The Qing Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China. The Qing Dynasty lasted 268 years, from 1644-1912 AD (it only ended about 100 years ago!) The Qing ruled China until eventually being overthrown by the Republic of China, following the Opium Wars.
Because it was started by the Manchu, it is sometimes called the Manchu Dynasty; but historically, its name is more commonly the Qing Dynasty.
At the beginning of the 1600s, the Manchu people of North China united and formed a military against the Ming government.
In 1644, the Manchu army crossed the Great Wall and invaded China proper. They took control of the Chinese capital, Beijing, shortly afterward, and declared the beginning a new dynasty: the Qing.
The first Qing Emperor was a five-year-old boy. He was called the Shunzhi Emperor. In his time as ruler, the Manchus continued to conquer more of China.
As a ruler, the Shunzhi Emperor didn’t do much (probably because he was a child when he first came to power) and served as more of a “puppet emperor” who would do the Manchus’ bidding.
It was under his name that the Manchu enacted their new system of law and order, which depended on fear and terror.
The Manchu would execute anyone who was suspected of treason or disloyalty against the state to make sure that the public would submit to them.
They also enacted a variety of new, strict laws; for instance, the Qing required that all men cut their hair in a specific style.
Men had to shave the hair off the front of their head and tie the rest behind their head in a ponytail. If they did not obey this law, they were punished.
Once the Qing had established control, they restored much of the Ming system of government, instead of creating their own.
The old civil service was restarted, and the exams which granted access to them, but with the new rule that only Manchu citizens could hold higher positions.
The Manchu enjoyed special privileges in most parts of society at the time. The Han Chinese (who comprised a majority of the public) were discriminated against, and Han Chinese were not allowed to marry the Manchu.
This inequality in society is what contributed to the eventual downfall of the Qing.
However, it didn’t cause any problems at the beginning of the Qing’s reign; for around 150 years, the country of China experienced growth and relative peace under their rule.
The population swelled to 400 million people.Part of the reason why China enjoyed such peace under the Qing was that they remained isolated from the outside world during this dynasty.
China traded very little with foreign countries in these three centuries, and never interacted with them outside of that context.
As the rest of the world grew more connected and globalization became a stronger force, China was the odd one out.
For a long time, foreign ambassadors weren’t even allowed to approach the Chinese capital, let alone the Emperor himself.
Another way to keep out European influence was the outlawing of Christianity in the 1800s.
The three main philosophies/religions observed by the Chinese during this period included Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, with most Qing leaders being followers of Buddhism.
However, this peace came to an end in the 1800s, when the British began selling opium in China, and the Opium Wars began.
(Opium is a kind of drug that sells for a high price nowadays, but was very cheap in the past.) Many Chinese people became addicted to opium, and the government outlawed it.
But the British continued to sneak opium into the country. This conflict led to a war between the two countries – but it wasn’t much of a war at all.
The Chinese navy was small and outdated, and the British ships were powerful. By the end of the Opium Wars in 1860, the British had defeated China, seized control of Hong Kong, gotten Christianity legalized, and forced the rest of China to open itself to British merchants.
After this, in the early 1900s, the Qing Dynasty began to crumble.
Natural disasters, rebellions, and war with Japan all led to a poor economy, and the Qing government was overthrown in 1911 by a group of revolutionaries.
The last emperor, a six-year-old boy named Puyi, officially gave up his throne in 1912 and the Republic of China took over.