1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese History (cont.) - Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

(Part 35)


Imperial Era (221 BC - 1911 AD)

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD)

The object for which the Manchoos had been introduced into the empire having now been accomplished, the Chinese wished them to retire, but, like the Mongols, having once gained a footing in the empire, they declared themselves unwilling to leave it, and having taken possession of Peking they proclaimed the ninth son of Teen-ning emperor of China under the title of Shun-che, and adopted the name of Ta-tsing, or "Great pure," for the dynasty (1644). Meanwhile the mandarins at Nanking had chosen an imperial prince to ascend the throne. But with all the prestige of victory the Tatars bore down all opposition, and at this most inopportune moment "a claimant" to the throne, in the person of a pretended son of the last emperor, appeared at court. This additional complication still further reduced the Chinese power of acting. While this contention prevailed inside Nanking the Tatar army appeared at the walls. But there was no need for them to use force. The gates were thrown open, and they took possession of the city without shedding a drop of blood. Following the conciliatory policy they had everywhere pursued, they confirmed the mandarins in their offices and granted a general amnesty to all who would lay down their arms. As the Tatar entered the city the emperor left it, and after wandering about for some days in great misery, he threw himself into the Yang-tsze Keang and was drowned. Thus ended the Ming dynasty, and the empire passed again under a foreign yoke.

All accounts agree in stating that the Manchoo conquerors are descendants of a branch of the family which gave the Kin dynasty to the north of China ; and in Lieu of any authentic account of their early history, native writers have thrown a cloud of fable over their origin. These tell us that in remote ages three heaven-born virgins dwelt beneath the shadow of the Great White-mountains, and that while they were bathing in a lake which reflected in its bosom the snow-clad peaks which towered above it, a magpie dropped-red fruit on the clothes of the youngest. This the maiden instinctively devoured, and forthwith conceived all bore a son, whose name they called Ai-sin Ghioro, which being interpreted is the "Golden Family Stem," and which is the family name of the present emperors of China. When his mother had entered the icy cave of the dead, her son embarked on a little boat and floated down the River Hurka until he reach a district occupied by three families who were at war with each other. The personal appearance of the supernatural youth so impressed these warlike chiefs that they forgot their enmities and hailed him as their ruler. The town of O-to-le (43º 35´ N. lat, and 128º E. long.) was chosen as his capital, and from that day his people waxed fat, and at length, as we have seen, kicked against their oppressors, the Chinese.

This legend confirms the general belief that the original seat of the Manchoos was in the valley of the Hurka, a river which flows into the Sungari in about 46º 20´ N. lat., and 129º 50´ E. long. Under a succession of able and hardy chiefs they added land to land and tribe to tribe, until, in the 16th century, we find them able to cope with, and in a position to demand favourable terms by treaty from, their Chinese neighbours. As they became more powerful their complaints became louder against acts of aggressive oppression which they laid at the door of the Mings. But who will say that the fault was all on one side? Doubtless the Mings tried to check their ambition by cruesl reprisals—a mistaken policy common to oppressor who find themselves with waning powers in the presence of growing discontent. But if we are to square the account, against this must be put numerous Manchoo raids into Leaou-tung, entailing loss of life and property on the subjects of China. And the ready rapidity with which these Manchurian horsemen swept round the corner of the Great wall into China proper on the fatal invitation of the Chinese general shows that they were neither unwilling nor unaccustomed to wander beyond their own frontiers.

