Table of Contents
- 16 Kingdoms Period
- 5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms
- Beiyang Government
- Chiang Kai-Shek
- The Five Emperors of Early China
- Hong Kong
- Jade Empire
- Jin Dynasty
- Kangxi Emperor
- Liao Dynasty
- Mao Zedong
- Naval History
- Northern Wei Dynasty
- Qin Dynasty
- Qing Dynasty
- Rebellion of the Seven States
- Republic of China
- Song Dynasty
- Southern and Northern Dynasties
- Sun Yat-Sen
- The Boxer Rebellion
- The First Opium War
- The Han Dynasty
- The History of Beijing
- The History of the Emperor of China
- The Ming Dynasty
- The Second Opium War
- The Sino-French War
- The Taiping Rebellion
- The Terracotta Army
- The Third Battle of Nanking
- The Three Kingdoms Period
- Tiananmen Square
- Warring States Period
- Western Xia Dynasty
- Xia Dynasty
- Yellow Turban Rebellion
- Yuan Dynasty
- Zhou Dynasty
16 Kingdoms Period
The Sixteen Kingdoms period took place between 304 and 439 AD. The sixteen states only controlled Northern China following the Jin dynasty and preceded the establishment of the Northern dynasties. During this same time, the Jin dynasty operated in Southern China. The sixteen states often include Han Zhao, Later Zhao, Cheng Han, Northern Liang, Former Liang, Later Liang, Western Liang, Southern Liang, Former Yan, Later Yan, Northern Yan, Southern Yan, Western Qin, Former Qin, Later Qin, and Xia. However, other minor states existed during this time, and not all of these major 16 existed during the entire Sixteen Kingdoms period.
While the Jin dynasty in the South and all preceding dynasties had been under control of the Han ethnic group, these 16 kingdoms were almost entirely ruled by kings of the Wu Hu ethnic group. Many claimed to be emperors, although they had no true empire at their command. Four out of the 16 were founded by Hans: Wei, Former Liang, Western Liang, and Northern Yan.
While it was founded during this time, the Northern Wei dynasty was not considered one of the sixteen states.
5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms
China was in turmoil between 907 and 960, the time period that today is referred to as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. In the north, five different dynasties appeared and disappeared within the years, and in the south, over a dozen different kingdoms and states were founded. The count is not exact—generally, only the ten most powerful are counted, although some include an eleventh or include different kingdoms on the list of ten.
The five dynasties included the Later Liang, Later Tang, Later Jin, Later Han, and the Later Zhou. The usually accepted ten kingdoms were Chu, Min, Wu, Wuyue, Northern Han, Southern Han, Former Shu, Later Shu, Southern Tang, and Jingnan.
Events Leading to the Period
During its decline, the Tang dynasty government gave more and more power to their jiedushi, or military governors. Following the Huang Chao Rebellion, the government was greatly diminished, and these jiedushi more or less ruled over their provinces without any assistance or loyalty to the government. When the Tang fell, they simply dropped all pretense of serving the emperor and ruled openly.
The Five Dynasties
The first of the five dynasties was the Later Liang dynasty. It was formed by Zhu Wen, a powerful warlord who was part of Huang Chao’s rebellion. However, he later sided against the rebels and helped defeat them. For that, he was given a military governorship. However, Zhu Wen was not content with his province and proceeded to conquer his neighbors. In 904, he executed the current emperor (Zhaozong) and placed his son, who was thirteen at the time, on the throne. He served as the power behind the throne for three years before forcing his son to abdicate and declaring himself emperor.
His son, Zhu Zhen, inherited the throne in 923 when his father died. However, he had no desire to rule, and he left the kingdom rather than take the throne, thus ending the Later Liang dynasty.
The Later Tang dynasty followed. It was founded by Li Cunxu after a long battle with his rival, Liu Shouguang. In 923, he claimed the throne and destroyed the Later Liang dynasty. He would later conquer Former Shu in 925, reunited a good part of northern China.
While the Later Tang enjoyed peace for a few years, in 934, the Former Shu rebelled, and in 936, jiedushi Shi Jingtang, allied with the Khitan Empire, launched his own rebellion. He had promised the Khitan control of the Sixteen Prefectures and tribute, although he would later double-cross his allies. His rebellion, however, was successful, and he went on to create the Later Jin dynasty.
As emperor, Shi Jingtang faced attack by the Khitans after he reneged on their agreement. In 943, they declared war on the Later Jin, and by 946, they had taken Shi Jingtang’s capital of Kaifeng. However, while this ended the Later Jin dynasty, the Khitan had no desire to control the area, and they withdrew their forces back to their territory.
After the Khitan withdrew, Liu Zhiyuan moved into Kaifeng in 947 and founded the Later Han dynasty. It would prove to be the shortest of the five, ending in 951 after a coup. The Han General Guo Wei overthrew Liu Zhiyuan and set up the Later Zhou dynasty. However, this transition was not as easy as he hoped, and Liu Chong, one of the Later Han imperial family members, moved to Taiyuan and established the Northern Han dynasty.
Guo Wei died in 951, and his adopted son took the throne. Chai Rong began expanding the empire, and in 954, he defeated the Northern Han and their Khitan allies. In 956, Chai Rong launched a campaign in Southern Tang, the most powerful southern kingdom. Two years later, the Later Zhou defeated the Southern Tang, incorporating much of their territory into the empire. However, in 959, Chai Rong attempted to defeat the Khitan Empire and reclaim the Sixteen Prefectures. Despite winning several battles, he died of illness before he could see his dream realized.
Chai Rong died in 960, but rather than see his heir on the throne, General Zhao Kuangyin launched a military coup. He took the throne and founded the Northern Song dynasty, officially bringing an end to the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. For the next two decades, he and his heir, Zhao Kuangyi, began defeated the other kingdoms. In 979, they defeated the Northern Han, and in 982, the Northern Song reunified China.
The Ten Kingdoms
Northern Han – The Only Northern Kingdom
The Northern Han Kingdom is the only kingdom that was not located in the south. The kingdom was founded after the Later Zhou dynasty rose to power. The kingdom allied itself with the Khitan Empire, and thanks to their protection, the kingdom remained independent until the Song dynasty conquered it in 979.
The Southern Kingdoms
While the northern dynasties followed one another, the kingdoms in the south existed concurrently. The nine kingdoms (not including the Northern Han) interacted with each other until their eventual end.
The Kingdom of Wu existed between 902 and 937, and it was founded by Yang Xingmi, a former Tang military governor. His capital was founded at Guangling, although it later moved to Jinling. In 937, the kingdom fell from within when the Southern Tang overthrew it.
The Kingdom of Wuyue was founded in 907 and fell in 978. It was the longest existing kingdom during the time and one of the most powerful. Wuyue was one of the most advanced kingdoms culturally. Once the Tang dynasty fell, Qian Liu founded Wuyue. The kingdom existed until the Song dynasty incorporated it into part of its unified empire in 978.
Founded in 909, the Min Kingdom would exist until 945. Its founder, Wang Shenzhi, took the title Prince of Min. His son, however, declared himself emperor in 933. With his capital at Fujian, the Min Kingdom would rule over its territory until the Southern Tan conquered them in 945.
The Southern Han kingdom (917-971) was ruled over by Liu Yan. It was one of the smaller kingdoms, and little of note occurred during the kingdom until its fall.
The Kingdom of Chu, founded at Changsha by Ma Yin, was one of the shorter kingdoms, existing between 927 and 951. Ma Yin was, like many of the other rulers of the kingdoms, originally a military governor. He ruled the Chu Kingdom until 1951 when it was taken over by the Southern Tang.
Jingnan, the smallest of the kingdoms, was ruled by Gao Jichang. He founded the kingdom in 924, but it was a rather weak kingdom in comparison to the other kingdoms. It fell to the Song in 963, and little was achieved during its 40 years.
907 saw the founding of several of the kingdoms, including the Former Shu Kingdom. It was founded by Wang Jian, a military governor appointed by the Tang. His son, an incompetent ruler by all accounts, surrendered to the Later Tang dynasty forces in 925.
The Later Shu Kingdom (935-965) was more or less the same as the Former Shu Kingdom. As the Later Tang dynasty declined, Meng Zhixiang saw the opportunity to break away and reform the kingdom. It controlled basically the same territory as the Former Shu did, but it would only last 30 years before falling to the Northern Song forces.
The last of the ten kingdoms is the Southern Tang. Founded in 937 on the ruins of the Kingdom of Wu, Southern Tang expanded and conquered many of the other kingdoms. In 961, the empire formed a treaty with the Song dynasty, becoming somewhat subordinate to them. In 975, the Song broke the treaty and invaded, taking over the Southern Tang.
Politics Between the Kingdoms
The southern kingdoms were more stable overall than the northern dynasties, but they still had their share of battles. Wu and its successor, Southern Tang, both warred with their neighboring kingdoms. The Southern Tang destroyed the Min and the Chu, becoming the most powerful of the southern kingdoms. Despite this, the Later Zhou dynasty would defeat them.
In 960, the Northern Song dynasty became focused on reunifying all of China. They defeated one kingdom after another, and finally, in 978, they controlled all of China, ending the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.
After the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, the government of China formed into a Beiyang government that was ruled by different factions of warlords and military regimes which collectively ruled the country from Beijing. It was considered the official government of China from 1912-1928. The government had gotten its name from the Beiyang Army which had risen in power and prominence under General Yuan Shikai during the Qing Dynasty. However, when Yuan died, the army broke down into different warring sectors even though it was supposed to be governed through a centralized government in Beijing. The problem was that whoever controlled the faction which resided in Beijing welded the greatest power and it often left the rest vying for power.
The governmental system did not work and most of the revenue that came into the Chinese government during this time period was spent on military equipment and supplies for whichever general or lord’s army was temporarily in control. With so many people only looking out for themselves or attempting to find a way to promote their good fortune it seemed that there was no one considering what was best for the country as a whole. The government was corrupted and even approached tyrannical on many occasions. While there were civilian entities within the government to try and lend it a more democratic feel, these officials were usually threatened or bribed by the reigning warlord so that they could retain power.
During the twelve years that the Beiyang government was in power there were seven heads of state, five different parliaments, and twenty-five different cabinets. This continuous flux of power and instability almost lead the country to bankruptcy on more than one occasion. In 1917 the Kuomintang challenged the authenticity and legitimacy of the Beiyang government. Chiang Kai-shek led his supporters on the Northern Expedition in 1928 in order to completely finish off the Beiyang warlords in Beijing as well as other sections of the country. China was again unified under the banner of the Kuomintang and received international recognition as the ruling government of China until the communist party’s overthrow in 1949.
Chiang Kai-shekChiang Kai-shek was born on October 31st, 1887, in Xikou. His father was a salt merchant who died at an early age and Chiang was wed to Mao Fumei in an arranged marriage. Chiang did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps and instead decided to join the military. His main motivation for this was apparently the weakened Chinese government and economy which had come about through the endless civil fighting amongst the warlords of the country.
So, at the age of nineteen, Chiang entered the Baoding Military Academy in 1906, and just one year later he transferred to the preparatory school in Japan (Rikugun Shikan Gakko). It was there that he and his fellow students decided to support the uprising revolutionary movement and overthrow the Qing Dynasty in order for them to set up a government known as the Chinese Republic.
After serving in the Japanese Imperial army for two years (1909-1911) Chiang returned to China after hearing of the Wuchang Uprising. When he went back he found himself serving in the revolution beneath his long time friend Chen Qimei. Eventually the revolution succeeded in its goals of overthrowing the Qing Dynasty, and Chiang was a founding and important member of the Kuomintang, otherwise known as the Chinese Nationalist Party or KMT.
However, the newly formed and still fragile government was quickly taken over by Yuan Shikai. Chiang and his compatriots launched a second revolution, which failed. After this attempt to retake power ended, Chiang was forced to divide his time between being exiled in Japan and spending time in the havens provided for men like him in Shanghai. It was in this environment that Chiang first met and began to associate with the underworld gangs who commanded so much power and respect in Shanghai during this time. It is believed that Chiang used the gang’s help and influence when he and fellow KMT members killed the leader of the Restoration Society, Tao Chengzhang, while he was in a hospital in Shanghai on February 15th, 1912.
Four years later on May 18th, 1916, Chiang’s good friend Chen Qimei was assassinated by Yuan Shikai, leaving Chiang to then succeed him as the new leader of the Chinese Revolutionary Party in Shanghai. It was around this time that Sun Yat-sen moved the base of his headquarters to Guangzhou. It was here that Chiang decided to join him even though a short time later Sun was again exiled back to Shanghai because he had been without arms and money for some time. A large theoretical split in ideology was occurring between Sun and the governor of Guangdong about what should be done with the future of China.
While the KMT sought to try and bring China together under a singular military, Chen Jiongming was convinced that the new system should be based on a federalist model. He even suggested that his own province, Guangdong, as a sort of basis for this future establishment. The rift continued until Chen attempted to have Sun assassinated at his home on June 16th, 1923. The bombardment nearly cost Sun and his wife, Soong Ching-ling, their lives. However, Chiang had somehow managed to arrange for gunboats to rescue the couple and this earned Chiang a very deep spot in Sun’s trust.
With some help from Comintern and mercenaries in the area, Sun had managed to regain control of Guangzhou one year later in the early part of 1924. When he managed to accomplish this the first thing that Sun did was to put the Kuomintang through a major renovation in an effort to establish a more revolutionary form of government that would be better equipped to handle the unification of China. To help him accomplish this he sent Chiang to study the socio-economic situation in the Soviet Union. During this trip to Moscow Chiang met with Trotsky and other famous leaders, but he did not believe that the system of government that the Bolsheviks worked under would be a well-suited ideal for China.
Once Chiang returned Sun sat that he was appointed as the Commandant of a school known as the Whampoa Military Academy. While this stance as an educator of the younger generations of soldiers may not have been as powerful a position as some would have wanted, it allowed Chiang the opportunity to come into contact with many young soldiers who were becoming loyal to both the KMT as well as Chiang himself, and this was an important step when considering the placement of his future. During his tenure at the academy Chiang also saw quite a few members of the communist party go through. Many of these would go on to become high-profile leaders and members of the Red Army. Chiang disapproved of the communist party that existed within the KMT because he believed that eventually they would try to overcome the KMT from the inside out.
On March 12th, 1925, Sun Yat-sen died and a great displacement of power occurred within the KMT leadership. There was a clash between Chiang and his followers who veered to the right of the KMT belief system and Wang Jingwei and his comrades who were more on the left side of the political system. The odds were heavily geared in Jingwei’s favor as Chiang was farther down on the political hierarchy of the KMT; however, Chiang was a very skilled political and military opportunist and he eventually won out the party. That same year Chiang would be named the National Revolutionary Army’s Commander-in-Chief. His first mission in this role was to launch the extensive campaign to end the broken feudal leadership of the warlords which controlled a good portion of northern China so that the country could have solidarity under the KMT. This would become known as the Northern Expedition and it began on July 27th, 1926.
To do this the army was placed into three separate branches that would try to achieve their goals by going through the east, the west, and the center. To ensure that the Northern Expedition was a success the KMT had enlisted the help of the Chinese Communist Party or CCP. Wang Jingwei (who was leading the expedition’s western front) combined forces with the CCP and once they had overtaken the city of Wuhan he declared that it was now the base of the National Government. In order to deal with this Chiang halted his portion of the expedition in Nanking and declared the National Government to be based there. He also removed all of the communists from the KMT and formerly expelled the soviet advisors which had been assisting them. This act would ultimately be what led to the beginning of the Chinese Civil War as the communist sought to regain power and control later on. Chiang then turned his attention to the government that Jingwei had established and before long his forces overpowered Jingwei’s. This led to the leftist party that was controlled by Jingwei to surrender completely to Chiang’s government and to follow them to Nanking. The Northern Expedition ended in June of 1928 when the warlord of Beijing surrendered and aligned himself with Chiang’s government.
To make sure that he was firmly cemented as the next leader, Chiang divorced his wife, renounced his concubines and converted to Christianity (specifically Methodism) so that he could marry Soon May-Ling, the younger sister of Sun Yat-sen’s widow, on December 1st, 1927. He also had Yat-sen’s body moved to Nanking and built an extravagant mausoleum for the former leader to be permanently enshrined in.
This was just the beginning for Chiang Kai-shek, however, as he also had to assume power over many of the warlords who continued to maintain their own loyal armed forces. As long as the varying warlords were able to retain some form of fragmented power the country was not truly unified under the KMT. Chiang formerly put an end to this when he was named Generalissimo presiding over all of the forces in China as well as the Chairman of the National Government. This was the completion of the first step of Yat-sen’s three step course of action that the KMT needed to take in order to completely rebuild the country and to turn China over to democratic rule. The second step was for the country to go through a period of political tutelage that would better help to prepare them for a more constitutional form of government.
In the nine years between 1928 and 1937, Chiang’s government made huge steps in consolidating the interests and powers of China and many aspects of a modern Chinese government began to emerge through his actions. The new government had to work hard to make sure that the legal system was brought up to modern standards as well as the banking system. They also had to work hard to fight inflation and rising debts while at the same time building transportation that would better connect the country so that education and health care could also improve.
There was a great deal of success during this period that helped the Chinese people to feel more connected and unified than they previously had. The main problems were often associated with the constant need for Chiang’s government to have to go back and deal with the different uprisings that pointed out where more reform and consolidation was needed on the political and military fronts. Not to mention the fact that although the urbanized centers of China were firmly under the control of the KMT, many of the outlying areas had either remained under the control of the few remaining warlords or had been won over by the Chinese Communist Party.
While he may have been uncertain about how to approach the communist party, Chiang decided to deal a fatal blow to the weaker warlords by declaring war against them in 1930. This would become known as the Central Plains War and the tolls were high, both financially and mortally as the war nearly succeeded in bankrupting the newly established government and cost nearly a quarter of a million Chinese their lives. While he may have won that contingency, Chiang was still unable to completely rid himself of the CCP and its followers.
In 1934 Chiang went on a fifth campaign to try and rid himself completely of the communists, and while he was able to surround the Red Army. The downfall of this plan, however, was when Chiang decided to let the communists escape through the countryside to Yan’an on what has become known as the Long March. It’s believed that the overall intention was to allow the communists to flee in hopes that the few warlords that were still in that area would engage them in battle. This would have further weakened the warlords and put an end to the communists. What Chiang did not count on was the warlord’s willingness to let the communists pass through their lands undisturbed.
In the middle of all of this, Chiang faced problems on the Japanese front when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. At first Chiang responded by resigning as Chairman of the National Government, but he returned within just a few months. However, his tactical response to the invasion was that the country should first deal with the problems created by the communists before they turned their attentions to dealing with Japan directly. This might have been fine had Japan not continued to advance into Chinese territory by bombarding Nanjing and moving into Shanghai in 1932. Many thought that Chiang was too preoccupied with the communist threat to appropriately deal with the Japanese, but the truth was that Chiang was in desperate need of modernizing Japan’s armed forces before trying to deal with them straight on.
In the six years between Japan’s initial invasion into Manchuria in 1931 and the declaration of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the government worked extremely hard to try and update all of its armed forces so that they could accurately deal with the threat of the Japanese. Chiang had sought to establish a sort of temporary peace with Japan in order to give himself time to build up proper fortifications and to expand the communications capabilities of the countryside. If Chiang had allowed his troops to go to full scale war before the country was adequately prepared then he knew that he would be risking more lives and defeat. The downside was that in order to get everything ready for action he had to embrace a policy that was widely unpopular with the residents of China at the time.
As the tensions for war against Japan were winding up, Chiang made his way to Xi’an to coordinate a move against the Red Army that was seeking refuge in Yan’an. This was not to be the way it worked out. Chiang was planning on using the forces under the command of Chang Hsueh-liang for the attack against the Red Army, but Hsueh-liang was from Manchuria, where the Japanese had originally attacked, and he had other plans for Chiang Kai-shek. When Chiang arrived in Xi’an he was kidnapped and held for two weeks. During this time Chiang was held until he agreed to open up a Second United Front against the Japanese using the communists to help him fight against Japan.
Even though his official stance was that the warfare against the communists was over and that they were going to fight together against the Japanese, this was not what Chiang wanted. The public, however, loved the fact that the country seemed to be united against the Japanese front and when China entered the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Chiang was at the height of his career. In fact it has been speculated by many that one of the reasons that he had been left in power after being kidnapped is that he was the only leader with the public support and international roots who would be capable of successfully leading China into war with Japan.
When the war broke out Chiang sent in his best soldiers, many of them from the Whampoa base that he had taught at years before. Of these six hundred thousand that were deployed a month after the war broke out, two hundred thousand died very quickly as they defended Shanghai. This loss, as bad as it was, hurt Chiang worse than he thought at the time because it immediately lessened his largest support base of officers that were loyal to him. However, Chiang had managed to dispel the Japanese claims that China would fall to them within three months as well as demonstrate to many of the Western powers that China was capable of defending a city that they were heavily invested in.
Chiang was not under the delusion that he would be capable of holding onto Shanghai forever, but he was trying to make a diplomatic gesture to the other countries that would indicate that he understood their investments and that he was going to attempt to protect them. This maneuver was meant to imply that since he had helped to defend their interests on his soil that they offer him support against the Japanese and officially declare to be on China’s side during the fight with Japan. Chiang believed that trying to make sure that he secured military aid from the western countries now would greatly benefit him down the road when he was unable to make any grand gestures toward them.
In December of 1937, Nanjing had fallen to the Japanese and Chiang had been forced to move the capital to Wuhan, and later on he would once again have to move the capital city even further inland to Chongqing. Since Chiang did not have the necessary resources to launch a normal war on the Japanese, he strategically tried to use the massive amount of land in China to derail the Japanese war machine. In doing this he kept the supply lines stretched as tightly as they could and made sure that the Japanese soldiers were roaming the large expanse of the interior instead of attacking the Pacific islands and moving onward to other parts of Southeast Asia. At the same time many of the communists had formed into guerrilla troops and were attacking the Japanese lines from behind to draw away some of their attention and men.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the declaration from the United States into a war against Japan, China became an important part of the Allied Powers. In fact, many of the western countries bestowed high honors on Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, believing them to be a true beacon of hope for democracy in China. During the Second World War, Chiang was named as the Supreme Commander of allied forces of China Warzone. This meant that Chiang was not only commanding over China, but also over parts of India and Southeast Asia that had been under attack as well.
At the end of the war in 1945, Japan may have surrendered, but Chiang’s government that was not based out of Chongqing was in no shape to strategically reassert its authority over most of China. Chiang had a hard time politically because it seemed that there was no good course of action to take. When the United States helped Chiang to reclaim many of the Japanese held cities and the coastal regions, this was seen as a very unpopular course of action and was deeply criticized. Meanwhile the communists were planting leaders strategically throughout China to try and rally people to their cause while simultaneously starting off thoughts of rebellion against Chiang’s government.
Immediately after the war was over the United States encouraged Chiang to sit down with the leader of the communist rebellion, Mao Zedong, in Chongqing for peaceful negotiations. However, the US quickly pulled back from offering Chiang assistance when they were worried that the rumors of corruption within Chiang’s government would reflect badly on them. Therefore, from 1946-1948 Chiang’s government was left on its own to defend itself against the rebellion and fighting being carried out by the People’s Liberation Army and Mao Zedong. The communists inside of China’s borders were not the only problems that Chiang faced as outside influences from the Soviet Union and even the United States sought to try and help the communists during the civil war. The most notable of these intrusions was carried out in the nineteen fifties when some senior officials within the United States’ Treasury Department were charged with withholding funds intended for the stabilization of the Chinese currency in an effort to topple Chiang’s governmental interests during the Chinese Civil War.
Chiang had found acceptance and status within the global community as a leader of China, however, his government was now failing around him due to war, corruption, and inflation. Chiang believed himself that the Kuomintang and the ideals behind it had failed. The worst part was that he himself believed that it was not because the principals behind the KMT’s stance were not sound, but rather that it had rotted and deteriorated from within. The nationalist government had been forced to put all of its resources into fighting the Japanese and trying to end the war in the Pacific, while the communists had received aid from political allies like Stalin and had been able to strengthen their base through many of the guerilla organizations which had fought themselves in the war and established themselves within the rural communities.
Chiang’s government may have initially had the upper hand through the larger amounts of man power and arms, but they were constantly facing an uphill battle as their popularity had steeply dropped and the higher ranks of the government were constantly under threat from communist agents and corruption. It was not long before the communists exploited these holes in Chiang’s defenses and managed to get the upper hand in the battle for who would control China.
Despite all of this that was going on around them, the Nationalist government forged ahead and in 1947, they put forth a new Chinese constitution and elected Chiang as the President. This was fulfilling the third stage of the KMT’s political belief structure for the conversion of China from imperialistic government to a true democracy. However, this too led to situations as the communists refused to acknowledge the democratic constitution or Chiang as their leader. They claimed that the new government was not legitimate in their eyes. The pressure caused Chiang to resign as President two years later in 1949 and the office was handed over to the Vice President, Li Tsung-jen. However, soon after becoming president Li left the country with millions of dollars claiming that he was seeking medical treatment in the United States.
On December 10th, 1949, the communist forces moved into the last city on mainland China that was being successfully held by the KMT government. Chiang was there with his son, Chiang Ching-kuo at the Chengdu Central Military Academy. They were immediately evacuated to Taiwan and were effectively placed on permanent exile from mainland China. On March 1st, 1950, Chiang reassumed his duties as president of the KMT in Taipei, Taiwan. Chiang would be reelected to this position four more times, the last in 1972 by the Republic of China. He was able to bypass term limits and remain in power because of the Temporary Provisions during the ongoing war with the Chinese Communist Party.
