shaanxi who took up arms in the 1620s. At the same time, Ming armies were occupied in the defence of the northern border against the Manchu ruler Huangtaiji, whose father, Nurhaci, had united the Manchu tribes into a cohesive force. In 1636, after years of campaigns against Ming fortifications north of the Great Wall, Huangtaiji declared himself emperor of the Qing dynasty. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Through the 1630s, rebellion spread from Shaanxi to nearby Huguang and Henan. In 1641, Xiangyang fell to Zhang Xianzhong, and Luoyang to Li Zicheng. The next year, Li Zicheng captured Kaifeng. The year after that, Zhang Xianzhong took Wuchang and established himself the ruler of his Xi kingdom. Court officials offered a number of unrealistic proposals to stop the rebel armies, including the establishment of archery contests, the restoration of the weisuo military colony system, and the execution of disloyal peasants. Li Zicheng took Xi'an in last 1643, renaming it Chang'an, which had been the city's name when it was the capital of the Tang dynasty. On the lunar New Year of 1644, he proclaimed himself king of the Shun dynasty and prepared to capture Beijing. +

By this point, the situation had become critical for the Chongzhen Emperor — the Last Minf Emperor — who rejected proposals to recruit new militias from the Beijing region and to recall general Wu Sangui, the defender of Shanhai Pass on the Great Wall. The Chongzhen Emperor had dispatched a new field commander, Yu Yinggui, who failed to stop Li Zicheng's armies as they crossed the Yellow River in December 1643. Back in Beijing, the capital defence forces consisted of old and feeble men, who were starving because of the corruption of eunuchs responsible for provisioning their supplies. The troops had not been paid for nearly a year. Meanwhile, the capture of Taiyuan by Li Zicheng's forces gave his campaign additional momentum; garrisons began to surrender to him without a fight. Through February and March of 1644, the Chongzhen Emperor declined repeated proposals to move the court south to Nanjing, and in early April, he rejected a suggestion to move the crown prince to the south.



Fall of the Ming Dynasty and Its Displacement by the Manchus

The Ming dynasty finally collapsed as a result of a peasant rebellion launched in the Shaanxi province after a devastating famine there and an invasion of Manchus from the north. The last Ming emperor killed himself by hanging himself from a tree in the northern edge of the Forbidden rather that being captured. The Manchus overthrew the rebel group that overthrew the Ming dynasty in 1644. The impact of the Machu success one historian said "was comparable to that experienced by the Christian world after the loss of the Holy Land to the Muslim world."

In April 1644, when rebel forces were advancing on Beijing, their leader Li Zicheng offered the emperor an opportunity to surrender, but the negotiations produced no result. Rather than face capture by the rebels, the Chongzhen Emperor gathered all members of the imperial household except his sons. Using his sword, he killed Consort Yuan and Princess Kunyi, and severed the arm of Princess Changping. The empress hanged herself. Tthe Chongzhen Emperor was said to have walked to Meishan, a small hill in present-day Jingshan Park. There, he either hanged himself, or strangled himself with a sash. By some accounts, the emperor left a suicide note which said, "I die unable to face my ancestors in the underworld, dejected and ashamed. May the rebels dismember my corpse and slaughter my officials, but let them not despoil the imperial tombs nor harm a single one of our people."According to a servant who discovered the emperor's body under a tree, however, the words tianzi (Son of Heaven) were the only written evidence left after his death. The emperor was buried in the Ming tombs. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Manchus were quick to exploit the death of the Chongzhen Emperor: by claiming to "avenge the emperor," they rallied support from loyalist Ming forces and civilians. The Shun dynasty lasted less than a year with Li Zicheng's defeat at the Battle of Shanhai Pass. The victorious Manchus established the Shunzhi Emperor of the Qing dynasty as ruler of all China. Because the Chongzhen Emperor had refused to move the court south to Nanjing, the new Qing government was able to take over a largely intact Beijing bureaucracy, aiding their efforts to displace the Ming. +