But the accession to the throne of the Emperor Shunche did not by any means a first restore peace to the country. In Keang-se Fuh-keen, Kwang-tung, and Kwangse the adherents of the Ming dynasty defended themselves vigorously but unsuccessfully against the invaders, while the pirate Ching Che-tung, the father of the celebrated Koxinga, kept up a predatory warfare against them on the coast. On one occasion he was bought over to the Tatar camp and accepted a princess as a reward for his conversion, but he soon returned to his former allegiance, only, however, once again to prove himself a turn-coat. Finding him too formidable as a foe the Tatars determined again to gain his alliance. A gereral’s command proved too tempting a bait to the buccaneer to be refused. He accepted the offer and went on shore to visit the Tatar commander, who received him with all civility. But when the prince wished to return to his ships he was politely urged to visit Peking. Once there he was thrown into prison, where he died shortly afterwards. His son Koxinga, warned by his father’s example, determined to leave the mainland and to seek an empire elsewhere. His choice fell on Formosa, and having driven the Dutch out of the island, he established himself as king and held possession of the island until the reign of Kang-he, when he resigned in favour of the Imperial Government. Meanwhile a prince of the house of Ming was proclaimed emperor in Kwang-se, under the title of Yung-le—h. But the Tatars having reduced the provinces of Fuh-keen and Keang-se, and having taken Canton after a siege of eight months, marched against and so completely routed his followers that he was compelled to fly to Pegu. There he remained for some years until, believing that his adherents in Yun-nan and Kwei-chow were sufficiently numerous to justify his raising his standard in those provinces, he crossed the frontier and advanced to meet the imperial forces. On this as on the former occasion, fortune declared against him. His army was scattered to the four winds, and he was taken prisoner and strangled. Gradually opposition to the new regime became weaker and weaker, and the shaved head with the pig-tail—the symbol of Tatar sovereignty—became more and more universally adopted. In 1651 died Ama Wang, the uncle of Shun-che, who had acted as regent during his nephew’s minority, and the emperor then assumed the government of the state. Little is known of this monarch. He appears to have taken a great interest in science, and to have patronized Adam Schaal, a German Jesuit, who was at that time resident at Peking. It was during his reign (1656) that the first Russian embassy arrived at the capital but as the envoy declined to kowtow before the emperor he was sent back without having been admitted to an audience. After an unquiet reign of seventeen years Shun-che was gathered to is fathers (1661), and Kang-he, his son, reigned in his stead. This emperor was as renowned as his father had been unknown. He was indefatigable in administering the affairs of the empire, and at the same time he devoted much of time to literary and scientific studies under the guidance of the Jesuits. The dictionary of the Chinese language, published under his superintendence, proves him to have been as great a scholar as his conquests over Eleuths shows him to have been famous as a general. During one of his hunting expeditions to Mongolia he caught a fatal cold, and he died in 1721 after a glorious reign of sixty years. Under his rule Tibet was added to the empire, which extended from the Siberian frontier to Cochin-China, and from the China Sea to Turkestan. Almost the only national misfortune that visited China while he sat upon the throne was an earthquake at Peking, in which 400,000 people are said to have perished.

Kang-he was succeded by Yung-chung, who reaping the benefits of his father’s vigorous administration, enjoyed a peaceable reign, though a short one. He died in 173, and Keen-lung his son reigned in his room, Ambitious and warlike, this monarch despised the conciliatory measures by which his father had maintained peace with his neighbours. On but a slight provacation, he marched an army into Ili, which he converted into a Chinese province, and he afterwards added eastern Turkestan to the far-reaching territories of China. Twice he invaded Burmah, and once he penetrated into Cochin-China, but in neither country were his arms successful. He is accused of great cruelty towards his subjects, which they repaid by rebelling against him. During his reign it was that the Mahometan standard was first raised in Kansuh. But the Mussulmans were unable to stand against the imperial troops ; their armies were dispersed ; ten thousand of them were exiled ; and, effecttually to prevent a renewal of the outbreak for some years, an order was issued that every Mahometan in Kansuh above the age of fifteen should be put to death (1784). Amidst all the political calls upon his time Keen-lung still found leisure for study. He wrote incessantly, both poetry and prose, and did much to promote the cause of literature by collecting libraries and republishing works of value. His campaigns furnished him with themes for his verses, and in the Summer Palace was found a handsome manuscript copy of a laudatory poem he composed on the occasion of his war against the Gorkhas. This was one of the most successful of his military undertakings. His generals marched 70,000 men into Nepaul to within sixty miles of the British frontiers, and having subjugated the Gorkhas they received the submission of the Nepaulese, and acquired an additional hold over Tibet (1792). In other directions his arms were not so successful. We find no poem commemorating the campaign against the rebellious Formosans, nor lament over the loss of 100,000 men in that island, and the last few years of his reign were disturbed by outbreaks among the Meaou-tsze or hill tribes, living in the mountains in the provinces of Kwei-chow and Kwang-se. In 1795, after a reign of sixty years, Keen-lung abdicated in favour of his fifteenth son, who adopted the title of Kea-king as the style of his reign. He only lived three years in retirement, and died at the age of eighty-eight in 1798.

