Table of Contents The Manchus and the Qing athe Qing Vision of Empire Historical overview

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The Manchus and the Qing

AThe Qing Vision of Empire

Historical overview

In the early 17th century, a peasant revolt led by Li Zizheng started in central China and gained a lot of support against the Ming dynasty while starting to press on towards Beijing.

Meanwhile, the Jurchen state north of Ming, the Jin dynasty, has become powerful. Not just on its own means, but through diplomatic ties with the Eastern Mongols as well. They invaded Korea, which led to a greater prestige of the Jin Emperor Nurhaci. His son, Hong Taiji, was approached by the Ming to form an alliance against the rebel army under Li Zizheng. The Jin agreed and after a great battle near Beijing the rebels were repelled. The Manchus marched into Beijing and became masters of the Empire. There was a lot of resistance, but the Manchus asserted their rule by a strong show of force, sometimes slaughtering entire cities to make their point.

1Patterns of Alien rule

What were the Manchu’s ideas when they rose to empire. Some typical features of the “Conquest Dynasty”. From the beginning of China, one of the great challenges has been the relations with the north. Similar to Rome or Persia where “Barbarians” were a problem.

The northern – Inner-Asian – frontier was the most important border of China. Inner Asia = Manchuria, Mongolia, Eastern Turkestan, Tibet. These areas are culturally very different from each other and from China. All of them had cavalry forces. However, they were becoming more and more involved with Chinese culture and history.

Liao, Jin and Yuan dynasties were founded by non-Chinese peoples. All these states were multi-ethnic states. Territories contained China and other ethnicities.

These dynasties had a great impact on institutions, food, dress, literature, etc. The Qing have to be seen as another conquest dynasty (China was ruled by conquest dynasties over 800 of the last 1100 years).

Conquest Dynasties: what do they have in common? Minority rule: Khitan, Jurchen, Mongol or Manchu dynasties were minorities. Military rule was not feasible, therefore a form of civilian government had to be found with the help of the literati.

Many people disputed that non-Han had the right to empire. All rulers had to make compromises and share power with the Han elite. This was against natural inclinations of the invaders. Natural tension within the dynasty.

There are structural similarities: greater tolerance for variation and heterogeneity. Martiality (always ready for war and fight), polyethnicity (not just Chinese, but multiple options), multilinguality (always a number of languages in common use: official and popular levels, even in writing and all around; conquest dynasties = translation dynasties), administrative promiscuity (differentiated legal systems for groups or regions, several capitals simultaneously, legacy of nomadic heritage).

2The Rise of the Manchus

aWho were the Manchus?

Manchus were founders of the Qing dynasty, successors of the Khitans, Jurchens and Mongols, probably descendants of the Jurchens. The Manchus thought of themselves as the successors of the these earlier conquest dynasties.

Their empire led directly to the creation of modern China. So who were they?

They came from what is now North-East China. Direct descendents of the Jin, ethnically Tungusic, speaking a language related to Mongolian and Turkish. Practices a shamanic religion, they were NO nomads, thus different from the other conquest dynasties.

The Jurchens in the region were ruled by the Ming after the fall of the Yuan. The region was under military administration during Ming. There were embassies of the Jurchen in Beijing. Some Chinese supervising officials in Manchuria to avoid rivalry between the groups continued, so to avoid them joining up. This worked until the end of the 16th century.

bOrigin stories

How did the Manchus see themselves? They thought (the clan of the ruling family) tracing back to Bukuri Yongson in the mountains separating China from Korea. His mother was a heavenly maiden who found a magical red fruit which on its own accord jumped into her stomach and she was pregnant. Bukuri had supernatural powers. She pushed him off in a boat down the stream to bring peace to the people downriver in Odoli.

They built a chair for him to carry him to the village and he was proclaimed their prince. He and his descendents ruled for a long time, leading to a rebellion when all clan members were killed, except for Fanca, a young boy. He miraculously got away and became the ancestor of the founders of the Manchu dynasty.

cWhat’s in a myth?

Such a myth forms a group identity: the Manchus have a supernatural ancestor able tob ring peace to a group of people in trouble. Located high up in the mountains. After the founding of the Qing the mountains were charted and entered into literature. Important marker of Manchu identity.

Fanca is a historic person who led his people to Hetu Ala, where the Qin began its development. His descendents were indeed the Qing’s founders. Jianzhou Jurchens had different groups, Fanca pleged loyalty to the Ming emperor. In 1574, Ming forces were needed to clear claims and this led to Giocangga and son Taksi to become the preeminent Jurchen leaders. In 1582, The two were killed in action by their Ming allies (accident?). The left Jianzhou, Taksi’s son emerged as the strongest figure and all Jurchen and some Mongols formed a single entity. His name was Nurhaci, ancestor of the Manchu and founder of the Qing dynasty.