After the Chongzhen Emperor's death, loyalist forces proclaimed a Southern Ming dynasty in Nanjing, naming Zhu Yousong (the Prince of Fu) as the Hongguang Emperor. However, in 1645, Qing armies started to move against the Ming remnants. The Southern Ming, again bogged down by factional infighting, were unable to hold back the Qing onslaught, and Nanjing surrendered in June 1645. Zhu Yousong was captured and brought to Beijing, where he died the following year. The dwindling Southern Ming were continually pushed farther south, and the last emperor of the Southern Ming, Zhu Youlang, was finally caught in Burma, transported to Yunnan, and executed in 1662 by Wu Sangui. +

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Qing Imperial banners

Manchu Rule

The Manchurian Qing were not as civilized as the Mings but they quickly adopted Chinese culture and the Ming form of government and retained Ming officials but made sure most of the important positions were filled by Manchus. The Qings had no clear line of succession. Rulers chose their successors on the basis of merit and sisters and daughters had imperial status.

The Manchus continued the Confucian civil service system. Although Chinese were barred from the highest offices, Chinese officials predominated over Manchu officeholders outside the capital, except in military positions. The Neo-Confucian philosophy, emphasizing the obedience of subject to ruler, was enforced as the state creed. The Manchu emperors also supported Chinese literary and historical projects of enormous scope; the survival of much of China's ancient literature is attributed to these projects. [Source: The Library of Congress *]

Ever suspicious of Han Chinese, the Qing rulers put into effect measures aimed at preventing the absorption of the Manchus into the dominant Han Chinese population. Han Chinese were prohibited from migrating into the Manchu homeland, and Manchus were forbidden to engage in trade or manual labor. Intermarriage between the two groups was forbidden. In many government positions a system of dual appointments was used--the Chinese appointee was required to do the substantive work and the Manchu to ensure Han loyalty to Qing rule. *

Qing Emperors

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The 268-year duration of the Qing dynasty was dominated by the rule of two monarchs: the Kangxi Emperor, who reigned from 1662 to 1722, and his grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, who reigned from 1736 to 1796. These two emperors, each of whom reigned for about 60 years, would set the course of Qing history and in large part create the political, economic, and cultural legacy inherited by modern China. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Maxwell K. Hearn and Madeleine Zelin, Consultants, learn.columbia.edu/nanxuntu ]


Qianlong Emperor's Victory Banquet


According to the Field Museum in Chicago: “Under the Qing rulers, the heart of China was a walled city-within-a-city in Beijing. Known as the Forbidden City, it was not only the private residence of the emperor and his family, but also a center of scholarship, religion, culture, and politics. Covering 178 acres and surrounded by a broad moat and high wall, this fortress palace was off limits to everyone except those on official imperial business.” [Source: Field Museum, Chicago, Exhibition, March 12—September 12, 2004]

See Forbidden City

Qing Dynasty Rulers (Name: Reign Title, Reign Dates): 1) Shizu: Shunzhi (1644–61); 2) Xuanye (Shengzu, 1654-1722), reigned as the Kangxi Emperor (1662–1722); 3) Yinzhen (1678-1735), son of Xuanye; reigned as the Yongzheng Emperor (1723–35); 4) Hongli (Gaozong, 1711-99), son of Yinzhen, grandson of Xuanye; reigned as the Qianlong Emperor (1736–95); 5) Renzong: Jiaqing (1796–1820); 6) Xuanzong: Daoguang (1821–50); 7) Wenzong: Xianfeng (1851–61); 8) Muzong: Dongzhi (1862–74); 9) Tezong: Guangxu (1875–1908); 10) (Pui): Xuantong (1909–11).

The first Manchu Emperor Shun-chih (1644-1661) had his body mummified and lacquered in gold. His body is still kept at the monastery of Tien Taisu where he spent the last years of his life. The Yongzheng Emperor (1732-35) was known for his cruelty. A typical a Yongzheng punishment, one Ming-era scholar wrote, was a "lingering execution by slicing for the traitor himself, with summary execution by beheading or strangulation for all his close male relatives aged sixteen or over, and exile or enslavement for all the women and minor males in the criminal's family."