During the reign of Keen-lung the relations of the East India Company with his Government had been the reverse of satisfactory. All kinds of unjust exactions were demanded from the merchants, and many acts of gross injustice were committed on the persons of Englishmen. So notorious, at length, did these matter become that the British Government determined to send an embassy to the court of Peking, and Lord Macartney was chosen to represent George III. on the occasion. On arriving at Jehol, where the court then was, Lord Macartney was received most graciously by the emperor, and subsequently at Yuen-ming yuen he was admitted into the imperial presence and was treated with courtesy. But the concessions he sought for his countrymen were not accorded to him, and in this sense, but in this sense only, his mission was a failure.

Kea-king’s reign, which extended over a period of five and twenty years, was disturbed and disastrous. In the northern and western provinces, rebellion after rebellion broke out, due in a great measure to the carelessness and incompetency of the emperor, who was as obstinately self-opinionated as he was unfit to rule, and the coast were infested with bands of pirates, whose number and organization enabled them for a long time to hold the imperial fleet in check. But, fortunately for the Government, dissensions broke out among the pirate chiefs, and, weakened by internal fighting, they finally made their peace with the mandarins and accepted posts under the emperor. Meanwhile the condition of the foreign merchants at Canton had in no wise improved. The mandarins were as exacting and as unjust as ever, and in order to set matters on a better footing the British Government despatched a second ambassador in the person of Lord Amherst to Peking in 1816. On arriving at the mouth of the Peiho he was received by imperial commissioners who conducted him to Yuen-ming-yuen, taking every advantage on the way of pointing out to him the necessity of his performing the kowtow before the emperor if he wished to be allowed to enter the imperial presence. This he declined to do, and he was consequently dismissed from the palace on the same day on which he arrived, and thus a new impetus was given to mandarinic insolence.

Destitute of all royal qualities, a slave to his passions, and the servant of caprice, the emperor Kea-king died in the year 1820, after a reign of twenty-five years, leaving a disturbed country and a disaffected people as a legacy to his successor Taou-kwang.

