IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > E. East Asia, c. 1500–c. 1800 > 2. China, 1522–1796 > b. The Qing Dynasty > 1796
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
The Qianlong emperor abdicated but continued to direct affairs until his death three years later.  1
The Jesuits continued to enjoy imperial toleration and favor in return for scientific services. Adam Schall von Bell (1591–1666) prepared the dynastic calendar (1630–64), indispensable to agriculture, until he was imprisoned on representations of jealous Muslim astronomers. Ferdinand Verbiest (1623–88) arrived in China in 1659 and was put in charge of the almanac (1669). He installed a new set of astronomic instruments in the imperial observatory (1674) and promulgated a perpetual calendar (1678). Fontaney cured the emperor with quinine (1693). Regis and eight others prepared the first maps of China based on astronomic observation, triangulation, and measurement (1708–18). The Jesuit acceptance of Chinese rituals toward heaven, Confucius, and their ancestors was bitterly condemned by the Dominican and Franciscan orders, culminating in the Rites Controversy in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1742 the pope decreed that no Chinese convert could continue such Chinese rites as ancestor worship.  2
From the early years of the 19th century, Protestant missionaries began their effort to convert the Chinese masses, though with extremely limited success.  3
In literature, Qing writers continued to produce large quantities of poetry and prose. Especially noteworthy were the great vernacular novels Rulin waishi (Unofficial History of the Confucians, or The Scholars) by Wu Jingzi (1701–54) and Honglou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber; also known as Shitou ji, or Story of the Stone) by Cao Xueqin (1724?–64). Both provide intimate details of elite family life.  4
The Qing period, not noted for major developments or innovations in painting, largely remained within molds set in Song, Yuan, and Ming times. A brilliant epoch in the history of the imperial kilns of Jingdezhen followed the appointment of Cang Yingxuan as superintendent (1682). The techniques of enameling on the biscuit, of composite monochrome glazing, of application of underglaze blue in powder form, and of decoration overglaze in transparent famille verte enamels were perfected. Later, under Tang Ying (1736–49), the imperial craftsmen developed the elaborate famille rose palette of opaque overglaze enamels, which is distinguished by mixed colors and replacement of ferric oxide red by carmine derived from gold.  5
Scholarly writings continued to grow in quantity and erudition. The earlier trend of writing local gazetteers reached a crescendo in Qing times. Among the state-sponsored encyclopedic projects was the massive Gujin tushu jicheng (Compendium of Books Past and Present, 1725), in 10,000 volumes, covering a wide variety of subjects. The best critical edition of the 24 dynastic Standard Histories was issued by imperial authority (1739–46). The greatest effort to bring together all known writings was the colossal Siku quanshu (Complete Works of the Four Treasuries) project (1772–81). It embraced 3,462 works in 36,300 volumes. Seven copies were eventually distributed. A General Catalog in 92 volumes (1789) contained notices on these and an additional 6,734 works not included in the library. Qianlong exploited the occasion of this compilation for another end as well, to expurgate from Chinese literature all derogatory references to the Manchus and their northern predecessors. Works were thus doctored and nearly 2,500 were destroyed (1774–82), many of them from the late Ming and early Qing years. Manchu emperors in the 17th and 18th centuries, being great patrons of Confucianism and scholarship, provided funds for many other projects as well. Among the many collections to be issued as a result of Kangxi's order were Ming History (53 scholars appointed, 1679); Complete Tang Poetry (1707); Peiwen yunfu, a thesaurus of literary phrases (1716); and the Kangxi Dictionary (1716).  6
Individual scholars and private groups or teams also produced formidable works in the Qing years. A number of prominent Han Chinese intellectuals from the Ming-Qing transition era refused to sit for the Manchu civil service examinations, devoting their lives instead to scholarship. These included Huang Zongxi (1610–95), author of Mingyi daifang lu (A Plan for the Prince), a sharp critique of autocratic government, and Ming Ru xue an (Case Studies of Ming Confucians); Gu Yanwu (1613–81), author of Ri zhi lu (Record of Knowledge Acquired Daily); and Wang Fuzhi (1619–92), sharply anti-Manchu author of Du Tongjian lun (On Reading the “Zizhi tongjian”) and Song lun (On Reading the History of the Song Dynasty).  7
The Cheng-Zhu school of Neo-Confucianism remained state orthodoxy for the civil service examinations in Qing, and the widespread nonconformity of thought in the late Ming came under serious attack by early Qing thinkers, some even blaming it for the decline and collapse of the dynasty. The fall of Ming led many intellectuals into deep introspection.  8
The principal intellectual movement of the 17th and especially the 18th century was the kaozheng (textual critical) movement. It represented an effort to establish through rigorous methods the authenticity of the classical cannon; it represented as well a turn away from the more speculative thinking of Song and Ming times. The kaozheng movement was also known as the Han Learning movement, because it harked back to Han-period styles of textual scholarly research. In addition to Gu Yanwu, one of the founders of the movement, important kaozheng scholars would include Xu Qianxue (1631–94), who brought together 480 volumes of the best of classical commentaries in his Tongzhi tang jingjie (Exegeses of the Classics from the Tongzhi Hall); Mei Wending (1633–1721), a famous mathematician; Yan Ruoju (1636–1704), a scholar of the Great Learning, Mencius, and especially the Book of History, the old text version of which he showed to be spurious; Cui Shu (1740–1816), who independently came to similar conclusions about the old text Book of History; Dai Zhen (1724–77), a great philosopher in his own right and a philologist who wrote a penetrating study of the language of the Mencius; and Duan Yucai (1735–1815), Wang Mingsheng (1722–97), Qian Daxin (1728–1804), and many others. Bi Yuan (1730–97) compiled a supplement to the general history of China by Sima Guang of the Song. Zhang Xuecheng (1738–1801) wrote philosophically about history in his great Wenshi tongyi (Comprehensive Explanation of Literature and History); he argued that “the Six Classics are all history.” (See China, 1796–1914)  9
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.