The Qing dynasty also known as the Manchu Dynasty existed between 1644 and 1912. It was established by the Manchu who occupied the northeast region of China, it would begin its gradual expansion towards China Proper in 1644. Initially, it was referred to as the Jin dynasty but later changed to Qing.
The Manchu who are the ethnic minority group in china were able to maintain a grip of power through the use of various strategies. After the capture of Beijing in 1644, the Qing Dynasty issued a decree requiring the Chinese to have their hair shaved; this though resulted to a rebellion. The Jin government responded swiftly, it quelled the rebellion and massacred the Han Chinese elites believed to be behind the rebellion. After this, stricter rules were introduced and intermarriages between the Chinese and the Manchus were abolished. The Han Chinese that would not shave their heads were to be executed summarily. The resultant dissenters were brutally taken out; these massive killings have remained well documented in Jiading. The Qing Dynasty also maintained control through summarily persecuting those that were thought to be critical of this rule. The dynasty initiated a program of censorship or what has come to be referred to as literary inquisition where the leadership examined closely volumes of literature with an intention of deciphering whether they contained materials that were maligning or seditious. As Kent (1987, 166) puts it “thousands of suspect volumes were sent to the capital, provincial governors and their subordinates spent an increasing proportion of their time processing sedition cases.”
Manchus acquisition of power was aided by the astute management of the fighting forces. The military was drawn from the various ethnic groups forming permanent fighting units; this was far superior from the hunting units that existed before. These fighting units were arranged into what was referred to as the banners with each comprising of over 7000 warriors. Each of the existing banners contained members of the same ethnic group. The Qing Dynasty hence can be said to have been brought into power by the incorporation of the Han Chinese who collaborated at the promise of hefty rewards. The Qing Dynasty was able to establish a strong leadership that offered stability and were able to make immense contributions especially towards economic growth and commercial expansion. This period has come to be referred to as the Golden Age (Charles, 1966).
The fall of the Qing Dynasty was brought forth by a number of factors both internal and external. Indeed the era of the Qing Dynasty has been observed as the most prosperous in the history of China. However, it was rocked by internal problems that were as a result of the largely impoverished regions in china. The first major factor was the dynasty’s interaction with the west. Britain had a huge interest in china because of its tea and silk, in return they imported opium which had devastating social and economic effects. This led to its abolishment sparking a war between china and Britain which Britain largely won. Britain acquired Hong Kong and eventually China was turned into a colony (Charles, 1966).
The internal problems also rocked the dynasty; the most devastating was the Tai Ping rebellion in the 19th century. It brought forth a sense of religious change by introducing Christianity. There was also the Mohammedan uprising and other strings of rebellions. These uprisings and the public sentiments against the leadership were exacerbated by the invoking of the memories of the massacres that took place at the beginning of the reign of the dynasty. These fueled a growing sense of uprising and the stability of the dynasty was threatened by the expansionist policies of Japan. Japan had entered a crucial era where it began conquering the neighboring states and moving towards modernization. Facing such internal and external problems, the ground was ripe for the rise of revolutionaries and the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911.
Kent Guy (1987) The emperor’s four treasuries: scholars and the state in the late Chʻien-lung era. Harvard Univ Asia Center,
Charles P. F. (1966) A concise history of East Asia. Heinemann, University of Michigan