Qing Dynaty introduction

Qing DynastyBefore the establishment of the Qing Dynasty, there was a regime called 'Latter Jin' that had been set up by Nurhachu, leader of the Man Ethnic Minority. Actually, Man people were the offspring of the Nuzhen people who had always been living in Northeast China. After reunifying all the Nuzhen tribes, Nurhachu proclaimed himself emperor in 1616. Thus a new regime called Latter Jin was founded in Hetu Ala (in current Liaoning Province) during the reign of Emperor Shenzong of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644)..

 

In 1636, Huang Taiji, son of Nurhachu moved the capital to Shenyang (currently the capital city of Liaoning Province) and changed the regime title into 'Qing'. He thus established the Qing Dynasty. In 1644 when peasant's uprising leader Li Zicheng ended the Ming Dynasty and set up a new regime in Beijing, the Qing army seduced a general named Wu Sangui to rebel against Li Zicheng. With Wu's help, the Qing army successfully captured Beijing and rooted their regime there.

 

Formation of the Manchu State

The Dynasty was founded not by the Han who form the majority of the Chinese population, but the Manchus, who are today an ethnic minority of China. The Manchus are descended from Jurchens, a Tungusic people who lived around the region now comprising the Chinese provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang. What was to become the Manchu state was founded by Nurhaci, the chieftain of a minor Jurchen tribe in Jianzhou, in the early 17th century. Originally a vassal of the Ming emperors, Nurhaci in 1582 embarked on an inter-tribal feud that escalated into a campaign to unify the Jianzhou Jurchen tribes. By 1616 he had sufficiently consolidated Jianzhou region to proclaim himself khan of "Great Jin" in reference to the previous Jurchen dynasty. Historians refer to this pre-Qing entity as "Later Jin" to distinguish it from the first Jin Dynasty. Two years later Nurhaci announced Seven Grievances and openly renounced the sovereignty of Ming overlordship in order to complete the unification of those Jurchen tribes still allied with the Ming emperor. After a series of successful battles he relocated his capital from Hetu Ala to successively bigger captured Ming cities in the province of Liaodong, first Liaoyang (Man: dergi hecen) in 1621 and again in 1625 to Shenyang; Man: Mukden1.png Mukden).

Claiming the Mandate of Heaven

Hung Taiji died suddenly in September 1643 without a designated heir. Because Jurchens had traditionally "elected" their leader through a council of nobles, the Qing state did not have in place a clear succession system until the reign of Emperor Kangxi. The leading contenders for power at this time were Hung Taiji’s eldest son Hooge and Hung Taiji’s agnate half brother Dorgon. In the ensuing political impasse between two bitter political rivals a compromise candidate in the person of Hung Taiji’s five-year-old son Fulin was installed as Emperor Shunzhi, with Dorgon as regent and de facto leader of the Manchu nation. The Manchus' nemesis, the Ming Dynasty, was fighting for its own survival against a long peasant rebellion and was unable to capitalise on the Qing court’s political uncertainty over the succession dispute and installation of a minor as Emperor. The Ming Dynasty's internal crisis came to a head in April 1644, when the capital at modern day Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a minor Ming official turned leader of the peasant revolt. The last Ming, Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide when the city fell, marking the official end of the dynasty.

 

Kangxi emperor and consolidation

At sixty one years, Kangxi had the longest reign of any Chinese Emperor. But more importantly, apart from its length, Kangxi’s reign is also celebrated as the beginning of an era called "Kang-Qian Golden Age" , also known as "High Qing", during which the Qing Dynasty reached the zenith of its social, economic and military power.Kangxi’s long reign started when he was eight years old upon the untimely demise of his father. In order to prevent a repeat of Dorgon's dictatorial monopolizing of imperial powers during the period of regency, Emperor Shunzhi on his deathbed hastily appointed four senior cabinet ministers to govern on behalf of his young son. The four ministers—Sonin, Ebilun, Suksaha, and Oboi—were chosen for their long service to the emperor, but also to counteract each others' influences.

 

Most importantly, the four were not closely related to the imperial family and laid no claim to the throne. However as time passed, through chance and machination, Oboi—the most junior of the four ministers—was able to achieve political dominance to such an extent as to become a potential threat to the crown. Even though Oboi's loyalty was never an issue, his personal arrogance and political conservatism led him to come into ever escalating conflict with the young Emperor. In 1669 Kangxi, through trickery, disarmed and imprisoned Oboi—a not insignificant victory for the fifteen-year-old Emperor, as Oboi was not only a wily old politician but also an experienced military commander.

 

Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors

After the Kangxi Emperor's death in the winter of 1722, his fourth son Prince Yong ucceeded him as the Yongzheng Emperor. Yongzheng remained a controversial character because of rumours about him usurping the throne, and in the late Kangxi years, he was involved in great political struggles with his brothers. Yongzheng was a hardworking administrator who ruled with an iron hand. His first big step towards a stronger regime came when he brought the State Examination System back to its original standards. In 1724, he cracked down on illegal exchange rates of coins, which was being manipulated by officials to fit their financial needs. Those who were found in violation of new laws on finances were removed from office, or in extreme cases, executed.

Decline of Qing Dynasty

A common view of 19th-century China is that it was an era in which Qing control weakened and prosperity diminished. Indeed, China suffered massive social strife, economic stagnation and explosive population growth which placed an increasing strain on the food supply. Historians offer various explanations for these events, but the basic idea is that Qing power was, over the course of the century, faced with internal problems and natural disasters which were simply too much for the antiquated Chinese government, bureaucracy, and economy to deal with.

 

The Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century was the first major instance of anti-Manchu sentiment threatening the stability of the Qing dynasty, which significantly weakened the power of the Qing Dynasty. Hong Xiuquan, a failed civil service candidate, led the Taiping Rebellion, amid widespread social unrest and worsening famine. In 1851 Hong Xiuquan and others launched an uprising in Guizhou Province, established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom with himself as king, claiming he often had visions of God and was the brother of Christ. Slavery, concubinage, arranged marriage, opium smoking, footbinding, judicial torture, and the worship of idols were all banned. However, success and subsequent authority and power led to internal feuds, defections and corruption. In addition, British and French troops, equipped with modern weapons, had come to the assistance of the Qing imperial army.

 

It was not until 1864 that Qing army succeeded in crushing the revolt. The rebellion not only posed the most serious threat towards Qing rulers; it was also "the costliest (human life) civil war in history and second bloodiest war of any kind, being only exceeded in casualities by WW II. Between 20 and 30 million people died during its fourteen-year course from 1850 to 1864." After the outbreak of this rebellion, there were also revolts by the Muslims and the Miao people of China against the Qing Dynasty, most notably in the Dungan revolt (1862–1877) in the northwest and the Panthay rebellion (1856–1873) in Yunnan.