Overview and expansion of the Qing dynasty
- After the
Qingcompleted their takeover of the Ming empire, they didn’t stop expanding.
- Their next wars took them into Central Asia, resulting in the conquest of Outer Mongolia,
- In the 1700s, the Qing ruled a vast and prosperous empire.
Activity - Which Qing Emperor are you?
Who were the Qing?
The Qing were the last to rule China.
Founded by the , the Qing dynasty defeated the previous dynasty (1368 - 1644) to become one of China’s most successful dynasties. They ruled from from 1644 to 1911.
From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, the Qing was one of largest, wealthiest, and most sophisticated empires on the planet.
How did the Qing conquer Central Asia?
Although the Qing seized
The expansion of Qing rule was driven partly by a long war with the , a state. Although most Mongol groups submitted to Qing rule, the
The Qing defeated the Dzungars in Outer Mongolia in 1698, but the Dzungars remained strong in Xinjiang. They continued to have conflict with the Qing and invaded Tibet in 1717. Control of Tibet and the was important to the Qing for religious reasons, as , Mongols and many
Over 25 years, two Qing emperors sought to finally defeat the Dzungars.
In 1720, the
In 1755, the
The conquest of Xinjiang was completed in 1759, bringing the desert cities and population of southern Xinjiang into the Qing empire. The Qing had reached its largest extent. They ruled an empire over three times larger than that of the Ming.
The Qianlong Emperor showed no mercy to the Dzungars. What do historians think?
The fall of the Dzungars has been described as one of the first genocides – the deliberate killing of members from a particular group.
Historians debate the extent to which that happened. Some say the emperor was determined they should all be killed; others say that many fled into Russia and Kazakhstan and that many more died of smallpox.
The end of the Dzungars was also the end of the great nomadic steppe empires of Central Asia. These flat grassland empires were good for nomads and their grazing animals. The Qing and Russia, both settled empires, moved into Central Asia, drawing borders and defining frontiers.
How did the Qing emperors control the different groups?
The Qing had different systems of rule for different areas of their empire. They made a distinction between the interior (direct rule), where the lived, and the outer regions (indirect rule), occupied by , , Muslims and .
|Manchu||North-east China||Manchu||They conquered China and founded the Qing dynasty.|
|Han||China||Chinese||They are the largest ethnic group in China. The previous Ming dynasty emperors were Han.|
|Tibetan||Tibet||Tibetan||They are mostly Buddhist and are often nomadic, although there are also great Tibetan cities.|
|Mongol||Mongolia||Mongolian||They are mostly Buddhist and often nomadic. They are famous for their skill as horse-riding warriors.|
|Muslim||Oasis cities of Xinjiang, north-west China and other cities||Turkic languages, Chinese||Muslim here includes both the Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang and also Chinese-speaking Muslims elsewhere in China.|
How did the Qing govern different regions?
In the old Ming provinces where the Han lived, Qing emperors continued to use the Ming governing system.
In Xinjiang, Tibet, Mongolia and Manchuria, the Qing governed mostly through leaders from those areas. Local
Han were mostly forbidden to move into the outer regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia and Manchuria. People from those areas had to apply for permission to travel into the interior.
The idea was that each people had their own space and their own culture. If they each kept to themselves, there would be peace. Disloyalty was always dealt with harshly. For example, the Qianlong Emperor executed authors and their entire families for writing things that criticised the Manchus.
What was taking the government exams like?
Very hard! People were put in an isolated cubicle in a courtyard for three days whilst taking the exam. During that time, they weren’t allowed to go home – they’d even have to sleep there. They would have to answer questions on their knowledge of classical Confucian texts, all of which they had to memorise by heart. They had to write essays as well.
All of this didn’t even guarantee a job. There were three levels of exam and people had to pass all of them to become an official.
How did the Qing emperors celebrate culture?
The emperors of the high Qing – Kangxi,
Qianlong tried to celebrate the Manchu, Mongol, Han, Tibetan and Muslim cultures.
- He commissioned a five-language dictionary to translate Manchu, Mongol, Chinese, Tibetan and .
- He had Tibetan Buddhist texts and Chinese classics translated into Manchu.
- He organised the greatest collection of Chinese books ever made, resulting in the
Siku Quanshu– a collection of 3952 Chinese works.
- He had a mosque built in Beijing, facing the Forbidden City, and invited Tibetan monks to the city.
- His hunting lodge at
Chengdehad a and lakes to look like a Chinese landscape, next to buildings made to look like Tibetan and Mongolian-style .
Famous Qing emperors
As a child, Nurhaci was captured by Ming commander
Nurhaci spent much of his life fighting, and he was also clearly an ambitious and clever thinker. He ordered the creation of a script for the Manchu language, and the Eight Banner structure he created for the Manchu armies came to define Manchu society.
The Kangxi Emperor
The Kangxi Emperor (1654 - 1722) was the longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history. He came to the throne at the age of just seven, after the
Kangxi was a strong military leader and spent much of his reign fighting to put down rebellions and conquer the remaining districts of China. However, he was also a good peacetime ruler, reducing taxes and helping make the areas he governed wealthy.
Kangxi was very experienced in the Chinese classics and commissioned a new Chinese dictionary. The Kangxi Dictionary is still important today. He was interested in all kinds of technology and welcomed Jesuits to his court for their knowledge of mapmaking, painting and medicine. Jesuits are members of the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus.
The Yongzheng Emperor
Yongzheng's father the Kangxi Emperor did not clearly designate a successor, and there was much competition among the princes as to who would become the next emperor. After Yongzheng became emperor, he still worried his brothers would plot against him - so he imprisoned some and sent others away. Yongzheng later took measures to make sure it was clear who would become ruler after his death, to prevent his children from fighting.
Yongzheng was a very effective emperor and he worked hard to maintain peace and wealth. He made changes to government to improve communications and to make sure he always knew what was happening.
The Qianlong Emperor
The Qianlong Emperor (1711 - 1799) was also one of the longest-reigning emperors in Chinese history. Under his rule, the Qing empire expanded to its greatest extent and Qianlong was proud of his many battle victories. Qianlong seems to have thought of himself as a universal ruler, ruling over many different peoples with no limit to his authority.
Qianlong was a very cultured ruler: he wrote lots of poetry and liked to collect art. He sponsored many cultural projects in his empire. He was deeply interested in Buddhism.
Qianlong was the only emperor ever to retire. He did not wish to reign longer than his grandfather the Kangxi Emperor, as he thought this would be disrespectful. He abdicated in favour of his son, the
As a woman, she could not rule openly but instead directed the government from 'behind the curtain'. There are lots of rumours that she poisoned challengers to stay in power, although historians have found little evidence that she did.
Cixi is also known for loving her dogs and the opera. She is infamous for the money she spent having the Old Summer Palace rebuilt at a time when the empire was struggling.
Peace and Power
At its height, the Qing was one of the richest empires in the world. Peace had brought great wealth. The introduction of new foods, such as potatoes, tomatoes, and chilli peppers, allowed more land to be farmed. The new foods, works and swift government action against natural disasters allowed the population to expand rapidly during the 1700s.
Literacy and living standards were high. Chinese goods were sold across the world and were celebrated for their beauty and advanced manufacturing.
When Lord Macartney, a British diplomat and statesman, arrived in China in 1793, he came with a mission to expand access to China and open up trade for the British. He met the Qianlong Emperor – but the Qianlong Emperor rejected his offer. As the Qianlong Emperor saw it, Britain had nothing his empire would need. China already had everything.