Though possessed in his early years of considerable energy Taou-kwang no sooner ascended the throne than he turned his powers, which should have been directed to the pacification of the empire, to the pursuit of pleasure and amusement. The reforms which his subjects had been led by his first manifestoes to believe would be introduced never seriously occupied his attention, and the discontent which had been lulled by hope soon became intensified by despair. In Formosa, Kwang-se, Ho-nan, and other parts of the empire insurrections broke out, which the imperial generals were quite unequal to suppress by force, and the Triad Society, which had originated during the reign of Kang-he, again showed a formidable front under his degenerate successor. Meanwhile the hardships inflicted on the English merchants at Canton became so unbearable, that when, in 1834, the monopoly of the East India Company ceased, the English Government determined to send to send out a minister to superintend the foreign trade at that port. Lord Napier was selected for the office ; but so vexatious was the conduct of the Chinese authorities, and so inadequately was he supported, that the anxieties of his position brought on an attack of fever, from which he died at Macao after but a few months’ residence in China. The chief cause of complaint adduced by the mandarins was the introduced of opium by the merchants, and for years they attempted by every means in their power, by stopping all foreign trade, by demands for the prohibitaion of the traffic in the drug, and by vigilant preventive measures, to put a stop to its importation. At length Captain Elliot, the superintendent of trade, in 1839 agreed that all the opium in the hands of Englishmen should be given up to the native authorities, and he exacted a pledge from the merchants that they would no longer deal in the drug. On the 3rd April, 20,283 chests of opium were handed over to the mandarins and were by them destroyed—a sufficient proof that they were in earnest in their endeavours to suppress the traffic. This demand of commissioner Lin was considered by the English Government to amount to a casus belli, and in 1840 war was declared. In the same year the fleet captured Chusan, and in the following year the Bogue Forts fell, in consequence of which operations the Chinese agreed to cede Hong-Kong to the victors and to pay them an indemnity of 6,000,000 dollars. As soon as this news reached Peking, Ke Shen, who had succeeded commissioner Lin, was dismissed from his post and degraded, and Yih Shan, another Tatar, was appointed in his room. But before the new commissioner reached his post, Canton had fallen into the hands, of Sir Hugh Gough, and shortly afterwards Amoy, Ningpo, Tinghai in Chusan, Chapoo, Shanghai, and Chin-keang Foo shared the same fate, and a like evil would have happened to Nanking had not the Imperial Government, dreading the lost of the "Southern Capital," proposed terms of peace. After much discussion, Sir Henry Pottinger, who had succeeded Captain Elliot, concluded, in 1842, a treaty with the imperial commissioners, by which the four additional ports of Amoy, Fuh-chow-Foo, Ningpo, and Shanghai were declared open to foreign trade, and an indemnity of 21,000,000 dollars was to be paid to the English. Nor was the remainder of the reign of Taou-kwang more fortunate than its beginning ; the empire was completely disorganized, rebellious outbreaks were of frequent occurrence, and the imperial armies were powerless to oppose them. So complete was the demoralization of the troops, that on one occasion the Meaou-tsze or hill tribes of Kwang-se defeated an army of 30,000 men sent against them by viceroy of the two Kwangs. In 1850, while these clouds were hanging gloomily over the land, Taou-kwang "ascended on high," and Heen-fung, his son, reigned in his stead.

A cry was now raised for the reforms which had been hoped for under Taou-kwang, but Heen-fung possessed in an exaggerated form the selfish and tyrannical nature of his father, together with a voluptuary’s craving for every kind of sensual pleasure, and he lived to reap as he had sown. For some time Kwang-se had been in a very disturbed state, and when, on the accession of the new emperor, the people found that no relief from the oppression they endured was to be given them, they broke out into open revolt and proclaimed a youth, who was said to be the representative of the last emperor of the Ming be the representative of the last title of Teen-tih or "Heavenly Virtue." From Kwang-se the flames spread into Hoo-pih and Hoo-nan, and then languished from want of a leader and a definite political cry. Just at the moment, however, when there appeared to be a possibility that, by force of arms and the persuasive influence of money, the imperialists would re-established their supremacy, a leader presented himself in Kwang-se, whose energy of character, combined with great political and religious enthusiasm, speedily gained for him the suffrages of the discontented. This was Hung Sew-tseuen. Seizing on the popular longing for the return for the Chinese dynasty he proclaimed himself as sent by heaven to drive out the Tatars, and to restore in his own person the succession to China. At the same time having been converted to Christianity, and professing to abhor the vices and sins of the age, he called on all the virtuous of the land to extirpate rulers who, both in their public laws and in their private acts, were standing examples of all that was base and vile in human nature. Crowds soon flocked to his standard. Teen-tih was deserted ; and, putting himself at the head of his followers, Hung Sew-tseuen marched northwards into Hoo-nan and Hoo-pih, overthrowing every force which was sent to oppose him. The first city of importance which fell into his hands was Woo-chang Foo on the Yang-tsze-Keang, the capital of Hoo-pih. Situated at the junction of the Han River with the Yang-tsze Keang, this city was a point of great strategical importance. But Hung Sew-tseuen was not inclined to rest upon his laurels, knowing full well that he must be able to call Nanking his before there would be any chance that his dreams of empire could be realized. Having made Woochang secure, he therefore moved down the river, and after taking Gan-king on his way he proceeded to the attack of Nanking. So wide-spread was the disaffection at this time throughout the country that the city was ripe for falling, and without much difficulty Hung Sew-tseuen in 1852 established himself within its walls, and proclaimed the inauguration of the Tai-ping dynasty, of which he nominated himself the first emperor under the title of Teen Wang or "Heavenly king." For the next few years it appeared as though he had nailed the flag of victory to his staff. His armies penetrated victoriously as far north as Tientsin and as far east as Chin-keang and Soochow, while bands of sympathizers with his cause appeared in the neighbourhood of Amoy. As if still further to aid and abet him in his schemes, Englnad declared war against the Tatar dynasty in 1857, in consequence of an outrage known as the "Arrow" affair. In December of the same year Canton was taken by an English force under Sir Michael Seymour and General Straubenzee, and a still further blow was struck against the prestige of the ruling Government by the determination arrived at by Lord Elgin, who had been sent out as special ambassador, to go to Peking and communicate directly with the emperor. In May 1858 the Taku Forts were taken, and the way having thus been cleared of obstacles, Lord Elgin went up the Peiho to Tientsin en route for the capital. At Tientsin, however, he was met by the imperial commissioners, who persuaded him to the spot, which treaty it was agreed should be ratified at Peking in the following year. When, however, Sir Frederick Bruce, who had been in the meanwhile appointed minister to the court of Peking, attempted to pass Taku to carry out this part of the arrangement, the vessels escorting him were fired on from the forts with such precision and persistency that he was compelled to return to Shanghai to await the arrival of a larger force than that which he then had at his command. As soon as news of this defeat reached England Lord Elgin was again sent out with full powers, and accompanied by a large force under the command of Sir Hope Grant. The French likewise took part in the campaign, and on 1st August 1860 the allies landed without meeting with any opposition at Peh-tang, a village twelve miles north of Taku. A few days later the forts at that place with had bid defiance to Sir Frederick Bruce twelve months previously were taken, and from thence the allies marched toe Peking. Finding further resistance to be hopeless, the Chinese opened negotiations, and as a guarantee of their good faith surrender the An-ting gate of the capital to the allies. On the 24th October the treaty of 1858 was retified by Prince King and Lord Elgin, and a convention was signed under the terms of which the Chinese agreed to pay a war indemnity of 8,000,000 taels. The Emperor Heen-fung did not live long to see the results of his new relations with the hated foreigners, but died in the summer of the following year, leaving the throne to his son Tung-che a child of five years old.