Qianlong Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour


Southern Inspection Tours by the Qing Emperors

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The imperial inspection tours of the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors were unique in Chinese history. Other emperors in other eras had from time to time completed a single inspection tour of the empire or made the epic journey to Mount Tai to worship Heaven, but the Qing emperors were the first to undertake multiple tours of inspection to all corners of the empire. In fact, these personal inspection tours were part of a strategy for extending and solidifying Manchu rule throughout the empire. During his 60-year reign, the Kangxi Emperor completed six southern inspection tours. The Kangxi Emperor's grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, followed his example and also made six southern tours.” [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Maxwell K. Hearn, Consultant, learn.columbia.edu/nanxuntu <|>]

“The Southern Tours” were recorded on large scrolls. The “scrolls of the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors were never intended for a general audience. Celebratory and commemorative, they were created as historical documents for posterity and not intended to set stylistic precedents or to woo viewers of the time. In spite of their enormous scale, ravishing color, vivid detail, and the vast amount of labor required to create them, these works were scarcely seen at all once they had been produced. They were not put on public display; probably very few members of the court, and certainly none of the public, had access to them. They were kept in a special storeroom for maps and imperial portraits, where they awaited the judgment of history. Today these scrolls serve not only as a testimony to the political ambitions of the Qing emperors to preside over a prosperous, unified empire, but also provide invaluable documentary evidence about daily life in traditional China. <|>

Manchu Conquests and Expansion

The Manchus expanded Chinese control to it greatest extent in Central and Southeast Asia and also brought Tibet and Mongolia under Chinese control. Conquests in the 18th century in western and southern China nearly doubled China's size.

Manchu expansion into the West started in 1760, dramatically increasing the population of the empire and providing a "buffer for the heartland." In less than 70 years (between 1762 and 1830) the population of China nearly doubled, from 200 million people to 395 million people. The empire was expanded to the west and south by granting trade concessions to Islamic rulers in Central Asia and monarchs in Southeast Asia.

The Qing regime was determined to protect itself not only from internal rebellion but also from foreign invasion. After China Proper had been subdued, the Manchus conquered Outer Mongolia (now the Mongolian People's Republic) in the late seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century they gained control of Central Asia as far as the Pamir Mountains and established a protectorate over the area the Chinese call Xizang but commonly known in the West as Tibet. The Qing thus became the first dynasty to eliminate successfully all danger to China Proper from across its land borders. Under Manchu rule the empire grew to include a larger area than before or since; Taiwan, the last outpost of anti-Manchu resistance, was also incorporated into China for the first time. In addition, Qing emperors received tribute from the various border states. [Source: The Library of Congress *]

The chief threat to China's integrity did not come overland, as it had so often in the past, but by sea, reaching the southern coastal area first. Western traders, missionaries, and soldiers of fortune began to arrive in large numbers even before the Qing, in the sixteenth century. The empire's inability to evaluate correctly the nature of the new challenge or to respond flexibly to it resulted in the demise of the Qing and the collapse of the entire millennia-old framework of dynastic rule. *


Qianlong's Victorious Return


Improvements Under Qing Rule

The early years of Qing rule was a period of peace and prosperity. National strength was at its peak and the arts flourished. The emperors collected painting, calligraphy, ancient bronze vessels and craftsmen carved decorative pieces form bamboo, wood, ivory, gold, sliver, rock-srystan and jade.

Under their able but unpopular leadership, the Manchu emperors introduced new crops (sweet potato, maize, peanuts), developed better flood control, reduced taxes and allowed economic and political growth. Traditional arts and literature became more sophisticated.

Women's right improved under the Qings. Women were allowed to walk freely in public places, ride horses, practice archery, participate in hunts and even fight beside men on the battlefield. Under Manchu rule Machu women were forbidden from having their feet bound and all men---Manchu and Chinese---were required to wear the Manchu-style pigtail haircut.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, China accounted for a third of the world's total value of goods and services. As late as 1820, China accounted for 29 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

The non-Han Manchu emperors were vulnerable to criticism from their Han subjects. They struck back by brutally repressing the Chinese peasantry by enslaving them in debt and severely punishing them for small offenses.

Qing Military


Armored Yongzheng

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “From the sudden rise of Nurhaci, founder of the Manchu state and grandfather of the first Qing emperor, to the collapse of the Qing dynasty in the early 20th century, there was hardly a single day in which imperial military forces were not engaged in some part of the empire or its surrounding borderlands. Among the campaigns were the pacification of the Zunghars, Muslims, Chin-ch'uan (western Sichuan), the Lin Shuang-wen Rebellion (in Taiwan), Annam, Nepal, and the T'ai-p'ing Rebellion. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

“Prior to the establishment of the Qing, the Manchus, in their vie for the throne of China, engaged the forces of the Ming dynasty in a long war of epic scale. This war culminated in the Sa-erh-hu and Sung-shan campaigns, which demonstrated the field and siege capabilities of the Manchu bannermen. After crossing the Great Wall and seizing Peking, the Qing organized the so-called "Army of the Green Standard," composed of native Chinese soldiers, which in turn enabled their conquest of central and southern China. Under the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795), the military further expanded and fortified the borders of the empire. The middle years of the Qianlong Emperor’s reign denote the high water mark of the Qing military. By the end of 18th century, its long decline was already underway. Beginning in the Tao-kuang reign (1821-1850), military encroachment by Western imperial powers led to a long series of Qing defeats and the eventual downfall of the dynasty. \=/

“During the early years of the dynasty, the Qing possessed a large and elite cavalry force. In open combat, these troops utilized a diverse and spirited array of assault and flanking maneuvers, powerful and accurate mounted archery, and awe-inspiring charging tactics. When besieging cities, the early Manchu emperor T'ai-tsung (1627-43) relied primarily on excellent cannon. This powerful combination of cavalry and firearms was maintained until the late 18th century. In military illustrations of the era, one can see the use of mounted archery, cavalry charges, and explosive projectiles, as appropriate, in open battle, sieges, and assaults on fortified positions. It was only with the Opium War (1840-42) and the conflicts of the subsequent decades that the power of the Qing military failed in the face of the advanced firearms, warships, and modern tactics of the Western imperial powers\=/

“The success and failure of the Qing military was closely linked to the factors of military power, strategy, military technology, and the quality of its officer corps. The success of the Manchu bannermen in the early years of the dynasty was primarily due to the skill of their cavalry and their possession of firearms. The infusion of Western technology during the Shun-chih (1644-1661) and K'ang-hsi (1662-1722) reigns enabled the Qing to further develop their firearms technology. However, during the mid and latter part of the 18th century, the government shifted to a closed and defensive military policy that hailed an end to advances in military thought, weaponry, and strategy. \=/

“This shift coincided, disastrously for the Chinese, with the scientific and technological surge of Western civilization. The crushing defeat inflicted by British imperial forces in the Opium War and other conflicts of the mid-19th century forced the Qing court to recognize the flaws and weakness of the Banner and Green Standard armies. In an anxious effort to place the military on par with that of the Western powers, the Qing established the Hsiang and Huai armies, founded naval facilities, and constructed the Northern and Southern navies. Yet the effort was too little, too late. Although the Qing succeeded in suppressing the T'ai-p'ing Rebellion of the 1850s and 60s, they were soundly defeated by the Japanese army in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The reasons for the fall of the Qing are many, yet from a military perspective, they can be summarized simply as the failures of weaponry, preparation, and leadership.” \=/

Qing Military Organization and Defense


Kanxi and the pacification of the Dzungars

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “During the early conquests of the dynasty, the Manchu military was composed of eight individual armies, each distinguished by a colored banner. These were the Eight Banners, and the soldiers in them, the so-called "bannermen." After crossing the Great Wall and seizing the capital, the Qing reorganized the surrendered remnants of the Ming military into the "Army of the Green Standard." Together, the Banner and Green Standard armies reunified China, expanded the frontiers of the empire, and reestablished firm defensive measures for the state. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

“In the beginning, the Banner cavalry was primarily armed with bows, spears, and knives. During the reign of T'ai-tsung (1627-43), the army began to incorporate artillery units. The large-scale production of firearms continued through the Shun-chih (1644-61) and K'ang-hsi (1662-1722) reigns, substantially enhancing the military might of the imperial forces. However, the development of munitions gradually ground to halt during the Yung-cheng (1723-35) and Qianlong (1736-95) periods, and Chinese weapons technology fell far behind that of the West. \=/

