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The Qing Dynasty And Their Reign Marks

2017-01-09 16:59:49Share:

  Although they are now thoroughly identified with China, the emperors of the Qing dynasty were not Chinese but descendants of the Jurchen, a group from the far north-east of China who had abandoned the term Jurchen, associated with historical submission to Chinese rule, and instead called themselves Manchu. Their leader then proclaimed himself emperor of the Qing (pure, clear) dynasty and in 1644 replaced the Ming dynasty as rulers of China.

 

  During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the problem of identity, of the balance between ancestral heritage and Chinese culture, was gradually resolved.

 

  In the early stages of Manchu rule, the emperors still encountered considerable loyalty to the Chinese Ming dynasty. The Aisin-Gioro clan, to which the Qing emperors belonged, had consolidated their power from the 1590s through the organization of the Eight Banners. The Banners, military groups named for their distinctive banners, also formed the basis of social organisations that had been in place before the Manchu conquest of China, where warriors’ families were included in the groups and provided with educational opportunities and agricultural land.

 

  As the Qing moved southwards, the Banners incorporated many Chinese (who eventually outnumbered the Manchus) into the Banners, providing for them and their families and thereby instilling loyalty. These were the troops that the Kangxi emperor led against three rebellious Chinese generals, finally crushing their revolt in 1681.

 

  Much of the early part of the Kangxi Emperor's rule was spent in consolidating and extending his territory. The Qianlong Emperor also undertook major military expansion, north-east and north-west. Both emperors led extensive expeditions themselves. The Yongzheng Emperor by contrast centered his time on Beijing and is best known for his transformation of government.

qing dunasty

 

This chart shows the relative length and sequence of the various period during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)

 

  Imperial marks from the Qing dynasty are mostly written in either Kai shu (kaishu) (normal script) or Zhuan shu (zhuanshu) (archaic seal script). It is worth noticing that kaishu is writing and is therefore subject to the differences in penmanship and is therefore more difficult to fake, while zhuanshu technically is drawing and is therefore easier to emulate. Sometimes a third Song style occurs, but so far only examples of the 'normal' and the 'seal script' versions are shown below.

 

  The 'seal script' is stylistically related to the interest in the archaic which not in this matter pre-dates the Yongzheng period, so I would personally feel uncertain about any seal script mark being older than the Yongzheng.

 

  All genuine Imperial marks occurs in several versions and are written by a limited number of different hands. It is therefore felt that the individual handwriting of those entrusted with this work are possible to recognize. From around 1995 there seems to have been a rise in computer aided designs while no marks can be trusted anymore as the single feature on which to base any judgement of authenticity while overall style and quality should be the true criteria.