When he succeeded in 1582, Nurhaci was 24 years old. His leadership and charisma brought him chance. He became strong and rich enough to build a walled city. Warfare occupied him for the nex t 20 years. Alliances (marrying off his daughters), military engagement, Trade (ginseng). By 1590 he had 15.000 men strong army.

1607, he won his first allies with the Eastern Mongols, he was called Khan – prestige in the Inner Asian world. He combined all the Jurchens and more Mongols, even Han Chinese. By 1600, there was a script for the Manchu language. He had reorganised the army into the Eight Banners, distinguished by colour and ethnicity. The banners became the foundation of the Qing military. They are based on hunting companies, so-called Arrows, which grouped together formed a banner. They were under the control of the Khan or his relatives.

In 1644, Qing started to take control over China. The Banners also controlled social life as an institution, that survived until 1924!

Nurhaci was loyal to the Ming until 1610, but in 1616 he rejected his status as a Ming subject. He wanted to establish a Latter Jin state. 1618, he issued 7 grievances against the Ming, explaining why he took up against the Ming. 1619, he engaged the Ming in Sarhu and won. From then on, Nurhaci became very important. He controlled the northeast and reformed it as the Jin state, which he ruled until he died in 1626. His son, Hong Taiji took over.

3The Creation of the Manchu State

After Nurhaci died, under his 8th son, Hong Taiji the expansion continued. He was the only literate child. He was NOT the eighth son, in Inne Asia the leadership went to th most qualified, not necessarily the first son. Distinct political tradition. One of reasons why capable men were often rulers in Qing.

He had different challenges from Nurhaci. He brought about 1 million Chinese under his control: need for civil government and rising ethnic tension.

For th first 10 years, he did not have the capacity to bring down Ming fortresses, but he also needed to consolidate frontiers to east and west. There are lots of institutional changes to bring these thinks into order to eventually take over China

Jurchen state became more bureaucratic, less feudal. He expanded administration on the Chinese model. Systematic records, Chinese advisors.

Some of these institutions NOT on Chinese models: Secretariat, historical office and literary office (translation into Manchu), linguistic reforms to deal with new Chinese words in Manchu.

Office of Mongol affairs (incl. Tibetans).

He also renamed his people and his state: 1635: Jurchen > Manchu. Covering up old tribal rivalries. Similar to Temüjin. 1636: Latter Jin > Great Qing = Da Qing country. He was not another Jin dynasty, but greater ambitions. The meaning of Manchu is unclear. Great Qing in Chinese means PURE. The water radical in the name was chosen to extinguish the fire element in Ming. Daicing = warrior in Mongol and Manchu. This was a signal for further developments. Growing imperial vision of Hog Taiji.

4The Creation of the Qing State

Hong Taiji’s time was indicated by consolidatin of institutions and military expansion at all sides (Korea, Mongols, Jurchens). By 1640, most of those problems were resolved. Artillery was now also an option through Chinese cannon masters.

At this time, the Daiqing Gurun was starting to take on Ming itselfs. Hog Taiji died in 1643, and was succeeded by someone chosen by the ruling clans. How would be most qualified? A son of Hong Taiji, named Fulin, was made new Khan at the age of 5. Dorgon, Hong Taiji’s brother became regent until Fulin, the Shunzhi emperor, were to come of age. Dorgon negotiated with Wu Sangui, the Ming general, persuading Wu to open the gates to Qing troops, starting off the conquest of China in earnest.

BHearts and Minds

1Conquest and consolidation

1644-1683: period of consolidation and upheaval. Battle for Beijing started the period of consolidation. Suicide of the Ming emperor, court fled to the South and reconsolidated. Li Zicheng could not hold Beijing as the general Wu Sangui made a deal with the Manchus (Dorgon). They suppressed the rebellion and then established their own dynasty.

Qing’s armies pushed Li’s army out, he returned to Beijing and had himself enthroned, but when Qing arrived, they made a statement:

The conquest was not a sure thing, they were outnumbered and it took a year before they managed to catch and kill Li Zizheng. Early 1645, Qing had crossed the yellow river, most localities submitted, but not all: Yangzhou and Nanjing and Hangzhou fell soon after. The south was different: coearcion, ideology and collaboration.

The last refugees from Ming had escaped to Burma, Southern Ming dynasty, until 1661, when Wu Sangui was captured and executed. Another group of Qing loyalists, under Zheng Chenggong, Koxinga, had earlier onmoved to Taiwan, expelled the Dutch, and taken over the maritime network. Relying on this network, Zheng made a lot of money and became influential. It took the Qing a massive blockade and their entire navy to finally defeat the Zhengs and take Taiwan in 1683. = first inclusion of Taiwan into Chinese territory.

2Resistance and Withdrawal

The rise of Manchu was a huge and violent surprise. This needed an intellectual adjustment: do we support or resist or remain neutral. Most people had a simple choice, but some did not want to surrender.