This is where a lot of the conflict comes into play. Chiang insisted that since he was President of the Republic of China that he technically believed he retained sovereignty over the entire country of China. However, by this time the communists had already overtaken the government and had placed Mao Zedong in charge. This gave other countries in the United Nations the option of dealing with Chiang as a representative for China instead of having to go face to face with the communist leaders at the height of the cold war. Chiang and the Republic of China in Taiwan continued to be recognized in this official capacity until the mid 1970’s.
Since Chiang was still technically involved in a war against the communists, the KMT would not allow any other parties to participate in the democracy of the Republic of China in Taiwan. This mentality also affected how Chiang and the KMT handled freedoms in Taiwan. For example, people were free to debate ideals and policies within the legislature; however, if they were perceived to have gone too far out of line they were often treated as dissidents and given the label of communists from China or someone fighting for Taiwan independence.
Chiang was so concerned after the fall of mainland China to the communists that he began to systematically purge the KMT party of all of those who had been accused of corruption. Many prominent members of the government that had prevailed on the mainland were exiled and went to the United States. The government may have controlled much of the industry in Taiwan, but through various supports and the Land Reform Act, Chiang was able to put down a strong base on which Taiwan would become an economic giant in the intervening years.
Chiang died in Taipei on April 5th, 1975, when he was eighty seven years old. His health had deteriorated and he’d suffered from a major heart attack in combination with a case of pneumonia shortly before his death. However, he would ultimately end up succumbing to acute renal failure that had been complicated because of his cardiac problems. However, Chiang’s wish for his remains was that he be buried at his birthplace in Fenghua when it became feasible to negotiate such a request with the government of mainland China. Until then he was temporarily interred inside of a copper coffin inside his favorite residence in Tzuhu, Taiwan. When his son, Chiang Ching-kuo (who had become president himself three years after Chiang passed away) died in 1988, his body was also put into a temporary state until it could be moved back to mainland China. This was their resting place until Ching-kuo’s widow request that they be buried together at Wuchih Mountain Military Cemetary in Taipei County since it did not appear that they were going to be able to be returned to their homeland any time soon.
In Taiwan Chiang is regarded in two different lights. For many he was a tireless champion against the communist threat and he did everything in his power to be an important figure in the beginning of the World Anti-Communist League. For all of the good he did for Taiwan, he is also seen by many as an abuser of his political power. This was because of the way that Chiang used the arm of the government to exert dominance over the public through the media. To his opponents, Chiang did not choose to build up Taiwan because he loved the country, but rather because he wanted to be able to use it as an important base when he launched another attack against the communists on mainland China.
Regardless of how the political parties today feel about Chiang Kai-shek, from his life it is easy to confer that he was a man who believed in the base purpose of the Kuomintang. It seemed that his entire existence was always just on the verge of something else, and it is possible to imagine how easily it might have been that history would have had a different path for Chiang.
Early Chinese History
The earliest period of Chinese history is known as the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors period. It covers the years from 2852 BC to 2205 BC. While there is some debate over whether the three sovereigns and five emperors in question actually existed, most believe they are at least based on real people. Note that the term “emperor” is not used in the same context as it is today. There was no empire of China at the time, but the term is the closest English translation of the Chinese word used to describe these five rulers.
The Rule of the Three Sovereigns
The earliest rulers in recorded Chinese history are known as the Three Sovereigns or three god-kings. They supposedly used magical powers to rule over their empire and help their people prosper. They are generally named Fuxi (the Heavenly Sovereign), Nuwa (the Earthly Sovereign), and Shennong (the Human Sovereign), and all play a part in Chinese mythology. Fuxi and Nuwa, who were said to be husband and wife, are said to have repopulated China after a flood killed everyone. Fuxi is also credited with the creation of the Eight Trigrams, a set of diagrams used in Taoism. According to legends, Shennong, the third sovereign, gave mankind farming, fishing, and the knowledge of medicinal herbs. He also created money and introduced the concept of bartering.
The Five Emperors of Early China
Unlike the Three Sovereigns, the Five Emperors are acknowledged as being human, not divine, although the Song of Chu names them after the directional gods. The Book of Rites also gives them different names and connects them with the Five Lineages. The Five Emperors were The Yellow Emperor (sometimes called Shaohao, although sometimes the two are separate entities), Zhuanxu, Emperor Ku, Emperor Yao, and Emperor Shun. Emperors Yao and Shun, in particular, are often cited by Confucians as everything a ruler should strive to be.
The Song of Chu names them as the Yellow Emperor (the center), Zhuanxu (north), Shaohao (east), Shennong (west), and Fuxi (south). If one goes by the Book of Rites, the Five Emperors were Youchao-shi, Suiren-shi, Fuxi, Nuwa, and Shennong.
While given the title emperor, these five were really only tribal chiefs who were elevated to ruler of powerful tribal alliances. According to several Chinese histories, they were actually elected by the other tribal chiefs in the alliance. Unlike later emperors, this position of alliance ruler was not hereditary (although their sons could inherit their position of tribal chief). They were not as powerful as the following emperors of China since they did not have absolute power over the tribes.
Hong Kong, an island in southern China, was originally a part of the Chinese Empire. However, it later came under Japanese control and then was a British colony. Today, Hong Kong is once again a part of China and is incredibly successful. It is an international financial center and enjoys a very stable and successful economy.
Early Human Activity
According to research and archaeological finds, humans first lived in Hong Kong over 30,000 years ago. These humans used stone tools and made several carvings in stone. One settlement, known as Wong Tei Tung, is one of the oldest settlements in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong During Imperial China (221 BC to the 1800s)
Hong Kong became a part of China during the Qin dynasty, although it was not highly populated until the Han dynasty (206 BC to 220BC). During this time, it’s possible salt production was one of the main industries in Hong Kong, although there is no conclusive evidence to this theory. T
During the Tang period, the Chinese established an international trading post and naval base in Hong Kong. They continued to use the island as a launching point for pearl diving and salt production. When the Mongols invaded, the Southern Song court escaped to Hong Kong, using the island as their base of operations. During this time, they built up several cities. However, the last emperor of the Southern Song, the child Zhao Bing, committed suicide after his forces lost to the Mongols
Under the Mongol reign, Hong Kong experienced a population boom as many Chinese refugees moved to the island due to war, famine, and to escape the Mongols. While more agricultural activities began in Hong Kong, the hilly area did not allow for much to be grown. Instead, the residents relied on the salt, pearl, and fish trading industry to provide them with food. This led to numerous bandits and pirates attacking Hong Kong and the Chinese responding by building up their military, especially their naval presence.
During the Qing dynasty, the last Chinese dynasty to hold Hong Kong, the island became an important trading post and military outpost.
The Opium War and Loss of Hong Kong
During the early 19th century, China and the British Empire were heavily engaged in trade. However, the Chinese prospered more from the trade than the British. For one, the British were very dependent on importing tea from China, and while they exported many luxury items to China, the arrangement more than favored the Chinese. The Chinese began to demand more silver from Britain, a mineral that was hard for the British to obtain. During this time, illegal opium began entering China as the British traders used it in place of precious metals.
The Chinese government made it clear to Queen Victoria that opium was not welcome in trade, and their disagreement over the drug and over payment for the Chinese teas led to the Opium Wars. The British forces won these conflicts, and in 1842, the Chinese signed a treaty that gave the British jurisdiction over Hong Kong.
Many Chinese in Hong Kong were not content to live under British rule. Some left, and some plotted rebellion. In 1899, the village of Kat Hing Wai rebelled. While their high walls and iron gate protected them from British soldiers for some time, they were eventually defeated, and few Chinese attempted to rebel again.
While not particularly good for the Chinese government, the British rule of the island was good for Hong Kong. Commercial trade and industry greatly advanced. Rickshaws were replaced with buses and airlines, electricity replaced gas as the main energy source, Western-style education was introduced, and many began learning English.
Hong Kong was captured and occupied by Japan from December 25, 1941 to August 15, 1945. During this time, the economy of Hong Kong came to a halt both because of the Japanese occupation and because of the numerous resistance groups who battled against them and refused to work. Hong Kong’s initial defense of the island was quickly overcome by the superior Japanese air forces. Finally, British Governor Mark Aitchison Young surrendered to the Japanese, and Isogai Rensuke was installed as the Japanese leader on the island.
While under Japanese rule, hyper-inflation occurred. The Hong Kong Dollar was made illegal, and residents were forced to use the Japanese Military Yen. However, the Yen was not backed by any sort of reserve, and the money was printed rapidly. Because of this and the destruction that occurred during the battle, food was in short supply and had to be rationed.
The Japanese conquerors had little care for the Hong Kong residents. It’s estimated that some 10,000 women were raped after the Japanese took the island, and many rebels were executed. Civilian food rations were cut in favor of feeding the Japanese soldiers, leading to massive famine.
By the end of World War II, Hong Kong had been liberated by British and Chinese troops. Its population was only around 600,000; prior to the war, Hong Kong had over 1.6 million residents. When the Communist party gained power in China in 1949, many who did not like the new regime fled to Hong Kong, increasing its population once again.
Once freed for Japanese control, Hong Kong returned to British rule. It would stay a part of the British Empire until 1998.
Return to China
As per the treaty signed after the Opium War, Hong Kong was to be returned to Chinese control. During the 1990s, the island began preparing for the transfer. The Hong Kong Basic Law was named as the constitution of Hong Kong on April 4, 1990. In 1992, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten took office. He held his office until July 1, 1997, when he officially stepped down after handing the island over to the People’s Republic of China. The Provisional Legislative Council, elected by a committee, stepped in to govern the island, with Tung Chee Hwa as its chief executive.
Following the transfer of governance, there were some changes to the way the government worked. The head of the Hong Kong government was changed to an elected position rather than an appointment. A selection committee of 800 elected this Chief Executive. Many British symbols and flags were removed, and the school system shifted from the British model to the Chinese one.
However, there were a number of things that remained unchanged. English was still taught in all schools along with Mandarin and Cantonese. Hong Kong was allowed to maintain its status as an individual entity in many international groups like the World Trade Organization, and Hong Kong citizens enjoy many more freedoms than mainland China, such as freedom of the press.
Modern Hong Kong
The 2000s have brought about yet more changes in Hong Kong. Many citizens find aspects of their lives have changed since the handover of the island to China, and some controversial new laws have led to marches and protests. The 2003 SARS outbreak and the Bird Flu outbreak put Hong Kong in the international spotlight, leading to a drop in tourism and exports. The citizens of Hong Kong continue to work to stabilize their economy, culture, and political situation to this day.
The Jade Emperor, or King of Heaven, is mentioned in many stories and novels written in China. He is the ruler of all the gods, spirits, and mankind, but because he is part of the common mythological background of China, he is never fully explained or talked about in the stories. The Jade Emperor’s creation, names, and exploits are well known throughout China. While the Jade Emperor is the head of the Chinese pantheon, he did not create the world. He did, however, create humans out of clay.
Before Buddhism was introduced to China in the first century A.D., the Jade Emperor did not have a human form. The Taoists were quick to latch onto the idea of worshiping a god in a human form, however, and soon Buddhists and Taoists alike recognized the anthropomorphic figure of the Jade Emperor. Legends and tales soon spread far and wide about Yu Huang Shang Ti, as he is called in Chinese.
Names of the Jade Emperor
Besides his official name, the Jade Emperor, like many gods in mythologies around the world, has many others. His official full, complete title is “Most Venerable Highest Jade Emperor of All-Embracing Sublime Spontaneous Existence of the Heavenly Golden Palace.” However, he received different names during different dynasties. During the Song Dynasty, for example, he was known as the “Supreme Jade Emperor, Creator of Heaven, Holder of Talismans, Imperial Timesetter, Container of Perfection, and Embodiment of Dao.” People in Taiwan, however, prefer to refer to him by the short, friendly name of “Grandpa Heaven.”
According to legend, the Jade Emperor is the son of the King of the Pure Blissful Kingdom of Lofty Heavenly Lights and Ornaments and the Empress of Precious Moonlight. When he was born, the light from his heavenly fire lit up the entire country. As a youth, he was known for being very smart and wise. As an old man, he was benevolent and very kind, going out of his way to help humans on many occasions.
Becoming the Ruler of Heaven
After his father died, the Jade Emperor ruled as crown prince until he began to feel mercy for all sentient beings. He abandoned the throne, telling his ministers that he wished to meditate on the Dao of the Universe on the Mountain of Universal Light and Fragrant Rocks. He spent 3200 eons there. He then attained the station of Golden Immortality and became knows as the Emperor of Spontaneous Enlightenment. One billion eons later, he formally ascended to his father’s throne and became officially known as the Jade Emperor.
One of the myths of China recounts how the Jade Emperor gained the loyalty of all other Chinese deities. During this time, mankind lived among very harsh conditions, battling not only the elements but also monsters and demons. At this point, the Jade Emperor had not completed his meditations and thus had not attained his true powers. After seeing the suffering of men, he left to meditate on the Dao. During this time, a powerful demon attempted to conquer heaven and rule the universe. Before challenging the gods, this entity, too, began to meditate to increase its power.
Upon passing through many trials and after millions of years, the demon returns to earth and summoned an army to attack the heavens. The gods, led by the Three Pure Ones, prepared for war. During the middle of the battle between the two sides, the Jade Emperor completed his meditation and return to heaven. He challenged the evil power to a duel. The battle destroyed mountains and cracked the earth, but the Jade Emperor was victorious in the end. Because of this, he was appointed the head of the Chinese pantheon.
According to some tales, the Jade Emperor lives in the Jade Castle of Abstraction, which is high above both the earth and the thirty-three heavens. Other stories have him living on the Mountain of Jade in the K’un Lun range. From his palace, he watches over all of China, protects its people, and rules the heavens. The Jade Emperor’s word is law in heaven and earth. He sends his servants to bring justice to men, and is responsible for the deification and dismissal of the lesser gods. It is the Jade Emperor who Monkey deals with in The Journey to the West. In this story, the Jade Emperor reluctantly grants him a position in heaven (as Director of the Heavenly Stables). It is also the Jade Emperor who dismisses Monkey after Monkey eats the peaches from the Jade Tree. However, it is interesting to note that the Jade Emperor does not have the power to stop Monkey’s assault on the forces of heaven. He has to call on Buddha himself to subdue Monkey and punish him.
Worship of the Jade Emperor
The Jade Emperor can be worshiped any time during the year, but his main day of worship is the ninth day of the first month of the lunar calendar, which is his birthday. Many Daoist priests hold festivals and make offerings to him on this day. Another special day is the 25th of the twelfth month (Chinese New Year’s Eve), which is when it is said that the Jade Emperor descends to earth and inspects all of humanity and its work. While all people can pray and worship him, the only mortal who can approach him is the reigning emperor of China, who is regarded, at least traditionally, as the Jade Emperor’s mortal counterpart and equal.
Myths and Stories Featuring the Jade Emperor
Two of the most famous stories about the Jade Emperor focus on his creation of things. The first deals with his creation of a way to measure time (the Chinese zodiac), and the second is about how he punished four dragons and created the four main rivers of China.
Creating the ZodiacRealizing the need for a way to tell time, the Jade Emperor called on all the animals of the world to have a race. The first twelve animals across the finish line would designate a year in the twelve-year cycle that would become known as the Chinese zodiac.
The cat and the rat, which were good friends at this point, convinced the ox to carry them across the river that blocked their way. The naive ox agreed. However, as they were crossing the river, the rat, worried that the cat might be faster than he, pushed the cat into the river. This is why today, cats hates rats. Then, right before the ox and the rat reached the shore, the rat jumped off the ox's back and took first place in the race.
As the Jade Emperor named the ox as the 2nd zodiac animal, the tiger reached the finish line. Panting his way toward the Jade Emperor, the tiger explained that he had difficulty crossing the river because the current kept pushing him down stream. The Emperor then declared the tiger the 3rd zodiac animal.
Next came the rabbit. Twitching its pinkish nose, the rabbit told the crowd that he had to hop from one stone to another in order to cross the river. Luckily, he was able to get hold of a floating log, which finally washed him to shore. Thus, the rabbit became the fourth Zodiac animal.
In 5th place was the dragon, flying and belching fire in the air. The Jade Emperor was very curious as to why the dragon was not first because he could both fly and swim. However, the dragon could not bear to see the people on earth suffer from drought, so he had stopped to make rain. When he reached the river, he saw the rabbit clutching tightly to its log, and so he gave a little puff and blew the log with the rabbit on it to the shore.
Just as the Jade Emperor complimented the dragon for his consideration, he heard the horse galloping to the finish line. However, the horse was carrying an unexpected passenger. Under the horse’s hoof hid the snake. The sudden appearance and the hissing of the snake startled the horse and made him jump backwards, thus forcing the horse to fall to 7th place while the snake became 6th.
The Jade Emperor next spotted the sheep, monkey, and rooster approaching from a distance. The rooster proudly described how he had spotted a raft from a high ground and picked up the sheep and the monkey, who helped he clear the weeds and pushed the raft to the shore. The Emperor complimented them for their combined efforts and named the sheep the 8th zodiac animal, the monkey the 9th, and the rooster the 10th.
Just as the Emperor was making the record official, the dog appeared. He tried to justify to the Emperor why, although he was one of the best swimmers, he was late. It turned out that the dog hadn't had a bath for a long time. The river water was so clean and fresh that he had to stop to bathe. This story didn’t move the Jade Emperor, however, so the dog, despite being a good swimmer, was named as the 11th zodiac animal.
The Jade Emperor was about to dismiss the crowd and retire from the long day when he heard an oink and a squeal from a little pig. Needless to say, the pig was hungry during the race and he stopped to eat. After eating, he felt tired and took a nap. Eventually, though, the pig made it to the finish line and was declared the last of the 12 zodiac animals.
Creation of the Four Rivers of China
The second story is about how the Jade Emperor created the four main rivers of China. What’s interesting about this story is that it portrays the Jade Emperor in a non-flattering way. In fact, he is almost the villain of the story. In the beginning, there were no rivers on earth, only the Eastern Sea. In the Eastern Sea lived four dragons: the Long Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon, and the Pearl Dragon.
One day the four dragons flew from the sea into the sky to play. Suddenly, the Pearl Dragon noticed something. He called the others over. On the earth they saw many people putting out offerings of food and burning incense sticks in prayer. There had been no rain for a long time, and the crops had withered. The people of China were starving.
The dragons realized that if it did not rain soon, the people would die. They decided to go to the Jade Emperor and ask him for rain. However, the Jade Emperor was upset at the dragons’ sudden entrance into his palace and the disruption of his party. They begging him for rain, and although he said he would send some the next day, he didn’t.
Ten days passed with no water. The people were forced to eat bark and grass because they had no crops. Some even ate dirt. The dragons were very upset. They realized that the Jade Emperor was only caring about his own pleasure, not the peoples’ suffering. They decided that they would have to find some way to bring the people water.
Finally, the Long Dragon had an idea. They lived in the sea where
there was plenty of water. He told his brothers that they could scoop
up the water in their mouths and spray it in the air. Then the people
would have rain. The others immediately agreed.
However, they also realized that the Jade Emperor would not be pleased at their boldness.
They flew to the sea, scooped up water in their mouths, and then flew back into the sky, sprayed the water over the earth. After flying back a forth a few times, it began to rain. The people were overjoyed and danced as their crops came back to life.
However, the god of the sea saw what the dragons did and reported to the Jade Emperor. He was furious, and ordered his heavenly generals to arrest the four dragons. Being vastly outnumbered, the dragons surrendered and were brought before the Jade Emperor. He summoned the Mountain God and ordered him to use his magic to make four mountains. These mountains were pressed down on top of the dragons, trapping them.
However, despite their imprisonment, they never regretted their decision. Determined to help out the people even more, they turned their bodies into four rivers, which crossing the land from the west to the east before finally emptying into the sea. These four rivers became the four great rivers of China—the Heilongjian (Black Dragon) in the north, the Huanghe (Yellow River) in central China, the Changjiang (Yangtze, or Long River) farther south, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) in the very far south.
The Jin dynasty took place between 265 and 420. It followed the period of the Three Kingdoms and took place before the Southern and Northern dynasties. Founded by the Sima family, the Jin dynasty featured nearly 20 million people at the height of its power.
The Jin dynasty can be divided into two different periods, Western Jin and Eastern Jin. The Western Jin dynasty was founded by Sima Yan. While the Jin controlled a unified state for a short period, in 280, rebellions splintered the empire. In 311, Emperor Huai was captured by Han Zhao and his capital at Luoyang destroyed. The next emperor, Emperor Min, returned the capital to Chang’an for his four year reign. In 316, Han Zhao took Chang’an, forcing the Jin family to flee southward.
There, they attempted to reestablish their rule from their new capital of Jiankang. With the backing of five powerful families, the Prince of Langye was enthroned as Emperor Yuan. The Wu Hu state, however, did not recognize him as the true emperor because he did not come from the Ji family line. There lack of support, however, did little to prevent Yuan from taking the throne.
However, the Eastern Jin dynasty was plagued with problems of its own. Several rebellions occurred. At one point, Huan Wen usurped the throne and renamed the empire to the Chu dynasty. He was quickly overthrown by Liu Yu, who had Emperor An killed for losing his throne. His successor, Emperor Gong, took the throne in 419, but a year later, he abdicated in favor of Liu Yu. This began the Southern and Liu Song dynasties.
With the Jin family ruling southern China, the northern part of the area came under control of the Sixteen Kingdoms, a group of sixteen different states that were mostly controlled by the Wu Hu, or the non-Han Chinese. This would last until the area’s unification into the Northern dynasty in 439.
The Kangxi Emperor lived from 1654 to 1722 and ruled over the Qing dynasty. A Manchu, his reign started in 1661 and ended in 1722, and he was the third emperor of the dynasty and second Qing emperor to reign over mainland China. Out of all the emperors in Chinese history, his reign of 61 years is the longest, although he did begin his reign at age 7. Before taking the throne, the Kangxi Emperor had five regents: four were his appointed guardians and one was his grandmother. He reign is known for its stability, increased economy, and several key military victories.
Because of his long life, Kangxi had a huge family, the largest of all the Qing emperors. Officially, he had 36 children: 12 daughters and 24 sons. However, these 36 were the only ones who lived to adulthood. He had many other children who died from illness.
The Kangxi Emperor took the throne while still a child, succeeding his father, Emperor Shunzhi. Shunzhi died young (he was in his early twenties), but before his death, he appointed four guardians to act as regents for his son. They were Sonin, Ebilun, Oboi, and Suksaha. However, instead of working together, Oboi and Suksaha both desired to seize power. When Sonin died suddenly, the power struggle intensified, and Oboi seized power, naming himself sole regent and having Suksaha killed. This situation lasted for a few years until, in 1669, Kangxi and the Dowager Empress worked together to have Oboi arrested.
Kangxi’s early reign was spent dealing with three major issues: controlling the Yellow River’s flooding, repairing and using the Grand Canal, and handling the Revolt of the Three Feudatories. The revolt began in 1673 and was followed by a revolt of the Chahar Mongols in 1675.
The Revolt of the Three Feudatories was Kangxi’s first major challenge as emperor. Their forces controlled most of southern China. Although still young in both age and time on the throne, Kangxi showed himself quite capable. He appointed the best military men as generals and gained the support of the most powerful members of his court. He also granted leniency to anyone who got caught up in the war, making him popular with the lower classes.
While Kangxi was advised not to directly lead his forces against the Feudatories, he did take charge two years later in the battle against the Chahar Mongols. He personally led his forces against them and against the Zheng family in 1684. With the defeat of the Zheng, Taiwan was annexed by China.
Kangxi also proved he was capably of great diplomatic achievements when, in 1673, the empire was asked to help mediate the peace treaty of the Trinh-Nguyen War in Vietnam. This war had lasted for 45 years with neither side gaining the upper hand. Thanks in part to the Kangxi Emperor, Vietnam would have 101 years of peace before another war broke out.
Dealing with the Russians and Mongols
Kangxi also had to deal with a possible war from the north. The Russians and the Qing first clashed in the Sahaliyan ula Valley in the 1650s, but the Qing were able to force them out of China. In the 1680s, Russian again attacked. In 1689, the two signed the peace treaty of Nerchinsk, and China was given the Sahaliyan ula Valley.
While dealing with Russia, the empire also had to watch the Khalkha Mongols. This tribe was still independent, although they did pay tribute to the Qing. A dispute between two prominent Mongol houses eventually became a war between the Khalkha Mongols and the Dzungar Mongols. In 1688, the Dzungar invaded the Khalkha homeland, sending the Khalkha royal family into exile. They pleaded with the Qing to help them, and in 1690, the combined Khalkha/Qing army attacked the Dzungar. However, Kangxi was not prepared for the fierce Dzungar forces, and the Qing army was soundly defeated.
Refusing to underestimate the Dzungar, in 1696, Kangzi personally led 80,000 troops into the region. A large part of the Dzungar forces were destroyed, and one of their most powerful generals died. However, they were not completely defeated, and in 1717, the Dzungar invaded Tibet. They held the city of Lhasa for two years and defeated the Chinese forces sent against them in 1718. They were finally defeated in 1720.
Kangxi’s Will and Succession
The Kangxi Emperor’s will is considered one of the four great mysteries of the Qing. No one is actually quite certain who Kangxi selected to be his successor. One popular theory is that his pick was Yinzhen, his fourth son, who did become Emperor Yongzheng. However, historians believe he forged his father’s will. Another popular successor is the fourteenth prince, Yinti, who was recorded as being one of the Kangxi’s favorites.
Kangxi’s first Crown Prince was Yinreng, his second son by his first empress. Naming a Crown Prince was a custom of the Han Chinese to ensure that the government would not collapse in the event of the emperor’s sudden death. Kangxi clearly wanted Yinreng to succeed him, and records show that he personally educated and trained his son in many areas. He also employed Wang Shan as a tutor for Yinreng. However, despite his father’s plans, the developing political factions would keep Yinreng from the throne. Three factions had formed at court: one backing Yinreng, one backing fourth prince Yinzhen, and one backing the thirteenth prince, Yinxiang.
