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, establishing the last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644- 1911).

According to the Middle Ages Reference Library: The Ming’s naval expeditions were costly, and this helped bring them to an end; also expensive was the establishment of a vast palace complex. In 1421, Yongle moved the capital from Nanjing in the interior to Beijing, where he built a palace five miles in circumference. Containing some two thousand rooms where more than ten thousand servants attended the imperial family, it was not so much a palace as a city: hence its name, "Forbidden City." These ventures, along with the restoration of the Grand Canal (which had fallen into disrepair under the Mongols), placed heavy burdens on the treasury and weakened the power of the Ming. So too did attacks by Chinese, Korean, and Japanese pirates on their merchant vessels, not to mention the appearance of European traders who were often pirates themselves. [Source: Middle Ages Reference Library, Gale Group, Inc., 2001]

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 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."

Powerful and Corrupt Eunuch Liu Jin

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”:“In 1505 Wuzong came to the throne, an inexperienced youth of fifteen who was entirely controlled by the eunuchs who had brought him up. The leader of the eunuchs was Liu Jin, who had the support of a group of people of the gentry and the middle class. Liu Jin succeeded within a year in getting rid of the eunuchs at court who belonged to other cliques and were working against him. After that he proceeded to establish his power. He secured in entirely official form the emperor's permission for him to issue all commands himself; the emperor devoted himself only to his pleasures, and care was taken that they should keep him sufficiently occupied to have no chance to notice what was going on in the country. The first important decree issued by Liu Jin resulted in the removal from office or the punishment or murder of over three hundred prominent persons, the leaders of the cliques opposed to him. He filled their posts with his own supporters, until all the higher posts in every department were in the hands of members of his group. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

He collected large sums of money which he quite openly extracted from the provinces as a special tax for his own benefit. When later his house was searched there were found 240,000 bars and 57,800 pieces of gold (a bar was equivalent of ten pieces), 791,800 ounces and 5,000,000 bars of silver (a bar was five ounces), three bushels of precious stones, two gold cuirasses, 3,000 gold rings, and much else—of a total value exceeding the annual budget of the state! The treasure was to have been used to finance a revolt planned by Liu Jin and his supporters.

“Among the people whom Liu Jin had punished were several members of the former clique of the Yang, and also the philosopher Wang Yangming, who later became so famous, a member of the Wang family which was allied to the Yang. In 1510 the Yang won over one of the eunuchs in the palace and so became acquainted with Liu Chin's plans. When a revolt broke out in western China, this eunuch (whose political allegiance was, of course, unknown to Liu Chin) secured appointment as army commander. With the army intended for the crushing of the revolt, Liu Chin's palace was attacked when he was asleep, and he and all his supporters were arrested. Thus the other group came into power in the palace, including the philosopher Wang Yangming (1473-1529). Liu Chin's rule had done great harm to the country, as enormous taxation had been expended for the private benefit of his clique. On top of this had been the young emperor's extravagance: his latest pleasures had been the building of palaces and the carrying out of military games; he constantly assumed new military titles and was burning to go to war.

Uprisings Against the Ming Dynasty and Wang Yangming

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “The emperor might have had a good opportunity for fighting, for his misrule had resulted in a great popular rising which began in the west, in Sichuan, and then spread to the east. As always, the rising was joined by some ruined scholars, and the movement, which had at first been directed against the gentry as such, was turned into a movement against the government of the moment. No longer were all the wealthy and all officials murdered, but only those who did not join the movement. In 1512 the rebels were finally overcome, not so much by any military capacity of the government armies as through the loss of the rebels' fleet of boats in a typhoon.In 1517 a new favourite of the emperor's induced him to make a great tour in the north, to which the favourite belonged. The tour and the hunting greatly pleased the emperor, so that he continued his journeying. This was the year in which the Portuguese Fernão Pires de Andrade landed in Canton—the first modern European to enter China. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