One of the things was an order to cut their hair in a specific way: the queue was a visible sign of submission to Manchu rule. Front half shaved clean, back half gathered into a braid. Manchus could tell by a glance who supported them. Difficult to change sides as well.

Lots of resistance, because it violated filial association = respect for the body. Chinese style: gathering the hare in a ji (bun) on top.

Most people chose to lose their hair. This was the prominent hairstyle for the remainder of the Imperial Period.

What about those who would not follow Ming nor Qing? Retreat into a Monastery? How can we tell about their loyalties? Poetry and Art give a good indication. Lots of artist use symbols of withdrawal from the world: lone trees, desolate scenes, uprooted or isolated travellers, abstract images.

Bada Shanren is one of the most famous: fish and birds are often depicted: fish is homonym for remainder or leftover. Often without background, increasing the impression of displacement and loss.

3The Problem of Legitimacy

For the Manchus, the success formed major challenges: chasing rebels and finding Ming heirs was easy. To make it as a dynasty, they had to get supported by the literati and the gentry. Otherwise: no control, no taxes. They had to be persuaded of the Manchu’s legitimacy. They managed, but their barbarian origins remained an issue to the end of the empire.

The rules of Chinese politics were clear to the Manchus. They had to convince everyone that they had gained jian ming, heaven’s mandate. They had to bring peace, but also assume imperial orthodoxy, become a champion of Confucian virtue.

The early Qing emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors knew about this important fact and made sure to strike the right poses at the right time, especially Kangxi Emperor. Kangxi’s proclamation of the Sacred Edict. 16 Maxims with Confucian values: filial piety, brotherly love, propriety, customs and accepting the station in life in order to stabilize the minds of all. Ideological education.

Qing sponsored the History of the Ming Dynasty. This was the responsibility of the following dynasty. People did not like to take part of this, but the exam was not a success, many did not want to take part in the exam. 50 scolars were finally involved.

Composition of the complete library of the four treasuries was endeavoured a century later.

Qing rule was regarded as inferior to most Chinese, no transformation of social values, but a confirmation of these values = high degree of continuity of social and intellectual trends from Ming rule.

4The Limits of Success

There were challenges to the Qing due to ethnic prejudice and conflicted loyalties.

The Qing claim to the Mandate of Heaven created tension on a cultural and political level. Culturally, China was reserved for people who already ARE culturally and ethnically Chinese. Mencius refuses the possibility that “barbarians” could even change the proper ways of China, but they could be subservient to China. = non-Chinese could never properly rule over China, but it is proper for them to be subservient.

If Barbarians could be changed by doctrine, they could become Chinese, so they COULD hold the mandate of heaven. This means that China could be infinitely expanded. China is “following the Chinese way”. Manchu preferred this view of course.

Political level: “who is loyal to the ruler”? Loyalty is based on virtue. More virtue = more loyalty. Neo-Confucians: loyalty was not based on morals, but was absolute. Both view were supported by classic texts.

For some it was unthinkable to switch loyalty from the Ming emperor to the Qing rulers. Others said that he had lost the realm because his virtue was not strong enough: Qing had more virtue and should receive loyalty. Are those opportunists? There is no right or wrong answer, but the debate lasted for more than a generation. This ambivalence remained for at least 100 years. Resist or not, serve or not? This is the basis of the resistance in Jiading and Jiangyin, where 100.000 of people were killed. Yangzhou: Shi Kefa (the last upright man in the Ming) resisted and the massacre killed lots of people.

Most people went along with Manchu rule, and some stability was resulting. Lots of ambivalence, though. Clothing styles often depended on the social environment that one person might move in, at home they would wear Chinese, but outside Manchu, or the other way around.

5Reclusion, Rebellion and Restoration

The Qing accepted resistance, but they could not accept the challenge from Wu Sangui, the San-Fan rebellion (1673-1681), where the rebels managed to conquer about the southern half the country before the Qing could finally be defeated. This was the last major threat until nearly 200 years later, when the Taiping Rebellion started.

The suppression of the San-Fan Rebellion marked the final establishment of the Qing dynasty and the removal of the last major stumbling stone for the dynasty. Coming of Age of the dynasty.

Large parts of the country were not really conquered, but the administration was extended with the help of Chinese forces. These existed in three feudatories under Wu Sangui in Yunnan and Guizhou, Shang Kexi in Guangdong and Geng Jingzhong in Fujian province. Each was run like an independent fief receiving lots of silver every year = about a third of total tax revenue. Own bureaucracy, and large armies. Wu’s eldest son was kept as a hostage in Beijing. This was unstable and needed to be changed.

