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Qing Manchu Dynasty (1644-1912; 1917)

The Empire of the Great Qing was the last of the great Imperial Chinese Dynasties.

5. Background and Initial Formation

The Empire of the Great Qing was the last of the great Imperial Chinese Dynasties. The Qing emperors were Manchurians, and descended from the horsemen of the Manchu nation. These horsemen were headed by the Giorio clan, who took advantage of the disorganized Ming Dynasty in its own last years of power. The Gorio clan ruled Nurhaci, which was just a Ming vassal state at that time. The Gorio clan organized fellow clans to unite under their leadership, and formed the nation of Manchuria. Serious trouble began for the Mings when a Manchurian prince initiated a rebellion in Liaodong. After a Chinese peasant revolt against the Mings, a Chinese general assisted by the Manchus defeated the rebel peasants, and subsequently established the Qing Dynasty in Beijing.

4. Rise To Power And Accomplishments

Although the Qing Dynasty established its rule in 1644 in Beijing, it was not until 1683 that the Qing gained total control of China. Prince Dorgon began the conquest, and the Kangxi Emperor completed this task. The Qing ruled China for close to three centuries. They annexed Tibet, Taiwan, parts of Siberia, and parts of Central Asia to push China's borders ever further. Mongolia was also annexed upon the defeat of its ruler, Galgan. The Qing rulers retained the Confucian way of the Mings to integrate the Han people into their rule. It was at this time that the present territory of China was expanded and retained.

3. Challenges and Controversies

The Manchurian dynastic leaders ruled China with a strong grip, but adapted Confucian ethics in dealing with the Han Chinese. During the first half of Qing rule, China was well into a new age but, as Emperor Qianlong reigned, things went into a tailspin. A fiscal crisis set in as a result of low taxes and revenues, and this was made worse by the corruption that beset the empire. The emperor refused to give audience to the British diplomat Lord Macartney because Macartney refused to bend to his wishes. The Opium War was another trying time of the Qing era, which resulted in many Chinese ports coming under foreign control. Meanwhile, small rebellions began throughout China, and rulers stagnated the nation by way of their traditionalist mindsets.

2. Decline and Collapse

As more civil unrest developed in China in the early part of the 20th Century, new policies were introduced to appease the masses. The Empress Dowager Cixi instituted the “Late Qing Reform”, which included dropping the imperial examinations for government employees, and a new educational system was put into place. In 1908, the Empress Dowager died and left Puyi, her two-year-old nephew, as successor, with Zaifeng as his regent. A government personnel reshuffling followed that resulted in the 1911 Wuchang Uprising. This event, in turn, led to the establishment of the Chinese republic under Sun Yat Sen. Province after province then freed themselves from Qing control. These events eventually led to the abdication of the last emperor of China on February 12th, 1912.

1. Historical Significance and Legacy

The Boxer Rebellion and the Taiping Rebellion presaged the fall of the Qing Dynasty. Mao Zedong later wrote of the two events, asking whether China invaded foreign countries and instigated rebellion, or was it the exact opposite? The Qing Dynasty ended and left a legacy of a China devastated by poverty and war. China became a subject to several countries in the process. This lesson learned in such a harsh manner today stays in the mind of the Chinese nation. Other legacies that resulted from the Qing rulers' ignorance of world diplomacy are that of lost opportunity in the South China Sea and a century of military defeats, as well as overpopulation and a corrupted political culture. The persecution of the southern Han Chinese under the Qing was what led many of them to emigrate abroad. The annexation of Tibet was achieved during the Qing Manchu rule as well, and the persecution of those who follow the Tibetan Buddhism faith continues even into modern China under communist rule.

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