Kangxi could have easily overpowered these factions had Yinreng been cooperative. However, the prince did not share his father’s temperament, and he often beat and even killed his servants. Rumors even suggested that he and one of his father’s concubines were lovers, an act that the Qing considered incest. There are also records showing Yinreng’s purchase of young slave children.
Yinreng’s political faction desired to put the malicious prince on the throne at any cost, and Kangxi was forced to keep a close eye on both his son and his supporters. While they were quite close when Yinreng was young, as he got older and began acting out, the two drifted apart. Many were against Yinreng taking the throne, fearing he would destroy the dynasty. However, Kangxi knew he could not simply abolish the position of Crown Prince without creating political turmoil. Despite concerns, though, in 1707, Kangxi decided he could no longer afford to have an heir like Yinreng, and he revoked the title of Crown Prince and placed Yinreng under house arrest.
Kangxi was, however, aware that he was getting older and that he needed an heir to keep the empire stable. His eldest son, Yinzhi, assumed he would be named Crown Prince, especially after being placed in charge of Yinreng’s house arrest. He had, in fact, worked to bring down Yinreng over the years, even going so far as to hire supposed witches and others to curse him. However, he fell out of his father’s favor when he asked to execute Yinreng. In fact, his father was so outraged that he stripped Yinzhi of all his court titles. This made the eight prince, Yinsi, the most popular candidate for Crown Prince, although Kangxi would once again do the unexpected.
Rather than name another Crown Prince right away, Kangxi politely informed his court that all debate about the position and the backing of princes was to cease. Of course, this didn’t happen, and succession was still a hot topic at court. It was during this time that Kangxi began to suspect Yinreng’s actions were influenced by others, and with the backing of the fourth and thirteenth princes, he reinstated Yinreng as Crown Prince in 1709. Kangxi declared Yinreng’s earlier actions as a mental illness and that he had recovered.
However, in 1712, Yinreng proved that theory wrong. Kangxi was away from court making an imperial inspection of the Yangtze region. During this time, Yinreng was charged with handling the day to day court business in his father’s place. However, once Kangxi was away, Yinreng and his supporters attempted to seize power and make Kangxi abdicate. However, Kangxi quickly received news of this move and returned to Beijing before Yinreng was prepared. Yinreng was again removed from his position as heir and put under house arrest, while many of his followers were either exiled or executed.
After this, Kangxi declared that he would not name any of his sons Crown Prince until he was dead. He wrote out his will and had it placed inside a box with strict instructions that it was to be opened only after his death. However, no one is certain what exactly his will said.
After dealing with Yinreng, Kangxi made some major changes at court. Yinxiang, the 13th prince, was put under house arrest for assisting Yinreng. He also removed Yinsi from all of his positions. Yinti, the 14th prince, was believed to be the most likely successor, but Kangxi instead sent him to deal with rebels along the borders of China, effectively removing him from political life. Despite this, Yinti had the support of Yinsi and two other princes.
On a late night in 1722, Kangxi summoned seven of his sons to his bedside. They were the third, fourth, eighth, ninth, tenth, sixteenth and seventeenth princes—the seven who had not disgraced themselves in any way. Yinti was, at the time, fighting rebels in Xinjiang. After Kangxi died, it was announced that fourth prince Yinzhen was named in the imperial will as the heir. By the time Yinti returned to the capitol, it was too late to contest the will since Yinzhen had firmly established himself as emperor.
Revamping the Military
When Kangxi became emperor, the 8 Banner Army system was corrupt and in decline. Kangxi saw the problems inherit in the system and began to revitalize the banners. However, the Banner Army would actually be more powerful than the Qing military during succeeding emperors.
While Kangxi held power, the empire used a very strict and efficient military system. Generals who returned without their forces were killed. Likewise, soldiers who returned without their general were killed since they failed to protect their leader. This made generals more carefully plan out engagements and soldiers fight harder to protect their commanding officers. However, by the time of Qianlong, war lords had begun passing their title down to their heirs, and generals were free to send their soldiers on suicide runs without fear of reprisal. Without Kangxi’s laws forcing the war lords into combat, they became lazy, resulting in the Qing army’s decline.
Economy During Kangxi’s Reign
Kangxi’s treasury was quite well stocked when he inherited it and at its height held massive wealth. However, Kangxi did spend a good amount of money during his reign on border defense and war with Russia and the Mongols. By the time he died, the treasury was only about double what he inherited. Still, that is quite a feat considering several emperors left China bankrupt upon their death.
Kangxi made several cultural advancements during his reign. He ordered his scholars to compile a dictionary of Chinese characters that was the most complete dictionary up to that point. Kangxi’s goal in this was two-fold: in addition to the creation of the dictionary, he won over many of the scholars who had refused to serve the Qing. By convincing them that working on the dictionary was not formally serving the Qing, he was able to convince them to take on several other projects. Eventually, the scholars found themselves working for the government without even realizing it. Part of this work involves creating one of the first Chinese calendars.
Kangxi also worked to bring Western technology to China. He did this with the assistant of several missionaries, including Jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest and Catholic Matteo Ripa. Ripa even took four Chinese with him to Naples to be trained as Christian priests. When they returned, they began spreading Christianity across the country. The various foreign visitors also brought musical instruments with them, and Kangxi himself learned to play the piano.
Kangxi also gave the Western world the chance to learn Chinese. The Chinese Institute was established in Naples at what would eventually become Naples Eastern University.
Kangxi in Fiction
Today, the Kangxi Emperor is depicted in a number of fictional works.
The Great Kangxi Emperor by Er Yuehe is a fictional novel based on the
emperor’s life, although it does romanticize much of it. Louis Cha’s
novel The Deer and the Cauldron also features the emperor. Kangxi has
also been featured on television, most notably in the drama The Kangxi
The Liao dynasty, sometimes called the Khitan Empire, ruled northern China from 907 to 1125. It also ruled over parts of Manchuria and Mongolia. The Yelu clan, a Khitan clan, were its founders, and it was Emperor Yelu Ruan who would take the Liao name in 947, thus naming the dynasty. The name was dropped between 983 and 1066, but overall, the Liao name was used by the majority of the rulers.
Because the Khitan did not have a written language for quite some time, little is known about their early history. The earliest mention of them in Chinese records is during the fourth century, which noted that the group lived in the Greater Khingan Mountains near present-day Mongolia. They mainly raised horses and cattle. Tang dynasty records note that they were under the control of the Uyghurs, a Mongolian tribe that forced the Tang to pay tribute to them.
Founding of the Liao Dynasty
During the 750s, the Yaolian clan claimed the title of khan and began relations with the Tang court. In fact, the Tang even gave the Yaolian khan the imperial name of Li. While this clan ruled for some 150 years, power would shift in 907 to Abaoji, a member of the Yila tribe. Named Great Khan by the Khitan council, he began restructuring the government by creating a system of governing that included both the sedentary and nomadic clans of Khitan. At the base of his system was dividing his empire into two parts: the Northern Chancellery and the Southern Chancellery.
The Northern Chancellery was made up of the nomadic Khitan and the various tribes they had conquered. It was governed under a military type government and was ruled by the Xiao family, one of the families that intermarried with the Liao/Yila tribe. The Southern group, on the other hand, was mostly Chinese and other tribes that did not migrate. It was governed using a civic model that was similar to the Chinese imperial rule of the previous dynasty. The Chinese mostly ran the government themselves, although Abaoji did install overseers. While he kept the civil service exam as a means of working for the government, he did not trust the system and often appointed his own people to positions over scholars.
However, while Abaoji’s system seemed like a great balance between the two parts of his empire, the Khitan elite did not approve. They believed that assimilating the Chinese system of government into their own would not work, and many rebelled against Abaoji’s rule, even some of his own family. For nine years, he would deal with these rebellions.
Abaoji continued to make use of Chinese culture. In 916, following the imperial tradition, he named his son, Prince Bei, his heir. This shocked many of the Khitan because they had no history of primogeniture. Their leaders were elected by the council, not appointed. Two years later, he moved his capital to the newly built Shangjing. It would become the center of the empire both politically and commercially. Later, the Liao dynasty would construct over 30 walled cities, including four other capital cities as land was added to the empire.
Battle over Succession
Despite the fact that Abaoji had named Bei his heir, his widow did not follow his wishes. A traditionalist, Empress Yingtian instead felt that Deguang, Bei’s younger brother, would be a better ruler. She placed him on the throne and sent Prince Bei to China. While Prince Bei did not rise up against his brother, he was assassinated in 936.
Deguang died in 947, and while he left behind an heir, his mother once again intervened and named her third son, Lihu, as khan. However, many saw Lihu as an unfit ruler. Before a rebellion could begin, the imperial court stepped in, removed Lihu, and named Deguang’s son Shizong as emperor. Deguang’s descendents would rule until 969. At that point, Emperor Jingzong, a descendent of Prince Bei, took the throne. His line would rule until 1125, when the Liao dynasty fell.
Six Dynasties in Northern China
During the Liao dynasty, six different dynasties ruled Northern China. They began with the Five Dynasties, which controlled the area between 907 and 960. Following this, the Song dynasty ruled, and between 960 and 980, they brought all of the southern kingdoms under their rule as well, creating an empire that greatly rivaled the Liao.
The Later Tang dynasty, founded in 923, was ruled mainly by the Shatuo Turks. Its founder was Li Cunxu, the son of Li Keyong, Abaoji’s blood brother. However, the two did not have a strong relationship, and the two dynasties did not interact much. After Li Cunxu’s death, the court sent an ambassador to the Liao, but Abaoji was not at the capital at the time.
During the 930s, the Later Tang rulers began to lose their hold on the kingdom. Shi Jingtang led a rebellion against the Later Tang rulers, and the Liao dynasty sent assistance. In return, Shi gave the Liao empire the territory known as the Sixteen Prefectures. Shi Jingtang then set up the Later Jin dynasty.
However, the Han and the Turks of the Later Jin did not particularly enjoy being under the thumb of the Liao Empire. Their court later began to move farther and farther away from the Liao court, leading the Khitan to attack Later Jin cities. However, seeing how difficult it would be to control so much land, the khan called off his attacks. Despite this, the attacks did cause the Later Jin court to fall, giving rise to the Later Han dynasty.
The Later Han dynasty lasted only a few years before being replaced by the Later Zhou. They, too, chafed under the Liao, and in 958, they launched a campaign to take back the Sixteen Prefectures. They took back two before Emperor Muzong and the Khitan army responded. However, a peace treaty was quickly signed once the Later Zhou emperor died.
The Later Zhou dynasty was replaced by the Song dynasty, the final of the Five Dynasties. It began in 960, and its first focus was on reunifying all of China. By 978, they had incorporated most of the remnants of the Ten Kingdoms into their empire. After that, Emperor Taizong began focusing on the northern lands.
This brought the Song and the Liao empires into conflict. The Liao still held the Sixteen Prefectures, plus they supported the Northern Han Kingdom, which was ruled by the survivors of the Later Han dynasty. In 979, the Song attacked and absorbed the Northern Han Kingdom. Following that, they launched an attack on the Sixteen Prefectures. However, the Liao easily defeated them.
Several years later, the Liao emperor died, and the next in line for the throne was only fifteen. Emperor Shengzong of the Song attempted to take advantage of this, but despite their three-pronged attack, the Liao once again easily defeated them. The Song sued for peace, but this peace was broken in 1004 when the Liao attacked. Their forces approached the Song capital, but in 1005, a peace treaty was signed. The Song agreed to pay a tribute to the Liao emperor.
War with the Goryeo
During the time of the Liao dynasty, the Korean peninsula was united by the Goryeo Kingdom. Silla fell in 935, leaving the Goryeo the only kingdom. The Liao launched an invasion of Goryeo in 993 with the intention of expanding into the Korean peninsula. However, they withdrew after the Goryeo, allies of the Song, agreed to end their treaty. Despite this, the Goryeo and the Song continued their diplomatic relations.
In 1010, the Liao launched another invasion, this time under the command of Emperor Shengzong. Shengzong sent over 400,000 troops into the Korean peninsula, defeating a number of Goryeo generals. However, Korean insurgents chipped away at Shengzong’s forces, and he was eventually forced to withdraw his forces.
In 1018, another invasion of Goryeo was launched under the command of General Xiao Baiya. Goryeo had not yet recovered from Shengzong’s invasion. However, Xiao’s forces were much smaller (only around 100,000 troops), and they were eventually forced to retreat. Following this, the two sides signed a peace treaty and ceased hostility.
Contact with Other Countries
In addition to Korea, the Liao dynasty also had contact with the Japanese and various Middle Eastern kingdoms, including Baghdad. They also traded with some European countries.
End of the Liao Dynasty
The Khitan slowly began shifting their focus towards defense, and by the mid-eleventh century, they began facing challenges they could not handle. Part of this was because they had absorbed a bit too much Chinese culture, especially Buddhism. After a number of natural disasters, succession debates, and other problems, the empire fell in 1125, giving way to the Song and their allies, the Jurchens.
Following the fall of the empire, Yelu Dashi led some of the Khitan nobility to land held by the Uyghurs. There, he founded the Kingdom of Karakhitan. This liberal kingdom allowed the practice of Buddhism and even Christianity to grow and flourish. In 1141, the Khitan defeated the Seljuk Turks at Samarkand, leading to a period of stability that would exist until the kingdom’s fall to Genghis Khan in 1218.
Politics and Culture During the Liao Dynasty
Because the empire was split into two, law differed between the northern and southern Liao. In the north, the Xiao ruled in a similar fashion to that of the Khitan, while the in south, the system was much closer to that of the Han dynasties that came before the Liao. In 989, however, the northern chancellery began adapting more and more of the southern system of governance, including laws and punishments.
It is uncertain exactly how much the Khitan assimilated from the Han Chinese. They rejected the concept of primogeniture, for example, while accepting ideas like the civil servant exam and many laws. The southern Liao assimilated much more than the northern Liao, that much is certain.
While Abaoji accepted many Chinese ideas, he did not always admit to it. He spoke Chinese, for example, but very rarely did he speak in it front of other Khitan. He thought the Han were somewhat weak because they were sedentary.
One concept that was almost uniformly rejected with the Chinese use of surnames. For over a century, only the royal clan used their surname. It wasn’t until Abaoji gave the northern chancellery to the Xiao clan that surnames became more widely accepted, and even then, many clans refused. In 1074, for example, the emperor discarded the idea of giving all Khitan a surname.
Women During the Liao Dynasty
The Khitan generally gave women more rights than the Chinese did. The nobles were actually able to remarry after their husbands died, empresses were acknowledged as co-rulers, and women had a role in religious ceremonies. With these rights came responsibility, of course, and women did many of the daily chores and jobs that were required to maintain life during the Liao dynasty. In the southern chancellery, however, the role of women was more similar to that of the previous Chinese dynasties, while northern women enjoyed more freedom.
The Khitan Become Literate
Originally, the Khitan were not a literate society. In fact, they had no written language of their own. In 920, Abaoji created the Khitan script. This script is somewhat based on Chinese writing, but the two not the same, and being fluent in one does not allow for an individual to read the other.
In 925, the Liao simplified their script based on that of the Uyghur, with whom they had recently had contact. This script has yet to be completely deciphered by modern linguists, although new discoveries have aided in its translation.
In the south, much of the administrative documents and other writing was done in Chinese, but it was reserved for the elite only. Abaoji and the other Liao rulers feared that use of the Chinese language would only assist those Chinese who were ploting to rebel against the Khitan government.
Abaoji did order several Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist temples built, but he did not embrace any of them. However, the following Liao emperors did convert to Buddhism, including Emperor Shengzong. By 1078, there would be over 360,000 Buddhism clergy in the empire, nearly ten percent of the total population. In fact, it appeared that Buddhism was more integral to the Liao than it was to the Song—the Buddhist texts and art produced by the Liao was of much higher quality than that of the Song.
One interesting note here is that while the Khitan seemed wary of
integrating with the Chinese, they apparently had no problem with
adapting Buddhism. One theory for this is that they may have seen
Buddhism as non-Chinese, especially since the Uyghurs also practiced
Buddhism. However, while many Khitan practiced Buddhism, most still
practiced their traditional, animistic religion alongside it.
Mao Zedong was born on December 26th, 1893. While many people tend to regard Mao as a leader of the people, he was actually born into a family of some financial prominence. He attended school and was even sent away for advanced schooling, something that wasn’t common in the era in which Mao was raised. Mao left the school briefly to help fight in the 1911 Revolution that succeeded in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty; however, once the fighting was done Mao quickly left the army life behind and returned to the school.
Mao graduated from the First Provincial Norman School of Hunan in 1918. It was shortly after his graduation that Mao traveled with his future father-in-law and former teacher in high school, Yang Changji, to the May Fourth Movement in Beijing in 1919. Once the movement was over Professor Yang was able to get Mao a spot as an assistant librarian at Peking University. Because of this Mao was able to become a student part time at the University and was there for many presentations that were given by intellectuals. Mao was reading a tremendous amount during this time and it was during his intellectual expansion that he first began to read about and become familiar with Communist theory.
Mao married the professor’s daughter, Yang Kaihui, in 1920 even though she had been involved in arranged marriage plans set forth by her father at the time. It is uncertain as to how Mao felt about this marriage because he never publicly acknowledged it. Later, while Mao was living with another woman who would eventually become his second wife (He Zizhen), the Guomindang captured Kaihui and her son, Anying. Kaihui was killed and the boy was sent to live with other relatives.
Mao received an opportunity to study at a school in France but denied the offer because he felt that he needed to stay and focus on China’s problems so that he could work toward a resolution and that this could only happen if he were to stay in China. Mao firmly believed that the answers to the problems that the country was facing were entrenched within the peasant population of China. It is probably because of this more than anything else that caused Mao to get so involved in the communist party at such an early age.
In 1921, Mao went to attend the first National Congress of the Communist Party of China session that was being held in Shanghai. Two years later at the third session he was elected to be one of only five commissars of the Central Committee of the Party. So, in 1923 Mao found himself returning to Hunan to organize that branch of the Kuomintang through the orders of the Communist Central Committee and the Kuomintang Central Committee. The Kuomintang (KMT) held their first National Conference in 1924 and Mao’s work was apparently noticed as he was elected as an Alternate Executive of the Central Committee. That same year he worked his way up at the KMT’s Shanghai branch to become a Secretary of the Organization Department.
Mao stayed in Shanghai for a long time, however, the communist party was paving some problems building a reliable bridge with their allies in the revolution, the KMT. They were also having problems organizing valid labor strikes and union movements. These setbacks drained the party’s coffers and it wasn’t long before they found that they were out of money. Mao began to grow distant from the entire revolutionary movement and returned to Shaoshan, but this did not last long as Mao found his revolutionary lusts were once again in full flair after the uprisings in Guangzhou and Shanghai just a year later in 1925. To help fulfill his newly realized political ambitions, Mao went to the second meeting being held for the Kuomintang’s National Congress. He succeeded in gaining a larger foothold in the organization because in October of that year he was the Propaganda Director of the Kuomintang.
It was in this capacity that Mao first began to make very astute political notations that would later lead to the development of his theories. The beginning of this was seen in an emergency meeting that was held by the Communist Party in Hunan in the early part of 1927. It was here that Mao made a report he had assembled based partly on his investigations into the actions and uprisings of the peasants during the all important Northern Expedition. It is this look and insight into the actions of the ordinary Chinese citizens that is thought by many to be the first step Mao took in the direction of thought that would eventually become the foundation for all of his revolutionary theories to come.
This same year Mao worked in a section of Hunan known as Changsha and led a small army as the complete commander-in-chief in the Autumn Harvest Uprising. The army that Mao led was known as the “Revolutionary Army of Workers and Peasants.” This army as not that much to brag on and often fell apart and scattered during the more intense battles. When the army was defeated it was forced to head to Sanwan. There Mao was in charge of reorganizing the soldiers and trying to refit the individual regiments into much smaller divisions.
As he was doing this Mao decided that each group of troops must have a
different communist party branch within them and a leader who would
report to the communists and give out orders based on rulings that can
down through superior officers within the party. This stroke of genius
on Mao’s part consolidated the Communist Party’s control over their
armed forces and is believed by many historians to be the one thing that
had the single largest impact on the outcome of the Chinese Revolution
because of the way that it forced the soldiers to obey the party line
and gave the communists complete control over their armed forces.
In the years between 1931 and 1934, Mao actually worked to establish the Soviet Republic of China that was based in the areas surrounding Jiangxi. While this government entity was not officially recognized by most of China, Mao was elected as the Chairman of the republic. During this time Mao had also married the young He Zizhen, whom he had been with at the time of his first wife’s kidnapping and execution in 1930.
This new position did not exactly work to make Mao a popular person
within the Communist Party of China (CPC) as there were many opponents
like Li Wenlin, who did not agree with Mao’s theories and policies.
Wenlin was actually head of the CPC’s Red Army branch in Jiangxi, where
Mao’s small republic was created, and he very much disagreed with the
ideas that were advanced by Mao seeking to put his branch of the CPC
through some reforms. Mao’s apparent reaction to this disagreement was
to try and get what he wanted through very severe forms of persuasion.
Some individuals have claimed that severe forms of torture were used and
that many people were killed during this period. In fact, some
estimate that the numbers of people who suffered under Mao’s rage during
this time could be as high as one hundred and eighty thousand. The
outcome was that Mao succeeded in securing his post and authority in
Jiangxi through a form of revolutionary terrorism.
Also during this time Mao began to work within the rural areas to organize the army until its small size made no impact on its effectiveness. He worked together with the people in the country areas to reform their government and to set aside places where communists who were running from the larger purges in the cities could find refuge and safety. This somewhat endeared him to many of the rural people and they thought of him as working within their interests. It also gave Mao the opportunity to fine tune his warfare tactics, which he called Mobile Warfare while many refer to it as guerilla warfare. To Mao mobile warfare was the idea that although they were poorly armed and funded, the peasants would band together and fight in whatever ways they could because they were working toward a communist society and were swept up by the revolutionary movement.
Even though the leader of the Kuomintang government, Chiang Kai-shek,
was declaring war on these tightly held areas of soviet control, Mao’s
smaller and underfunded army was winning in almost every area. While
the KMT had sent in close to a million troops, they found that they were
no match for the mere forty five thousand troops that Mao had assembled
for the CPC. That is probably because he also had the support of many
of the rural militias. In fact it’s been estimated that nearly a
quarter of a million of these rural fighters took the side of Mao in the
battles and acted as a back up force for his smaller army. While the
KMT had launched attacks against five of the main areas of CPC
concentration, it only succeeded in overtaking one of those areas.
However, Mao was to find that gaining control of the CPC was not to be as easy as he’d thought. During the upheaval of the revolution, there was also a corresponding power struggle that was taking place within the communist party. Many believed that the CPC should follow the examples set forth by the Soviets and only keep those in power who would remain more loyal to the traditional communist line of thought. Since Mao was rouge in many ways, this meant that he was removed from many of his positions of prestige and replaced by those who were viewed as being more in line with the communist party beliefs that were sanctioned by Moscow. This line of thought was given representation within the CPC through a group which would come to be known as the Twenty-eight Bolsheviks.
The communist party was also under much pressure from Chiang Kai-shek who’d risen to power within the KMT after the Northern Expedition. He believed that the communists were a threat to the democratic vision of the KMT and he believed that the best policy to deal with them was to eradicate the power base for their party. After a series of campaigns against the communists Chiang had them surrounded in October of 1934. However, instead of finishing off the group or placing them in exile, he allowed them to take off through rural China thinking that the warlords would oppose their movements through their land and engage the small troops in battle. This did not happen, and what occurred instead has become known as The Long March. This march led Mao from the far southeastern corner of the country to Shaanxi in the northwestern part of China. The march took one year and covered almost six thousand miles, and it was during this time that Mao decisively surfaced as the top person within the Communist Party of China. Sometime in 1937, Mao also divorced He Zizhen and married his last wife, Jiang Qing (previously known as the actress Lan Ping), two years later in 1939.
When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in full between China and Japan in 1937, the communist advance against the KMT government was temporarily put on hold as the two forces worked together to try and rid the country of the Japanese threat. It is believed that Mao was instrumental in leading the Communist resistance from Yan’an during this time. While the communists may not have been focused on the KMT, Mao was certainly intent on further strengthening the party. In 1942 he began a campaign against other members of the CPC that he considered rivals that was known as the Yan’an Rectification Movement. It’s believed that this movement was the first of many movements which would be founded on deceptive ideology and presented to the people as a truly positive opportunity to occur within the party.
However, like many of the movements that were initiated during his
tenure as leader of the communist party, the Rectification would
eventually turn into a campaign that was aimed specifically at
intellectuals. It succeeded in replacing the May Fourth Movement that
so many students had been involved in with something that was more
closely linked in to the communist party and culture. When, in truth,
the act was probably begun by Mao because he wanted to make sure that
his rivals and potential opponents did not progress any further through
the ranks of the communist party. In theory this worked as the
communist party used extreme intimidation techniques to consolidate its
power base and turn all of its focus and support to Mao. But by the end
of the movement more than ten thousand people were dead as a result of
the rectification process.
While Mao was directing his troops during the war, he also faced heavy criticism for his fighting strategies from the United States and Chiang Kai-shek. The United States thought that Chiang was an important ally during this time period and they needed both he and Mao’s troops to consolidate and fight together against the Japanese troops. To some extent (as mentioned previously), this did happen. However, the KMT and the Communists were always leery of one another and they never really managed to pull their troops together to rally against the Japanese in the way they should. Also, Chiang was preparing for the conflict that would surely come between the two of them after the war by attempting to stock up on weapons that he should have been using on the Japanese. On the same hand, Mao engaged in conflict with the KMT soldiers at different points over control of the land that had been won back from Japan and often pulled his troops back from some of the battles with the Japanese in order to suffer less casualties so that they could be better prepared to fight against the KMT when the war was over. Both sides were heavily criticized during this time as allowed the fight amongst themselves to weaken the front that was facing outside enemy combatants.