When Shang Kexi (and the others) wanted to step down and this was accepted for all. Wu Sangui then started his own rebellion again to found his own dynasty, bringing back Ming customs including hairstyles, 1673. This lost nearly all of southwest to the Qing. They sent their own armies to the south against the three feudatories. Wu Sangui died in 1678, succeeded by his son in Kunming, defeated in April 1681. This marks the end of Ming loyalism and the beginning of Qing loyalism. Only 40 years after Beijing conquest, Qing rule started to look permanent and acquired some authenticity.

CManchu Identity and the Meanings of Minority Rule

1The Problem of Manchu Identity

Consolidation through addressing the expectations: mandate of heaven, neo-Confucian ideology, retention of the traditional institutions (structure of tax system, examination system, bureaucracy, ritual sacrifices, etc). For the majority of the people, especially the gentry, this was very important.

However, the Manchu faced a specific problem: they were NOT Han Chinese, and were seen as aliens/barbarians. They tried to prove that they were NOT barbarians. They also felt that they needed to hold on to their own traditions and institutions – they had ensured their success in the first place. How to maintain their own identity.

All previous invaders had the same problem: think of the Normans in England – they ruled in a hybrid fashion for a long time. Turks in Constantinople. The success of that group is to maintain the integrity and hold on to power. This power also derived from adaptation and an understanding of the indigenous way of life. There was clearly tension and a balance needed to be found between Nativism and Cosmopolitanism. This was a constant in Qing rule.

Some of the first books translated to Manchu were the history of the Khitans, Mongols and Jurchen. They knew about earlier problems. E.G.: too much adaptation was a problem of the Jin. Yuan had conquered a lot, but they accommodated the Han way too little. Manchu: wanted to adapt more than the Mongols, without losing their identity like the Jurchens had.

Group identity as Manchu mattered a lot to them AND the Han Chinese – for them it was dangerous to talk about these things. The Manchu did not want to be considered lower in standing than their subjects.

2The Manchu Way

Over time, more and more members of the 8 banners started to admire the Chinese culture, language, philosophy, art. They became educated members of the literati class with similar education. Even outside that class, they adapted to the local way of the common man as well (tea houses, etc.).

The longer the Manchus were rulers, the more they adapted to China. What made a Manchu:

The court states a set of behaviours of Manchuness – the old ways: writing, shooting bow and arrow from a stand, shooting from horseback (different verbs!), being a soldier (only after that he was something else). Live a simple life, to be frugal, dress simply, not to indulge too much in excesses.

Being able to speak and read/write Manchu language. This is totally unrelated to Chinese (uncertain relation to other Altaic languages, but it is clear that it is related). Had a different script to start with. A lot of communication happened only in Manchu.

Braveness! Being hardy, able to take privations of long military campaigns.

All of these things constituted the old Manchu way. Even though they now led a much more comfortable way. This is one thing that will keep us separate from the Chinese and preserve our sense of self. This was most pronounced with the Emperor and family, and upper or mid-level bureaucrats. Even Chinese learned Manchu to gain good positions in the bureaucracy.

About 1/5 of the Qing documents were written in Manchu, not Chinese. These contained slightly different views on the world. A reading in both languages is needed to determine what is really meant by any rule.

There was a very tight network of relationships amongst the Manchu elite. Throughout the dynasty, a sense of distinction from the Chinese remained. Chinese feared the Manchu, they were comfortable amongst themselves, but as soon as a Manchu official appeared. This even at the end of the 18th century to the end of the Qing dynasty.

Many positions were reserved to Manchus and were closed to the Chinese. It was much easier for Manchu to make it high up in the bureaucracy based on military rank. They could enter sideways by being translation clerks = translation exams. This was a reason for Manchus to retain their Manchu knowledge.

Even lowly bannermen received a pension. He was a servant to the Emperor directly, subject to lighter penalties than others. When they were separate from Chinese, not even subject to Chinese laws. Parts of many cities contained Manchu parts that were separate from the Chinese citizens. Distinct architecture!

It was evident to Chinese that Manchu lords were different, especially the women had a very different hairdress, and did not bind their feet. They had more freedom than Chinese women and moved about the streets. Different earrings: three piercings.

Names were different: Chinese – surname, given name, Manchu – only one name with two, three or more syllables.

Different religion, they kept genealogies > succession to different posts in the banners. Many posts were determined by descent.

There was a very distinctive understanding of being different from the Chinese as well as the Manchu side of the population.

3Manchu Insecurity

This led to a new shape of Manchu identity, but also to a raising insecurity, a tension between Nativism and Cosmopolitanism. Also a tension between the large cities and the outlying garrisons.

They could also not shake the idea of being regarded as inferior by the majority of the Han Chinese. The Emperors have been particularly sensitive to this, especially the Kangxi Emperor (the Chinese should not make fun of me). Kangxi thought that the Han wanted to get rid of them.

Yongzheng Emperor wrote the record of great righteousness, a defence of Qing rule against the Han, as not being usurpers. He went as far as to use the classics to defend the Manchu rule. This was withdrawn by his son, the Qianlong Emperor.

