Qing Dynasty

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The paper is based on the political and social factor for the rise of Qing dynasty during
the reign of Emperor Qianlong. During Qianlong Reigns the empire reached its zenith by
expanding its political borders and being the strongest world power at that time. Some of the
political factors that promoted the rise of Qing dynasty under Qianlong were; The Emperor and
the Mandate of Heaven, Regional peace with other surrounding kingdoms, Historical
Complexity, Strong military and good diplomatic skills by Qianlong. On the other hand, social
factors that enhanced the rise of Qing dynasty were; Stratification of the Chinese society,
Independence of the academic and literature societies from politics, Upholding of Chinese
traditions by the Manchu’s and social organization. All these factors combined with the strong
and able leadership of Qianlong made his reign the most successful during the Qing dynasty.
Key words: Mandate of Heaven, Han Chinese, literati, Hiuiguan.
Political and social factors for the rise of Qing dynasty during Qianlong reign
The Qianlong emperor of Qing Dynasty ruled between 1735 and 1799 spanning across
six decades. Qianlong was born Hongli in 25th September 1711 as a fourth born son succeeding
his father Yongzheng to fulfill his grandfather’s Kangxi wish (Guy, 2017). His grandfather had
noticed unique characteristics in his grandson and did his best to prepare him for the future.
Hongli was taught planned education like the teachings of Fumin, the renowned scholar.
Successively, he was integrated into state affairs before being declared as a first-degree prince
(Elliot, 2007). At the age of 24, Hongli succeeded the throne as an heir of his father. He ruled the
Qing dynasty under the regal title of Qianlong for six decades. During these years, there were
exemplary political and social features of the Qing dynasty.
Emperor Qianlong made the Qing Dynasty to reach its widest limits. There was a
significant expansion of the kingdom in farming lands, increases in population and good
administration. In the north, there was a considerable extension through military intervention
between 1755- 1760. Turkish and Mongolian armies were defeated since they were an active
danger that prevented the creation of Xinjiang as a new province (Porter, 2016). The empire was
extended by 1.6 million Km. in addition, the southern kingdoms and communities which revolted
against Chinese rule were defeated. Tribes in Myanmar, Yunnan rebels, Annam, and Taiwan
were crushed and forced to pay tribute to the emperor in Beijing (Elliot, 2007). Despite recording
success in the military expeditions and controlling a large empire, the Qing Dynasty suffered
heavy financial cost that depleted the treasury of its finances.
The final two decades of Qianlong’s’ reign, were marked by extravagance, poor
management, and corruption. Qianlong had identified a young officer and wanted to make him
the most powerful officer in the empire named Heshen (Hongxing & Zhang, 2002). Despite
marrying the emperors’ favorite daughter and being assigned considerable responsibilities,
Heshen was hungry for power and wealth. This prompted the empire to be corrupt and full of
nepotism leading to permanent effects on the success of the empire (Elliot, 2007). However,
Heshen did not succeed Qianlong as the emperor since the rightful heir was Jiaqing. The new
emperor waited until Qianlong to die so that Heshen could be held accountable for his actions.
After the death of the emperor, Heshen was relieved of his duties; his property was recovered
and asked to commit suicide due to his crimes.
Having reigned for 60 years, Qianlong finally stepped down. This was a tribute to
Kiangxi, his grandfather who had ruled for 61 years. Despite having a young successor called
Heshen, the emperor was succeeded by Jiaqing his 15th son who was known as Yongyan. The
new emperor was crowned during the Chinese New Year celebrations where he was upheld in
the palace until the death of the old emperor (Chang, 2007). All this time until his death,
Qianlong held unto the power as the absolute leader of the Qing dynasty until his death 4 years
later. He is therefore recorded as the longest serving emperor of the Qing Dynasty. After his
death, he was buried in a tomb as Yuling, north-east of Beijing.
Political factors for the rise of Qing dynasty during Qianlong reign
The Emperor and the Mandate of Heaven
The Qing structure of government was based on a strong centralized government led by
an emperor. The emperor was assisted by his relatives who made up the ruling family and
formed a family lineage. Unlike other traditional kingdoms which were monarchical, the
emperor did not have absolute power (Hongxing & Zhang, 2002). The Chinese believed that an
emperor needed to have exceptional characteristics and not the European way of a king having
the divine right of kings. The king was not considered invincible since his actions would collude
with politics and was expected to do things as an emperor was expected (Guy, 2017). If an
emperor fell short of his expectations, then it should be considered legitimate to overthrow him
since the people understood that he has lost the “Mandate of Heaven” (Elliot, 2007). When a new
dynasty was put in place, the people believed that the Mandate of Heaven has been passed to
another ruling house.
Qianlong belonged to the Qing dynasty which overthrew the Ming dynasty. The
Manchu’s announced that the Ming dynasty had lost the Mandate of Heaven. In relation to the
Mandate of Heaven, the Qing dynasty met their ceremonial responsibility as the legitimate
holders of the mandate by frequently honoring them (Wasserstrom, 2016). This ritual honoring
of emperors from the defeated dynasty was important as the Ming dynasty legally held the
Mandate of Heaven once. This ceremony was meant to justify Qing dynasty claim of the
Mandate and to validate their position as legitimate Ming’s successors (Hongxing & Zhang,
2002). The strong and centralized Qianlong government was led by Qianlong who was a strong
ruler and was backed by the Mandate of Heaven to justify his strong leadership skills and
Regional peace with other surrounding kingdoms
Qianlong maintained regional peace within and outside the borders of the Qing Empire.
He was the first Manchu ruler to completely establish himself as a ruler of both the Manchu and
Chinese people who made up the Qing Empire. For instance, to the Tibetans, he was an
incarnation of Mansjuri the most important bodhisattvas of Tibet. To the Mongols, he was a
steppe prince and to the Han Chinese, he was a scholar and a great patron of Chinese learning
and art (Chang, 2007). He was, therefore, able to unite the different people who made up the
Qing Empire. By having internal peace, Qianlong was able to conquer and ensure that there was
any external threat was easily quelled.
Qianlong was an ambitious military leader who quelled an external rebellion. By quelling
these rebellions, he ensured that the empire enjoyed long periods of peace and at the same time
made history by ensuring the Qing Empire reached its zenith. During the summit of Qianlong
rule Chinese dominated surrounding states in East Asia, Parts of present-day Russia and Taiwan
(Kleutghen, 2010). For instance, Qianlong commanded the attack on the rebellious big and little
Hodjas at Mt. Hoskuluk under the leadership of General Chaoi Hu. The Qing military made up
of 900 Calvary defeated 6000 rebels showing its military might. By quelling such revolts,
Qianlong ensured there was a political stability between the Qing Empire and surrounding
Historical Complexity
The historical complexity of the Chinese empire prompted the government to establish a
strong political structure. Qianlong came from the Manchu rulers who faced rebellions among
the Han Chinese (Wasserstrom, 2016). To reduce the rebellion, Qianlong adopted the Chinese
and Ming political and cultural institutions to politically control and reduce resistance in the
empire. For instance, Qianlong maintained the Confucian temple rites, court practices, and civil
service. Chinese Qing dynasty rulers were suspicious of Han Chinese since they had taken over
the leadership from the Ming Dynasty hence they put a strong political strategy. Qianlong and
other emperors were therefore pure Manchu’s who could not marry Han Chinese. This explains
why despite having many wives, Qianlong did not have a Han Chinese wife or concubines.
Having a complex history made it possible for Qianlong to adopt a strong political structure that
could not be easily overthrown.
Strong and able military
"The army may be unemployed for a hundred years, but it cannot be left unprepared for a
single day." (Wasserstrom, 2016) Qianlong had a strong military and able general who
maintained peace and protected the empire from external aggression. Qianlong himself was a
strong emperor who was chosen by Kangxi as a prince due to his exemplary leadership and
bravery skills. During Qianlong reign, China was the wealthiest country and had the highest
population of more than 150 million people (Rawski & Rawson, 2005). Such a large population
needed a strong leader and a strong-armed force to protect and maintain peace. Qianlong was a
Manchu warrior and huntsman who adopted the Confucian political leadership principles to set a
good example to his generals. Famous victories, acts of valor and successful invasion were
recorded in a series of painting. Qianlong was a strong supporter of art and his military ability
and successful army conquest against Muslims and Zunghars was recorded in paintings. A strong
military which was led by an able ruler set an example to the army to expand its rule and reach
the summit of the Qing dynasty.
Qianlong had good diplomatic skills
Qianlong was a strong ruler who not only used military skills to expand his empire but
also applied diplomatic approaches. During his reign, Emperor Qianlong integrated the Mongols
into his empire mostly through the use of diplomacy. He also increased the political connection
with the Tibet’s to enable the empire to reach its zenith. He increased his influence through
diplomacy where military force was not necessary like Central Asian countries and some parts of
Russia. In addition, he ensured that kingdoms that he had conquered were given realistic
demands to quell revolts and minimize resistance while at the same time having a strong grip on
them (Kleutghen, 2010). For instance, the Siam and Myanmar kingdoms after being conquered
by Emperor Qianlong, they paid tribute to him and still took part in the administration.
Therefore, good diplomatic skills by Emperor Qianlong meant that he expanded his empire
without much resistance hence its rise to the peak.
Social factors for the rise of Qing dynasty during Qianlong reign
Stratification of the Chinese society
During the initial years of Qianlong reign, the Chinese society was highly stratified.
There were social classes where the imperial class was at the top while ‘mean people’ were at the
bottom of the social ladder. This was prompted by the Chinese society having a hereditary type
of becoming professional. Doctors, navigators, brewers among other professions were hereditary
down the generation (Porter, 2016). Mean people included the original inhabitants who survived
the Chinese conquest whose professions were prostitutes, musicians among others. The ‘mean
people’ were not allowed sit for the civil service examination. Before Qianlong reign, there was
a proposal to change the mean people status to commoners which were not successful. In
addition, during Qianlong reign, it was wrong for people belonging to different social classes to
intermarry. This ensured that people strived to excel in their profession and there was no lack of
certain service that was needed for the expansion of the Qing Dynasty.
Stratification of the Chinese society prompted social mobility during Qianlong’s later
years. The society evolved during the rule of Qianlong when the society held the belief that a
peasant boy can rise to be the best scholar in China (Rawski & Rawson, 2005). Since members
of a certain social class were treated according to their level, most households invested in
education to help their children to pass the civic education that would see them raise their social
class. In fact, the most prestigious career in the Qing society was scholar-official. The society
had taught elites who stuck to the moral and ethical expectations of the society and assisted
Qianlong in his reign (Wasserstrom, 2016. This class of elite administrators and officials ensured
that the rule of law was enhanced and the Qing dynasty was prosperous and successful during
Emperor Qianlong reign.
Social organization
The basic social unit in China was the Jia or family. The family was a closely related
unit that was connected through blood relationship whose members shared common finance and
property. During Qianlong reigns, the society experienced a period of sojourners who could not
be brought together by kinship and instead they were united by native Place organizations
(Chang, 2007). Traders from the Qing Empire established social units that assisted each other in
foreign lands and which saw the extension of the Qing Empire in a foreign land where these men
went to like South East Asia (Kleutghen, 2010). These social units in foreign lands were
sometimes used to govern the foreign land. Any resistance was sought by the unit seeking
assistance from the home government. Whenever the Qianlong army sought protection, the place
ended up being colonized or paying tribute to the emperor in Beijing.
Qing empire merchants under Qianlong formed units known as ‘Huiguan’ that were
formed using the principle called a Native place. Hiuiguan were primarily established for the
official assessment of candidates. First, they existed in Beijing and home provinces. However,
following the rapid expansion of the Qing Empire by Qianlong, Huiguan’ were established as a
meeting point, lodging, an official place to receive financial aid and storage of goods for native
Chinese in foreign provinces. During the late periods of Qianlong reign, there were Huiguan’
organizations that were entirely made up of traders (Smith, 2015). These organizations allowed
the easy entry of Qing empire entry into foreign leadership since it had already been established.
Under the guidance of social organizations made by Chinese traders, the Qing Empire promoted
the rise of Qing Dynasty.
Independence of the academic and literary societies from politics
During Qianlong reign, the empire banned literati from using scholarly knowledge in the
political arena. Most scholars were found at Beijing and Yangtze Delta had established an
empirical school of scholarship (Smith, 2015). These scholars are credited for most of the
inventions and knowledge that China had at that time through research and verifying existing
beliefs. The scholars proved flaws that were there in traditional Confucian believe hence
adopting a more secular approach to learning. These scholars ensured that the Qing Empire
under Qianlong was always one step ahead of its surrounding neighbors. This made the citizens
gain trust with the government as well as respect and tribute from its enemies (Kleutghen, 2010).
