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Describe the major political, economic and social achievements of each of the following empires.
As the Ming dynasty began to crumble, a Manchurian leader named Nurhaci (1559-1626) united the many Manchu tribes in order to take control of China and spark the beginning of the Qing dynasty. Not only did they ruled an area larger than any previous Chinese dynasty (excluding the Tang), they were also settled in fairly quickly with the empire by forcing submission of nomadic peoples in the West and collected tribute from kingdoms like Vietnam and Burma in the south. For the most part, the Manchurians kept the political system of the Ming dynasty intact. Both the Manchu people and the Chinese were allowed important spots in the bureaucracy, but it was no doubt easier for the Manchus to obtain these jobs. They also restored the examination system, favored Confucianism and restored the concept of the Sons of Heaven. The early Manchu rulers were also great patrons of the arts. One ruler, Kangxi (1661-1722), was a Confucian scholar, and he was one of the few Manchu rulers that sponsored the creation of a huge collection of Chinese encyclopedias.
Socially, extended family was most important in the elite classes. The government frowned upon guilds and secret societies. Even under this new dynasty, women were still treated poorly in comparison to men, probably due to the reinforcement of Confucian philosophy. Women in the lower classes had more power than the elite because they were forced to work in order to make a living. If a woman was lucky enough to be a man’s first wife, have a son, and live long enough, they would eventually be able to run the household. Nevertheless, the Qin dynasty was not and ideal place for women.
The Manchus worked hard in an attempt to reverse the damage from the fall of the Ming dynasty. They spent a great chunk of money in their efforts to restore dikes, canals and roadways. They lowered taxes and labor demands, and peasants were encouraged to grow crops. The Manchus also lifted the restrictions of overseas travel from the Ming dynasty. This allowed trade to rise, increasing the wealth of Chinese merchants greatly and creating a new group of wealthy merchants called the compradors. China was a major exporter of tea, porcelain, and silk textiles, and in return for exporting these goods they received large payments of silver. The merchants played a huge role in connecting China to the outside world.
Although trade prospered, things quickly took a turn for the worse. Europeans disliked the trade balance that favored China; so European merchants hooked the Chinese on opium. The government was already weakening due to corruption, and now people of all social classes were spending large amounts of money on this new drug. In order to end this craze, Lin Zexu was called in. European merchants and naval officers refused to cooperate so he blockaded trading areas in Canton, and proceed to confiscate and destroy the opium. This lead to a negative response from the Europeans, and that gave rise to the opium war. Britain defeated China, and started to take control in their government, forcing China to treat the Europeans as equals, rather than barbarians (which was what they were used to doing).
Just when it seemed as if the situation couldn’t get any worse, Hong Xiuquan began the Taiping Rebellion. Zang Guofan managed to crush the rebellion and carry out many important reforms, which lead to China’s self-strengthening movement. They encouraged the West’s funding for railways and factories, and modernized their armies. One of the last rulers of this dynasty was empress Cixi, who brought about much needed reforms by ending the civil service exam and concluding that Confucian philosophy could no longer support China’s bureaucracy. Finally, the last emperor of China, a small boy named Puyi, was removed from the throne, and a Chinese republican was formed bring about the end of the Qing dynasty.
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