Sensitivity in the writings of Qianlong Emperor: he collected all kinds of books that were showing no respect to the Manchu. It was easier to be Manchu, so the Chinese had reason to be unhappy. Life in the banners was a good life, closed to the Chinese.

This anti-Manchu resentment is growing towards the end of the dynasty, especially when Chinese nationalism took form. The Manchus were worried about this, and they tried to deal with it, all the while retaining that sense of difference.

4Acculturation and its Limits

Ethnic prejudice lasted to the end of the dynasy, and they were blamed for a lot of things at the end of their time. Why did they rule such a long time? Secret: they had assimilated and became just like the Chinese. The fact that they were Manchu was kind of forgotten > old Chinese idea: China can be conquered but then China will conquer the conquerors. Barbarians will always be absorbed and civilised.

There is something to this view, but there was also a sense of difference. They adopted a lot of Chinese ways, they abandoned their language for the most part by the 1800. They could no longer shoot and ride. They took up Chinese names and lost the emphasis on martial arts > painting and poetry. They became great champions of the Chinese culture, like many converts.

Not a lot of intermarriage, though.

Did they stop being Manchu, were they still Manchu by the end of the Qing? There is a lot of evidence of anti-Manchu sentiment. How could they be told apart? How was the difference preserved? How could they be perceived as different?

Aspects that did not conform to the court’s notions: they were in the banners (lived in garrisons, their interaction was limited to commerce, shamanic religion, religion were easily recognisable (headware, feet and shoes, piercings), economic and legal privileges). The Chinese they spoke was northern Chinese, not local dialects.

The court ideals of Manchu identity were not lived up to – but there remained a specific identity in the lives of ordinary bannermen and –women lived in the cities of China.

5Sinisization and its Discontents

The subject of ethnic identity and politics was of huge importance to the Manchus as well as the Han Chinese. Why hold on to native ways? Why assimilate?

Historical implications of sustaining the Manchu identity through the whole Qing dynasty.

Success: persuasiveness of complete assimilation, but still they could be easily distinguished. They only achieved partial assimilation. They succeeded because they did not completely assimilate. They maintained a balance between native identity and traditions and the ones associated with Chinese-ness.

They expanded the empire, of course. If they lived like the Chinese, why do we still think of them as Manchu? Ethnicity should be thought of as a social organisation of difference rather than something fixed at birth. You had to be born to be part of a banner. The principle was clear.

As context changes, ethnic identity and its meaning changes. This is typical for the whole world, over all time periods we can investigate. This is in direct contradiction to assertions we keep hearing.

Ethnicity is based on mutual understanding what someone is, not only by themselves, but also by the others around them. It’s a relative condition that seems to matter for historical or economic reasons.

They are also different as a group: the empire was not another Chinese dynasty, but the Qing was a distinct political creation, a hybrid of Chinese and Manchu traditions and ways of dealing with things. That aspect and the growth of the empire in the 18th century, the military expansion are what makes Qing different from the earlier barbarian dynasties.

DThe Scholars


The 18th century was a time of prosperity and population growth The borders were rebellious from Taiwan, to Vietnam to Kashgar. Tibet and Xinjiang was incorporated. Now it was an empire with many cultures The ruler tried to make himself a Manchu warrior, Chakravartin and Buddhist sage.

English visitors were impressed with splendour of the court. However, the population boom created problems in the country.

1The Scholars

Prosperous Suzhou scroll = 12 meters long. It’s a depiction of the whole city: after the Emperor’s southern tour, he wanted a scroll to remember the impressive city. The novel “The Scholars” = the unofficial history of te Confucians (set in Nanjing) written just decades before the creation of the scroll: focused on the literati and the examination system. Why put them together? Both of them claim to be windows on social life. “This is how life was in the middle of the 18th century”. One view what the city should look like, and one view of what society should look like: both are windows to these times.

2The Rise of the Novel and The Scholar

The Emperor rewarded Xu Yang with the rank of a provincial graduate. This is a degree that allowed him to become an official. He also could talk to all the literati of Suzhou. Wu Jingzi, the author of The Novel, never passed the exams. He moves to Nanjing, in the Ming dynasty. By 1740, the first novels are already more than 100 years old. People with money and desire for entertainment would buy novels. The Novel is a series of acts = it has grown out of the play/drama. In principle, they could be sung!

The Scholars has 16 acts. The novel comes before the short story.

When the Novel emerges, 4 great ones appear pretty soon: Water Margin (heroes, helping the downtrodden), Tale of the Three Kingdoms (game of thrones), Journey to the West (phantasy, Buddhist monk travelling with a pig, a horse and a monkey) and The Plum in the Golden Vase (steamy romance, bit of soft porn).

They include conversations written in daily speech. They want to appeal to a literati readership, but capture daily life much more than earlier writings. They combine some of the “minor tale” tradition, recording gossip, etc.