The conclusion of peach with the allies was the signal for a renewal of the campaign against the Tai-pings, and benefiting by the friendly feelings of the English authorities engendered by the return of amicable relations, the Chinese Government succeeded in enlisting Major Gordon of the Royal Engineers in their service. In a surprisingly short space of time this officer formed the troops, which had formerly been under the command of an American named Ward, into a formidable army, and without delay took the field against the rebels. From that day the fortunes of the Tai-pings declined. They lost city after city, and, finally in July 1864, the imperialists, after an interval of twelve years, once more gained possession of Nanking. Teen Wang did not survive the capture of his capital, and with him fell his cause. Those of his followers who escaped the sword of the victors dispersed throughout the country, and the Tai-pings ceased to be.

With the measure of peace which was then restored to the country trade rapidly revived, and, with the exception of the province of Yun-nan, where the Mahometan rebels under Suleimand still kept the imperial forces at bay, prosperity was every where re-awakened. Against these foes the Government was careless to take any active measures, until in 1872 Prince Hassan, the adopted son of Suleiman, was sent on a mission to England with the object of gaining the recognition of the Queen for his father’s government. This step at once aroused the susceptibilities of the Imperial Government, and a large force was instantly organized and despatched to the scene of the rebellion. The war was now pushed on with vigour, and before the year was out the Mahometan capital Ta-le Foo fell into the hands of the imperialists, and the followers of Suleiman at that place and throughout the province were mercilessly exterminated. In the succeeding February rate Regents—i,e., the dowager-empresses, who had governed the country since the death of Heen-fung-resigned their power into the hands of the emperor. This long-expected time was seized upon the foreign ministers to urge their right of audience with emperor, and on the 29th June 1873 the privilege of gazing on the "sacred countenance" was accorded to them. From that time until his death from smallpox on the 12th of January 1875, Tung-che’s name fails to appear in connection with any public act of importance.