“In 1518 Wang Yangming, the philosopher general, crushed a rising in Jiangxi. The rising had been the outcome of years of unrest, which had two causes: native risings of the sort we described above, and loss for the gentry due to the transfer of the capital. The province of Jiangxi was a part of the Yangtze region, and the great landowners there had lived on the profit from their supplies to Nanking. When the capital was moved to Beijing, their takings fell. They placed themselves under a prince who lived in Nanking. This prince regarded Wang Yangming's move into Jiangxi as a threat to him, and so rose openly against the government and supported the Jiangxi gentry. Wang Yangming defeated him, and so came into the highest favour with the incompetent emperor. When peace had been restored in Nanking, the emperor dressed himself up as an army commander, marched south, and made a triumphal entry into Nanking. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

“One other aspect of Wang Yangming's expeditions has not yet been studied: he crushed also the so-called salt-merchant rebels in the southernmost part of Jiangxi and adjoining Guangdong. These merchants-turned-rebels had dominated a small area, off and on since the eleventh century. At this moment, they seem to have had connections with the rich inland merchants of Hsin-an and perhaps also with foreigners. Information is still too scanty to give more details, but a local movement as persistent as this one deserves attention.

“Wang Yangming became acquainted as early as 1519 with the first European rifles, imported by the Portuguese who had landed in 1517. (The Chinese then called them Fu-lan-chi, meaning Franks. Wang was the first Chinese who spoke of the "Franks".) The Chinese had already had mortars which hurled stones, as early as the second century A.D. In the seventh or eighth century their mortars had sent stones of a couple of hundredweights some four hundred yards. There is mention in the eleventh century of cannon which apparently shot with a charge of a sort of gunpowder. The Mongols were already using true cannon in their sieges. In 1519, the first Portuguese were presented to the Chinese emperor in Nanking, where they were entertained for about a year in a hostel, a certain Lin Hsun learned about their rifles and copied them for Wang Yangming. In general, however, the Chinese had no respect for the Europeans, whom they described as "bandits" who had expelled the lawful king of Malacca and had now come to China as its representatives. Later they were regarded as a sort of Japanese, because they, too, practiced piracy.

Weak Ming Emperors and Powerful Eunuchs

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”:“The feeble emperor Zhengde (Wuzong 1506-21) died in 1521, after an ineffective reign, without leaving an heir. The clique then in power at court looked among the possible pretenders for the one who seemed least likely to do anything, and their choice fell on the fifteen-year-old Shizong: Jiajing (1522–66), who was made emperor. The forty-five years of his reign were filled in home affairs with intrigues between the cliques at court, with growing distress in the country, and with revolts on a larger and larger scale. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

“After a brief interregnum there came once more to the throne a ten-year-old boy, the emperor Shenzong: Wanli (1573–1620). He, too, was entirely under the influence of various cliques, at first that of his tutor, the scholar Chang Chu-chan.

The struggles between cliques came to a climax in the early 1600s. On the death of Shen Tsung (or Wan-li; 1573-1619), he was succeeded by his son, who died scarcely a month later, and then by his sixteen-year-old grandson. The grandson had been from his earliest youth under the influence of a eunuch, Wei Zhongxian (Wei Zhongxian, 1568 – 1627), who had castrated himself. With the emperor's wet-nurse and other people, mostly of the middle class, this man formed a powerful group. The moment the new emperor ascended the throne, Wei was all-powerful. He began by murdering every eunuch who did not belong to his clique, and then murdered the rest of his opponents. Meanwhile the gentry had concluded among themselves a defensive alliance that was a sort of party; this party was called the Tung-lin Academy. It was confined to literati among the gentry, and included in particular the literati who had failed to make their way at court, and who lived on their estates in Central China and were trying to gain power themselves.[Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

