Qing Dynasty History | Chinese Antiques

Founding of the Qing Dynasty

The Qing Dynasty came to power after the 270 year reign the Ming Dynasty which had become beset with a series of famines, natural disasters and economic calamities. This led to a growing popular belief that the Ming Emperors had lost the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ - that an emperor was selected by heaven to act as a god on earth.

Ruling, Society & Culture of the Qing Dynasty

Dorgon, the regent for the child emperor had policies of reappointing Ming officials and continuing the Confucian Imperial Examinations which helped the empire to stabilise and prosper.

Emperor Kangxi had one of the longest reigns in dynastic history. 

The Kangxi Emperor was seven years old when he became an emperor but regents ruled the empire in his place until he was 15. He let a number of Jesuits into the empire and appointed them to positions in his court, valuing their knowledge and using them as advisers for world, diplomatic and military affairs. They taught his technicians how to make better guns and cannons.

Under the two emperors Yongzheng and Qianlong handicraft industries prospered, painting, printmaking, and porcelain manufacture flourished.

Western medicines provided by missionary doctors saved tens of thousands of lives.

Like the Tang, Yuan and Ming Empires, the Qing Empire ended in rebellions, wars, natural disasters, economic problems, famines and invasions.

Literate families focused on training for the government examinations and studied ancient philosophical and religious texts. They had little knowledge or appreciation for modern Western education.

 Under the Qing empire, the territory grew to treble its size under the preceding Ming dynasty - the population grew from some 150 million to 450 million,

Qing dynasty artists were both individualistic and innovative. Based largely on the dicta of a late Ming dynasty artist-critic, Dong Qichang, Qing painters were classified as “individualist” masters (such as Daoji and Zhu Da) and “orthodox” masters (such as the Six Masters of the early Qing period). 

There were “schools” of painting such as the Four Masters of Anhui, the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, and the Eight Masters of Nanjing. The attitude shared by most artists, in spite of obvious differences, was a strong preference for “literati painting” (wenrenhua), which emphasized personal expression above all.

Qing porcelain displayed a high technical mastery and coloured glazes such as copper red, called “blown red” (jihong) by the Chinese and “oxblood” (sang-de-boeuf) by the French, and two classes of painted porcelain ware, known in Europe as famille verte and famille rose, from their predominant green and rose colours.

In music, the most notable development of the dynasty probably was jingxi, or Peking opera, over several decades at the end of the 18th century.

Key Events of the Qing Dynasty

1644: Qing Dynasty begins.

1645: Dorgon (Regent for child Emperor) decrees that Ming men must shave their hair in the front and make a long pigtail in the back.

1646: Imperial Examinations are held every three years and gains the support of large numbers of literati and staffs the bureaucracy.

1650: Dorgon dies and Emperor Shunzhi started to rule personally at 13.

1661: Emperor Shunzhi dies.

1661–1722: Emperor Kangxi becomes the ruler and builds the Summer Imperial Palace during his reign.

1722-1735: Emperor Yongzheng reigns.

1735-1799: Emperor Qianlong reigns.

1796-1804: The White Lotus Rebellion is a big popular uprising that starts due to discontent against Qing rule.

1799: Death of Emperor Qianlong. The Qing empire begins to topple.

1839-1842: First Opium War.

1842: Britain gains Hong Kong under the Treaty of Nanking.

1851-1864: The Taiping Rebellion begins - 25 million people die.

1854: Britain wins the Second Opium War.

1855-1873: The Muslim Panthay Rebellion – 1 million people die.

1861: Empress Dowager Cixi comes to power in 1861 and rules behind the scenes until 1908.

1862-1874: Her son reigns.

1864-1877: Dungan revolt – sectarian war between 3 Muslim sects.

1875-1908: Empress Dowager Cixi’s nephew rules.

1876-1879: Northern Chinese Famine – 10% of the population of several Northern provinces die (about 10 million people).

1879: The Gansu Earthquake measuring about magnitude 8 - 22,000 people die.

1883-1885: Sino-French War.

1887: Yellow River flood - one of the world's biggest natural disasters in history when 1-2 million people die.

1894–1895: The Qing Dynasty loses the Sino-Japanese War and cedes Formosa and a part of Liaoning.

1900: Boxer Rebellion.

1910-1912: 60,000 people die from bubonic plague

1911: Missionaries operate about 3,000 schools.

1912: Emperor Puyi abdicates the royal throne, bringing to an end over two millennia of imperial Qing rule in China and leading to the creation of the Republic of China.