Qing Dynasty

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Great Qing



"Gong Jin'ou"
("Cup of Solid Gold")
The Qing Empire in 1890.
Capital Beijing
Language(s) Mandarin, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, Turki (Modern Uighur),[1] numerous regional languages and varieties of Chinese
Religion Heaven worship, Shamanism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, others
Government Absolute monarchy
 - 1644–1661 Shunzhi Emperor
 - 1908–1912 Xuantong Emperor
 - 1908–1912 Empress Dowager Longyu
Prime Minister
 - 1911 Yikuang
 - 1911–1912 Yuan Shikai
Historical era Imperial era
 - Collapse of the Ming 25 April 1644
 - Battle of Shanhai Pass 27 May 1644
 - Sino-Japanese War 1 Aug 1894–17 Apr 1895
 - Wuchang Uprising 10 October 1911
 - Xinhai Revolution 12 February 1912
 - 1760 est. 13,150,000 km2 (5,077,243 sq mi)
 - 1790 est. (incl. vassals)[2] 14,700,000 km2 (5,675,702 sq mi)
 - 1740 est. 140,000,000 
 - 1776 est. 268,238,000 
 - 1790 est. 301,000,000 
Currency Tael (Tls.)
Today part of  Bhutan
 Hong Kong

The Qing Dynasty also known as the Manchu Dynasty, was the last ruling dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 (with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917). It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China.


Originally established as the Later Jin Dynasty in 1616, it changed its name to "Qing", meaning "clear" or "pellucid" in 1636, and captured Peking with the help of Ming rebels in 1644. The eldest of the Manchu clan Aisin Gioro in Manchuria started in 1644 to expand into China proper and its surrounding territories, establishing the Empire of the Great Qing. Complete pacification of China was accomplished around 1683 under the Kangxi Emperor.

During its reign the Qing Dynasty became highly integrated with Chinese culture. The dynasty reached its height in the 18th century, during which both territory and population were increased. However, its military power weakened hereafter and faced with international pressure, massive rebellions and defeats in wars, the Qing Dynasty declined after the mid-19th century. By the turn of the 19th/20th century Imperial China had suffered encroachments by the militarily superior European powers, a disastrous war with Japan (1894-5) and the Boxer Rebellion[3].

The final decade

Pu Yi, The last Emperor of China, subsequently Emperor of Manchukuo

On November 14, 1908 the Emperor Kuang Hsi died, power during his reign being held in any case by the Empress Dowager Yehanola, who also died the following day. The next chosen Emperor, Pu Yi, was three years old, and his father Prince Ch'un, younger brother of the last Emperor, was to act as Regent during his minority along with the new Dowager Lung Yu.[4] A new Draft Constitution had been published shortly before Yehonala's death providing for a national parliament to be established in nine years' time, but with the Emperor retaining the legislative veto and supreme judicial authority. Meanwhile regional assemblies sent delegates to Peking and induced the government to accept the principle of Cabinet rule and to promise that a Parliament would be convened by 1913.[5]

In 1911 mutinous soldiers occupied Hankow, Hanyang and Wuichang, which cities formed the connurbation named Wuhan. General Yuan Shih-k'ai was recalled from retirement. His demanded conditions, however, were total control of the armed forces and the replacement of the present council of Princes by a Cabinet of which he would be Prime Minister. These demands were reluctantly accepted in return for the subduing of unrest in the Empire. Hankow was retaken and the threat to the North eliminated. Yuan now advised the Court that the dynasty could indeed be saved, but only, paradoxically, by surrendering all its powers, and for the Emperor to abdicate. The Regent and the other princes were stunned. The debate became violent, and Yuan then placed his own troops on guard outside the Forbidden City and sent a message to the Regent advising him to come to terms without delay. On February 12, 1912, an edict announcing the abdication of the Emperor and the establishment of the Republic was issued by the Dowager Empress. The republicans in a solemn agreement provided for the favoured treatment of the Manchu Emperor. His title was not to be abolished and the Republic would accord him all the courtesies normally extended to a foreign monarch. He would receive an annual subsidy of four million dollars and would be allowed to live in the Forbidden City, but later move to the Summer Palace. His bodyguard and other palace personnel would be retained in his personal service.[6] After a decade or so had passed the Emperor and his entourage were expelled from the Forbidden City and he removed to Tientsin.


Following expulsion of the local Chinese warlord and forces loyal to him by the Japanese Empire, the Republic of Manchukuo came into being in February 1932. Those groups in Manchuria who were pro-Japanese[7] selected Pu Yi (1907-1967), the deposed Manchu Emperor of China[8] to be the head of their new state. He arrived in Port Arthur on or before December 17th 1931[9], and on March 9, 1932 was formally installed as Chief Executive of the Republic in the city of Ch'angch'un, now renamed Hsinking, or 'New Capital'. In 1934 the Republic was transformed into an Empire, with Pu Yi assuming office as the Emperor K'ang Te on March 1.[10] Four days later, on March 5th, Time magazine featured him on their front cover. Although the Soviet Union had a non-aggression treaty with the Japanese Empire, they broke this and invaded Manchuria, a Japanese Protectorate, towards the end of World War II taking the Emperor into captivity.


A 1987 film by Bernardo Bertolucci, which won 9 Academy Awards, entitled The Last Emperor purports to give the life of Pu Yi. It is not accurate, particularly with the Manchurian period, but it is broadly sympathetic. The film opens in 1950, with Pu Yi's arrival at the Fushun Prison in Red China as a political prisoner and "war criminal", following his repatriation from the Soviet Union.


  1. {{#invoke:Footnotes | harvard_core }}
  2. (December 2006) "East-West Orientation of Historical Empires". Journal of world-systems research 12 (2): 219–229. ISSN 1076-156X. Retrieved on 12 August 2010.
  3. Keown-Boyd, Henry, The Fists of Righteous Harmony" - A History of the Boxer Uprising in China in 1900, London, 1991, ISBN 0-85052-403-2
  4. Lauder-Frost, Gregory, China - The Last Years of Empire, a Monarchist League Historical Review Paper, London, June 1992.
  5. McAleavy, Henry, A Dream of Tartary, London, 1963, p.70-4.
  6. McAleavy, 1963, p76-8.
  7. Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 edited by Rohan Butler, M.A., Douglas Dakin, M.A.,PhD., & M.E.Lambert, M.A., 2nd series, vol.ix, HMSO, London, 1965, p.21n.
  8. Lauder-Frost, Gregory, China - The Last Years of Empire, 'Monarchist League Historical Review' paper, London, June 1992.
  9. Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, 1965, p.21.
  10. McAleavy, Henry, A Dream of Tartary, London, 1963, p.216