The single most famous novel in Chinese history: “the dream of red chambers”. An elite family in decline. Very cultured literature.

The Scholars revolves about the examination system.

Interview with professor Wai-Ye Li re: “The Dream of the Red Chamber” = “Story of the Stone”:

It’s about het Jia family (Jia = fictive, false, illusive). We look at the life of a young man who in a previous life was a rock. There is the weird backstory before the family story really gets going.

The mythic background is an indication on how to read this book. He is about 11 or 12 in the beginning and we follow him to the age of 19, when he leaves this world again.

Eventually you get immersed in the family living in this garden which reflects the world. It does not have any responsibilities to be fulfilled. The last third of the book is written by another author who actually reacts to the first two thirds.

It’s all-encompassing and nearly an encyclopaedia of the ornaments of literati culture. It’s a good entry point to understand literati culture in the 18th century.

The author’s family had become quite poor by the time he started writing, so the book is kind of nostalgic, while “The Scholars” are more critical of things in daily life.

3The Rise of Meritocracy

What were the examinations were supposed to accomplish? Government wants to recruit talent. Civil government needs to be managed by civil officials, they must have learning. Examining their writing shows if they have learned the necessary things:

Examinations started in the Han dynasty, but only at the end of the Song dynasty they were introduced generally. They gave up on selecting people through personal connection, and they stopped hiring descendants of existing officials. The self-perpetuating system stopped.

The great clans of the Tang dynasty disappeared because of this. All had the ability to learn and to serve.

Examinations should be fair: names were replaced by codes. Then exams where recopied to avoid recognition of the writing.

Examinations served to legitimate the government. The emperor had heredity, but everyone else was selected by merit. Staff came from all over the country = representatives of the very best of the whole country.

4Ming and Qing Civil Exam

Fair test > appointment > wealth and power > rise in number of candidates.

1250: 450.000 > 600 would pass every three years.

1600: 800.000 > 300 would pass every three years.

1850: 1.400.000 > 300 / 3 years.

Against these odds, why not give up? From the viewpoint of literati families: why invest in education? Is this a waste of time?

It was far less restrictive: beginning of Ming, government recognised people at all levels: licentiate (county), provincial, capital, palace examinations.

Over time, these statuses became more diverse and by Ming and Qing these statuses were the most important legitimacy available. >>> privileges: stipend, freedom from labor service.

It was like winning the lottery, someone had to win. This might be wrong. But the chances of getting SOMETHING out of the system, even with the lowest possible status.

Social mobility vs. social rotation > examinations allowed for social mobility and more important than kinship. Scholars today criticise the way the mobility is measured. Traditionally, if none of their three generations fathers were officials, they were considered “new men”. They may, however, have had other relatives in officialdom. Once a family has established itself as literati, some are still around since the 12th century!

Apprentice students study at home, if they pass the local exam, they turn into licentiates. As such, they are entitled to exception from corvee duties, some have stipends. (late Ming and Qing: these titles were sold to get money to the state). They were not considered local elite. This corresponds to the story of Fan Jin.

Tribute students had passed the following exam. But you could be a tribute student by exam.

5The Scholars

Reading and annotation exercises.


Searching and annotation exercises


The novel is fairly tell-tale of the rot that starts to set in with regard to competition and permanent discrepancy of word and deed in the literati’s lives.

Who is responsible for this? The literati? Most likely.

A literature by literati, for and about literati. Still, he claims that the fate of China is in the hands of the literati … probably a very satirical novel. Was the author right?

EHigh Qing

1China Today as a World Power

Previously, rise of the Qing state and the challenges to establish themselves as rulers. Tensions between Manchu and Chinese identities.

This lecture will deal with the 18th century, the last imperial growth and military expansion = High Qing. This is clearly different with time of decline that follows in the 19th century.

China’s role in global affaires is really not new, it has always been a dominant power at least regionally, but also globally. China’s leaders realise this and often look back to the 18th century. The sometimes make use of the phrase “prosperous age = shengzhu”).

A sign of the prosperity was the demographic boom in that period:

This kept labour cost down, and allowed for increased production > interior immigration. Double the land under cultivation. New lands were opened by the arrival of new crops: peanuts, sweet potato and corn. Cash crops: sugar cane, tobacco, opium, cotton, etc.

The growth is not entirely explained, not down to changes in fertility, decreased mortality (no evidence). More food (chicken and egg)? Maybe this is not such an extreme rise but down to bad data in earlier periods.

The people back then were sure there were more people, they are pretty uniform in this. This growth, however, was the basic fact underlining the developments that were to come.

2Qing Economic Growth

Economic dynamism today seems like a surprise as if this was anomalous. But we look through the European lenses from the late 18th century. We look through the eyes of the past, as China = nothing changes ever.