Once the Second Wino-Japanese and Second World War were over, the United States officially stood behind Chiang in the emerging civil war while the Soviet Union gave its support to Mao and the Red Army. The civil war lasted for about four years, with the Communist Party of China declaring the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st, 1949. Later that same year on December 10th, 1949, the Red Army attacked the last city in mainland China that was occupied by Kuomintang forces, Chengdu. This forced Chiang Kai-shek and his son to flee and head to Taiwan that very day in order to avoid being killed. On Taiwan Chiang would set up his own Republic of China government which maintained their right for the legitimate government with control over China until his death in 1975.
Beginning in 1954, Mao was officially declared to be Chairman of the
People’s Republic of China (PRC). The communists wasted no time putting
together a solid campaign which relied heavily on Mao’s image and which
also worked hard to make sure that the Kuomintang forces as well as the
United States, and many Western powers, were seen in a harsh and
destructive light. The Chinese people were also told by Mao that they
needed to regain control of their own country and he made it clear in
the very speech which was used at the foundation of the People’s
Republic of China that the people had to devote themselves completely to
their country. The implications here were that the Chinese should not
rely on any outside forces or influence to take care of their country’s
needs as that was something that they should take care of themselves.
While serving as Chairman Mao, he made sure to set up his headquarters in Zhongnanhai next to the Forbidden City. Many of his first political campaigns were founded on the ideas of land reform and of trying to make sure that any counter-revolutionary forces were cut out. To deal with those revolutionaries who opposed him, Mao often relied on public fear as these people were executed in mass numbers in front of large crowds of people. In order to try and better consolidate his power and to make sure that no one’s loyalty was questioned, many of the people that Mao had killed were businessmen and those with ties to the Western world, intellectuals, and former members or officials from the Kuomintang party. In land reform, Mao often took possession of the land by force so that the government could have full disclosure on what would be done on the land, and many times this reform was done by force.
It’s been estimated that up to five million people may have lost their lives to the land reform and that approximately eight hundred thousand were marked and killed as counter revolutionaries. Although each village was forced to select at least one landlord to be executed in public, at least one and a half million people who were not killed during the land reform were sent to special labor camps which emphasized reform. Mao himself has said that he was responsible for at least seven hundred thousand deaths that occurred in the four years immediately proceeding the founding of the PRC. He often claimed that the deaths were necessary acts the government took in order to secure its power base.
Once Mao had succeeded in better consolidating the power of the party he then launched what would become known as the Five Year Plan in 1953. The purpose of this plan was to make China far less dependant on the outside world for its agricultural supplies. Once the country was self-sufficient Mao reasoned that it would be easier to become a world power. The plan was ultimately a success as the Soviet Union helped China to build industrial plants. The production of agriculture would eventually come to a point where China would no longer have to rely on the Soviet Union as they were making their own food and supplies.
One of the failed policies that was adapted during this time was
known as the Hundred Flowers Campaign. The idea behind this campaign
was to encourage open thought and forums among the Chinese people. This
even included discussion and disagreement of the CPC. The slogan for
the campaign even read, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred
schools of thought contend.” For awhile Mao seemed to indulge in those
who had disagreements with the party and he encouraged people to get
their views out under the claim that the government could better itself
based on their points of view. However, after just a few months, Mao
and the Communists reversed their role and began to prosecute those who
had stepped forward to criticize them earlier. This would eventually
turn into the Anti-Rightist Movement and although the exact numbers are
not known it is believed that millions of people were to fall victim
under the allegations that they had criticized the government and be
executed or sent to labor reform camps.
There are conflicting views as to why Mao would suddenly change his mind on the policy of the Hundred Flowers Campaign. Many tend to think that Mao set the entire thing up as a trap to make sure that those who would engage in such thinking if they were given the chance could be openly weeded out and expelled from the system. However, there is also a school of thought which says that Mao originally intended to let people speak out openly because he expected large amounts of praise. If the people were given freedom to speak and they rallied behind him it would also cause those in his party who might oppose his way of thinking to weaken their position. But he was so taken aback by the amount of criticism that was directed at the party and himself as leader that he used the foundation of freedoms within the campaign itself to weed out those who’d spoken against him.
In fact, the Five Year Plan was so successful that at its conclusion in 1958, Mao launched the Great Leap Forward. This maneuver was intended to try and launch Chinese civilization into the next level. Many times this included price controls set on products by the CPC as well as programs which simplified the Chinese characters to better encourage literacy to many who may not have been capable of learning before. Also more land was taken away from those who were considered to be wealthy peasants and redistributed to those who were poorer. The success of this program was intended to be the fact that it would be a different option that could be given to the economic growth model that had been proposed by the Soviet Union. It was different because it denounced much of the industrialization that the Soviet Union (and many others within Mao’s party) had favored and relied into agricultural sections that had been formed into people’s communes.
During this time the peasants were forced to work on large scale projects as all private (industrial) forms of food production were banned and all tools and implements dealing with livestock and farming were immediately brought in under collective ownership. This would turn out to be a disastrous party line for Mao. Many within the communist party were so worried about upsetting Chairman Mao that the production amounts being achieved by these small communes were either exaggerated or altogether fabricated while in fact they fell over twenty five percent in just two years. This meant that in two years the country had lost a quarter of its food production. Most of the food that the peasants produced was immediately taken from them and given to those in the cities so that Mao would not realize the extent of the losses. This would cause what is believed to have become the largest famine in human history as people began to die by the millions (estimations range from twenty to seventy million as no exact numbers are known) from starvation. Some even claim that Mao knew of the starvation and blamed it on factors that were beyond his control to try and remove blame from the failed Great Leap Forward.
For a few years after the end of the Great Leap Forward, Mao did not engage that much in instituting new campaigns. In 1966, however, he felt that his power was being challenged by Liu Shaoqi and Den Xiaoping when they suggested to the party that Mao be allowed to keep his ceremonial title but to be stripped of any actual power. This caused Mao to launch a policy that would become known as the Cultural Revolution. This revolution declared that there were still intellectual elements of China which needed to be purged because they were a threat to the framework of the government. These people were labeled as class enemies.
Mao worked out a plan to circumvent the need for the Red Army by developing an army based on teenagers and young adults called the Red Guards. The idea behind this was that Mao needed to establish some force which could continue fighting even if the Red Army were incapable. Mao gave power directly to the Red Guards and allowed them to even set up their own form of governmental tribunals. Much of China’s historic and cultural heritage was lost during this time as the guards reigned without much rule. Also, many Chinese were persecuted and killed during this time. When many who were being harassed by the Red Guards began to commit suicide and the deaths from the revolution was thought to be reaching a million Mao was informed of what was happening. He commented that China was a very populace nation and that if people wished to commit suicide they should not be stopped from doing so.
During this time Mao decided to choose his own successor and he picked Lin Biao because the young man was thought to echo all of Mao’s beliefs. However, Mao became suspicious of Biao and by 1971 Biao was thought to have engaged in an attempt on Mao’s life in order to secure his place in the hierarchy. It is unclear as to whether or not there really was an assassination attempt planned or if Mao was being unduly paranoid. Whatever the truth of the matter, Biao died in a suspicious plane crash over Mongolia and it was reported that he was doing so while attempting to run from Mao and China.
Although Mao officially declared the Cultural Revolution to be over in 1969, many historians agree that the end of the Cultural Revolution did not come about until Mao’s death in 1976. Mao was severely incapacitated during this time as he faced problems with both lung and heart ailments as well as neurological problems associated with his Parkinson’s disease. On September 2nd, 1976, it became apparent that Mao’s death was imminent when he suffered a major heart attack. Unlike the previous two that Mao had suffered, this one was massive and affected a much larger section of his heart.
Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing was called to his side on September 5th when his condition worsened. Qing responded curiously by not being present that much until September 7th, two days later, when Mao’s condition once again deteriorated. It is reported that Qing insisted on rubbing powder on Mao’s body even though his physicians believed that it was detrimental to his health and she insisted that the nurses follow her example later on in the evening. The next day when she returned she demanded that the medical staff change his position even though the doctors informed her that he could only breathe when lying on his left side. She resisted and had him moved anyway, at which time he stopped breathing and he was revived through the effort of the medical staff. Jiang Qing was told not to interfere any further with the doctors’ work as she was causing ill to Mao’s health. It did not matter any either way as Mao’s body failed completely just a few hours later and he was taken off life support and died on September 9th.
After his death his body was laid out in the Great Hall of People while a special service was held in Tiananmen Square nine days later on September 18th. During this there was a three minute period of silence and his body was interred at the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. This was done even though Mao had asked to be cremated and had even been one of the officials who had signed a proposal which stated that all of the PRC leaders must be cremated upon their passing in 1956. In China Mao is often viewed as a hero and his image was repeatedly glorified to many people during the Cultural Revolution so that he is often viewed as the symbolic hero of the Chinese Civil War and the foundation of the People’s Republic of China.
The Chinese navy has been in use for thousands of years, with the first ships appearing during the Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 481 BC). These ships have evolved over the years, and today’s Chinese navy is a powerful force.
Xu Fu, a legendary ruler of China, is credited with first introducing sailing ships to China in the 2nd century BC. Since then, ship design only improved. Many naval battles took place over the years, but it wasn’t until the Song dynasty (960 – 1279 AD) that the government would establish a permanent standing navy. This navy had 20 squadrons, over 52,000 marines, and was headquartered at Dinghai. The Song established their navy to deal with threats from the Jurchens and to protect their merchant vessels from pirates and other hostile forces.
However, because their enemies, such as the Mongols and the Xiongnu, mainly attacked via land forces, the Chinese navy was seen as more of an auxiliary force than a primary part of their military. By the 16th century, the canal system was developed to the point that the Pacific fleet was deemed unnecessary, and it was scuttled once a more conservative government took control. However, the Opium Wars of the 1800s quickly made the Chinese see the importance of a navy, and they began rebuilding their ships.
The largest Chinese naval battle, in fact perhaps the largest naval battle in world history, took place from August 30 to October 4 in 1363. Called the Battle of Lake Poyang, it resulted in the founding of the Ming dynasty. However, it also resulted in the loss of many Chinese ships.
As technology advanced in China, so did the navy. While originally powered by paddle wheels, the Chinese ships evolved into coal-powered, steam-powered, and finally, nuclear-powered vessels.
The Chinese navy was used in a number of wars and conflicts over the
years, including the Sino-French War, the First and Second Sino-Japanese
Wars, and, more recently, the 1988 Spratly Island Skirmish.
Northern Wei Dynasty
The Northern Wei dynasty took place between the years 386 and 534. Sometimes called the Later Wei, Yuan Wei, or Tuoba Wei dynasty, the biggest achievement of the Northern Wei was unifying northern China in 439. The period is also known for its many different art works and antiques. Over 30,000 Buddhist images have been found from the Northern Wei. The dynasty originally began with the Tuoba clan, who later renamed themselves the Yuans. While the period is known for unification, in the end, the Northern Wei dynasty split into the Eastern Wei and the Western Wei.
Beginning of the Northern Wei Dynasty
In 315, the Tuoba clan allied themselves with the Jin dynasty against the Northern Xiongnu state of Han Zhao. For their help, the Tuoba were given the principality of Dai to rule. However, the state was mostly stagnate and remained a pseudo-tributary state to the Zhao until it fell to the Former Qin in 376.
The Former Qin were defeated by the Jin. This allowed the Tuoba Gui, the current chief of the Tuoba clan, to reassert his power, and he later renamed himself the Prince of Wei. In 391, his men destroyed the Rouran tribe, then overthrew the Later Yan. By 398, they had control of almost all of the Later Yan lands north of the Yellow River, and a year later, Tuoba Gui named himself Emperor Daowu.
Policies of the Northern Wei
The policies of the Northern Wei were a combination of the policies of the previous government combined with some of their reforms. First of all, government officials did not receive any sort of salary. Instead, they were allowed to requisition anything from the people. This policy caused corruption as officials continued to request more and more from the people. Another unique policy created during the Northern Wei time was that, once the crown prince is given his name, his mother must commit suicide. Many believe Emperor Daowu based this policy on that of Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty. Emperor Wu executed his prized concubine before his youngest son was named. Many of these traditions created by the Northern Wei were no longer practiced after the dynasty fell.
Organization of the Empire
The Northern Wei dynasty divided the people up into several different groups. Five families made up a neighborhood. Five neighborhoods became a village, and five villages were considered a commune. Each of these groups had a government leader. The land, likewise, was divided up according to how many men of age lived upon it. While this system fell out of use after the Northern Wei dynasty ended, the Sui and Tang would later use it during their reigns.
The Sinicization of Northern Wei
Sinicization, or the incorporation of the Han Chinese concepts and institutions, was a major objective of the Northern Wei. They were very enamored of how the Han did things, and their rule incorporated Han administrative techniques, penal codes, and Buddhism. Many upper class loved the Han luxury items. By 494 and the rule of Emperor Xiaowen, most of Northern Wei’s native Xianbei traditions had fallen out of practice. The royal family even took a Han name, Yuan.
Breakup of the Northern Wei Empire
Because of the upper class’s infatuation with all things Han, a division between the aristocracy and the lower class, especially those with strong Xianbei sentiment, became greater. Soldiers, too, became less than pleased with the new Han ideas. Previously, military service was highly honored, but after the sinicization of the empire, it was no longer held in such prestige. In fact, many warrior families suddenly found themselves considered lower class.
Rebellions began in 523 and lasted for ten long years. Empress Dowager Hu had control of the Northern Wei empire until her son, Xiaoming, came of age. When she heard that General Erzhu Rong was planning to assist the emperor in claiming his right to rule, thus removing Hu, she poisoned him. However, Erzhu later had Empress Hu and the next emperor, the child Yuan Zhao, drowned in the Yellow River.
Erzhu became the dominate power at court following this event, and Emperor Xiaozhung, the next in line for the throne, had little power. Erzhu did put down many of the rebellions, but Emperor Xiaozhuang soon began plotting against Erzhu. In 530, he had him killed, beginning a feud between the empire and the Erzhu clan. Emperor Xiaozhung won. However, following this feud, two new powers arose: Gao Huan, a general who held much of the eastern part of Northern Wei, and Yuwen Tai, who held the western sections of the state. The two fought over Xiaozhung’s throne, dividing Northern Wei into Eastern Wei and Western Wei in 534.
However, in 534, Gao Huan’s son took control of Eastern Wei, creating the Northern Qi dynasty. Then, in 536, Yuwen Tai’s nephew claimed the throne of Western Wei, establishing the Northern Zhou dynasty and bringing a close to the Northern Wei period.
The Qin dynasty takes place from 221 BC to 206 BC and is marked by the unification of China under the first emperor and the creation of Imperial China, which would last until 1912. The Qin had, at its height, over 40 million citizens and a complex system of central government. During the Qin dynasty, the Terracotta Army was created at Xi’an to guard the first emperor in his afterlife.
Beginning of the Qin Dynasty
Before forming the official Qin dynasty, the Ying family ruled over the state of Qin. This family was descended from one of the five emperors, Emperor Zhuanxu, who ruled China decades before. From this divine right and with the lands and gifts received from serving earlier dynasties, the Ying family was able to take Qin from a small state to an empire.
Much of this was due to Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China. He filled the void left by the demise of the Zhou’s feudal system with Qin’s central, non-hereditary government. Using methods of Legalism, the Qin’s ruthless central government imposed many different procedures, legal codes, and standards on the people of China. They set up their own system of money and writing that was backed up by their philosophy and scholarly works. Transportation was made easier thanks to several new innovations. However, there was a dark side to these advancements. Namely, the emperor had many Confucian scholars killed or banished to prevent their opposition to legalism.
Qin Shi Huangdi confiscated all weapons from the people to prevent them from rebelling and destroyed all fortifications built by the nobles to guarantee their loyalty. Obligatory military service was instated, and all men between 17 and 60 served at least one year in the army. These forces pushed the boundaries of the Qin empire farther north and south, defeating barbarians and fortifying the borders. One of these fortifications, a wall built to the north to defend Qin against the Xiongnu barbarians, is believed to be the earliest built section of the Great Wall of China, although little of it was left standing when the Ming rebuilt the wall during their dynasty.
Many other civil projects were undertaken during the Qin dynasty. Many canals and bridges were built to allow the army to travel more quickly across the growing empire. The first emperor’s large tomb was also built. It included the large Terracotta Army, a giant force of terracotta statues designed to provide the emperor with a military force in the afterlife. While quite impressive, these statues provided quite a drain in manpower and resources and point to the erratic behavior of the first emperor in his later years. While the cause of this behavior isn’t completely known, it is believed to have been caused by his drinking of mercury and other drinks that the emperor believed would make him live longer.
Campaign Against Confucianism
In 213 BC, on the urging of his prime minister, Qin Shi Huangdi outlawed all schools of philosophy and thought except for Legalism. He ordered many Confucian scholars buried alive and their books burned. Over 400 scholars were killed during this time despite his son’s protests. His son, Prince Fusu, was later sent away from the capital for pleading for the Confucians’ lives. The emperor then lured over 700 more Confucian scholars to a secluded valley under false pretenses. When the scholars arrived, they were stoned to death.
The Second Emperor of China
In 210 BC, during a trip with his son Huhai, Qin Shi Huang suddenly died. The Imperial Secretariat and chief eunuch then convinced Huhai to alter his father’s will so that it ordered eldest son Fusu to kill himself and Huhai to take the throne. The fake will also stripped Fusu’s supporter, Marshal Meng Tian, of his command of the army and sentenced him and his entire family to death. However, while Huhai was able to take the throne effortlessly, the chief eunuch held the true power.
Huhai quickly had all of his siblings put to death so they could not claim the throne. However, he did not hold his throne long—the chief eunuch held the real power, and he eventually forced Huhai to kill himself after the imperial army was defeated at the Battle of Julu. Rebellions and attacks by previously defeated enemies quickly overwhelmed the empire and destroyed the Qin dynasty.
The Third Emperor
After forcing Huhai to kill himself, the chief eunuch put Fusu’s song Ziying on the throne. No longer claiming the title of emperor of China, Ziying was known only as the king of Qin. He understood how treacherous several of his advisors and ministers were, and he had them killed (including the chief eunuch). He then surrendered Qin to Liu Bang rather than take part in another war. Liu Bang, in an arrangement with Xiang Yu, his political rival, presented Xiang Yu with the young king. Xiang Yu killed him and destroyed the palace, a controversial act that led to even more animosity between him and Liu Bang.
The Qin dynasty lasted less than 20 years, but the influence of its Legalist government would be felt for centuries. The concept of the Chinese empire and many of its traditions had their start in the Qin dynasty and would affect China for many, many years.
The Qing, or Manchu, dynasty took place between 1644 to 1912. It is the last of the ruling dynasty period in China; following it, China was ruled by elected or appointed officials. The Qing dynasty founders were the Manchu clan. They were originally from Manchuria, located in the northeast part of China. Beginning in 1644, the Manchurians moved into the rest of China and conquered it at the Later Jin dynasty. In 1616, they changed the name of the dynasty to Qing, which meant “clear.” By 1646, they covered nearly all of China, including Beijing. While the period is noted for the Manchurian integration with the Chinese, it is also a time of internal issues, rebellion, and war. These all came to a head in 1912, leading to the fall of the Qing.
Beginning of the Qing Dynasty
While most dynasties were founded by the Han, and the majority of Chinese are Han, the Qing dynasty was founded by and ruled by the Manchu. They hail from a northern land that is, today, a part of Russia. In 1616, the head of the Manchu named himself Khan of Great Jin. Several years later, after creating the Later Jin Dynasty, he moved his armies into mainland China. In 1621, he captured Liaoyang, and in 1625, his armies had advanced all the way into Shenyang. While the Qing forces did suffer some defeats, in1642, the Ming forces surrendered, leaving the Qing in charge of China. In 1644, the Qing destroyed what was left of the Ming, truly becoming the only power in China.
The Qing ruler, Hung Taiji, set up a government system that closely mirrored that used by the Ming. He placed many Han Chinese in high places in his government, hoping that this would make the transition easier. While the Han were not exactly first class citizens, he make special note to include them and give them many privileges so as to avoid rebellion.
Hung Taiji died in 1643, but he did not leave behind an heir. Generally, the Manchurians elected a leader, and the election came down between Hung Taiji’s son and his half brother. However, the two were forced to agree to a compromise after no decision could be made, and Hung Taiji’s youngest son, the five year old Fulin, was named Emperor Shunzhi. Shunzhi did little during the first seven years he sat on the throne. His regent, Prince dorgon, more or less ruled in his place. After the Qing took Beijing, Dorgon’s policy became unpopular. In 1646, for example, he declared all Han men had to dress in the Manchu style and wear their hair back in a long queue. This greatly conflicted with the Han’s Confucian beliefs and was very unpopular.
However, in 1651, Dorgon died suddenly, leaving Shunzhi to finally rule the Qing. At twelve, however, he still wasn’t prepared to be emperor, and his mother, the Empress Dowager Xiao-Zhuang, made most of the decisions. She realized that Dorgon has consolidated so much power in his position that something had to be done. Two months after his death, she had his body dug up, mutilated, and displayed as a traitor responsible for the death of Shunzhi’s older brother. This allowed her to dismiss his entire family and all of his associates from the court, shifting the power back to the throne. Unfortunately, while Shunzhi was a capable ruler, he died in 1661, leaving his third son to take the throne under the name Emperor Kangxi.
Emperor Kangxi is known in Chinese history as being the longest serving emperor. He ruled for 61 years, and during this time, he brought about the golden age of the Qing. He was appointed heir by his father, Emperor Shunzhi, when he was eight. However, in order to prevent another Dorgon, Shunzhi appointed four ministers to govern until Kangxi was of age. Despite his precautions, the youngest minister, Oboi, soon came to dominate the others. Seeing this, Kangxi imprisoned him in 1669 at the age of fifteen and took the throne.
Kangxi found ruling his empire was no easy task, though. China was huge, and keeping peace and loyalty in many of the outlying cities was difficult. To help rule, Kangxi appointed three defeated Ming generals to high positions in the military and gave them provinces to oversee. By 1673, though, these three generals had made their provinces more or less independent. When one wanted to retire and leave his new kingdom to his son, Kangxi refused to allow his son to inherit the territory. The other two decided to test his resolve by asking for retirement as well, figuring he would never allow all three to retire without new leaders ready to take their place. Kangxi did, however, and seized their provinces, once again bringing them under full control of the government.
This lead to the three ex-Ming generals starting a rebellion. This rebellion, the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, lasted for eight years. Kangxi’s forces won easily, however. During this time, he also led forces against Tibet, Russia, the Dzungars, and Taiwan. He made a number of alliances via marriage as well. In addition to his military prowess, he also funded many scientists and worked to advance China.
The Yongzheng Emperor and the Qianlong Emperor
In 1723, the Yongzheng Emperor inherited the throne from Kongxi. He and his son, known as the Qianlong Emperor, held sway at the top of the Qing dynasty. During this time, the Qing has over 13 million square kilometers of land to rule.
Kangxi died in 1722, leaving his fourth son to assume the throne. As the Youngzheng Emperor, he dealt with rumors saying he killed his father. He tended to rule with an iron fist, and made significant steps in halting corruption and weeding out corrupt government officials. He also restored the state exam system to its original tough standards. He greatly trusted the Han, appointing many of them to high positions in both the government and the military. He also formed the Grand Council, a group of advisors who served as his cabinet for not only the rest of his reign but also for the rest of the Qing dynasty.
Despite this, Youngzheng was quite arrogant. When he died in 1735, his son quickly seized the throne as the Qianlong Emperor, pleasing many. Qianlong was quite able, especially as a military commander. Even though he was only 24, he still led the military campaigns in Xinjiang and Mongolia. He also put down a number of rebellions in the Sichuan province.
However, despite Qianlong’s military prowess, after being on the throne for several decades, the government became quite corrupt again. His officials were some of the most corrupt of all time, and Qianlong was eventually pushed into killing himself by his son, who became the Jiaqing Emperor. He hoped to halt the White Lotus Society rebellion by reforming the government, but the rebellion would last for eight years.
Internal and External Issues
During the 19th century, the Qing slowly lost control of their empire due to economic and social stresses and a huge population growth. Without enough food to feed everyone, the Qing soon had a number of rebellions on their hands. These rebellions and the food shortage only worsened as natural disasters hit.
The first major anti-Manchu rebellion began in the middle of the century. The Taiping Rebellion saw over 30 million people lose their lives, and many areas in Southern China were destroyed. This was only the first of a series of rebellions, however, and not all were led by Han Chinese. Muslims and the Miao revolved in the Panthay rebellion(1856 to 1873) and in 1862 in the Dungan revolt, which ended in 1877. Millions were killed in these revolts as the Qing resorted to what was basically genocide.
In addition to these internal issues, the Qing faced pressure from other countries as well. The Mandate of Heaven stated that the Qing emperor had the right to rule all lands under the heavens. This led to the question of how other monarchs were to be viewed, and each dynasty tended to interpret the Mandate differently. Contact with Europe especially required some thought on this topic. The first major contact with a European kingdom came in 1793 when Great Britain sent an ambassador to Hong Kong. Despite the many gifts he offered the emperor, the Qing informed George III that they were not impressed with his offerings and that he should prepare to pay the emperor tribute. The king was not amused, and Great Britain cut off all contact with the Chinese.
Despite the many markets for their products and the many items China imported from Europe, the Qing government and the many European kingdoms never had great relationships. In 1793, for example, the British had once again sent an ambassador to the court. However, the Qianlong Emperor informed him that they had no need for European products and that, henceforth, the Chinese would only accept silver for payment. Because Europeans were greatly dependent on China for silk, ceramics, and tea, they found themselves forced to use much of their silver in trade.
However, the Europeans soon found themselves a new medium: opium. By getting traders addicted to opium, the Europeans were able to purchase their goods without handing over large amounts of silver. When the Qing government realized this in 1838, they banned opium. In response, Great Britain declared war, beginning the First Opium War.