This group was opposed to Wei Zhongxian, who ruthlessly had every discoverable member murdered. The remainder went into hiding and organized themselves secretly under another name. As the new emperor had no son, the attempt was made to foist a son upon him; at his death in 1627, eight women of the harem were suddenly found to be pregnant! He was succeeded by his brother, who was one of the opponents of Wei Zhongxian and, with the aid of the opposing clique, was able to bring him to his end. The new emperor tried to restore order at court and in the capital by means of political and economic decrees, but in spite of his good intentions and his unquestionable capacity he was unable to cope with the universal confusion. There was insurrection in every part of the country. The gentry, organized in their "Academies", and secretly at work in the provinces, no longer supported the government; the central power no longer had adequate revenues, so that it was unable to pay the armies that should have marched against all the rebels and also against external enemies. It was clear that the dynasty was approaching its end, and the only uncertainty was as to its successor.

The Donglin Faction was an episode that took place at the end of the Ming Dynasty: The writer Liao Yiwu told the New York Review of Books: “The Donglin Faction [a union between a rising merchant class and local landlords against the central government] involved opposition to the eunuch Wei Zhongxian. They knew that the Ming Court wanted to destroy them. Out of this story people say that these intellectuals, these activists couldn’t match the actions of one woman, Taohua Shan [Peach Blossom Fan], a concubine, who had an affair with one of the Donglin Faction supporters. He was a loyalist of the Ming as it is collapsing, but he couldn’t shoulder the responsibility and ended up supporting the new dynasty, the Qing. But the concubine hung herself. She still had some sort of moral courage. This is a story about a kind of traditional loyalty that often repeats itself through Chinese history. [This is not the same plot as the opera, “Peach Blossom Fan,” in which both lovers survive but leave the secular world to join a Taoist monastery and nunnery.] [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books, September 12, 2015]

Foreign Pressures on Ming China

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: Abroad there were wars with Annam, increasing raids by the Japanese, and, above all, long-continued fighting against the famous Mongol ruler Yen-ta, from 1549 onward. At one time Yen-ta reached Beijing and laid siege to it. The emperor, who had no knowledge of affairs, and to whom Yen-ta had been represented as a petty bandit, was utterly dismayed and ready to do whatever Yen-ta asked; in the end he was dissuaded from this, and an agreement was arrived at with Yen-ta for state-controlled markets to be set up along the frontier, where the Mongols could dispose of their goods against Chinese goods on very favourable terms. After further difficulties lasting many years, a compromise was arrived at: the Mongols were earning good profits from the markets, and in 1571 Yen-ta accepted a Chinese title. On the Chinese side, this Mongol trade, which continued in rather different form in the Manchu epoch, led to the formation of a local merchant class in the frontier province of Shanxi, with great experience in credit business; later the first Chinese bankers came almost entirely from this quarter. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

In 1581 there had been unrest in southern Manchuria. The Mongolian tribal federation of the Tumet attacked China, and there resulted collisions not only with the Chinese but between the different tribes living there. In southern and central Manchuria were remnants of the Tungus Jurchen. The Mongols had subjugated the Jurchen, but the latter had virtually become independent after the collapse of Mongol rule over China. They had formed several tribal alliances, but in 1581-83 these fought each other, so that one of the alliances to all intents was destroyed. The Chinese intervened as mediators in these struggles, and drew a demarcation line between the territories of the various Tungus tribes. All this is only worth mention because it was from these tribes that there developed the tribal league of the Manchus, who were then to rule China for some three hundred years.

“In 1592 the Japanese invaded Korea. This was their first real effort to set foot on the continent, a purely imperialistic move. Korea, as a Chinese vassal, appealed for Chinese aid. At first the Chinese army had no success, but in 1598 the Japanese were forced to abandon Korea. They revenged themselves by intensifying their raids on the coast of central China; they often massacred whole towns, and burned down the looted houses. The fighting in Korea had its influence on the Tungus tribes: as they were not directly involved, it contributed to their further strengthening.