Earlier visitors to China, however, noted China as a remarkably industrious, thriving and quality area. “The inland trade of China is larger than the complete trade of Europe”. Overexcited imagination? Recent work suggests that China’s economy actually was more substantial than the European total of the period. Standard of life was similar to England of Netherlands.

The growth of the agrarian base was key to this development. 2/3 of the government income came from land tax traditionally. More and more literati gave up and went into commerce > big increase of this sector. This means that the Confucian limits of merchants were never taken too seriously. Low tax rates, but sometimes the state stepped in to take control.

Technical improvement when it comes to dealing with money. About a third of money in circulation was in paper form and much of this was private banking, not government. No more state led growth as in modern China: Qing = private venture.

Regional specialisations to rice, tea, soy, cotton, etc. all produced in specific parts of the country and moved around to another part of the country … or the world at large. Volume of grain in long distance trade = 5x the trade in grain in Europe. International trade: tea, porcelain, etc. > great wealth. The richest men were traders, not officials or literati.

Shared cosmopolitan urban culture. Restaurants, tea houses, travel, etc.

About 7% of people live in cities : living in cities is pretty comfortable in China back then. Traditional methods and control started to loosen.

Even the poor were taken care of by the state (central granaries for time of need = quite effective against natural disasters).

Territorial expansion of the empire: many military campaigns, each of which very expensive. This was thought to have bankrupted the Qing state, but that is probably not true. The problem was the corruption at the end of the 18th century.

3Three Kings

Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors = period of expansion in economy and territory. Two of them ruled for more than 50 years.

Kangxi reigned 1662-1722. Thought of as the greatest emperor every at the time. He was interested in science and astronomy, some music. He disliked the palace life and often went hunting outside of the great wall. Had 55 children > lots of disputes about succession when he was old.

Middle course between martial traditions and the influence of the literati. He combined the sage ruler with a steppe warrior. One of the few emperors with personal success on the battlefield. He campaigned against the Dzungars (Galdan Tseren was the leader). Galdan Tseren also looked for support of the Dalai Lama. He was concerned about the treaty of Dzungar with the Russians.

He personally pursued Galdan Tseren near modern Ulaan Baatar. He wrote his experiences down in personal letters to his family in Beijing.

There were succession conflicts that led to Yongzheng emperor following him.

Yongzheng had to prove his legitimacy which led to his working himself to death, with a lot of personal input = micromanager. Personal relationships were important to him, with the people he entrusted with important functions.

His reputation is mixed: vengeful, jealous are things he was called. Still: enlightened emperor: he tried to ensure the fiscal health and the debt changed to financial security, which was the basis for the Qianlong emperor.

Qianlong reign from 1736-1695. More generous than Kangxi, but in fear of him. In the beginning he was very successful (until about 1670), well-educated. He decided to step down in favour of one of his sons.

He took his job very seriously, worked long hours, he also devoted his time to art (poetry, painting and music), he wrote a whole lot of poems, out regularly like Kangxi until the age of 87 he was hunting, read and speak 3-4 languages, art collector = model for Chinese and Manchus, but also for Mongols and Tibetans. Devoted Buddhist!

Universal emperorship = ruling over all evenly and benevolently. Larger than life. He set his stamp on the 18th century.

Culmination of traditional areas of Chinese rule with expansion to Tibet, Taiwan, Sinkiang = pax Manchurica. This empire laid the foundations for modern China.

4Territorial Expansion Under Qianlong

He wanted to rank among the greats. He wanted to be the “Old Man of the ten Great Accomplishments”:

Kangxi’s defeat of the Galdan Tseren was not the end of the issue: the Dzungars still held control over the West, even in Lhasa for several years. Qing presence in Lhasa started when they threw out the Dzungars.

1739 a peace treaty between China and Dzungars. Tensions broke out after Galdan’s death in 1745 > diplomatic solution was found, but in 1752, two Mongol princes competed for leadership of the Dzungars (Dawachi and Amursana) and one of them appealed to Qianlong for assistance > an army was sent. Afterwards the new leader had to be subdued. 1757, the Dzungars were subdued and Amursana then fled and died of smallpox. Many Dzungars were deported to Heilungjiang. Genocide is probably an exaggeration from the period itself. We know that many of them returned later from as far as Northern India. They were not allowed to call themselves Dzungars, so they are now called Oirats.

This is a completely new area for the Qing:

It has a strategic location today, but back then it was seen as a drain on resources. It took a number of generations before this changed > commercial and political benefit. When Yaqub Beg started a rebellion in Kashgaria and sets up a Khanate, there was no clear idea what to do in Beijing: more resources to get it back, or more attention to maritime frontiers.

An army was sent, though, and the region was reconquered and Xinjiang became an official province in 1884 in the empire.

5Inner Asian Empire and the Unity of China

Conquests of Dzungaria and Kashgaria made Qing the most powerful empire in the world. This was as far as we could go, and unification has happened.

The timing was good as the Russian empire was expanding at the same time. The Dzungars and their Mongolian state were crushed in the middle. Big empires were well put to expand. Logistical and political success. The dispatch of armies was a difficult and powerful feat.

The Qing had the Manchus themselves as part of the Inner Asian world, and Mongolia and Tibet were part of “their” world. The Ming could not do this in the same way. There were no natural alliances, but a basic understanding of the dynamics of the politics of this world. They were pragmatic people: they did not influence all aspects of local things. Day to day affairs were left to local elites: monks in Tibet, Islamic elders in Xinjiang, princes in Mongolia, etc. they took advantage of existing mechanisms. They governed lightly, long and pretty successfully.

The far expansion was an unexpected result of the Qing campaigns. Qianlong did not go on campaign but he made sure people would think he did through paintings! He met his people and governed from the Mongolian style summer retreats.

He had maps made, stelae were erected, paintings made of the 100 most brave men. He sent artists out with the campaigns. Copperplate engravings were made in Paris for the Emperor based on the drawings of these artists.

Catherine the Great and the French king would be able to know what the great Chinese empire had done.

How is this knowledge embedded in China today? The Qing territories comprise a large part of modern China: the Qing mold is a basic shape for the modern state. Both the republic and the people’s republic are the result of an imperial expansion in Qing. Without this, China would probably be only half the size of the China we know.

China is the successor of imperial China, but more specifically of Qing: a vast, hybrid, polyethnic, multinational state with peoples from different backgrounds, religious traditions and languages. Comparable to the Mongol or Roman empires. This is different: it’s not JUST one of the other Chinese empires.

6The Macartney Mission

1793, Qianlong had become old and tired, but he had never seen an Englishman. The visit was the Embassy of Lord Macartney to create a commercial treaty with China. Secure residency for English traders and market for British goods. None of those goals was a success, but the visit was a landmark for relations between Qing and Europe.

Mission had artists,doctors scientist, traders. 84 people. Gifts: globes, mathematical instruments, Wedgewood pottery. Three ships arriving Kanton June 1793. They claimed to bring birthday wishes. They were allowed to come to the capital and present their gifts there.

When they arrive in the summer palace, they are instructed about etiquette. Discussion about the kowtow. Qianlong did NOT think to rule over the whole world. He was aware of the world at large. He recognised the authority of others. He did not always act this way. He was quite pragmatic in this respect.

People on the outside had relations and new flexible rules were instated. Lord Macartney knelt, but did not kowtow. He presented the box with the present personally to the emperor, something entirely unheard of.

The kneeling was accepted as having the same significance. Respect was extended, but the English thought they had won, though. Ritual meant a lot to Europeans, Macartney brought his doctorate robes along – he was pretty concerned to show ritual propriety.

The most revealing difference: after the audience the British wanted to negotiate. From the Qing point of view the embassy was over. Macartney tried to find someone to broker an agreement and he left with an escort back to Kanton, where they left. Qing promised medical provisions to British and to make a distinction between English and America.

Qinglong said: “we have no use for your country’s manufacture” = we have everything we need. No insult meant. It’s a reasonable response to a visitor from a far-away and seemingly insignificant country.

At the time, this was no problem, but much later it was understood as a ridiculous claim.

7The Qianlong Twilight

Lord Macarthy travelled through China and his artist did lots of impressions. The Lord’s diary gives interesting insights into Qianlong’s China. Final comment:

This comment was very insightful in view of the upcoming changes and it gives a different view on the prosperous age.

Population growth brought options, but competition for jobs became sharper, examination system made it more difficult to succeed. Administration was not able to keep up with more officials, no increase in taxation, no change in legal system, granaries fall apart and people have to fall back on families, especially with migrants.

Religious sects provide support and these organisations mix different groups and are difficult to control, especially in peripheral areas, where life is harder and conflict was endemic and difficult to suppress.

Popular forms of Buddhism offered social support for the marginalised, eg. the White Lotus sect. Promise of a better life in the future was appealing.

Taiping Rebellion starts in the south and includes the southern part of the country in its side of the civil war.

These issues was increased by the problems in the state itself, especially the increasing corruption. Officials were never paid exceedingly well, so skimming off was part of the system. The discipline to not overdo this was lost by the end of the Qianlong period. Fraud and embezzlement became commonplace. People near the emperor could become very powerful.

Hesen’s estate had 800 million ounces of silver (more than the emperor!):

This guy was not the only one, so there extent of corruption was completely out of control.

Jiaqing Emperor tried to stop this, and did not succeed – similar to the current situation in China. They often mention Jiaqing period as an example to show what happens if corruption is not kept under control.

After Qianlong dies there was not change, Jiaqing did not have the power to stop this weakening of the centre of power. This left the country ill-equipped to deal with the challenges to come: the British come back in force with warships and demands for trade and diplomatic concessions. This will start in the 1840s in Hong Kong.

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