The Qing very quickly discovered that their military was horribly outdated. Their navy was dominated by the British and their more powerful rifles and cannons. The Chinese surrendered in 1842 and agreed to pay reparations to Great Britain under the Treaty of Nanking. This is the treaty that gave Hong Kong to Britain and gave Europeans full access to China for trade.
Despite these concessions, most of the European rulers were not pleased with the treaty. They only offered token assistance during the Taiping Rebellion and the Nien Rebellion, and the Qing government’s income dropped sharply as they lost more farmland and soldiers. After seeing the weakened state China was in, Great Britain tried to push a new treaty on the Qing in 1854. The new terms enraged the Qing, who refused them, and the Second Opium War began. Once again, the Qing were utterly defeated, and they were forced to sign the Treaty of Tianjin. This treaty forced many different demands on the Chinese, including things like all giving all British vessels unlimited access to all rivers in China.
Empress Dowager Cixi
The Qing rulers during much of the 18th and 19th centuries were very weak. However, after Emperor Xianfeng died in 1861, his concubine and mother of the new child emperor effectively took over the government. Empress Dowager Cixi ruled as de facto head of the government for 47 years, beginning with a coup that overthrew young Emperor Tongzhi’s appointed regents and consolidated power in her.
Early in her reign, Cixi had to deal with a number of rebellions. Once put down, she began modernizing the country under the Self-Strengthening Movement. While the army began modernizing right away, the navy was destroyed in the Sino-Japanese War that occurred between 1894 and 1895. This left the Qing with few naval vessels. The aggressive reforms also began offending the conservative members of society. Cixi was faced with a nearly-impossible dilemma. If she pushed for reform, she would risk rebellion from the conservatives. If she allowed the country to stagnate, the more liberal groups would revolt. She attempted to find a compromising path, but this only resulted in Cixi making enemies on both sides.
In 1898, the current emperor Guangxu pushed the Hundred Days’ Reform onto the people, putting many new laws in place and abolishing old rules. Progressive members of the court were rewarded, while the more conservative officials suddenly found themselves out of power or even jailed. However, Guangxu’s reforms did not last long. Cixi, who still held considerable power, had many of his new laws repealed, and Guangxu himself was put under house arrest.
Cixi continued to abuse her power, even spending a huge amount of money on her sixtieth birthday celebration instead of using the money to upgrade and repair the navy. Several years later, in 1901, Cixi declared war on the Eight-Nation Alliance (France, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Japan, the UK, the US, Italy, and Germany) following the death of the German Ambassador in China. Cixi lost her capital of Beijing very quickly, and she and Guangxu retreated to Xi’an. Following tough negotiations, China surrendered.
Fall of the Qing
Civil disorder and rebellion broke out at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1908, both Cixi and Guangxu died, leaving a fairly powerless government behind. Puyi, the two year old son of Zaifeng, was given the throne, with his father acting as regent. Zaifeng began dismissing some government officials, and by 1911, he had created a ruling council made up almost entirely of his family. This brought him much criticism from other officials.
That same year, the Wuchang Uprising occurred. This uprising actually led to the creation of the Republic of China, a separate government ruled by Sun Yat-sen. Following this, many other provinces started separating from the Qing government. The ruling council saw no choice but to ask Yuan Shikai, former military general whom they had removed, to return to his position and lead the military against these rebels. He agreed, took the position of prime minister, and brought in his own officials. He then asked for Zaifeng to be dismissed from his position as regent, a plot in which Yuan conspired with Empress Dowager Longyu.
Once Yuan Shikai held power, instead of going to war with the new republic, he began negotiations. Sun Yat-sen’s main goal was creating his own republic, and once he realized that was complete, he allowed Yuan Shikai to assume the position of president. The next year (1912), Empress Dowager Longyu forced young emperor Puyi to abdicate, bringing about an end to the Qing dynasty.
Politics of the Qing
While later years did not show this trend, the early Qing government was quite good at maintaining a stable country. Much of this was due to the Trung Council, the ruling body that consisted of the emperor and his highest officials. Another important aspect of the Qing government was that many positions had two officials assigned to them, one Han, one Manchu. Despite this, there was still a social division between the two, as evidenced by the fact that the Han and the Manchu wore visually distinguishing outfits.
Like previous dynasties, the Qing also held control of Mongolia and Tibet. The emperor served as Mongol Khan and protector of Tibet. However, unlike other dynasties, the Qing took on a new policy in regards to Xinjiang province. Starting in 1884, the Qing placed a standing military force in Xinjiang province in response to British and Russian actions. This military force won a number of battles against the British.
As far as their bureaucracy goes, the Qing has more institutions than the Ming. As with most dynasties, the government was centered on the emperor. The Qing had six different ministries, and each one featured two presidents (one Han, one Manchu) and four vice presidents (two Han, two Manchu).
The ministries and institutions that the Qing left in place following the Ming dynasty became a part of what was called the outer court, or the group of offices that dealt with day-to-day, routine issues. These offices were generally located in the southern section of the Forbidden City. The Ming office of the Grand Secretariat, once one of the most important positions in the government, lost much of its power, and by the end of the Qing period, it had been replaced with the imperial chancery.
The inner court, on the other hand, dealt with the more pressing, important matters. This division was to ensure that the day-to-day administration of the empire did not dominate the court. The inner court met in the northern section of the Forbidden City and was centered around the Grand Council. This council was in charge of supervising all other departments and in handling military intelligence. The ministers appointed to the Grand Council served as the emperor’s immediate advisors on almost all matters.
The Six Ministries
The six ministries of the Qing government included the following.
Civil Appointments – this ministry dealt with personnel administration. It was in change of evaluating, promoting, and dismissing government officials.
Finance – the finance ministry handled taxes and ran the various government monopolies that controlled tea, salt, and other items. Without the finance ministry, the government would have gone bankrupt within a few years.
Rites – the ministry of rites oversaw all the protocols and rituals of the Qing, including worship of gods and ancestors, court protocol, and more. This ministry was also in charge of handling foreign diplomats. They arranged housing, meals, and schedules for ambassadors and generally insured their well-being. The ministry also handled the civil service exam. They wrote the questions, administered the test, and evaluated the completed exams.
War – while the Ming dynasty’s ministry of war had full control of the military, the Qing’s ministry was actually quite limited. The emperor and the Manchu elite had full control of the Eight Banners, the core of the military. The ministry only had limited power over the Green Standard Armies, or the military forces made up of the Hans. The ministry handled the armies’ administration only—committing troops to campaigns and planning military strategy fell to the emperor and the Grand Council.
Punishments – this ministry was the justice division of the Qing dynasty. They enforced all of the laws of the Qing and supervised the courts and prison systems. However, the Qing legal system was somewhat poorly organized. Often, there was no consistency over the years, and the outcomes of the court cases were sometimes very arbitrary, especially when the emperor intervened. Often, the emperors overturned the courts’ decisions on a whim. The Han Chinese were also not always given a fair trial by the Manchurian government, and they faced harsher penalties for breaking the laws.
Works – this ministry was in charge of all building projects and repairs. The ministry of works oversaw the buildings of temples, palaces, waterways, and more. It was also in charge of minting coins.
The Court of Colonial Affairs, while not a ministry, was a unique department in the Qing government that was more or less the seventh ministry. This court supervised the government administration of Mongolia and Tibet. It also oversaw the administration of other ethnic groups that were brought under the Qing banner and handled tribute from other countries. Unlike the other ministries, however, the Court’s officials were at first only Manchurians.
At times, the Court and the Ministry of Rites performed some of the same functions. However, neither was a full foreign service ministry because China saw all other countries as barbarians, or at least as uncivilized. It wasn’t until the Qing lost the Second Opium War in 1861 that a full foreign affairs office, the Zongli Yamen, was created. While at first only a temporary office, the Zongli Yamen became a very important part of the government.
The Qing Military
The Qing military was first organized by banners, a Manchurian concept that had been used to organize their society in a way that did not rely on clan affiliation. The military consisted of eight banners, each given a different color. The colors not only differentiated them, but it also showed their order of precedence. The yellow banner was first, followed by bordered yellow (a yellow banner with a bright red border), white, red, bordered white (white with a red border), red, bordered red, blue, and finally bordered blue.
The emperor directly controlled the upper three banners (yellow, bordered yellow, and white), and these banners served as his personal bodyguards. The banners were mainly made up of Manchurians. Only Han who passed the highest level of exams could serve in the upper banners. The five lower banners were commanded by hereditary princes, who controlled much of the army. They continued to control much of the military even after 1730 and the founding of the Grand Council.
Over the years, especially once the Qing began moving into northern China, the banner system was expanded to include mirrored banners, one made up of Manchu and the other of Mongolian and Han forces much like the government positions. In 1644, the Green Standard Army was created. These forces eventually outnumbered the banner troops and consisted mainly of surrendered Ming soldiers at first. Both the banner forces and the Green Standard Army were paid for and maintained by the government.
While the Han banner forces were useful, especially as the Qing battled the Ming dynasty, they were, like most Han groups, never seen as equal to the pure Manchurian banners. They were never given equal rights, partly because they were not Manchurian and partly because they were created after the banner system was already established. Also, they often functioned in positions that Manchurians were not use to. This included infantry and artillery. The nomadic Manchurians were much more used to cavalry, and the concept of infantry was strange to them. The Han banners eventually became useless, especially after the Green Standard Army took up many of their duties, and Emperor Yongzheng eventually disbanded the Han forces during his attempt to cut back on imperial spending.
Because it was based on social class, the banner system was quite rigid when it came to individuals moving between banners or being promoted. An imperial edict was often needed, in fact. On the other hand, the Green Standard Army was created as a professional military force and had none of these trappings. However, because of the Neo-Confucian negative view of the military, recruits from the lower classes were often scarce. This was especially true during the 18th and mid 19th centuries when China was mostly peaceful. Because of this, even the Green Standard Army became somewhat hereditary.
The banner forces underwent a number of changes over the years as well. After defeating the Ming, the Manchu banners were split in half. One half was renamed the Forbidden Eight Banner Army and placed in Beijing. This force was designated as the defenders of the capital city and as the main strike force of the army. The other half of the banner troops were distributed across China and ordered to protect key cities and locations. They were named the Territorial Eight Banner Army.
Because the Manchu feared both an uprising and becoming culturally contaminated by the Han, strict segregation policies were enforced. These policies even applied to garrisons. In some cities, it was easy to split the Hans from the Manchus, but in others, there was very limited space. In these cities and villages, new fortified towns were built with the express purpose of housing the garrison and the families of the soldiers. In cities like Beijing, all Han were forced to move to the southern suburbs, or the Outer Citadel, as it became known. The Inner Citadel housed only Manchurians and was divided between the Forbidden Eight Banner Army.
While some armies use territorial garrisons as a form of defense and protection, the Qing also used them as a way of inspiring awe in the Han and to reinforce their power. However, this worked almost too well, and after the long period of peace during the 18th and mid 19th centuries, the banner armies were almost worthless in combat. This allowed the British to easily defeat the Qing in the First Opium War. Also, by making the banners into a professional military force that was sustained by the state brought corruption into the military. This led to many higher ranking officers seeking ways of making more money instead of focusing on training their troops. The Green Standard Army also declined because of this, especially since soldiers often put working a second job ahead of staying in shape and training. Officers exaggerated needs and personnel to get more money and often kept money that was designated for supplies or upgrades.
During the Taiping Rebellion, however, the government saw exactly how weak their military had become. After losing the regional capital of Nanjing in 1853, the government ordered Zeng Guofan, a Chinese mandarin, to call up regional militias and form a replacement army. He quickly formed an army of locals whose lands were threatened by the Taiping rebels. His Xiang Army, which was a mixture of militia and standing army, was paid by regional funds.
Zeng himself had no formal military training, but his Xiang Army was given as much training as could be spared by other generals. While his army was only supposed to serve as a temporary force to put down the rebellion, it became a permanent part of the Qing military forces. However, this would lead to more problems in the long run.
The first was that the Xiang Army was not dominated by the Manchu, and indeed, the military would no longer be dominated by the Manchu following the rebellion. The banners and the Green Standard Army were horribly corrupt, and the Xiang forces soon became the front line army of the Qing. They were also less controlled by the government because their funds came from the province, not the central government, and they were led by regional officers. However, the government saw these forces as necessary, especially when it was either lose some military control or watch as their villages were overrun by rebels and outlaws. On the downside, however, the Xiang Army command structure allowed commanders to practice nepotism, leading to widespread corruption in this new military force as well.
The end of the 19th century saw the Qing dynasty crumbling, and soon various provinces were being ruled more by local warlords than by the central government. In 1860, the Second Opium War demonstrated once again how weak the military was, and the foreign powers took Beijing easily. Modern European weapons were vastly superior to those used by the Qing forces. Attempts at modernization such as the Self-Strengthening Movement were too little, too late, especially since the government no longer had the funds or the political power to truly implement them.
The Sino-Japanese War of 1894 to 1895 led to the loss of the Qing’s Beiyang Fleet, one of the few modernized parts of their military. This defeat was quite shocking to the court, especially since they saw Japan as an upstart nation compromised mainly of pirates. After this rude awakening, the Qing truly began modernizing their forces, training them in Western strategy and weapons. This New Army, however, was nowhere near as powerful as the Qing would have liked because they lacked the resources needed to bring their forces up to the same quality as those trained by other countries.
Rebellion of the Seven States
The Rebellion of the Seven States is a series of battles that took place in 154 BC against the Han dynasty. Upset at the emperor’s desire to centralize the government and by Emperor Jin’s attempt to seize some of their lands, seven different principalities rebelled against the empire.
Before the Rebellion
To help consolidate his family’s rule of China, Liu Bang positioned a number of his relatives in places of power when the Han dynasty began. These princes still held control over their lands when Emperor Wen took the throne. At this point, they were issuing their own laws and even currency, although they did have the emperor’s approval for this. They collected taxes as they saw fit and more or less ignored any edicts sent from the imperial government. The Principality of Wu was one of the most powerful, and by the time Emperor Jing took the throne in 157 BC, it was also one of the most domineering and demanding.
Events Leading up to the Start of the Rebellion
During this time, the Principality of Wu was ruled by Liu Pi. He and Emperor Jing were not found of each other, although they had mostly refrained from open hostility. However, when Liu Pi’s heir, Liu Xian, visited the capital, he and Crown Prince Qi engaged in a game of liubo, an ancient game played with a stone board and game pieces. The two got in an argument over the game, and Liu Xian threw the stone board at Prince Qi, killing him. This greatly angered Emperor Jing, and he began plotting to punish Liu Pi.
One of his advisors, Chao Cuo, suggested that Emperor Jing use the offenses committed by the princes of Wu and the other principalities during Emperor Wen’s time as an excuse for the punishment. Emperor Wen had mostly ignored these offenses, but Emperor Jing seized upon them as a reason to seize some of the principalities’ land. Chao Cuo also stressed the fact that the principalities could rebel at any time and that, by forcing their hand, they may launch an attack before being truly prepared.
Using this excuse, Emperor Jing issued a number of decrees in 154 BC. The commandery of Donghai was to be created from land from the Principality of Chu because the Prince of Chu had engaged in sexual relations too soon after the death of Grand Empress Dowager Bo. Six counties were to be created from land held by the Principality of Jiaoxi because its prince had embezzled money that was to pay for border patrols. The commanderies of Yuzhang and Huiji were to be created from land held by the Principality of Wu because of Liu Xian’s attack on the crown prince and for various other offenses. The commandery of Changshand was to be created from land held by the Principality of Zhao. No real reason was given for this.
The Rebellion Begins
Once Liu Pi received word of the emperor’s punishment, he immediately began formulating his plans for rebellion. Joining Wu were the Principalities of Chu, Jiaoxi, Zhao, Jiaodong, Zaichuan, and Jinan. Liu Pi also had promises of support from the princes of Qi and Jibei, but neither principality joined the rebellion. The Prince of Qi actually sided with the emperor and battled rebellion forces, while the Prince of Jibei was held under house arrest by his own guards.
Liu Pi tried to convince three other principalities to join his side, but none of the three did. The rebellion also asked for help from the independent kingdoms of Minyue and Donghai in the south and from the Xiongnu in the north. The two southern kingdoms sent forces to assist Liu Pi; the Xiongnu, although they promised aid at first, never sent any forces.
Liu Pi and his comrades initially said all they wanted was for Chao Cuo to be executed because of his desire to destroy the principalities.
The Rebel Attacks
Four of the principalities immediately invaded Qi with plans of conquering it and dividing it among them. However, Liu Pi’s plan was to first attack and destroy Liang, the principality ruled by Liu Wu, Emperor Jing’s brother. The rebels won many key battles in Liang, forcing Liu Wu to retreat to his capital city of Suiyang. The rebellion forces then began to lay siege to Suiyang.
Emperor Jing Retaliates
Emperor Jing named Zhou Yafu to the post of commander of the imperial forces ordered to battle the main rebel force. He placed Li Ji, Marquess of Quzhou, in command of the forces battling Zhao, and sent Luan Bu and his men to attempt to free Suiyang from siege.
The rebel forces were more powerful and better organized than Emperor Jing expected, and he soon feared losing the war. He blamed Chao Cuo for this, and when Chao’s political enemy Yuan Ang suggested executing Chao as the prince’s asked, Jing agreed. However, Liu Pi’s demand for Chao’s life was only a pretense, and he imprisoned the delegation Jing sent to his camp.
Main Battle at Suiyang
The main battle of the rebellion took place around Liang’s capital city of Suiyang. Zhou Yafu’s strategy was to allow Liang to take the full force of Liu Pi’s forces, which were mostly composed of forces from Wu and Chu. Zhou Yafu would then bring his forces around, cut off the rebellion supply lines, and take out the Wu and Chu forces after starving them.
While moving into position, Zhou received word that Prince Liu Wu and his forces were in immediate danger of being overrun. Emperor Jing ordered Zhou to immediately move to assist Liang. However, Zhou refused to change his strategy and instead carried out his original plan of cutting off the supply lines. His plan was a success, leading the rebels to break their siege and attack Zhou’s forces. However, his forces were too strong, and the rebel forces collapses. Liu Pi escaped to Donghai, but rather than sanctuary, he found an executioner waiting for him.
Assault on Qi
While the Wu and Chu forces were attacking Liang, the other four principalities attacked Qi and its capital, Linzi. The Prince of Qi consider surrender, but he strengthened his resolve to fight. He held out long enough for his allies Luan Bu and Cao Qi to arrive, and the combined three forces defeated the principalities. However, the two discovered that Qi had promised to aid Liu Pi in his rebellion. Prince Jianglu killed himself rather than face the emperor, but because he had not actually taken arms against the imperial forces, Emperor Jing allowed Jianglu’s son to take control of Qi.
However, the emperor was not so kind to the rulers of the four principalities. Prince Ang of Jiaoxi surrendered his forces and committed suicide. The princes of the other three forces refused to lay down their arms. They were captured and executed and their principalities taken by the government. Zhao, the seventh principality, was then destroyed when the Xiongnu forces refused to assist Zhao against the imperial army. Prince Liu Sui committed suicide when the Zhao capital was taken.
Prince Liu Zhi of Jibei, who had also talked of joining the rebellion, managed to convince Liu Wu that he was simply pretending in order to gain Liu Pi’s trust. Liu Wu vouched for Liu Zhi to Emperor Jing and his life was spared.
Impact of the Rebellion
While Emperor Gao originally created the principalities to serve as a means of protecting the country, by Emperor Jing’s reign, they were doing more harm than good. They refused to follow many imperial laws, and their rebellion spelled the beginning of the end of the principalities. While they still existed after the rebellion, Emperor Jing stripped the princes of much of their power and reduced the principalities in size. His son, Emperor Wu, continued to reduce their power. By the end of the Han dynasty, the idea of a unified Chinese state rather than many different principalities was firmly established.
Republic of China
people who do not know much about the geography of East Asia often
confuse the Republic of China (ROC) with the People’s Republic of China.
This is not the case. In fact the ROC evolved from the Chinese Civil
war and emerged as its own separate country when the Chinese Communist
Party overtook the Kuomintang (KMT) for control of China in 1949.
Although this democratic state now does not receive that much
recognition, there was a time when it was extremely important to the
global community. This was because the ROC was a founding member of the
United Nations. However, when China began to emerge on the world scene
much later it insisted that anyone whom it had dealings with must refuse
to give official recognition to the ROC in order to maintain diplomatic
ties to the mainland. This caused many problems for the ROC in keeping
its global status and recognition.
Today the Republic of China actually consists of Taiwan and some of the smaller islands around Taiwan. It was originally given to Chiang Kai-shek and the ROC at the end of World War II. However, when the Communists overtook the KMT for control of mainland China, then Chiang and his government moved there operations to Taiwan. This would become the full extent of their government’s control at the end of the Chinese Civil War.
Originally the ROC began at the end of the Xinhai Revolution in 1912 when it replaced the Qing Dynasty and brought about the end of two thousand years of imperial rule in China, and although it continues to this day it has lost some of its global recognition due to the emergence of the People’s Republic of China on the forefront in the 1970’s and the thawing of the Cold War. All during this time the ROC based in Taiwan has maintained that it is the true government of all of China and has never agreed to relinquish its claim as such. This has created some conflict for many who do not know which party to address as the sovereign leader of China and whether or not Taiwan is truly annexed from the control that is exerted on the country by the Communists. To further complicate this point the People’s Republic of China refers to the ROC government as illegitimate while Taiwan continues to insist that it is a completely independent state with its own rules and sovereignty.
During much of the Cold War, the United States offered help in the form of arms, training, and monetary assistance to Taiwan in order to help keep it a separate entity from China. Now the situation is a little different and the U.S. works to maintain a relationship between the two countries which emphasizes the importance of making sure that the relationship between the two does not change and that mainland China does nothing to change the status of Taiwan from what it is now. However, the People’s Republic of China have made it clear before that if necessary they will use force to bring Taiwan back into the country’s control when and if it ever becomes apparent that this cannot happen under peaceful circumstances.
Currently the ROC government agrees that unification is ultimately its goal for China, but they refuse to do so while Communist control is still in effect and the current People’s Republic of China still maintains control of the country. They have said before that this would not be agreeable to the vast majority of people in the government and citizens. However, there is a small contingent which does not want unification to ever be achieved and instead calls out for complete independence from China forever. The parties that support this ideology are known as the Pan-Green Coalition. It appears that for the current time the People’s Republic of China is fine with continuing this as long as the government retains the name the Republic of China. It has been hinted at that if they island were to assert its own independence completely and become known as the Republic of Taiwan that there would possibly be a strong military reaction on the part of mainland China’s government.
Historically, the Republic of China began in 1912 at the end of the last Chinese emperor’s dynasty, the Qing Dynasty. The imperial government was able to be overthrown because it essentially imploded from within as it suffered blows from both rebellion inside the country and foreign pressure. One of the main reasons often cited for the fall of the Qing Dynasty was the very heavy use of opium by more than forty million Chinese citizens at the turn of the century. Many of these users blamed the loss of the culture and self-confidence that had once led China through so many years.
The result of these many hard years of failure and problematic government during the Qing Dynasty resulted in the Wuchang Uprising on October 11th, 1911. The outcome of this battle was the declaration of a Republic of China on January 1st, 1912. This was the first time that China was released from its imperial control in over two thousand years. The government set up a position for a temporary president, Sat Yat-sen.
The government quickly met with its first challenges early on when the newly elected president, Yuan Shikai, took office in 1913, only to disband the Kuomintang party and declare himself emperor two years later. This was not what many felt that the KMT had been set up to accomplish, and many of Yuan’s supporters disserted him. Another problem was compounded when the different states began to assert their own sovereignty and turned into sporadic warlord controlled areas throughout the vast Chinese countryside. These issues went unresolved as Yuan died in 1916 and unknowingly put the country into the throes of a warlord established government. Although Sun Yat-sen had been put into exile by Yuan he was brought back and worked to re-establish the KMT party.
However, the KMT party would not succeed in regaining its foothold in the government until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles sparked a student protest that would eventually gain so much momentum it would completely sweep up the nation in its fevered grip. The movement, named the May Fourth Movement for its significance to the date of May 4th, 1919, when the treaty was signed, began as a simple student protest to what was going on around them, but when many other citizens began to follow suite the uprising became something that had taken on a whole new life of its own. However, the downside to the movement for the KMT was not only was its party once again in a position of power, but eventually it also gave rise to the freedom of people to support communist theories and ideals. As a result the Communist Party of China was founded in the summer of 1921.
After the May Fourth Movement, Chiang Kai-shek led troops on a successful journey to unite China under one banner by successfully defeating the warlords who had held such a staunch grip on the country since the end of the Qing Dynasty. To help in the campaign known as the Northern Expedition, the KMT allowed themselves to be aided by the Soviet Union. The more established government at the Soviet Union was capable of providing support, training, arms, and propaganda. The expedition was so well received in its victory that when Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, Chiang was named as the new leader of the KMT.
Chiang wanted for China to become a democracy with the supreme goal of creating a more firmly grounded civil society with better schooling, healthcare, and other modern ideals. However, dealing with the communists was not something that Chiang was prepared to do and shortly after his ascent to power within the KMT he began the process of ridding the party of all leftist thinkers and communists. This movement would ultimately lead to the Chinese Civil War as Chiang continued to threaten the communists and push them farther and farther into the country’s interior as he worked on a way that he could soundly defeat the communist movement once and for all.
However, Chiang’s plans were destroyed by the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 which sparked the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and ultimately the Second World War. In order to effectively launch a campaign against the invading Japanese Chiang realized that he was going to have to work together with the communist party and their guerilla troops in order to keep the country intact. The Japanese did manage to gain much ground inside the mainland portion of China, even forcing the Republic of China to retreat to Chongqing, and they did not return to Nanjing until after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. After this conflict the Republic of China became one of the founding members of the United Nations. Also during this time Taiwan was given to the Allies, and since the ROC troops had accepted the Japanese surrender then it was seen as being under the control of the ROC since they were at the time the official government of China since the end of the Qing Dynasty.
However, the battle was still not over within the country for the still newly established government of the Republic of China as the Communist movement was once again on the rise at the end of the war. Plus, the control of Taiwan was not going without incident as there were conflicts between the original citizens of Taiwan and those that had moved in from the mainland. After an incident in which an innocent bystander was shot the island became embroiled with unrest in 1947 during the 228 Incident during which it’s estimated that as many as thirty thousand Taiwanese died when military force was used to suppress the protests. In order to keep the peace the ROC government declared the island to be under martial law in 1948.
One short year later the mainland portion of China was finally lost to the Communists and Chiang Kai-shek and his son were forced to flee to Taiwan where their government still held a firm control over the island (thanks in part to the declaration of martial law). When Chiang was forced to move his base of government to Taiwan it is estimated that as many as two million of his supporters made the move with him. It was not expected that the small government in Taiwan would last, so when another communist based war broke out between North and South Korea the United States President, Harry Truman, decided to intervene rather than risk completely loosing the ROC as an ally during the Cold War and sent a fleet to help prevent any further conflict between the two parties.
Then, on April 28th 1952, Japan formerly relinquished all rights to Taiwan when they signed the Treaty of San Francisco. This left the property entirely in the control of China, but as to which government of China it was never officially states as the treaties were left purposefully vague as to the island’s long term controlling party. It appeared that no one wanted to take any part in the Chinese Civil War which continued on through the early part of the 1950’s until the Formose Resolution of 1955.
However, while the constitution for the ROC government had been well established before the evacuation to Taiwan, the country remained under the ruling of martial law for nearly forty years (from 1948 – 1987). Because of this the constitution was not seen as being in effect until the end of the martial law period. The reform that took place throughout the KMT party began in the late 1970’s and continued through the 1990’s as the ROC worked to turn itself from the authoritative one-party state it had been under Chiang Kai-shek’s rule to a democracy that was run by a multiparty system. In fact, in 200 the KMT lost out an election to the Democratic Progressive Party when their candidate won his bid for President of the ROC. Still today many reforms continue to take place so that the government of the ROC is constantly evolving into something that can be seen by many all over the world as a truly democratic society.
Today the economic basis of Taiwan flourishes as the ROC worked toward more of the technology orientated side of the market to turn the small island country into a highly developed and industrialized force. The government is set up a lot like many other democratic governments as the leader of the country is the President who is elected by popular vote and serves as the head of government for four years. The Vice-President is also elected on the same ticket and serves the same amount of time. The President maintains control over five different administrative branches. These branches are known as the Yuan and they are the Control Yuan, the Executive Yuan, the Examination Yuan, the Judicial Yuan, and the Legislative Yuan.
For now it appears that the question of whether or not the ROC will remain effectively annexed by the government of mainland China will not be answered in the near future. However, one thing is certain and that is the evolution of this tiny island state is not complete and therefore we cannot know what it will ultimately become with the passage of time.
The Song dynasty ruled China between 960 and 1279. It is responsible for reunited China after the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. The dynasty is responsible for many things, including being the first government in the history of the world to issue paper money and the first Chinese government to create a navy. It was during this time that China’s population more than doubled, resulting in the a huge number of subjects.
The Song dynasty is generally divided into two sub-periods: the Northern Song period and the Southern Song period. During the Northern period (960-1127), the capital was at Bianjing; the Southern period (1127-1279) takes place after the Jin dynasty took control of northern China and the capital was moved to Lin’an. Despite losing the northern territory, the dynasty was still quite strong for several decades until the Mongols conquered the Jin. Following this, Kublai Khan marched into the Song capital in 1279 and reunified China.
Life in the Song dynasty was quite vibrant. Trade and the economy generally prospered, the upper class held festivals and many parties, and culture spread quickly thanks to woodblock printing and the invention of movable type. Science and technology all flourished in the Song dynasty.
Religion flourished as well. Confucianism and Buddhism were updated with new ideas. The civil service exam became more prominent, and there was a shift from aristocracy to bureaucracy. Commercialism and trade became more focused upon as well. The government found that it had to involve itself in trade if it was to survive, and so the Song took control of key industries. Foreign tribute helped strengthen the country, and during the Song dynasty, many pagodas, bridges, temples, shrines, shops, and other buildings were erected throughout China.
The Northern Song Period
The Song dynasty began when Emperor Taizu unified China by conquering the remaining kingdoms of the previous period. He then set about creating a strong administration by heavily promoting the civil service exam and selecting his government ministers based on skill instead of social status. He had maps of provinces drawn up and bound into an atlas and supported the sciences. He also stressed foreign relations and has ambassadors sent to India, Egypt, Indonesia, Central Asia, and to the Kara-Khanid Khanate.
However, despite these foreign interests, the Song dynasty would find
itself dealing with one foreign power the most: the Khitans of the Liao
dynasty. The Song attempted to take the Sixteen Prefectures from the
Khitan several times, but their forces were unable to seize the
territory. In 1005, a peace treaty was signed that resulted in the Song
paying tribute to the Khitans and recognizing them as an equal.
The Song also fought a war with Vietnam. Starting in 1075 and lasting for two years, this dispute began with clashes along the shared border. The Song reached the area of modern-day Hanoi before a peace treaty was signed.
The eleventh century saw the Northern Song dealing with more internal issues. Politics divided the court. Chancellor Fan Zhongyan attempted to reform salaries and create government sponsorship programs. However, he failed to win support from the emperor and was forced to step aside in favor of Wang Anshi. Emperor Shenzong was a great supporter of Wang Anshi, and allowed him to reform the education system, the land tax system, and to create several government monopolies. The two set higher standards for the civil service exam. These multiple reforms led to several factions rising up in the court, and as one took control, members of the other factions were demoted or driven from the government. Even fame was no protection, as demonstrated by the exile of Su Shi, a famous poet who criticized Wang’s reforms.
Despite these internal issues, the Northern Song dynasty could not afford to ignore events occurring in the Liao Empire. One of their subject tribes, the Jurchen, launched a rebellion against the Liao and declared themselves the independent Jin dynasty. Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty formed an alliance with the Jurchens, but the Jurchens saw the Song army as weak. Betraying them, the Jurchen attacked the Song. They captured the Song capital, retired Emperor Huizong, and the current Emperor Qinzong. This loss, now known as the Humiliation of Jingkang, forced the Song to move their capital to the southern city of Lin’an and to surrender land to the Jurchin. Gaozong declared himself emperor, and the Southern Song dynasty began.
The Southern Song
After being weakened by the Jurchens, the Southern Song dynasty began working to strengthen their economy and their military. The government built and funded huge shipyards and harbors in order to defend their empire on water and to increase trade. Their new standing navy protected both the empire’s borders and their trade vessels. In 1161, this navy was tested against the Jin forces on the Yangtze River. The Song navy used paddle wheel powered vessels with catapults to attack the 600 Jin warships. The Song only fielded 120 ships, but they were easily victorious.
To continue supporting their navy and other projects, the Song began confiscating land. This was not a popular move by the government, but despite losing loyalty, they did not stop their defense programs. However, in response, many landowners began pushing for tax-exemptions, leading to more internal pressure.
While the Song were able to defeat the Jin, they were not prepared for the Mongols and Genghis Khan. He invaded the Jin and forced them to pay tribute to his empire. Several years later, Ogedei Khan saw the moving of the Jin capital as a revolt, and he moved in and conquered the entire area. The Song at first found themselves allied with the Mongols, but that alliance ended when the Song moved to take the Jin’s capital city. At this point (1259), the Mongols attacked the Song, but when their leader Mongke Khan died, his successor halted the campaign.
After Mongke’s death, Kublai Khan returned to the Song and began plans to take their capital. However, a potential civil war forced him to recall his forces yet again. Seeing the chance to push the Mongols back, the Song moved into their territory. While the Song won a number of battles, the Mongols won a key battle at Sichuan. Starting in 1268, Kublai Khan’s forces blockaded the Yangzi for five years. In 1271, Kublai Khan created the Yuan dynasty, and by 1276, Mongols ruled most of the territory once held by the Song. 1279 saw the end of the Song when their forces lost the Battle of Yamen. Emperor Bing, only 11 at the time, committed suicide along with over 800 other royals. With that, the Yuan dynasty and the Mongols gained control of all of China.
The Song culture was quite complex, and many of the largest cities in the world were in China. Social clubs and other luxury groups were widespread, as was education, religion, social welfare, and even retirement homes. The Song created a postal service to provide fast, reliable communication throughout their empire. The government employed many citizens to run this post office and other programs, boosting the economy.
Religion greatly affected the lives of individuals and the government. Literature on spiritual topics was very popular. Daoism, Buddhism, and folk religion were all practiced equally. Many more Buddhist monks journeyed back and forth form India, and many foreign religions were introduced to China. This led to many different festivals being celebrated.
Entertainment, especially, was on the rise. Puppet theater, opera, music, art, and more was enjoyed by many. Restaurants, tea houses, art clubs, poetry groups, and horse clubs grew, giving both the elite and the lower class ways of relaxing. Board games like Go were enjoyed in the home, providing cheap entertainment that did not require people to leave their homes.
Women in the Song Dynasty
Confucian ethics declared that women were socially lower than men, but despite this, they still enjoyed many new rights and privileges during the Song dynasty. They had the ability to run their own businesses, own property, and even inherit property. Many were well-educated and taught their young children before sending them to schools. Women also gained recognition as writers, poets, and artists during this time.
The Civil Service Exams
The Song put more of an emphasis on the civil service exams. While the idea of staffing the government with officials who earned their positions by merit rather than birth was not new, the Song set the exam as the single means for becoming a government official. The introduction of printing and printed materials allowed more candidates to become educated and, therefore, eligible for the exams. Prior to the Song, around 30,000 candidates took the exams. By the thirteenth century, over 400,000 were taking the exam each year. Despite this, many lower class felt that the bureaucracy was still run by the aristocracy since they were more educated. Poet Su Shi was one of the biggest critics of the exam system, saying that the ranks of the scholars had shifted from scholarly to the bureaucratic.
An elite social class emerged from these scholar-bureaucrats. This gentry class was made up of those in office, those waiting to be posted to a government position, the exam candidates, and retired officials. They often served as supervisors of local legal affairs and of education. Many advised local magistrates and governors, while others provided tutoring to the aristocratic and imperial houses.
This scholar class looked down upon the merchants and upon trade in general, instead relying only on their official salary. However, many were involved in managing businesses and made a profit by working through various middlemen and intermediary agents.
The Song Judicial System
The Song kept much of the Tang legal code, including employing sheriffs, magistrates, and judges. These officials were charged with both promoting and enforcing the law and promoting morals and morality. They handed out punishments for law breakers, most of which involved caning. Individuals were not, like in most of today’s legal systems, innocent until proven guilty. Judges viewed everyone who came before them with some suspicion, even the accusers. However, many individuals tried to solve their problems out of court because of the high court costs.
While not viewed highly by the scholars, soldiers could easily gain status by working hard and participating in victorious battles. The Song had a military of over one million at their height, including infantry, cavalry, and crossbowmen. Crossbows were upgraded on a regular basis as the government was constantly seeking new weapons that could shoot farther. In addition to crossbows, the military used swords, halberds, longbows, spears, and gunpowder-filled weapons called fire lances that released a stream of fire and shrapnel. The Song’s crossbowmen and fire lances were responsible for handily defeating a corps of war elephants sent against the empire by the Southern Han.
Art and Literature
Advances in painting, especially in the areas of landscapes and portraits, allowed artists to create new and interesting visuals. The elite painted as a hobby alongside writing poetry and doing calligraphy. The ci poetry form was created during this time, as were many different encyclopedias and manuals on technical topics. Histories, travel literature, and philosophical writing were written by dozens of authors, some of which served in the imperial court.
The emperors themselves often engaged in art and writing as well. Emperor Huizong, for example, was an accomplished artist and patron of other artists. He employed Zhang Zeduan to paint a huge painting in the palace. Emperor Gaozong began a huge art project as a gift to the Jin dynasty. This gift was in exchange for his mother, whom the Jurchen were holding captive.
Buddhism wasn’t quite as influential as it had been, but it still held sway over many in the dynasty. Neo-Confucianism, a relatively new movement, was gaining popularity and was greatly influenced by Buddhism. Its leader, Cheng Yi, influenced his successor, Zhu Xi. Zhu’s writing wasn’t always accepted, but his commentary on the Four Books of Confucianism became the main doctrine of the Neo-Confucian movement. However, Emperor Lizong gave Zhu Xi’s commentary his full backing, and it became standard reading for the civil service exams. His works were also imported to Korea and Japan.
In light of this new philosophy, Buddhism began to be seen as a danger to China. Historian Ouyang Xiu even went as far as to call it a curse that had to be replaced by Confucianism if Chinese culture was to survive. This would lead Buddhism to decline until after the Mongols conquered the country and established the Yuan dynasty.
The lower class Song individuals ate a diet of mostly rice, fish, and pork, while the upper class ate a lavish diet that included geese, duck, fish, deer, hare, pheasant, quail, fox, and much more. Beef was a rarity, as were dairy products. People of all classes ate raisins, pears, plums, honey, and used seasoning like ginger, soy sauce, salt, and vinegar.
Much like food, the clothing worn by the Song varied by class. The lower classes work hemp and cotton clothing that was black and white only. Peasants, soldiers, artisans, and merchants generally wore trousers, with the more wealthy merchants wearing very ornate outfits and long shirts. The scholars’ apparel, unlike these other classes, was very controlled by the hierarchy. This system of rank, however, was not as enforced towards the end of the dynasty, allowing for more freedom. Most officials wore silk robes that reached the ground, and each was colored according to its wearer’s rank and status. Headgear was another visual clue to the status of an individual; the more ornate, the higher up the individual was.
Women generally wore long dresses, skirts and jackets, and knee-length blouses. Upper class women were allowed to wear purple scarves. It was easy to tell women’s clothing from men’s—women’s clothing fasted on the left, while men’s fastened on the right.
Trade and the Economy
The Song economy was quite prosperous. The Grand Canal brought in many traders from around the world, and between the government-operated businesses and the wealthy merchant families, China brought in many luxuries and exported many different items. Guilds were formed by merchants and artisans to requisition goods, set wages, and even intercede with the government on issues like taxes.
One of the industries that saw great grown at this time was iron. Smelting facilities produced over two hundred million pounds of iron a year. Fortunately, coal was discovered during the eleventh century, saving many of China’s forests from being cut down to power these facilities. While much of the iron produced was used to create weapons and armor for the military, some was used to create products for other uses and to trade.
As the first economy in the world to use paper money, the Song were able to phase out the production and use of copper currency. However, those who lost their jobs creating copper coins were able to find employment in the printing factories that created the new currency. In fact, these factories were huge, with many employing over a thousand workers.
Chinese merchants and luxuries were highly sought after by other countries, even those as far as Yemen and Iraq. Trade with Africa and the Middle East was common. Pirates were common, too, but once the Song dynasty’s great navy was complete, it was not uncommon for naval vessels to escort trade ships.
The Song military, while impressive in and of itself, was further strengthened by several innovations. Gunpowder, an early version of the flamethrower, cannons, grenades, and land mines all made the Song a force to be reckoned with. An early text from 1044 describes how to create gunpowder and various bombs, showing that the Chinese had this technology quite early. During their battles with the Mongols, it was not uncommon for two thousand iron-cased bomb shells to be produced in a month at a factory. However, the Song would find themselves on the receiving end of some of their weapons after the Mongols hired Northern Chinese to assist them in their war.
To measure distances, the Chinese odometer had been invented during the Han dynasty. However, during the Song dynasty, the invention was upgraded and combined with a device called the South Pointing Chariot. This chariot had a gear that always pointed south that is similar to a device found in automobiles that applies equal amounts of torque to all wheels regardless of their rotational speed.
Many great scientists during the Song period were polymaths, or very learned men who understood biology, mechanics, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, cartography, and more. Two of the most renowned men of the age were Shen Kuo and Su Song.
Shen Kuo was the first to observe and deduce the concept of magnetic north. He also put forth the theory that climates shift over time and that land is formed by these shifts. He redesigned several different items, including the telescope and the gears used in hydraulic clocks. His clepsydra clock more accurately measured time than any other type of clock at the time.
Su Song, author of many different texts, is especially known for his horology treatise that described his forty foot tall astronomical clock and the hydraulics that powered it. This clock featured many different globes and spheres that tracked the movement of the planets and stars in addition to telling time. It also included the world’s first chain drive, a mechanical device that is still used today in bicycles and other devices. His clock tower included many different rotating gears and other devices that were perfectly timed to ring bells and gongs on the hour. He also created five different star charts.
In addition to Shen Kuo and Su Song, many other writers and inventers lived in the Song dynasty. Their inventions, which included a silk-reeling machine that featured the first mechanical belt drive, were no less important.
One of these other inventors was Bi Sheng. He was responsible for creating movable type printing, an invention that greatly increased literacy in China. Shen Kuo first noted Bi Sheng’s invention in one of his essays, and Bi’s original typeface was later given to a nephew of Shen Kuo to be preserved. Woodblock printing had already made more books available, but with moveable type, the printing process became much quicker. Thousands of books were printed, and society became more and more literate. Education vastly improved, resulting in more people taking the civil service exam.
However, while movable type did make printing some books easier, because of the huge number of characters, it was still difficult to print books quickly. Still, Bi Sheng’s system would later be improved upon during the Yuan and Ming dynasties, and it eventually became the printing method of choice during the Qing dynasty.
Hydraulics and other nautical technology also saw a number of innovations. The lock system for canals was implemented, allowing dock officers to control the level of water in different sections of the canal. This let larger barges use the canals. Watertight compartments on ships allowed vessels to stay afloat if damaged, and drydocks were created that allowed these ships to be repaired after returning to port. Another advancement was a rudder that could be raised and lowered depending on the depth of water the ship was in.
Architecture also became more sophisticated. Slanted struts were used to brace up pagodas while building them, and building codes were set down and used by craftsmen across China. Texts from the period describe the codes for stonework, woodwork, tiling, building walls, and more. Standard units of measurements were used throughout the dynasty.
The government supported a number of large projects, including building huge pagodas and bridges. The pagodas were built as Buddhist temples, and some of them were over ten stories tall. The tallest, the Liaodi Pagoda in Hebei, was built in 1055 and is over 275 feet tall. The bridges were just as impressive, with many of the longest stretching over 4000 feet in length and wide enough to allow two or three carts to be driven across at once.
However, despite their advancements and the quality of their work, architects, carpenters, and other craftsmen were not seen as equals to scholars. Most of their knowledge was passed down from father to son or from master to apprentice and wasn’t actually written. To remedy this, several schools for architects and engineers were founded during the Song dynasty, the most prestigious of which was under the direction of Cai Xiang.
The artwork from the Song dynasty shows various cityscapes and architecture, including arched bridges, huge pavilions, and various pagodas. Many focused on the whole view of the landscape, although some did paint detailed buildings or sections of buildings.
In addition to architecture found in cities, some pyramid-shaped tombs have also been dated to the Song dynasty. Many of these include two chambers, conical roofs, and stone statues representing the royal family, guardians, and mythic creatures.
The Song dynasty saw several important improvements to the Chinese system of mathematics. Yang Hui illustrated the concept of Pascal’s triangle in one of his books, and he also set down the rules for creating magic squares and was the first Chinese mathematician to use negative coefficients in quadratic equations. One of his contemporaries, Qin Jiushao, introduced a symbol for zero (previously, a blank spacew as used in counting), and he worked on the concepts of remainders and on calculations for figuring the winter solstice. He also created the algorithm for what would later be called the Horner scheme despite the fact that he wrote the formula years before William George Horner would.
The first raised-relief map was created during the Song dynasty by Shen Kuo. Many other maps, including a three foot map that accurately showed the coasts and rivers between China and India, were also created. The oldest printed map in the world was founded in the encyclopedia edited by Yang Jia in 1155.
Finally, the Song dynasty is one of the first that showed an interest
in archeology and in discovering the mysteries of previous dynasties.
Records from the dynasty claim to have found bronze vessels from the
Shang dynasty (1600 to 1046 BC), a quite impressive claim for the time.
Southern and Northern Dynasties
The Records of the Grand Historian were written by Sima Qian between 109 and 91 BC. The Records contain information detailing the history of China starting from the Yellow Emperor’s rule in 2600 BC and continuing up until the publication date. The Records were the first historical text written in China and provide much of the information we have about the earliest dynasties of China.
Style of the Records
Sima Qian wrote in an objective, liberal style that was unlike the historical texts written after his death. These Confucian texts focused on divine right and cast any failed attempt to seize the throne in a harsh light. Sima Qian’s style, on the contrary, did not always favor the emperor. Sima Qian also often incorporated stories into his records, often relying family folk tales that could be verified by other stories or records. To avoid outright criticizing the emperors, a move that could have lead to his death, he worked to show both the positive and negative of each ruler. Often, he would break up the positive and negative criticism, sometimes separating them by entire chapters. One would have to read the Records in their entirely to fully understand Sima Qian’s thoughts.
There are some discrepancies in the Records, and it appears that they were not edited after their writing. Despite this, they still contain much information regarding the early dynasties of China. The writing style, too, influenced many writers and poets due to its open and objective style.
The Records are made up of 130 different scrolls that are referred to as chapters or volumes. These are divided into several different categories. Twelve are known as Benji, or the basic annals. These contain biographies of all the major rulers, including the Yellow Emperor, Qin Shihuang, and the rulers of the Zhou, Shang, and Xia dynasties. They also include biographies of the first four emperors and the first empress of the Western Han dynasty. Information on Xiang Yu, although not an emperor, is also included.
The Shijia section contains 30 volumes and includes information on the hereditary clans of China. Biographies of some of the more prominent clan rulers and officials are included.
The Liezhuan is composed of 70 volumes. It includes biographies of many of the most prominent individuals of early China, including Laozi and Jingke. The next sections, the Shu volumes, are eight chapters featuring essays on economics and several other topics. The final ten volumes are called the Biao and are timelines of the various events in Chinese history.
Debate on the Reliability of the Records
Some scholars have argued that Sima Qian could not have had access to
the information necessary to chronicle such detailed biographies.
However, several archeological discoveries, including that of oracle
bones at the Shang capital of Anyang, show that at least twenty-three of
the Records thirty Shang kings actually existed. A number of other
historical records match information listed in the Records, proving that
Sima Qian must have had accurate information at his disposal.
Sun Yat-sen (sometimes referred to as Sun Yixian) was an important Chinese revolutionary and leader. Born November 12, 1866, Sun Yat-sen is often called the Father of Modern China for his role in the end of the Qing dynasty. He was elected the first provisional president of the Republic of China in 1912 and would go on to co-found the Kuomintang and become its first leader. Unlike many politicians following 1900, Sun Yat-sen is remembered fondly by both China and Taiwan.
Sun’s life before becoming a popular political figure, however, was rife with struggle and even exile from China. Even after becoming president of the republic, he still struggled politically, and he was quickly pushed out of power and once again became a rebel. His political party did not actually consolidate its power during Sun’s life. In fact, it split after his death, leaving many of Sun’s political goals unaccomplished. Today, Sun is mainly remembers for his political philosophy of the Three Principles of Power (described as the people’s connection, the people’s power, and the people’s welfare).
Sun was born into a peasant family in Cuiheng, a small village in Guangzhou prefecture. As a young child, Sun loved to hear stories of the Taiping Rebellion, stories that were often told to him by Lai Han-ying, an old solider. At age thirteen, Sun was sent to live with his older brother Sun Mei in Honolulu, Hawaii. Sun Mei was 15 years older than Yat-sen and had moved to Hawaii to work as a merchant. He became quite prosperous, and while he was not always in agreement with his younger brother’s revolutionary ideas, he did support Yat-sen financially so Yat-sen could focus on his political life.
Sun Yat-sen went to Iolani School, a very prestigious academy, where he studied math, science, and learned to speak English. He proved to be a very quick study of the language and actually received an award for his outstanding achievement in learning English. He also became close friends with Tong Phong, the man who would later found the First Chinese-American Bank. While in Hawaii, he became a United States citizen and gained a US passport; however, it is unclear if Sun held dual citizenship with the Qing empire or not. After graduating in 1882, Sun studied at Oahu College for one semester. After than, his brother sent Sun Yat-sen back to China because he feared he was going to convert to Christianity.
While studying in America, however, Sun was greatly influenced by the ideas of Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton. In fact, he credits Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as the inspiration for his Three Principles of the People. He would later write two books based on these principles and the ideas of Lincoln and Hamilton: The Vital Problem of China (which looked at colonialism and its problems) and International Development of China (a book that detailed his ideas for the development of the country and his negative thoughts on Marxism).
While influenced by these ideologies, Sun always kept his thinking flexible. He was a socialist and an anarchist, but he always allowed himself to be open to other thoughts and ways of doing things. This flexible thinking is what allowed him to gain such a high place in the Nationalist movement. He was friendly with all of the movement’s various factions, making him a natural leader in the group since he was willing to see all points of view.
When Sun returned to China, he was quite distressed at what he saw as a backwards country. The people were highly taxed, and the schools adhered more to traditional methods while refusing to embrace change or allow new thoughts. Sun was also quite critical of many traditional religious beliefs, a result of his time spent with Christian missionaries in Honolulu. In fact, it was his disdain of traditional Chinese religions that would see Sun leave China for a second time. He and his friend Lu Hao-tung passed by a temple in Cuiheng one day. There, a number of townspeople were conducting a worship service dedicated to the Beiji Emperor-God, a personification of the north pole. Overcome with annoyance at what he saw as a backwards practice, Sun broke off the hand of one of the statues of Beiji. He and Lu Hao-tung were forced to move to Hong Kong to escape the villagers.
Sun continued to study English while in Hong Kong, and in 1884, he entered the Central School of Hong Kong. While studying, he was baptized into the Congregational Church of the United States, a move that greatly upset his brother. However, his conversion actually had more to do with his revolutionary ideas than it did with any true religious beliefs. He saw the revolutionary movement as being like the salvation mission.
After completing his English studies, Sun entered the Guangzhou Boji Hospital to study medicine. He worked under an American missionary doctor, John Kerr. He later graduated from the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese and began practicing medicine. He was one of the first doctors to graduate from the college. At twenty, Sun married Lu Muzhen, to whom he had an arranged marriage. The two had a son, Sun Fo, and two daughters.
Sun became a leader of the Tiandihui during the rebellion against the Qing dynasty. There, he served as a mentor to Chiang Kai Shek. During the end of the Qing dynasty, Sun continued to become more and more upset with the conservative government. The Qing refused to adopt technology and advanced practices from the West, insisting that Chinese techniques were superior. Sun saw that Western medicine was more advanced in some ways, and he quit practicing medicine in order to work with the revolution.
Sun first joined with reformists Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei, two men who desired to change China into a constitutional monarchy. Sun sent an outline to the governor-general of Zhili, Li Hongzhang, in 1894 detailing his ideas for strengthening China. However, Li refused to discuss any of Sun’s ideas. Part of this was because Sun was not classically trained in literature and the arts, something that the nobility saw as being necessary to work in politics. This led Sun to shift his beliefs from creating a constitutional monarchy to changing China into a republic.
Sun returned to Hawaii in 1894 to found the Revive China Society. Here, he talked about his plans for the future of China and the future of the revolutionary.
Exiled from China
In 1895, Sun launched a coup against the government. However, this coup failed, and Sun was exiled from China. For sixteen years, he spent time in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Canada promoting his revolutionary party and working to raise money to support his plans. He joined other exiled and dissident Chinese in Japan, becoming the leader of their group. Ten of his sixteen years of exile were spent in Japan, where he became close friends with the revolutionary Miyazaki Toten. In fact, the two are often featured together in artwork and photos.
Sun finally left Japan for the United States. There, he met Mariano Ponce, a politician who was working with the First Philippine Republic. Sun supported the Philippine Independence movement, and he even helped their army acquire guns. It was while Sun was working with Ponce in 1911 that Huang Xing launched a revolution in China. He overthrew the Qing dynasty. Once Sun heard about this, he immediately returned home. The following December, Sun was elected as the first provisional president of the new Republic of China.
The Kuomintang records give Sun a large, prominent role as president, but many outside historians point out that he had little to do with the actual revolution, especially since he was not even in China at the time. However, as first president of the new republic, his impact on the new government cannot be ignored. His contributions to the revolution, especially his ability to merge factions into one unified group, were invaluable. His actions during his term as president led to his nickname as the Father of China. In 1919, he published Methods and Strategies of Establishing the Country, outlining his use of his Three Principles of the People in his administration.
Sun Yat-sen and the Republic of China
Sun Yat-sen’s first act as president of the new republic was to establish a National Assembly. He called for the leaders of each province to hold elections for senators. Once elected, Sun and the assembly created a government guidelines and a set of provisional laws for the new Republic. However, this provisional government was quite weak at first. It lacked a strong military force, and its control over even the army it possessed was limited. Also, many of the northern provinces had not actually rebelled against the Qing and had yet to recognize the new government.
One of Sun’s first challenges before the rebellion was to gain the approval and support of the Beiyang Army, the north’s main military force. To do this, he had to win over Yuan Shikai, its commander. Sun promised Yuan the presidency in return for his support, leading Yuan to side with the rebellion and overthrow the Qing emperor. However, when Sun was given the office, Yuan declared himself emperor of the north. Sun was forced to send military forces to fight Yuan in 1913, but his men were defeated, and Sun once again fled to Japan. While there in 1915, he married Soong Ching-ling. However, he was still married to Lu Muzhen. Lu attempted to persuade Sun to simply take Soong Ching-ling as a concubine, but ironically enough, Sun refused due to his Christian beliefs.
The Guangzhou Government
In 1917, Sun returned to China. Since the Republic’s founding, various military leaders had strove for power, and Sun saw their fighting leading to a Chinese civil war. To stop this, in 1921 he started his own military government in Guangzhou, a city in southern China. He was given the title of generalissimo and president. Over the next few years, he gave a series of speeches across China promoting peace and order. He also talked about the Three Principles and about the Five-Yuan Constitution that he felt would make a great foundation for the country. Part of this speech served as the inspiration of the National Anthem of the Republic.
Sun also created the Whampoa Military Academy under the supervision of Chiang Kai Shek. The academy’s purpose was to build up a military force to stand against the military forces at Beijing. It became one of the most prominent military academies of the Republic, and its graduates fought for China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and during the Chinese Civil War.
However, Sun’s Guangzhou military government had no connection to the Provisional Constitution passed in 1912. This led to several conflicts between his government and local powers. Also, Sun’s election was called into question since he was elected in a session of parliament that did not have a majority of its members present. He was challenged by local warlords and by politicians, and many claimed his election was illegitimate. Sun also used a large amount of tax money to fund military actions in the north, an act that angered many. The Northern Beiyang government challenged him in the north, and a provincial government stood against him in the south, leaving Sun’s military government trapped in the middle.
Lead Up to Sun’s Death
In 1919, Sun was once again named Kuomintang premier, a position he held until 1925. During this time, he reorganized the group into a Leninist Democratic-Centrist Party. He also implemented a policy of cooperation with the Communist party members in China as a way of more quickly uniting the country. However, he still felt that, after the necessary military conquest to unify China, the country could still become a democracy. He continued working towards this goal until he died.
In 1924, Sun made several speeches across China, including one in Beijing in November. He was still active in his role as president of the Southern government despite the fact that he was fairly ill. Late in November, he traveled to Kobe, Japan, to speak about unifying China. He returned to China to discuss unification with several northern leaders in early 1925. However, he continued to be ill, and on March 12, 1925, Sun died in Beijing at the age of 58 from liver cancer. He was laid to rest is a tomb in Nanking.
Sun’s lasting influence on his country was the Three Principles of the Nation, a work that influenced both the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China. The two groups interpreted his work differently, however. In the Vietnamese Cao Dai religion, Sun has been granted sainthood.
After Sun’s Death
Following Sun’s death, the KMT split into two: those who followed Chiang Kai Shek and those who followed Wang Jingwei. In 1927, Chiang married the sister of Sun’s wife, Soong Ching-ling, giving him the right to refer to himself as Sun’s brother-in-law. He claimed to be Sun’s true heir throughout the Chinese Civil War. However, Soong Ching-ling allied herself with the Communist Party, and she actually became party Vice Chair of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1981 and was named Honorary President in 1981. She died later that year.
Sun and Taiwan
Sun is known as Father of the Nation, Mr. Sun Chungshan in Taiwain, a title he was given after his death. His image appears in classrooms and in legislative chambers, and he has also been featured on several pieces of Taiwan currency.
Sun’s Image in China Today
Sun is also greatly revered in China. His name is mentioned in the preamble of the People’s Republic of China’s constitution, and many cities have a street named Zhongshan in his honor. Many schools and parks are also named after him. In Guangdong, Sun’s home city was renamed Zhongshan in his memory, and a hall of the Temple of the Azure Clouds has also been named after him.
Recently, the Communist Party of China has been using Sun’s name and image to help boost Chinese nationalism and to gain support for their economic reform. They often hold events near his Tomb, and a large picture of Sun is displayed at Tiananmen Square on National Day and May Day.
Sun’s Influence on Overseas Chinese
Sun has also had an impact on Chinese living abroad, especially those in Singapore and Malaysia. He often visited these groups of Chinese when spreading his revolutionary messages in order to gain foreign support and sympathy.
Sun visited Singapore eight times between 1900 and 1911. The first visit was to save Miyazaki Toten. His Japanese friend had been arrested, but when Sun arrived to help him, he was also arrested and banned from Singapore for five years. He returned in 1905 to meet with several Chinese merchants. These merchants told Sun about various Chinese revolutionary groups organizing in Japan and Europe. After hearing this, Sun convinced the Singapore group to create their own Tongmenghui chapter, which they did when he returned in 1906.
By the end of the year, there were over 400 members of the Tongmenghui Singapore group, and two years later, when Sun fled to Singapore after a failed rebellion, he named the chapter the regional headquarters for all of Southeast Asia. He made trips to both Indonesia and Malaysia during this time to set up even more branches of the group and to spread his revolutionary ideas.
Many of these foreign supporters would play key roles in the rebellion and in Sun’s life. They donated financially to his causes, including the Yellow Flower Mound revolt. Sun even went on to call his overseas supporters as the Mother of the Revolution after the Qing dynasty fell.
In Singapore, Sun has been remembered with the naming of the Sun Yat
Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall in Nanyang, a building that has been declared a
The Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion was a movement which began in late 1899 and continued for two years. The uprising was aimed at suppressing the rising tide of foreign influence in China and was led by the Chinese Society of Right and Harmonious Fists, who were often referred to as “boxers” by many westerns because of the combination of martial arts they practiced. These citizens of China were worried about the rising tide of westward thought in areas of politics, religion, technology, and trade. The movement took place during the last few years of rule under the Qing Dynasty.
Although the Boxer Rebellion did not begin in full until 1899, it is
believed by many that the early stages of this movement actually had
roots that were placed in the Hundred Days Reform program which was put
forward by Emperor in 1898 (June 11th – September 21st). It appears
that after an initial clash with Imperial troops the members of the
rebellion turned their attention toward the problems associated with
However, by late 1899, there are a good number of supporters of the Boxers to be found within the Imperial Court. These feelings of sympathy for the outrage of the Boxers toward what they perceived to be a cultural invasion from the West was something that many conservatives within the court system found to be a valid disagreement point as they were also systematically opposed to that type of influence and change occurring. In January 1900, the Empress Dowager decided to issue edicts in defense of what the Boxers were trying to accomplish. This action led to resulting complaints from the foreign interests that were located within the country.
In June 1900, the Boxers responded by teaming up with some of the Imperial Army troops that were supportive of their cause and launching an attack on foreign bases located within Tianjin and Peking. The headquarters for many of the countries who had investments in China were located in Peking near the Forbidden City. These included diplomatic offices from the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, the United States, Belgium, Austria, and Italy. When these offices were stormed by the Boxers the diplomats were ushered into a nearby protected compound for their own safety. Some of the offices (like those of the Spanish and the Belgians) were just a street away from the refuge that they were being ushered to, the German compound, however, was on the other end of the city.
This meant that the German compound was invaded before the diplomats could be put into protective custody and Germany’s political envoy to China, Klemens Freiherr von Ketteler, was murdered by a member of the Boxer Rebellion. This happened on the 20th of June, 1900, and the German government immediately demanded some form of restitution for their loss. The very next day on the 21st of June the Empress Dowager Cixi put out a declaration of war against the Western powers. This might have been a devastating move for China, but the regional government offices refused to participate in this declaration of war. Many of the elite and ruling members of Chinese society during that time supported the governors and also denied participation in the imperial declaration of war.
The Boxers held the city of Peking from June 20th until August 14th. It was a violent and bloody rebellion in which many of the people killed were reportedly taken care of in a brutal fashion. In fact, some eye witnesses later reported that people were skinned and burned alive, and that men, women, and even children, had been killed by having their eyes gouged out and their bodies bound and hung upside down.
Those foreign diplomats that had been ushered into the compounded defended their territory vigorously. It’s been reported that the British ambassador to China, Claude Maxwell MacDonald, in conjunction with many of the other personnel in the compound used one old gun to defend the area that was assembled from various country’s parts, earning it the nickname of the International Gun as the barrel was supposedly British, the shells Russian, and the carriage was Italian. This representation of stoicism is probably the combination of facts and dramatization; however, it is difficult for anyone to say they know exactly what happened during this hectic time. It is known that foreign troops from eight different countries (who would later go on to establish the Eight-Nation Alliance) did send in reinforcements less than three weeks before the rebellion in anticipation of an uprising.
The largest number of forces dispatched was British and they were sent to Peking on June 10th. They were supposed to go by train to Peking, but they found that the railroad had been damaged between Tainjin and Peking. British Vice Admiral Edward Seymour, who was in charge of two thousand marines, ordered that they continue by train as long as possible, and that they would continue on foot when they ran into the damaged railway lines.
The moving convoy found itself surrounded by supporters of the rebellion (reportedly including some numbers of imperial troops). Seymour continued to try and led his soldiers into Peking through another direction; however, they met with massive amounts of resistance and were eventually forced to begin a retreat path south along the Pei-Ho River. Seymour then took control over four civilian-controlled Chinese ships on the river and loaded up the remaining supplies, as well as over two hundred wounded soldiers. Just when it looked like they were going to be running out of medical supplies and ammunitions, the soldiers found a previously unrealized arsenal of weapons known as The Great His-Ku Arsenal. They took control of this area and not only discovered many field guns and plentiful ammunition, but also a host of medical supplies that they could use to help treat their injured troops. They decided to hold their position and wait until they could get word out about their situation.
A Chinese servant apparently made his way through the lines and was able to get the word out about Seymour’s situation. While awaiting assistance they were attacked constantly by both Imperial troops and Boxer Rebellion forces. However, help finally arrived on June 25th, in the form of eighteen hundred Russian and British troops. When they left the compound to make their way back to Tianjin with sixty two dead and over two hundred wounded, they made sure that they set fire to any and all arms that they could not confiscate and take with them. It was estimated that these guns and ammunitions were worth over three million British Pounds at the time, making it a very difficult loss for the Chinese forces to lose so much of their stockpiled weaponry.
The media quickly picked up on the events of the Boxer Rebellion, as well as the claims of torture and the accounts of atrocities that were befalling many in Peking. They seemed especially interested in the plight of the Chinese Christians, who apparently took much of the brunt of the torture, and played up the horrifying events for the foreign audiences. While it is unclear as to how many of these tragedies actually occurred and how many were exaggerated for the media coverage, it is clear that these reports had an affect on the way that many outsiders came to view the Chinese. This rise in Anti-Chinese sentiment seemed to spread across Europe, Japan, and the United States.
An Eight-Nation Alliance of powers from Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, was assembled to help fight off the Boxer Rebellion. The alliance reached Peking in July, less than one month after the initial uprising began. This offered some assistance and relief to those foreigners who had been fighting against the rebellion on their own.
The Boxer Rebellion came to an end under the pressure of these assembled troops and on September 7th, 1901, the Qing Emperor was forced to sing an agreement of peace with the eight nations in the alliance that became known as the Boxer Protocol. In accordance with this agreement, China had to order the execution of ten officials that had been linked most with the rebellion and were considered guilty of causing the murders of so many westerners in China during this time. China was also ordered to pay reparations of approximately sixty eight million pounds to compensate the eight nations for the cost that it caused and it was agreed that this total had to be repaid within thirty nine years at four percent interest.
This was considered as a humiliating defeat on the part of the Qing government to defend its people from outside influence and invading western forces. These problems were just the beginning symptoms of a larger feeling of unease in the country and sowed the early seeds for the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty which would occur just ten years later in 1911 and would culminate with the establishment of the Republic of China.
The First Opium War
Sometimes referred to as the First Anglo-Chinese War, the First Opium War was fought between the Chinese Qing Dynasty and the British. The war lasted for three years, beginning in 1839 and ending in 1842. It was a war that began due to the trading environment between the two countries and resulted with Britain gaining control over the island of Hong Kong.
To understand the war, you have to first understand that trade between China and Britain was an extremely lucrative prospect for both parties as it allowed them to essentially operate through monopolized trading unions due to the strict trade regulations by which the Chinese operated. The tea being imported from China was in very high demand in Britain, and the silver leaving Britain was in extremely high demand in China. For awhile it seemed as if the system served the interests of both parties.
However, Britain soon ran low on the amount of silver that it could use to supply the growing demand in China and had to buy silver from other countries to keep the trade up since Britain had been trading in the gold standard for over a hundred years. The British began to search for something else that they could trade to China to stem the tide of silver that was leaving their coffers. When they thought it through they realized that they did have a valuable commodity on their hands in the form of Opium. The Chinese had a long relationship with using Opium in different medicinal forms, however, the use of the drug as something other than strictly medical was prohibited and there were already laws in place to prevent such recreational forms of use. This was not enough preparation or government regulation of the drug to stop the large and disastrous influx of Opium that was about to hit China.
The British began importing the drug as a medicinal plant beginning in 1781, but between 1821 and 1837 the exportation of Opium increased to nearly five times what it had been in the past due to the large demands being generated by those who were improperly using the Opium. The wide spread usage and abuse of the drug had gone on to such an extent that China now found that it was exporting far more of its resources than it was brining in. This meant that the Qing Dynasty suddenly found themselves in a very tangled mess because they had largely ignored the trading of the drug until they found that the country was in the grips of a mass epidemic. The drug had spread so widely and completely through Chinese society that it has been estimated that more than ten percent of the world’s Opium was going straight to users in China. In other words, the estimation of the time was that more than two million Chinese were habitual Opium addicts.
The Qing government decided to act out against the Opium trade to bring it to an end when they realized how quickly they were losing their silver and how many Chinese citizens were in so much trouble with the addiction. However, their actions were a little too late in the coming and they were complicated by some of the local officials who were corrupt and had grown rich from the trading. This went on for many years and there was even an incident where a US ship that was carrying opium was raided and its crew murdered by Chinese who were apparently desperate to get the drug.
To try and better deal with the situation the Qing Emperor appointed a new governor of Canton in the hopes that his presence would somewhat lessen, and possibly end, the Opium trade. The new governor, Lin Zexu, banned the sale of all Opium immediately upon his arrival and demanded that if anyone had any Opium on their premises that they turn it over to the government immediately. To deal with those traders who were continuing to bring opium into the country Lin had them all sign a special “No Opium Trade” clause that stipulated that if the traders were to break this pact that they could pay for their transgression with their lives. In order to show that he meant business, Lin also closed the Canton channel, effectively blockading all British traders in and keeping them hostage until some terms were agreed to.
When he heard of this Charles Elliot, the British Chief Superintendent of Trade in China, managed to break through the barricade to try and work out a deal with the traders. He arranged it so that the traders would turn over their supplies of Opium to the Chinese and that they would be in turn compensated by the British government later on. This resulted in nearly two and a half million pounds of Opium being destroyed by Lin in May of 1939. Lin then wrote a letter to the Queen of England begging her to help stop the trade of Opium into China as it was poisoning millions of Chinese citizens and was causing much stress in the country.
The Queen never received the letter, and the British government knew that it could not pay for all of the destroyed Opium without causing a massive uproar in the public view. This is one of the first factors that would ultimately lead the British to war with China. However, there were other problems on the horizon as six British sailors burned down a temple a month later and killed a Chinese citizen. The Qing government wanted the men to be tried in China; however, Britain refused and demanded that they be turned over to the authorities there. Once the men reached London they were released, which infuriated many in China.
After this debacle the British refused to let any of their traders sign the bonds with China that would have forced them to acknowledge the Chinese laws and to be held responsible to the Qing legal jurisdiction. It also maintained that those who should smuggle Opium into the country would be punished with death. However, there were some British merchants who did not deal in Opium who agreed to sign the bonds and this would serve to weaken Britain’s position even when Charles Elliot ordered the British merchants to remove themselves from Canton and even went so far as to prohibit trade with the Chinese.
A short time later on August 23rd, 1839, British forces overtook Hong Kong and marked the true beginning of the First Opium War. The English Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, began the Opium War in earnest as a means of getting entirely compensated for the massive amount of Opium that had been destroyed by the Chinese the year prior. Although the public in both Britain and the United States cried out against this form of government endorsed drug peddling, it appeared that this dissent in opinions was not going to sway the course of the war.
Two months after this occurred, in October, a ship that was operated by Quaker traders who believed that Elliot had exceeded his authority went to Canton and tried to make sure that they could still work out some form of trade agreement with the Chinese government for those vessels who still wanted to trade and did not deal in Opium. Elliot reacted to this by blocking up the Pearl River to try and prevent other traders from continuing this trend. However, on November 3rd, 1839, another British ship, the Royal Saxton, tried to get through.
This caused much distress when the British ships, Volage and Hyacinth, actually began to fire warning shots at the Royal Saxton. Ships sent from the Chinese navy then went to battle to try and protect the Royal Saxton even though it was a British ship. Elliot had a different story to report and he claimed that they engaged in the Qing navy because they were attempting to offer protection to twenty-nine of the British Navy’s ships that were located on that blockade. Many of the Chinese merchant and navy ships that remained in Hong Kong were sunk by the Royal Navy.
The Qing government responded by asking that everyone, including foreigners in China as well as Chinese citizens, to discontinue any aid or assistance of the British in the area. To react to these circumstances the British fought back by attacking Guangdong, and although the British East India Company was also heavily involved in the war, the financing was paid for through the British government. The British landed in Guangdong in June of 1840, arriving via Singapore. James Bremer was leading the marines and he made the demand that the Chinese government should have to compensate Britain for the loss of the Opium and for the loss of income due to the interruptions in trade caused by the Chinese blockade. When the Qing Emperor did not respond the marines blocked off the Mouth of the Pearl River and continued on their expedition north as they headed to overtake Chusan.
By 1841, the British had managed to take over the waterway between Hong Kong and Canton at the beginning of the Pearl River, the Bogue Forts. The British continued to gain ground in the areas around Canton and worked to also defeat the Chinese at another military outlet in Chinghai. This path of the British continued until they had made it all the way into Shaghai and occupied it as well as one of the most important internal trade routes in China, the Yangtze River.
By this time the Qing government realized that he was not going to be able to deal with this onslaught of the British invasion and that the Chinese troops were just not as technologically advanced as the western powers and as such were far less prepared for battle. So, in August of 1842, the Chinese government surrendered by signing the Treaty of Nanjing (what is considered by many to be China’s first Unequal Treaty).
In the end China lost the war and was forced to concede Hong Kong and
to open all five of its ports to foreign merchants completely. The
Opium problem in China did not dissipate as the terms of the war easily
allowed Britain to continue importing the drug at an alarming rate.
Plus, the military loss put a large dent in the way which Chinese
citizens looked toward their emperor and their government. While Lin
Zexu was quite well-respected, he is sometimes blamed for the war itself
as his hard actions were what had angered the British government in the
beginning. There is also a wide spread belief held by some historians
that the lingering upset that was felt at the end of the First Opium War
was even part of what may have later led to the Taiping Rebellion in
The Han dynasty began in 206 BC and lasted until 220 AD, and its 400 years of existence were filled with great achievement. In fact, many Chinese still refer to themselves at Han today. The Han dynasty is regarded as one of the most important and prominent dynasties of China. The Liu clan served as the main rulers during this time.
The Han dynasty restored Confucianism to prominence. In fact, the entire empire became a Confucian state. Many different social aspects flourished, including the arts, commerce, and agriculture. The Chinese influence extended to Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, and other central Asian countries. The military established posts in many of these countries and in Persia. They also claimed a portion of northern Vietnam and northern Korea as Chinese territories. To keep the piece, these territories were allowed to govern themselves under the watchful eye of a Han lord and in exchange for tribute.
Divisions in the Dynasty
Much like the Zhou dynasty, the Han dynasty can be divided into the Western, or Former Han dynasty, and the Eastern, or Later Han dynasty. The Western dynasty, centered around Chang’an, covers the years between 206 BC and 24 AD. The Eastern dynasty, with its capital at Luoyang, covers the years 25 AD to 220 AD.
Beginning of the Han Dynasty
Emperor Qin Shi Huang worked hard to create the Qin Empire and keep peace within its boundaries. However, within three months of his death, his empire was thrown into chaos. By 206, the Qin dynasty was destroyed, resulting in a power vacuum and a war among the six Warring States. Out of that war rose Liu Bang, the founder and first emperor of the new Han dynasty. While Han began as a small area, it grew into an empire that stretched across China.
The New Empire
The Han administration remained fairly unchanged from that of the Qin dynasty, although the government was somewhat less centralized. Liu Bang, now known as Emperor Gao, separated his empire into feudal states, each with a vassal lord who acted as overseer. He gave several of these states to the allies who had helped him defeat his enemies to temporarily appease them, all the while planning to have them killed as soon as possible.
After Liu Bang died, the next few emperors attempted to combine the
existing Legalist traditions and methods with the ideals of Taoism. In
154 BC, seven of the feudal states created by Liu Bang rebelled against
the Han empire. However, the emperor and his forces emerged victorious
in the Rebellion of the Seven States, further solidifying the empire.
The result was a fairly stable government supported by agriculture and
the remnants of the feudal states created by Liu Bang.
During this time, the Han empire was relatively at peace with their main enemy, the Xiongnu. Previous dynasties had fought a number of battles against these northern barbarians, even going so far as to build a precursor to the Great Wall to protect their empires. However, the Hans instead paid tribute and intermarried with the Xiongnu in order to prevent outright war with them.
Internally, the Han worked to undo the many harsh laws and regulations instituted by the Qin. Taxes were reduced, and the various nomadic tribes, much like the Xiongnu, were paid tribute to avoid war. The government withdrew from its active role in the lives of its people, creating a stable, if somewhat weakened government.
When Emperor Wu came to power, however, he began reasserting the power of the government. He pressed the borders outward, even capturing the north part of Vietnam and moving forces into the Siberian areas. He established a military base near the Caspian Sea to the west and on Lake Baikal in the north.
However, Emperor Wu’s biggest move was in deciding that Taoism should be replaced by Confucianism. He declared the Han empire a Confucian state, although in practice, the laws he initiated were a combination of Confucian ideas and Legalist methods. He initiated the civil service exam system and declared that all civil servants in the bureaucracy must have a working knowledge of the Confucian classics. This requirement would last until 1911 and the founding of the Republic of China. Confucians, once hunted down and persecuted by previous rulers, were once again prominent in the government.