On the south-east coast a pirate made himself independent; later, with his family, he dominated Formosa and fought many battles with the Europeans there (European sources call him Coxinga). In western China there came a great popular rising, in which some of the natives joined, and which spread through a large part of the southern provinces. This rising was particularly sanguinary, and when it was ultimately crushed by the Manchus the province of Sichuan, formerly so populous, was almost depopulated, so that it had later to be resettled. And in the province of Shandong in the east there came another great rising, also very sanguinary, that of the secret society of the "White Lotus". We have already pointed out that these risings of secret societies were always a sign of intolerable conditions among the peasantry. This was now the case once more. All the elements of danger which we mentioned at the outset of this chapter began during this period, between 1610 and 1640, to develop to the full.

Europeans Begin to Influence China

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “The East India Company was founded in 1600. At this time, while the English were trying to establish themselves in India, the Chinese tried to gain increased influence in the south by wars in Annam, Burma, and Thailand (1594-1604). These wars were for China colonial wars, similar to the colonial fighting by the British in India. But there began to be defined already at that time in the south of Asia the outlines of the states as they exist at the present time. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

“In 1601 the first European, the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, succeeded in gaining access to the Chinese court, through the agency of a eunuch. He made some presents, and the Chinese regarded his visit as a mission from Europe bringing tribute. Ricci was therefore permitted to remain in Beijing. He was an astronomer and was able to demonstrate to his Chinese colleagues the latest achievements of European astronomy. In 1613, after Ricci's death, the Jesuits and some Chinese whom they had converted were commissioned to reform the Chinese calendar. In the time of the Mongols, Arabs had been at work in Beijing as astronomers, and their influence had continued under the Ming until the Europeans came. By his astronomical labours Ricci won a place of honour in Chinese literature; he is the European most often mentioned.

“The missionary work was less effective. The missionaries penetrated by the old trade routes from Canton and Macao into the province of Jiangxi and then into Nanking. Jiangxi and Nanking were their chief centres. They soon realized that missionary activity that began in the lower strata would have no success; it was necessary to work from above, beginning with the emperor, and then, they hoped, the whole country could be converted to Christianity. When later the emperors of the Ming dynasty were expelled and fugitives in South China, one of the pretenders to the throne was actually converted—but it was politically too late. The missionaries had, moreover, mistaken ideas as to the nature of Chinese religion; we know today that a universal adoption of Christianity in China would have been impossible even if an emperor had personally adopted that foreign faith: there were emperors who had been interested in Buddhism or in Taoism, but that had been their private affair and had never prevented them, as heads of the state, from promoting the religious system which politically was the most expedient—that is to say, usually Confucianism. What we have said here in regard to the Christian mission at the Ming court is applicable also to the missionaries at the court of the first Manchu emperors, in the seventeenth century. Early in the eighteenth century missionary activity was prohibited—not for religious but for political reasons, and only under the pressure of the Capitulations in the nineteenth century were the missionaries enabled to resume their labours.

Rebellions That Bring the Downfall of the Ming Dynasty

The Ming dynasty 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. In the early 17th century, persistent drought and famine was driven by the Little Ice Age. 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. [Source: Wikipedia

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: Various insurgents negotiated or fought with each other; generals loyal to the government won occasional successes against the rebels; other generals went over to the rebels or to the Manchus. The two most successful leaders of bands were Li Zicheng (Li Hongji) and Zhang Xianzhong. Li came from the province of Shaanxi; he had come to the fore during a disastrous famine in his country. The years around 1640 brought several widespread droughts in North China, a natural phenomenon that was repeated in the nineteenth century, when unrest again ensued. Zhang Xianzhong returned for a time to the support of the government, but later established himself in western China. It was typical, however, of all these insurgents that none of them had any great objective in view. They wanted to get enough to eat for themselves and their followers; they wanted to enrich themselves by conquest; but they were incapable of building up an ordered and new administration. Li ultimately made himself "king" in the province of Shaanxi and called his dynasty "Shun", but this made no difference: there was no distribution of land among the peasants serving in Li's army; no plan was set into operation for the collection of taxes; not one of the pressing problems was faced. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

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 Ming 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.

