The Main Emperors of the Qing Dynasty2016-06-16 15:14:00Share:
Hung Taiji’s empire was called the Later Jin at first, but in 1636, he renamed it the "Great Qing Empire." The word Qing (清) means clear and connotes the words clean and fresh.
Hung Taiji employed Ming technicians to cast cannon for him modeled after European cannon, and he created his own artillery corps in 1634.
However, he did not live to conquer Beijing. He died in 1643.
Wu Sangui (1612–1678), the general whose army was guarding the Great Wall at Shanhaiguan Pass, let the Manchus go through the gate of the Great Wall. Then the Manchus conquered Beijing in 1644.
The Jurchens, Mongols and a Ming army swept south in 1644, and the Qing Dynasty began.
Shunzhi Emperor (1644–1661)
Emperor Shunzhi (1638–1661) was named the first emperor of the dynasty. During his rule, the main priority of the court was to conquer the rest of the empire and establish a government for the new empire.
Emperor Kangxi (1661–1722)
The Imperial Summer Palace was built during Emperor Kangxi Period.
After Emperor Shunzhi’s death, the Emperor Kangxi (1654–1722) became the ruler. He had one of the longest reigns in dynastic history. During his long rule he set the policy direction for the empire and stabilized it.
The Kangxi Emperor was seven years old when he became an emperor, and he started ruling himself at 15. He was known as a very hardworking emperor.
During his reign, the economy improved and the population started to grow. New food crops such as corn, peanuts and potatoes helped the peasants to have enough to eat.
Emperor Kangxi had a lot of sons by different women. The man who emerged as the next emperor was his son called Emperor Yongzheng (1668–1735), and his son is called the Qianlong Emperor (1711–1799).
During this seventy-three year period, the Qing Dynasty prospered the most of any period in the dynasty’s history, and the population grew quickly. Through foreign trade, the court and the merchants gained wealth.
The empire grew larger because they subdued Tibet and the Xinjiang regions. They inherited Mongolia from the dynasties founders. The land area of the empire was second only to that of the Yuan Empire in size. The population reached about 300 million during this time.
Emperor Qianlong (1735–1796)
The Qianlong Emperor officially reigned for 61 years as Kangxi did. But he actually reigned till his death in 1799. His court was successful at the beginning of his reign, but he turned despotic at the end and set the empire on a course towards destruction.
At the beginning of his reign, inheriting the prosperous and stable empire of his father and grandfather, he had powerful armies.
He also destroyed the Dzungars and expanded the empire further into Central Asia.
But he grew greedy. After his victories in the west, he wanted to expand his empire southwards and tried to conquer the militarily strong kingdoms of Burma and Vietnam. His misrule brought big problems to the whole empire.
He sent four armies against Burma from 1665 to 1669. Each was destroyed at great cost to the empire. An army sent to Vietnam was also driven out.
He started to indulge himself in rich pleasures and luxuries and building palaces. He left court matters to officials who stole the court’s money. His actions depleted the empire’s funds.
Discontent against Qing rule arose, and people started to arise in rebellions. The White Lotus Rebellion was a big popular uprising that started in 1794.
He also dealt ineffectively with Europeans who wanted to trade and also wanted to colonize the area. His isolationist actions towards Europeans were detrimental and set the stage for later problems and invasions.
The isolationist policy towards Europeans set by Emperor Qianlong proved to be a big mistake. During the 19th century and early 20th century, the Qing court was not prepared for conflicts with Europeans and Japanese.
The Qing court was inept in the last decades. The Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) who was a concubine of an emperor came to power in 1861 and ruled behind the scenes until her death.
Her son reigned from 1862 to 1874, and her nephew ruled from 1875 to 1908. But it is said that she was the real ruler during this long and crucial period of time from 1861 until 1908 at the end of the empire.
The Empowerment of Empress Cixi
She was not well educated. She was simply one of many concubines, but she was favored by her emperor, so she had a high position among the concubines. Then her son was selected to be the emperor.
She started to rule the empire directly after 1860 when British and French troops attacked Beijing with a comparatively small force.
They destroyed the Imperial Summer Palace. It is said that when the Emperor Xianfeng heard of this news, he fell into a depression, turned heavily to alcohol and drugs, and became seriously ill.
When he was dying in 1861, he named eight regents for his five year old son who was to be the next emperor when he died.
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