The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China. The Qing ruled China from 1644 to 1912 before being overthrown by the Republic of China. It is sometimes referred to as the Manchu Dynasty.
In the early 1600s, the Manchu people of northern China began to unite against the Ming Dynasty. They formed a somewhat military society and mobilized a large army. In 1644, the Manchus crossed the Great Wall and invaded China. They soon took control of the Chinese capital city, Beijing, and declared the beginning of a new dynasty called the Qing.
"Flag of the Qing dynasty (1889-1912)" (Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons)
The first Qing Emperor was a five-year-old boy who became the Shunzhi Emperor. The Manchus continued to expand and conquer more of China. In 1683, under the Kangxi Emperor, the Qing Empire included all of China.
At first, the Manchu maintained order through harsh discipline. They executed anyone who was suspected of treason. Later they restored much of the Ming government including the civil service exams, but only Manchu people could hold high offices. For around 150 years, China experienced growth and peace under the rule of the Qing. The population grew to around 400 million people.
The Outside World
Under the Qing Dynasty, China remained somewhat isolated from the outside world. They traded some items such as tea and silver, but had little else to do with foreign countries. For many years, foreign ambassadors were not even allowed to approach the Chinese capital. In order to keep out European influence, Christianity was outlawed in the 1800s.
The three main philosophies followed by the Chinese during the Qing Dynasty included Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. The Qing leaders were generally strong followers of Buddhism. Art flourished under the Qing including painting, sculpture, poetry, opera, and porcelain.
In society, the Manchu people were considered at the top of the social class. The majority of the people, the Han Chinese, were generally discriminated against. For example, Han Chinese and Manchu were not allowed to marry. This created discontent among the people and eventually led to the downfall of the Qing.
In the 1800s, the British began selling opium in China. Many Chinese people became addicted to opium and the government soon made the drug illegal. The British, however, continued to smuggle in opium. When the Chinese government boarded British ships and dumped their opium into the ocean, a war broke out.
At the time, China had a small and outdated navy. The British ships defeated the Chinese in both the First and Second Opium Wars. By the end of the Opium Wars in 1860, the British gained control of Hong Kong, Christianity was legalized, and all of China was opened to British merchants.
Fall of the Qing
In the early 1900s, the Qing Dynasty began to crumble. Multiple natural disasters, internal rebellions, and war with Japan all led to famine and a poor economy. Finally, in 1911, a group of revolutionaries overthrew the Qing government. The last emperor, a six-year-old boy named Puyi, officially gave up his throne in 1912 and the Republic of China took over.
Interesting Facts about the Qing Dynasty
The Kangxi Emperor ruled for 61 years, the longest rule of any Chinese Emperor.
The Qing required that all men cut their hair in a queue hairstyle with the hair shaved off at the front of the head and the rest of the hair tied into a long ponytail.
The Manchu Dynasty was briefly restored in 1917.
The Boxer Rebellion of 1899 was led by a secret society of martial arts experts.
The first president and founding father of the Republic of China was Sun Yat-sen.