“At the same time, the Banner armies were gradually becoming sinicized and losing their traditions of martial prowess, while corrupt leadership was taking its toll on the quality of training received by the Green Standard forces. In both cases, these armies suffered repeated losses in the Opium War and T'ai-p'ing Rebellion. As a result, the Qing government was forced to rely on the Hsiang and Huai armies (trained and commanded by Tseng Kuo-fan and Li Hung-chang, respectively) to put down the T'ai-p'ings and bring order to the state. In the wake of the assaults by joint British and French forces between 1856 and 1860, the Qing court began to take efforts to construct a modern navy. Yet the resulting Fukien and Northern navies were totally decimated by the Sino-French (1883-85) and Sino-Japanese (1894-95) wars, respectively. These losses led to the adoption of a new and reformed military system at the turn of the twentieth century.” \=/

“The Manchu's successful use of military power to conquer China gave them a strong appreciation for the importance of defense. They fortified major cities and other strategic points in the empire's transportation network, and bolstered these defenses with detachments of the Banner and Green Standard armies. They constructed gun emplacements along the coastline, which they staffed with naval units. In Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang, and other frontier areas, the government established outposts to protect and keep watch on the borderlands. They also built a network of courier routes and stations that spanned the empire, dispatched military units on regular tours of inspection, and maintained a constant flow of written memoranda between the capital and provincial officials; all in an effort to ensure that, despite the often great distance between the central and provincial governments, local authorities were kept firmly within the administrative apparatus of the state. The courier stations in the distant west, beyond the end of the Great Wall at Chia-yu-kuan, also served as watchtowers. \=/

See Banner System Under the Manchus

Qing Weaponry, Battleships and Reforms

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Qing soldiers aroound 1900
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “During the early years of the Qing dynasty, the Banner cavalry relied primarily on mounted archery and charging tactics. Beginning in the reign of the T'ai-tsung emperor (1627-43), as the attentions of the Qing military shifted to assaults on walled cities and other fortifications, the army made increasing use of excellent cannon. Thus, the first half of the Qing dynasty saw the mixed use of both traditional weaponry and firearms. However, by the 18th century, the development of explosives stagnated and gradually fell behind the military technology innovations of the West. The resulting technological superiority of the European militaries was one of the key reasons for the military debacles suffered by the Qing in the 19th century. \=/

“Battleships were the mainstays of the Qing navy during the first half of the 19th century. While the Chi-tzu class ships could be equipped with a complement of up to twenty-five guns, they were nonetheless unable to compete with the vessels of the Western powers. Their cannon, which fired only solid shells, were all positioned on the upper deck of the vessel. The average Chinese Opium War-era warship was armed with only eight to ten cannon, with smaller vessels mounting a mere four or five guns. The largest English vessels active in the Far East, by contrast, carried over seventy guns arrayed over three decks. Second class vessel carried approximately thirty to forty guns on two decks. In addition to firing solid shells, these cannons were also used to launch explosive rounds. This technological disparity was one of the primary reasons for the Chinese loss of the Opium War. \=/

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “After the defeat of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), the Qing court reformed its army once again, this time on a western model. On the eve of the Chinese revolution, the new regular army consisted of fourteen field divisions and two palace guard divisions. This system was entirely different from that of the traditional Green Standard forces, with foot soldiers, cavalry, artillerist, engineers, and supply units all grouped under the same command. This new structure served as the foundation for the modern Chinese military. \=/

Rebellions Against the Qing Dynasty

After the Ming Dynasty collapsed, the emperor and his court fled to southern China, where they hoped to regroup and drive the barbarian Manchus from the country. One of the most successful rebellions against the Manchus was led by a half-Japanese warrior pirate named Koxinga who had befriended a Ming prince.

Koxinga commanded a fighting force of 8,000 war junks, 240,000 Ming warriors and 500,000 South China Sea pirates. His warriors---who reportedly had to lift a 600 pound stone lion before they were recruited---fought with iron masks and used long swords to maim cavalry horses. Although he failed to overthrow the Manchus, he was successful in driving the Dutch from Taiwan, and for this he is regarded as a national hero.

Mafia-like Chinese triads, which now rule much of the heroin trade out of east Asia and control organized crime in Hong Kong, descend from secret societies established to fight he Manchus.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons; 1) Empress Gui Zhong, China Page; 2) Qing map, St. Martins edu; Qing soldiers, Columbia University;

Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated November 2016

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