For instance, Qianlong earned respect through exceptional inventions like the gunpowder in
firearms which was used by the Qing army to conquer and expand the empire. Scholarly
inventions and proven knowledge were important for the construction and expansion of the Qing
Empire by Qianlong.
Upholding of Chinese traditions by the Manchu’s
Qianlong being a Manchu upheld the traditional Chinese society. During the reign of
Qianlong, the Qing Empire was made up of many different societies. However, the Han Chinese
society had the highest population meaning that it was important for the Manchu’s where
Qianlong belonged to uphold Chinese traditions for the peaceful coexistence of the different
societies (Dmitriev & Kuzmin, 2015). Under Qianlong a multi-ethnic Chinese Empire was
portrayed to unite all ethnic groups among the; Tibetans, Mongols, Manchu’s and Han Chinese.
Each ethnic group had their own beliefs and social practices as well as cultural practices. Under
Qianlong, the Tibetan practiced Buddhism, The Manchu observed a shamanistic cult, a majority
of the Mongols were Buddhist and the Chinese had their own traditional religion (Dmitriev &
Kuzmin, 2015). This social unity and identification by Qianlong ensured that the empire was
assisted towards expanding and promoting the Qing dynasty.
Qianlong was the most successful ruler of the Qing Dynasty. According to the Mongols,
who wrote down their own account about the Qing Empire, they portrayed Qianlong as a strong
and able ruler. Qianlong rescued the Mongols from decline and instilled a period of peace and
benevolent rule. The reputation of Chinggis Khan, the Mongolian Empire founder reduced due to
exemplary leadership and success of the Qing Empire under Qianlong. The Qianlong Empire
assisted the Mongols in many ways like protecting Mongolia from external affairs and engaging
in internal affairs. For instance, Qing literati were the official Mongolian banners as well as
writing biographies of Mongolian nobles where their stories were based on the loyalty of the
nobles to the Qin dynasty. Therefore, Qianlong was a favorite in a home and even foreign
conquered provinces which explains why he easily expanded his authority successfully.
In conclusion, Qianlong was a realistic ruler who personally controlled and supervised
many aspects of the empire. He took part in executive, military affairs, economic and taxation
system or his appointed officials Qianlong ensured he supervised what his administration was
doing. These leadership skills were evident from his early years when he was handpicked by his
grandfather emperor Kangxi as a first-hand prince due to these unique characteristics. In
addition, having an already laid out basis for his leadership by other successful emperors ensured
that he faced a few problems in expanding the empire. Finally, Qianlong made sure that he
united the Chinese by identifying with all ethnic groups like the Manchus, Han Chinese, and
Tibet's. Qianlong laid the basis for the establishment of a modern Chinese nation by creating a
historical, social, political and economic identity.
Chang, M. G. (2007). A court on horseback: imperial touring & the construction of qing rule,
1680-1785 (Vol. 287). Harvard Univ Council on East Asian.
Dmitriev, S. V., & Kuzmin, S. L. (2015). Conquest Dynasties of China or Foreign Empires? The
Problem of Relations between China, Yuan and Qing. International Journal Central Asian
Studies, 19, 59-91.
Elliott, M. C. (2009). Emperor Qianlong: Son of heaven, man of the world. Pearson College
Guy, R. K. (2017). Qing governors and their provinces: the evolution of territorial administration
in China, 1644-1796. University of Washington Press.
Hongxing, Z., & Zhang, H. (2002). The Qianlong Emperor: Treasures from the Forbidden City.
National Museums of Scotland.
Kleutghen, K. R. (2010). The Qianlong emperor's perspective: Illusionistic painting in
eighteenth-century China. Harvard University.
Porter, J. (2016). A Concise History of the Qing Dynasty.
Rawski, E. S., & Rawson, J. (Eds.). (2005). China: the three emperors, 1662-1795. Royal
Academy of Arts.
Smith, R. J. (2015). The Qing Dynasty and Traditional Chinese Culture. Rowman & Littlefield.
Wasserstrom, J. (2016). The Qing Dynasty’s Past and the Communist Party's Future. The
Washington Quarterly, 39(3), 159-168.

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