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: ““Li Zicheng broke through to Beijing. The city had a strong garrison, but owing to the disorganization of the government the different commanders were working against each other; and the soldiers had no fighting spirit because they had no pay for a long time. Thus the city fell, on April 24th, 1644, and the last Ming emperor killed himself. A prince was proclaimed emperor; he fled through western and southern China, continually trying to make a stand, but it was too late; without the support of the gentry he had no resource, and ultimately, in 1659, he was compelled to flee into Burma. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

“Thus Li Zicheng was now emperor. It should have been his task rapidly to build up a government, and to take up arms against the other rebels and against the Manchus. Instead of this he behaved in such a way that he was unable to gain any support from the existing officials in the capital; and as there was no one among his former supporters who had any positive, constructive ideas, just nothing was done.

“This, however, improved the chances of all the other aspirants to the imperial throne. The first to realize this clearly, and also to possess enough political sagacity to avoid alienating the gentry, was General Wu San-kui, who was commanding on the Manchu front. He saw that in the existing conditions in the capital he could easily secure the imperial throne for himself if only he had enough soldiers. Accordingly he negotiated with the Manchu Prince Dorgon, formed an alliance with the Manchus, and with them entered Beijing on June 6th, 1644. Li Tzu-ch'eng quickly looted the city, burned down whatever he could, and fled into the west, continually pursued by Wu San-kui. In the end he was abandoned by all his supporters and killed by peasants. The Manchus, however, had no intention of leaving Wu San-kui in power: they established themselves in Beijing, and Wu became their general.

Manchu Invasion of China

At the same time as the uprisings, 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 +]

Wolfram Eberhard wrote in “A History of China”: “Towards the end of the reign of Wan-li, about 1620, the danger that threatened the empire became more and more evident. The Manchus complained, no doubt with justice, of excesses on the part of Chinese officials; the friction constantly increased, and the Manchus began to attack the Chinese cities in Manchuria. In 1616, after his first considerable successes, their leader Nurhachu assumed the imperial title; the name of the dynasty was Tai Ch'ing (interpreted as "The great clarity", but probably a transliteration of a Manchurian word meaning "hero"). In 1618, the year in which the Thirty Years War started in Europe, the Manchus conquered the greater part of Manchuria, and in 1621 their capital was Liaoyang, then the largest town in Manchuria. [Source: “A History of China” by Wolfram Eberhard, 1951, University of California, Berkeley]

“Meanwhile the Manchus were gaining support. Almost all the Mongol princes voluntarily joined them and took part in the raids into North China. In 1637 the united Manchus and Mongols conquered Korea. Their power steadily grew. What the insurgents in China failed to achieve, the Manchus achieved with the aid of their Chinese advisers: they created a new military organization, the "Banner Organization". The men fit for service were distributed among eight "banners", and these banners became the basis of the Manchu state administration. By this device the Manchus emerged from the stage of tribal union, just as before them Turks and other northern peoples had several times abandoned the traditional authority of a hierarchy of tribal leaders, a system of ruling families, in favour of the authority, based on efficiency, of military leaders. At the same time the Manchus set up a central government with special ministries on the Chinese model. In 1638 the Manchus appeared before Beijing, but they retired once more. Manchu armies even reached the province of Shandong. They were hampered by the death at the critical moment of the Manchu ruler Abahai (1626-1643). His son Fu Lin was not entirely normal and was barely six years old; there was a regency of princes, the most prominent among them being Prince Dorgon.

Manchus Claim China by Defeating the Rebels That Overthrew the Ming

The Ming dynasty fell in 1644 and the Manchus gained control of China by overthrowing the rebel group that overthrew the Ming dynasty. The last Ming emperor killed himself by hanging himself from a tree in the northern edge of the Forbidden rather that being captured. The impact of the Manchu 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. The 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. +

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]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua;; 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 August 2021

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