After several hundred years of rule, the Ming Dynasty eventually declined and was overthrown by the Qing Dynasty. The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty to rule China. The Qing rulers were foreign invaders from the north called the Manchu. They took advantage of the chaos in China at the end of the Ming Dynasty to invade and take control of the government.
The first Qing Emperors were hated as foreign conquerors by the Chinese. The Qing Emperor believed Manchu culture to be superior to Chinese culture. He seized Chinese lands and gave them to Manchu princes. He also required Chinese men to wear their hair in the Manchu style – as a long, braided pigtail. Imagine the president of the United States requiring everyone to shave their hair into a Mohawk. That’s what the Manchu Emperor did.
Later Qing emperors realized that they could not ruler over a people who hated them for very long. They began to relax their treatment of the Chinese and began returning land to them. They also began appointing many Chinese people to high government positions.
The “Ocean Devils” The Qing Dynasty ruled during the period of time known as the Age of Imperialism, when Western nations enforced their economic and political goals through the use of armed might. China, which wanted to maintain its independence and authority, came into conflict with European powers during this time.
China and Europe began their relations off on a bad foot. When Portuguese traders first reached China during the Ming Dynasty, they were given access to Chinese markets. However, they soon began to attack and rob Chinese vessels. The Chinese began to call Europeans “the Ocean Devils” to reflect how they viewed the foreign “barbarians.”
Describe the Opium Wars
How was the relationship between Confucianism and Christianity tainted?
By the 19th century, European and Chinese relations had even reached open conflict. Tired of the amounts of silver flowing into China from the purchase of Chinese exports, Britain began engaging with the opium trade to recoup money from China. Opium is a highly addictive drug. China outlawed the drug, but the British kept selling it anyway. In March, 1839, China decided to end the opium trade by raiding British warehouse and destroying the opium stored there. Britain used this action to then declare war on China. Imagine – a nation declaring war on another nation for essentially interfering with their illegal drug ring. In 1840, a British navy invaded China and vastly overwhelmed the Chinese forces. China’s military was not match for British steel-plated, steam-powered warships or British muskets. The Chinese were eventually forced to surrender and had to agree to British terms.
Events such as the Opium War illustrate the relationship between China and the West during this time. Both cultures sought to assert their dominance and superiority, but China was unable to compete with the military and technological superiority of the “Ocean Devils.”
The Qing and Christianity Christian missionaries had been banned in China since the 7th century. However, in the 16th century, Catholic Jesuits were allowed to operate in China. The Jesuits were tolerant of Chinese culture and worked peacefully. Jesuit missionaries allowed their Christian converts to also practice their native Confucianism. Jesuits viewed Confucianism as a philosophy compatible with Christianity.
However, the Pope eventually received reports that the Jesuits were promoting Confucianism. He passed an edict condemning Confucianism and banning Chinese Christians from practicing any Confucian practices. The Qing Emperor then banned Christianity as a result of this offense against Confucianism. Christian missionaries were exiled and Christianity died out in China.