IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > E. East Asia, c. 1500–c. 1800 > 2. China, 1522–1796 > b. The Qing Dynasty
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
b. The Qing Dynasty
Peasant rebellion and ethnic strife erupted at the end of the Ming dynasty, and an impoverished central government was no longer able to meet these challenges. A rebel band under the command of Li Zicheng (1605?–1645) finally captured the capital at Beijing, and the last Ming emperor committed suicide. Several decades earlier, in eastern Manchuria, NURHACHI (1559–1626, Taizu) had organized militarily (1615) under eight banners a group of Tungusic tribes. Later, Mongol and Han Chinese living in northeastern China were incorporated into each of their own eight banners. In 1616 Nurhachi, who had had considerable contact with the Ming, took the title of emperor of the Hou Jin (or Later Jin) dynasty, following on the ethnic descent of his own people from the Jurchens of the 12th and 13th centuries, and took the clan name of Aisin Gioro. Only later (1634) did his people adopt the name MANCHUS (probably from the bodhisattva of learning, Manjusri). In 1618 his armies defeated the Ming and seized part of Liaodong, where he began to set up a government with local Han Chinese assistance. In the year before his death (1625), Nurhachi moved the capital to Shenyang (Manchu name, Mukden) and began to build a civil administration patterned closely on the Chinese model. There in 1636 the Manchus, under Nurhachi's son Abahai (1592–1643), proclaimed the Qing Dynasty, having already quelled the other northeastern peoples and attacked south of the Great Wall on several occasions. When Li Zicheng's forces took Beijing in 1644, a Ming general, Wu Sangui (1612–78), in collaboration with Manchu prince regent Dorgon (1612–50), allowed the Manchus to cross the Shanhai Pass into China unhindered rather than surrender to the rebels.  1
The Qing dynasty commenced when Manchu forces entered Beijing, attacked the rebel forces of Li Zicheng, and defeated them.  2
Whereas earlier conquerers had discriminated against the subject Han populace, the Manchus worked to establish good relations with the Chinese under their rule. The Qing carried over the Ming governmental structure in large part, save the addition of the Grand Council. There was Manchu-Chinese parity in the leadership of each of the six ministries. Local self-governance was handled through the lijia system taken over from Ming, with tax-collecting duties added to its functions in Qing. Through a community compact system, the laws and Confucian values were directly imparted to local people in periodic lectures.  3
The population surged to more than 300 million by 1750, as high as 400 million by 1850; changes in local administration did not keep pace. Sparsely populated areas such as Yunnan and Guizhou began to receive larger numbers of Han Chinese.  4
The recruitment system into government service—the civil service examination system—was carried over from Ming. These were highly competitive exams, held at three stages (local, provincial, and national or metropolitan). Once a person was appointed to a post, he usually held it for three years. With the rapid population increase of the 18th century and the lack of concomitant expansion of government, many graduates, unable to find employment, became professional scholars and teachers.  5
Military garrisons of the eight Manchu banners were distributed among strategic provincial cities, though Han Chinese were appointed in the provinces to the command of Chinese auxiliary troops. Four Chinese were sent as governors to hold the south and southwest during the Shunzhi reign at the beginning of the dynasty.  6
In agriculture, the development of faster-ripening strains of rice—30-day growing cycles were achieved in Qing times—made possible larger yields, which in turn meant more crops and the ability to sustain more people from the same amount of land.  7
During the Shunzhi reign of Emperor Shizong (nephew of Dorgon), the Manchus, together with Han Chinese armies, consolidated Qing control, defeating various itinerant Ming pretenders and loyalist bands in the south by 1659. Conquest was accompanied by the imposition of the Manchu-style shaven head with the queue for men. Foot-binding, at first forbidden (1638, 1645, 1662), was ultimately permitted to Chinese only (1668).  8
A Taiwan-based pirate band, claiming continued allegiance to the Ming, was begun by Zheng Zhilong (1604–61, executed in Beijing), and he was succeeded by his son, Zheng Chenggong (1624–62), known to Westerners as Koxinga from a rendering of his Chinese title, Lord of the Imperial Surname. They raided the southeast China coast, seizing Xiamen (Amoy, 1653) and Chongming Island (1656), attacking as far as Nanjing (1657), and finally expelling the Dutch from Taiwan after a prolonged battle (1661–62). In 1663–64, Balthasar Bort with a Dutch fleet helped a Qing army drive Koxinga's son, Zheng Jing (1642–81), from the Fujian coast back to Taiwan. Ultimately, the Qing sent an armada to put an end to the Zhengs' attacks on its coast, when Zheng Keshuang (1670–1707), Zheng Jing's son and the last of the Zhengs to control Taiwan, surrendered to the Qing. Taiwan was then brought under Chinese imperial administration as an appendage of Fujian province.  9
The Rebellion of the Three Feudatories erupted when Wu Sangui and two other former Han collaborators with the Manchus, having been awarded healthy satrapies in the south for their efforts in bringing Manchu rule to China, revolted against the Qing. After eight years of fighting, the rebels were quelled with the help of other Han generals.  10
The KANGXI REIGN of Emperor Shengzu (b. 1654, personal rule began in form 1667, in fact 1669) opened an extraordinary period of cultural achievement, possibly surpassing the best of earlier dynasties. His was the longest reign in Chinese history. Kangxi acquired many of the habits and capacities of the well-educated Han elite. He was initially tolerant of Jesuit missionaries and very interested in the technology they introduced from the West, but later grew weary of their doctrinal squabbles. He was a patron of the arts and of learning, sponsoring major scholarly enterprises. He also made six personal tours of his empire to observe local conditions firsthand.  11
A Portuguese embassy under Manoel de Saldanha, like that of Bento Pereyra de Faria (1678–79), won only confirmation of the status of Macao. The subsequent missions of A. M. de Souza y Menezas (1726) and F.-X. Assis Pacheco y Sampayo (1742) achieved no more.  12
A revolt in Chahar was quickly suppressed.  13
Galdan (1632?–97), chief of the Olöt (Eleuth, western Mongol) Dzungars, attacked Mongolia from Central Asia. Kangxi personally led the defense of the Khalka states of central Mongolia (1690). After several assaults, Galdan's forces were finally crushed (1696) near Urga, and Galdan took poison the following year. Qing military colonies were established in the region.  14
The Treaty of Nerchinsk with Russia was China's first treaty with a European nation. Earlier, the Russian Poyarkhov explored the Amur River region (1643–46), and Khabarov built a fort at Albazin (See 1689). Qing forces attacked Fort Albazin (1685–86), territory the Manchus considered their own. The treaty stipulated Russian abandonment of Albazin and of military pressure for commercial contacts and continued peace. L. V. Izmailov established a trading agent and Russian Orthodox church in Beijing (1720–21).  15
The Olöt seizure of Lhasa under the direction of Galdan's nephew, Tsewang Rabdan (1697–1727), was learned of too late in Beijing to save a relief column from annihilation (1718). Well-prepared armies from Gansu and Sichuan drove the Mongols out of Tibet (1720), enthroned a popular Dalai Lama, and established imperial garrisons there.  16
A revolt in Taiwan led by Zhu Yigui was suppressed.  17
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.