The Emperor Tung-che having died without issue, the succession to the throne, for the first time in the annals of the Tsing dynasty, passed out of the direct line, and a cousin four years old, was chose to reign in his room under the title of Kwang-seu or "Succession of Glory." Thus is the country again doomed to suffer al the inconvenience of a long imperial minority, at a time, too, when event, seem to show that the civilization of China has grown old, and is like to vanish away ; when the introduction of new ideas and western modes of thought is about to stretch the old bottle of Confucian tradition to its fullest extent ; and when, therefore, the empire will sorely need wisdom an strength at the head of affairs to guide it safely through the critical times which lie before it in the future.

THE IMPERIAL FAMILY.—The present imperial family, on gaining possession of the throne on the fall of the Ta-Ming, or "Great Bright" dynasty, assumed the dynastic title of Ta-Tsing, or "Great Pure," and the first emperor, who was styled She-tsu-chang Hwang-te, adopted the title of Shun-che for his reign, which began in the year 1644. The legendary progenitor of these Manchoo rulers was Aisin Gioro, whose name is said to point to the fact of his having been related to the race of Neu-chih, or Kin, i.e., Golden Tatars, who reigned in Northern China during the 12th and 13th centuries. The present emperor, whose reign is styled Kwang-seu or "Succession of Glory," is the eighth from the founder of the dynasty, and is the only ruler since the establishment of the line who has not succeeded as a direct descendant. Kang-he (1661-1722), for instance, was the third son of Shun-che ; Yung-ching (1722-1735) was the fourth son of Kang-he ; Keen-lung (1736-1795) was the fourth son of Yung-ching ; Kea-king (1796-1820) was the fifteenth son of Keen-lung ; Taou-Kwang (1821-1850) was the second son of Kea-king ; Heen-fung (1851-1861) was the fourth of the nine sons who were born to the emperor Taou-kwnag ; and Tung-che (1862-1875) was the only son of heen-fung. As by Chinese law the heir must be younger than the individual from whom he inherits, it became necessary when the Emperor Tung-che "became a guest in Heaven," without issue, in 1875, to select as his successor one of the sons of one of his father’s younger brothers, and the choices, which was recorded in his will, fell upon the infant son of the Prince of Chun, the seventh son of the Emperor Taou-kwang.

In order to prevent the confusion which would arise among the princes of the imperial house were they each to adopt an arbitrary name, the Emperor Kang-he decreed that each of his twenty-four sons should have a personal name consisting of two characters, the first of which should be Yung, and the second should be compounded with the determinative she, "to manifest," an arrangement which would, as has been remarked, find an exact parallel in a system by which the sons in an English family might be called Louis Edward, Louis Edwin, Louis Edwy, Louis Edgar, and so on. This device obtained also in the next generation, al the princes of which had Hung for their first names, and the Emperor Keen-lung (1736-1795) extended it into a system, and directed that the succeeding generations should take the four characters Yung, Meen, Yih, Tsae respectively, as the first parts of their names. Eight other characters, namely, P’u, Yu, Hêng, K’è, Taou, K’ai, Tseng, Ke, were subsequently added, thus providing generic names for twelve generations. With the present generation the first four characters are exhausted, and the sons of the present emperor, should he have any, will therefore be P’u’s. By the ceremonial law of the ‘Great Pure" dynasty, twelve degrees of rank are distributed among the princes of the imperial house, and are as follows :—1. Ho-shih Tsin Wang, prince of the first order ; 2. To-lo Keun Wang, prince of the second order ; 3. To-lo Beileh, prince of the third order. 4. Koo-shan Beitsze, prince of the fourth order ; 5 to 8. Kung, or duke (with distinctive designations) ; 9 to 12. Tseang-keun, general (with distinctive designations). The sons of emperors usually receive patents of the first or second order on their reaching manhood, and on their sons is bestowed the little of Beileh. A Beileh’s sons become Beitze ; a Beitsze’s sons become Kung, and so on.

Read the rest of this article:
China - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-21 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries