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Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911)

Porcelain figures of Qing Dynasty, Ancient Ming and Qing Streets, Pingyao, Shanxi

As the last feudal dynasty in Chinese history drew to a close, the Qing Dynasty was established by the Manchu People (Nuzhen People). It lasted 268 years, having altogether 11 emperors in addition to the ruling Emperor Taizong Huang Taiji in Shenyang.


In the later times of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), there appeared an eminent leader named Nurhachi. Under his rule, the Nuzhen people developed quickly. In 1616, Nurhachi established Later Jin Dynasty in Hetuala (Xinbin County of Fushun Municipality today), and broke away from the Ming Dynasty. Although the Ming Dynasty had frequently sent troops to attack the Later Jin Dynasty, all attacks ended in failure. In the spring of 1625, Nurhachi decided to move the capital to Shenyang in spite of the opposition of many Beiles (prince of a commandery or prince of the second rank) and senior ministers. In 1636, Huang Taiji, son of Nurhachi, changed the state title into 'Qing' in Shenyang, and then began to attack the Ming Dynasty. In 1644, Li Zicheng, a leader of a peasants uprising near the end of the Ming Dynasty, captured Beijing; and Wu Sangui, commander of Shanhai Pass, brought the Qing army through the pass in the name of avenging the Ming emperor. At that time, Huang Taiji had died, and his son Fulin, Emperor Shizu of the Qing Dynasty, captured Beijing in May of 1644 with the assistance of Prince Regent Duoergun. Four months later, the Qing Dynasty moved the capital to Beijing, and began its sovereign in Shanhaiguan Pass.


During the rule of Emperor Shizu, he was mainly occupied with eradicating the remainders of the Ming Dynasty. After 18 years on the throne, Wu Sangui lead an army to once and for all have the last forces of the Ming Dynasty eliminated, thus the Qing Dynasty actually reunified China. Wu Sangui, Geng Zhongming and Shang Kexi, the surrendered generals from the Ming Dynasty, were ennobled as feudal princes of Yunnan, Fujian and Guangdong for their contributions towards destroying the remnants of the Ming Dynasty.


 Heyday from Kangxi to Qianlong's Reign
In 1662, Emperor Shunzhi died, and his son Xuanye ascended the throne under the assistance of Ao Bai, Suo Ni and Suke Saha, with the reign title of 'Kangxi'. Emperor Kangxi was one of the outstanding emperors in Chinese history. The Qing Dynasty developed quickly during his 60-year ruling period. In Emperor Kangxi's early years, the state power was in the helm of those regents, among whom Ao Bai's force was the strongest. At the age of 16 years old, Emperor Kangxi succeeded in getting rid of Ao Bai as well as his party and began to deal with state affairs personally in 1670. After grasping the state power, Emperor Kangxi pacified the rebellions of the 'three vassals', the Zhungeer tribe and the Tibet people. He also had the Zheng family of Taiwan submit to him. In addition, he beat back the attack of the Russian army in northeastern China, and signed a contract named the Sino-Russian Treaty of Nibuchu. By doing so, the sovereign of the Qing Dynasty was strengthened. Economically, Emperor Kangxi abolished the 'Land Enclosuring' system practiced since the Qing Dynasty entered Beijing, encouraged reclaiming wasteland, constructed irrigation projects, reduced the common people's taxes, and let every peasant have his land. His measures rapidly sped up the development of China's agriculture greatly.


After Emperor Kangxi, his successor Emperor Yongzheng was also a wise emperor of the Qing Dynasty. He had also been on the throne for 60 years, during which the Qing Dynasty continued to develop prosperously. Based on the sovereign of Emperor Yongzheng, Emperor Qianlong took some effective measures to further develop the social economy. At the same time, to steady the sovereign over the minority groups, Emperor Qianlong strengthened the relations between Qing Dynasty, the Mongolian people and Hui minority people by making Chengde Mountain Resort as Xanadu.


During the reign of Emperor Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, people's lives were greatly improved, and the Qing Dynasty reached its pinnacle in history appropriately named 'Heyday of Kangxi Qianlong'.


 Decline of the Qing Dynasty
After Emperor Qianlong, the Qing Dynasty gradually declined. The later successors Emperor Jiaqing and Daoguang didn't have the enterprising spirit, and they just kept reusing the old policies to continue their sovereign. From Emperor Daoguang's rule in 1812, some western countries had started to invade China's economic markets. They opened the door to China using opium which poisoned countless Chinese people and created a large outflow of silver. To solve the problem, Emperor Daoguang appointed Lin Zexu as Prime Minister to take charge of banning opium-smoking and opium trade in Guangdong province. After coming to Guangzhou, Lin Zexu cracked down the tobacconists and confiscated over two million tons of opium. He then publicly destroyed all the opium on the beach of Humen. It was known as 'Destruction of opium in Humen'.


In 1840, Britain started the first opium war against China, and forced the Qing Dynasty to sign the first of many unequal treaties with them beginning with the 'Nanjing Treaty'. Learning from Britain, France and America also forced the Qing Dynasty to sign another two unequal treaties called the Treaty of Whampoa and Treaty of Wanghia. Thereafter, the door to China was forced open by the great western powers.


In 1851, Emperor Xianfeng came to the throne, and the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom revolted at the same year. Hong Xiuquan, leader of the Taiping army, rose in Jintian Village of Guiping County, Guangxi Province in the name of 'God Worshippers'. Two years after that, the Taiping army captured Hanyang (Hanyang District of Wuhan), Yuezhou (Yueyang City), Hankou (Hankou District of Wuhan, Nanjing and several other important southern towns. In 1856, Hong Xiuquan shaped the government system and established Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, making Nanjing as the capital. However, because of the internal split and the suppression of the Qing Dynasty, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom came to its doom day quickly in 1846.


From 1856 to 1860, Britain, France and some other western courtiers launched the second opium war against China. During the war, the united force of Britain and France captured and burnt the Old Summer Palace, an imperial royal summer resort. At the same time, the Qing Dynasty was forced to sign several other unequal treaties with the great western powers again, through which China's important trading ports were further opened and a large area of land was ceded.


In 1862, Emperor Xianfeng died of illnesses, and Prince Zaichun took over the throne, who was also known as Emperor Tongzhi. Empress Dowager Cixi killed Su Zhun and other regents, and began her nearly half a century's reign behind a curtain. During that period of time, China was defeated by France and Japan in succession, and forced to sign some other unequal treaties. Especially after the failure of the Sino-Japanese War, the signing of Treaty of Shimonoseki made China cede the island of Taiwan and pay a large amount of money to Japan to cover their military costs.


Following Emperor Tongzhi, the state power was still at the helm of Empress Dowager Cixi when Emperor Guangxu came to the throne. In 1898, Emperor Guangxu prepared to carry out capitalist reforms in China, attempting to improve China's backward situation. He accepted the advice of Kang Youwei and Lian Qichao and announced to change the systems in the hope of enriching and strengthening the state. But the reform only lasted for 103 days because of the hindrance caused by Empress Dowager Cixi and some trusted senior ministers. It was historically named 'Hundred Days' Reform'.


After the failure of the reform, the united forces of eight countries–Britain, America, France, Russia, Japan, German, Italy and Australia started another war against China, and captured Beijing. Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu escaped out of Beijing in a hurry. In the end, China signed Xinchou Treaty with the eight countries, according to which China had to open more trading ports, cede land and pay costs to them.


 Fall of the Qing Dynasty
With the decline of the Qing Dynasty, more and more patriots began to organize together in order to overthrow Qing Dynasty throughout China, among whom Dr. Sun Yat-sen's 'Revolutionary United Society of China' was the most influential one. In 1911, the Wuchang Uprising broke out. Two months later, over ten provinces of China declared independence, which caused the Qing Dynasty to disintegrate quickly. On January 1st of 1912, the Republic of China was established in Nanjing, and Sun Yat-sin was elected as the temporary president. Then, on 12th of February of the same year, Emperor Fuyi was forced to abdicate, which indicated the end of the Qing Dynasty.

I want to say
  • ReplyAshley
    2013/1/6 15:48:00

    Does anyone know how the people live during the begnnning and middle stages of the qing dynasty?

    • Judy :2013/1/6 18:52:00

      There were corruptions in the government, so th ecommon people were living a life of hardship and poverty.

    • Joyce :2014/8/5 4:34:00

      Actually YongZheng ruled China for only 13 years before he vomited blood and died due to work exhaustion. His father Kangxi and his son Qianlong were the longest reigning emperors ruling China for 60 years each.

    • Joyce :2014/8/5 4:40:00

      Well obviously during those times there was no electricity so nights must have been miserable. The emperors, especially Yong Zheng had to work very hard, often reading and correcting documents right into the middle of the night. There was also fierce coercion by the emperor's siblings for him to step down as everyone wanted to usurp his throne.

    • Joyce :2014/8/5 4:51:00

      When Tongzhi (Cixi's biological son) came of age to rule China, Cixi was unwilling to give up the power that she had been enjoying for so long. It was rumoured that she encouraged Tongzhi to seek the pleasure of prostitutes when his wife became pregnant. He contracted some sexual disease and subsequently died. After he died, his wife's murder was also planned by Cixi as she was afraid that her daughter-in-law might give birth to a son who will then become the rightful emperor eventually. Cixi eventually forcefully took her nephew (her sister's son) to the palace and made him emperor (Guangxu) and continued a tight reign over him until her death followed his a day later after many decades. In fact, scientists have discovered that Guangxu was fed arsenic during his lifetime by Cixi in small amounts everyday, of course without his knowledge.

  • Replytyrone,   United States
    2012/11/14 10:47:00

    did kangxi have any downfalls in his rule.

  • Replymisskate
    2012/9/6 3:00:00

    what did a normal woman's day usually consist of?

    • Nancy :2012/9/6 18:50:00

      i guess chores took large part of their life, like washing, cooking and feeding the poultry.

  • Replymichael qiao,   Australia
    2011/5/5 6:13:00

    what was the daily life of a normal person in the qing dynasty?

    • Jack :2011/5/5 22:56:00

      At that time, men were working outside to earn money to surpport the whole family, while women were stay at home doing houseworks.

  • ReplyLynn Ji,   United States
    2011/4/14 9:18:00

    This is an awesomely detailed site!

  • Replykeith redmon,   United States
    2011/2/3 15:27:00

    Thank you for helping me out with my school project it helped me out tremendously! lol

  • Replyhistoryrocks
    2009/8/13 3:43:00

    Emperor Yongzheng ruled for 13 years not 60 years and Emperor Kangxi was too young so his control over the empire was fulfilled by 4 guardians not 3