Government of the Han Dynasty
The Han dynasty’s government included both a central and local system. The central government was organized into a cabinet known as the Three Lords and Nine Ministers. At the head of this cabinet was the Chancellor, one of the three lords. A hierarchy of ministers was created, with higher ranks being paid more. These ministers and officials were given ranks based on their skills, not their clan affiliation, and could be dismissed or demoted if their performance was not acceptable.
During the former Han dynasty period, two administrative levels existed: the county and the subdivision of the county, or xian. There were almost 1,200 xian subdivisions during this time, and much of the day to day governing was done by the administrators of these subdivisions. The county governors could set military and economic policy and decide legal matters.
While the Hans did lower taxes, they did not do away with them altogether. Adults paid 120 coins every year in taxes, and they also had to work for the government one month out of the year. For those who owned land, they were taxed one-thirtieth of their entire collected harvest every year, a fairly low amount. These various taxes were used to fund many different programs, including a formalized school system.
The Culture of the Han Dynasty
During the Han dynasty, art and literature flourished. China’s leading historian, Sima Qian, lived during this time, and his Records of the Grand Historian is one of the most comprehensive sources of the early Chinese. It includes information on everything from the Xia dynasty to Emperor Wu, and in some cases, it is the only source left for some information.
A number of technological advances occurred during the Han dynasty. Paper was invented, as was steel. Everything from poetry to hydraulics to gear systems and the pendulum were invented or improved upon. New philosophical ideas were introduced by Wang Chong and Zhang Heng, who theorized that light from the moon was actually reflected sunlight. The creation of steel led to new advancements in the military as well. New weapons and even chemical warfare was used by Han forces against their enemies.
The Silk Road
In 138 BC, Emperor Wu sent Zhang Qian to the West, and the route he forged would later be called the Silk Road. This path began in Chang’an, passed through Xinjiang, and ended on the coast of the Mediterranean. Once contact with the West had been established, trade flourished. Many Chinese tradesmen were sent westward through the years, creating the Silk Road.
Not all who used the Silk Road used it for trade, however. In AD 97, General Ban Chao used the path while pursuing a group of retreating Xiongnu. He then settled on the coast of the Caspian Sea, established relations with the Parthian Empire, and sent envoys to Rome. This, in turn, led to Roman embassies being established in China. Trade between the two empires led to silk, ivory, and incense being exchanged. Tradesmen also came into contact with the Kushan Empire. This brought Buddhism to China in the first century.
Privatization of Land
In order to fund his military campaigns, especially those against the Xiongnu, Emperor Wu gave control of much of the land to the rich nobility and merchants. This allowed him to tax these landowners.
Instead of taxing them on their actual produce, however, Wu’s taxes were based on how much land each landowner held. During years of poor harvests, landowners could not pay the taxes completely. To counter this, the richer landowners began buying up as much land as possible. While this raised their taxes, it also raised how much income they could generate each year. With fewer landowners to tax, however, the government realized it was actually losing money. To counter this, they began taxing the lower class. This led to more peasants entering into servitude and working on lands owned by the more wealthy elite.
The peasants, however, were still required to pay their landlords income. However, unlike with taxation, they received services in return, including protection. However, natural disasters or bad harvests often left these peasants in more debt to their landlords than they could pay. With little education or knowledge of other trades, though, the peasants had no other options.
The elite did little to ease the peasants’ issues. In fact, some deliberately misled their servants or made them pay higher taxes. They also often provided false information to the Han government, listing fewer servants or land. However, the court kept its own documents on property and often caught these false reports. When the court would attempt to punish these landlords, they would be met with stiff resistance.
Wang Mang’s Rebellion
In 9 AD, the Han dynasty was temporarily overthrown by Wang Mang, a reformer who believed that the government had lost the Mandate of Heaven. A member of the landholding families, Mang instituted a number of reforms. However, instead of helping the economy as he believed he was doing, he actually further damaged it. This marked the end of the Western Han dynasty.
Restoration of the Han Dynasty
In AD 24, Liu Xiu overthrew Wang Mang and restored the Han dynasty. This new dynasty is usually known as the Eastern Han dynasty because Liu Xiu moved his capital to the eastern city of Luoyang. He, his son, and his grandson ruled the restored empire capably, revoking Mang’s reforms and working to restore the economy.
Decline of the Han Dynasty
Following Emperor Zhang’s death, the Han government fell into corruption, and power struggles broke out between the Confucian scholars, court eunuchs, and various other clans. None of these classes worked to improve the lives of the peasants, which caused even more turmoil as the lower classes became unhappy with the government. The landholders held much power, leaving the central government without the authority needed to truly help the people of the Han dynasty. The upper class and elites were given many privileges while the working class continued to suffer.
The Taoist idea of equal rights and land distribution became very popular with the peasants, and they began rebelling against the elites. The Yellow Turban Rebellion, one of the most effective rebellions, began in northern China. Soon, the government was thrown into chaos, and three powerful warlords emerged from these battles. The Han dynasty came to an end when Emperor Xian, little more than a figurehead, was forced to abdicate by warlord Cao Pi, beginning the period of the Three Kingdoms.
The History of Beijing
While the capital of China is currently housed in Beijing, this city
has had a lot of ups and downs over the course of its history. However,
the history of Beijing and the area surrounding it actually goes back
much farther than most people probably consider possible. In fact there
have been fossils found in the caves around Beijing that date back
nearly a quarter of a million years ago. It’s also been established
that very early men from the Paleolithic Era lived and interacted in the
area of Beijing approximately twenty seven thousand years ago, and
there were established villages in the Beijing vicinity as early as 1000
The first firmly established date for the city of Beijing was when the area was used as the capital city for Yan during the Warring States Period. This meant that there would have been people living in and operating in Beijing in 473 BC. After Yan fell to Qin at the end of the Warring States Period, then Beijing was chosen as the point to which the Qin government placed local prefectures.
During the latter part of the Jin Dynasty in 936 a large portion of north China was annexed and set up under the Khitan Liao Dynasty. This annexation included the area where Beijing was and the new dynasty set Beijing up as the capital. At the time they called it Nanjing, which meant Southern Capital. During this time it is believed that the Sanmiao Road was built. This road is the oldest road in the city and so it gives reason to believe that this was the time during which many of the beginning building blocks of the city were placed. Also, two buildings (the Tianning Temple and the Nijuiji Mosque) date to the period in which the area was controlled by the Liao government.
In 1125 the Liao Dynasty that had ruled over the Nanjing area was conquered by the Jurchen Jin Dynasty. Twenty eight years later they moved the capital of their dynasty to Nanjing and renamed it Zhongdu, meaning central capital. Zhongdu was actually situated just to the southwest of the area which is now traditionally considered Beijing. However, in 1215 Zhongdu was burned completely by the invading Mongolian forces. Kublai Khan, the Mongolian who began the Yuan Dynasty, set up the remains of the Zhongdu capital as his own and named it Dadu. This served a two fold purpose as Kublai was able to set up a base for his power in China that was close to Mongolia while at the same time in a somewhat traditional Chinese setting so that he might be really considered a true Chinese ruler. This choice by Kublai helped to shape Beijing into the city it is today.
In 1368 the Yuan Dynasty found itself under attack by the traditional Han Chinese who felt that they had been repressed under the Mongolian rule. The man who would found the Ming Dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor (Zhu Yuanzhang), sent an army toward Zongdu. When he heard that the city would be under attack the emperor fled the palaces and went further north to Shangdu. Zhu demolished the Yuan palaces and put out a formal declaration founding the Ming Dynasty. At this time Beijing underwent another change in its long history as it was rebuilt once again during the Ming Dynasty.
The capital was moved once again to another more southern city;
however, Beijing began to reinvent itself as it used the city wall that
was erected around Beijing. This wall remained in place until very
recently when it was torn down to make way for a new road. During the
span from 1425 to 1650 the city increased in size tremendously and it is
believed that during this time it was actually the largest city in the
world. Right now it is still a very large city, ranking in the top
twenty five in the world.
In the early fourteen hundreds the Forbidden City was built inside Beijing to house the emperor’s family members. The Temple of Heaven was also built during this time period around 1420. After this construction was complete the capital was moved back to Beijing around 1421. This was done as a strategic measure as the city where Beijing was founded was the perfect place to watch the northern front for possible attacks and to control the northern army bases.
In the seventeen hundreds the city again saw another change in power as the peasant Li Zicheng led a rebellion against the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Li, however, wasn’t meant to enjoy this newfound victory. The Manchurians heard about the uprising and decided to use this instability to launch there own attack. They managed to find a guard sympathetic to their cause and they got through the Great Wall and managed to take control away from Li and the other rebels. Once the Manchurians had established power they declared the founding of the Qing Dynasty. They kept Beijing as their capital for approximately the next three hundred years under the Qing Dynasty. During their reign Tiananmen was constructed around 1651 and today is an important symbolic point for the People’s Republic of China. Peking University was also constructed in the northwest corner of the city in 1898 and Qinghua University was also set up in Beijing in 1911.
Beijing would see another rebellion take control over the government when the peasants began to get upset over the unequal treaties that the Qing government had signed with the western powers. These treaties allowed many of the foreign powers to get their diplomats jurisdiction in Beijing, and this actually developed into a large portion of the city and by the late eighteen hundreds there was an incredibly large number of westerns living in the capital. In 1900 the foreign based part of Beijing was under attack by Chinese rebels during a period known as the Boxer Rebellion. This led to massive problems and periods of looting and fires. The Old Summer Palace was also attacked and burned down during this time.
In 1911 the Qing Dynasty officially came to an end when the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the government and set up a democracy, the Republic of China. They elected to keep the city of Beijing as the capital, but the new government was by no means secure. Over the next thirty years the city was besieged by attacks as large political instabilities and problems within the newly founded government would lead the country into a civil war. As a result Beijing would waiver back and forth between warring feudal lords and the power would shift considerably over the next twenty years. And, in May 4th of 1919 a series of college students began to gather in protest against the unfair treaties at the end of World War I. This would become known as the May Fourth Movement and it would turn out to have an extremely large impact on the future of Chinese politics.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 the Japanese managed to gain complete control of Beijing in just under a month. They set up a temporary puppet government in Beijing as a means of asserting their control over the remainder of China, and eventually they would set up an alternative city to run their puppet state in Nanjing. The Japanese combined the two capitals but left the majority of the power base in Beijing. This continued until after the end of the war.
While the war had been ongoing the Kuomintang that was behind the Republic of China had actually merged forces with the Communist Party of China to help fight off the Japanese. However, after the surrender of the Japanese in 1945 the conflict between the two reasserted itself. By 1949 the Kuomintang had abandoned the city and the Communists officially rose to power on January 31st of that year.
Mao Zedong issued an official proclamation stating the beginning of the People’s Republic of China in Tiananmen Square on October 1st. Beijing was once again designated as the seat of power for the new government. The communists went to work making sure that they could update Beijing in order to be competitive with the rest of the modernized western world. Also, many new monuments and museums were built by 1959. Also this was when much of the old walls encircling the city were demolished to make way for the 2nd Ring Road.
All was not completely well for the city as during the Communist reign there has been quite a bit of civil unrest. For example, the Red Guard was highly active during the Cultural Revolution and caused a lot of major problems within the city. Tiananmen Square also saw the root of a lot of problems during these times of civil unrest it was a gathering spot for students and workers to air out their grievances, specifically during the Tiananmen Incident in 1976 and the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
In recent times Beijing has seen the benefits of China’s rapid economization and industrialization. There have been many improvements made to the city. Much of the area outside the urbanized portion of the city has also been converted from farmland to districts that are divided into commercial and residential areas to help the people who live and work in Beijing. While to some this is a massive improvement, with the modern fixtures the city is also highly susceptible to the problems that come with any major city’s development. For example, Beijing has seen the desecration of many of its historical sites as well as a rise in pollution and population problems. In 2008 Beijing showed its glamour as a city when it was host to the Olympic Summer Games.
The History of the Emperor of China
The title of the Emperor of China belongs to any leader that ruled over China between the beginning of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC and the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. The Emperor was recognized as a person who ruled everything under heaven and was regarded with near mystical qualities by much of China. When Emperors ruled in succession from the same family they were generally classified within the same time period that was known as a dynasty. In the cases of the Yuan and Qing Dynasties the emperors were of Mongolian or Manchurian descent; however, for the majority of the time Han Chinese ruled the Imperial Court. Many historians believe that the political atmosphere between non-native rulers and traditional Chinese Dynasties were very complex and that over time they were a collaborative effort of rule between the two groups.
Before Emperor Qin managed to unite all of China after the Warring States period, rulers in China were called King (or Wang). However, Qin changed this title after he became the ruler of all of China because he felt that this deed deserved a title greater than any of those that had come before him. The name that he created was a combination of two leaders from prehistoric times that were still considered great under Chinese legends, Haung and Di. The name, Huangdi, is roughly translated to mean Emperor.
Over time the genealogy of the Imperial rulers has gotten very convoluted as there were several points during some dynasties when more than one ruler claimed the title of Emperor of China. Sometimes over family feuds or warlord problems there might be more than one claim to the throne and over time the true ruler of China would either be sorted out through political upheaval, revolt, or by one side conceding to the other. Sometimes rulers would have more than one title. For example, Kublai Khan was the Emperor of China as well as the Chief Khan (Gurkhan) of the Mongols.
In the more than two thousand years since the establishment of emperors in China there have been nearly four hundred sovereign emperors. However, of these four hundred rulers some who merely established their own regime in order to challenge the existing dynasty rulers are not seen as the legitimate emperors of the kingdom. Also, there about ten percent of emperors who were either seen as extremely competent and resourceful administrators while another ten percent was perceived as having been completely incompetent and disastrous rulers.
The kings that ruled before the title of Emperor was given were often referred to as the Son of Heaven, but Qin did not choose to embrace this name. Some historians think that he deferred on this title because it would have symbolically made him submissive to another power. However, this name was given to the Emperors again under the Han Dynasty, and continued through until the end of the established Imperial rule. This way the emperor would be seen as the heavenly representative of the higher powers and as such would have supreme rule on all earthly matters which affected his kingdom. Another thing that this did was to establish the emperor as having a destiny of ruling the country and his power was absolute and divine, and as such it could not be questioned.
Those in China believed that he who held the title of emperor was in fact ruler over the entire world even if they did not acknowledge his title. It was because of this tie to the higher powers that the words of the emperor were seen as words directly from the heavens and were to be set out as laws and obeyed immediately for fear of divine retribution. In fact, not even the emperor’s closest family members were allowed to talk with him unless their manner was formal. Nor could the emperor be challenged at all by anyone, and if someone talking with the emperor talking with them offered a comparison with themselves this was completely illegal, and it was completely forbidden to ever refer to the emperor’s birth name.
The downside to this belief which tied the ruler of China to the Son of Heaven position was that it was tied to a Confucian principal known as the “Mandate of Heaven” which meant that the emperor was only allowed to serve the people if he was serving them well. If he abused his power or if there was a series of problems like flooding or famine, then the Chinese were allowed to rebel. However, this is extremely different from the Japanese Emperors. In Japan the same family has ruled on the Chrysanthemum Throne since its establishment. It was through this practice that the Chinese were given the legitimacy of changing the dynasties whenever the need called for it, and it also meant that peasants were allowed to take control of the throne as well. This principal, while it extends for men, has only allowed for one legitimate female leader, Empress Wu, who took power during the Tang Dynasty.
The Emperor’s family consisted of both he and the Empress, as well as a host of concubines and consorts which were ranked according to their importance to the Emperor. The Empress Dowager was considered to be the highest ranking female in the order, and if there was a case in which an emperor was too young to take the throne the empress would rule as a de facto Emperor in the young child’s place. Other children would be referred to by number in order of succession. For example, the Eldest Prince would be the oldest son (and generally considered as heir apparent to the throne), but there could also be Third Princess or Fourth Prince. Sometimes the Fourth Prince could become Emperor instead of his older brother, which would automatically raise his status above the other children despite his position in the chronological line up.
The line of Emperors ruling over China ended with the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and the establishment of the Republic of China. Now the continent is governed by the People’s Republic of China, whose ruling ideology is that of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty was considered one of the great dynasties during the rule of Chinese empires, and it lasted for nearly three hundred years, from 1368 to 1644. The previous dynasty, The Yuan, was controlled by Mongols, and the Ming Dynasty came into power its collapse. The Mongolian leaders were displaced from power because of a combination of discrimination tactics against those of traditional Han Chinese ancestry and over taxation methods used against some of the poorest farming families.
The government issued large taxation amounts on the peasants and commoners and then was not capable of offering assistance to those families when the Yellow River caused a large amount of flooding in many areas. This caused a lot of the farmers to lose their crops and many of the people who resided in those areas were going without. The Yuan government made a critical mistake when they later called upon those same peasants to repair the dykes that had failed along the Yellow River and had caused massive flooding. This was literally the straw that broke their backs and hundreds of thousands of peasants rose up against the established empire because they had finally had enough.
Because the revolution which ensued was not highly organized, there were a number of different groups that banded together to fight the revolt, one of the most famous of which was the Red Turbans. In 1352, a Buddhist monk named Zhu Yuanzhang joined forces with the Red Turbans and just four short years later Zhu controlled a group of rebels that managed to capture Nanjing. Zhu would later go onto to turn Nanjing into the new capital for the Ming Dynasty. In 1363 Zhu engaged his chief rival and a leader of other rebel forces in the south, Chen Youliang, in the Battle of Lake Poyang, and he managed to conquer them. Four years later the head of the Red Turbans died of mysterious circumstances while staying with Zhu. At that time Zhu made sure that everyone knew about his intentions to rule the Empire by sending his army to the official Yuan capital, causing the Yuan Emperor to flee even farther north. Zhu went through and tore all of the Yuan palaces to the ground and declared the beginning of the Ming Dynasty to be in full effect. Even though Zhu was a Han Chinese, he named his dynasty after the tradition of the Mongols, giving it an uplifting name (Ming translating into Brilliant), rather than naming the Dynasty after the town in which he was born like the Han. He declared himself to be the Hongwu Emperor, formerly beginning the start of his reign.
At the start of his reign, Hongwu began to rebuild the broken down
infrastructure of China’s government. He also set about to rewrite the
pre-existing Confucian code that had worked to rule China, and he
renamed it the Daming Lu. This work was completed around 1397, and
replaced much of the previous one that had been written in 653. He
worked to make sure that soldiers could earn wages and survive as normal
farming citizens when they were not being used in war so that they
would become more self-reliant. However, this did not work as well as
he had hoped and many soldiers who were not able to keep up with the
agriculture to supply the troops often vacated their positions. Hongwu
was also extremely weary of scholars who had become officials and for a
brief period of time he disbanded the civil service exams that gave
official positions to those scholars who proved themselves eligible and
worthy. And, when the tests were started back up eleven years later in
1384 he learned that the lead examiner was giving preference only to
those scholars who were from the southern provinces. Hongwu had him
executed in order to demonstrate that this type of favoritism would not
Even though Hongwu had been a Buddhist monk before joining the Red Turbans at the beginning of the revolt, this death was not the first use of deadly force that he had employed against his enemies. In 1380 when Chancellor Hu Weiyong had been put under suspicion of trying to mount a plot to overthrow Hongwu, he had Weiyong executed and disbanded the Chinese Chancellary altogether. Hongwu began to feel uneasy and constantly suspicious of everyone around him, including his subjects. To protect himself he assembled the Jinyi Wei, or a specialized force of secret police that had been put together from the very elite palace guards. This growing suspicion would lead to more than one hundred thousand people dying as a result of Hongwu’s periodic purges during the next thirty years of his rule.
Hongwu so dealt with a period of acclamation as many of the Chinese citizens began to migrate to the southwest part of the kingdom that had previously known as the Kingdom of Dali. This area had been annexed by the Ming government in 1381 with the understanding that the tribal areas would be allowed to govern themselves according to their rules and regulations as long the tribal chiefs agreed to pay tribute to the Ming government and keep order. This agreement appeared to work for nearly one hundred years until the Miao and Yao tribes began to conduct revolts based on their belief that they were being held under oppressive government rules that they shouldn’t be forced to adhere to based on the previous agreement. However, the Ming government did not agree and in 1466 it sent close to two hundred thousand total troops into the areas to stop the rebellion. This problematic situation (as well as others) forced the government to begin working toward a method of cultural assimilation for many of the various tribes.
One of the uncertainties about China’s control during the Ming Dynasty relates back to Tibet. While many believe that Tibet was outside of the sphere of China’s control under the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese government sees Tibet as having been under the control of even the Yuan Dynasty officials. To support their point of view they often refer back to the history of the Ming Dynasty that was put together under the supervision of the Qing Dynasty in 1739, known as the Mingshi. There are some questions as to whether or not the range of the Ming Dynasty’s empire was exaggerated in order to better showcase the country’s ruling capabilities to the outside world.
In fact, many who disagree with Tibet’s sovereignty to the Ming Dynasty often point out the persecution of Buddhists by the Jiajing Emperor. It was during this time that most ties between China and Tibet were cut off because of the large number of Tibet’s Buddhist sects and their ruling power within the government. Those who support this version of events point out that even though the Ming government often sent out representatives to the Tibetan court, but they did not actually try to interfere with the government of the land there, instead allowing the Tibetans to retain their own form of governance. However, there are still a wide range of views on the Tibetans and how they related to the Ming Dynasty even in this theory, and the truth of the situation is that since both sides had their own histories that were partial to their beliefs and desires. In reality there was some form of loosely controlled government interference between the Ming government and Tibet, but whatever the exact circumstances of this situation may have been in reality is probably lost to history.
Whatever the Ming’s influence over Tibet was, the newly established Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Hongwu had most certainly exerted his power at the beginning of his reign as he established very tightly controlled borders between the different cities and state areas. These borders may have immobilized some parts of society, but more importantly, they almost completely cut off all forms of travel and trade that were not specifically sanctioned by the government. Hongwu also went a little further, trying to make sure that his values were absorbed by the people by instituting dress codes for everyone, uniform speech codes, and a more standard form of writing that cut off more of the outdated and flourished methods that were favored by those with higher educations.
Those rules were mainly pointed at the people within the scholarly elite that Hongwu had distrust for, and for merchants he instantly imposed extremely high and difficult taxes in Suzhou and Jiangsu. He also made sure that each month the merchants submitted a bunch of paperwork to his government each month specifically designed to register their merchandise. To top all of this off, Hongwu then forced a select group of thousands of rich families to pack up their things and move from the southeast to Nanjing. Once they were all moved he forbid them from returning back to their original homes. The overall goal of Hongwu appeared to be that he wanted to make sure that there were limits to the range of wealth and influence that the merchants and elite could establish, but it is not clear that these policy changes had any real affect on the large amounts of money and power that the commercial elite were able to assemble.
Hongwu’s policies in the agricultural section were often just as complicated. He wanted to be able to make the smaller communities more self-reliant so that they would not have to be sustained by any form of commerce to get their supplies and necessities. To Hongwu, it was important to try and cut out all of the unnecessary forms of commerce and that this practice would only remain in the more urbanized and heavily populated areas. However, because the smaller communities did so well agriculturally, they began selling off the excesses. First this started as a local phenomena, but by the end of the Ming Dynasty these groups had started to sell their wares in urban areas, therefore creating more commercialization in the long run.
The result of this combination was seen in both the rural and urban arenas. As the two groups grew more and more connected through trade and merchandising those roles of textile mills and silk production that were usually only done in densely populated areas began to show up in the rural areas. This created a large sense of unbalance, especially in those government officials who adhered tightly to the Confucian standards. They believed that when the poor rural areas began accepting the lifestyle and traditions of those in urbanized areas that it was undermining the fabric that held together the metaphysical realm on which their society was perched.
However, the concern about the increasing commercial trends of China’s countryside was actually based in somewhat more realistic circumstances as it began to offset the landholding members of the upper court who would traditionally send in a large number of people to go into China’s civil service. These individuals were supposed to be the more frugal element of China, and were often seen as walking from their homes to their jobs every day and believed in turning their heads at the idea of having a career that resulted in massive accumulations of wealth. Less than two hundred years after the establishment of the Ming Dynasty these same individuals were being moved around in specially designed and highly lavish sedan chairs. A large number of them had also decided to move their homes from the countryside where they were traditionally housed to more opulent settings in the city. This meant that receiving a large monetary status had become more important to many than scholarly pursuits.
This movement also translated into a more prominent status among the merchants in the endeavors of officials and other scholarly pursuits as they were in a position to offer up money for financial endeavors like roadways and bridges. This new reliance of officials on many in the merchant class for such endeavors resulted in their favorable mentions in the press and other charitable tie-ins. While this may not seem like a very large scale problem in today’s society, under the Ming Dynasty this solidified the way for many merchants to begin entering the scholar class, thus blurring the previous lines that had built up between the two. And, with this change in the class distinctions, the merchant class found themselves in positions of unprecedented power.
Hongwu’s largest desire was to keep the individuals segregated into their own hometowns and customs so that the only people who were allowed to travel in between towns were those carrying documents for the government and retain merchants. Hongwu strived to impose this belief, but in doing so he was forced to build up a reliable communication network between the towns and outlying areas for his military. While in the beginning this may have just been intended to serve government enforced purposes before long it became clear that this network would be expanded and would eventually serve as a major commercial connection that would run alongside the military one. For example, before the Ming Dynasty (and at the beginning of its establishment) many locals did not know the distances between cities or towns other than those that were relatively close to where the resided. However, during the late Ming era these same locals could often tell you how far it was and some of the merchants might even be capable of providing you with a detailed geographic guide to the region.
After Hongwu died, in 1398, Zhu Yunwen (Hongwu’s grandson) ascended the throne. He became known as the Jianwen Emperor. This sparked a civil war that would last three years during which time Jianwen was involved in a political mess with Zhu Di, his uncle the Prince of Yan, for power. The problems that arose when Jianwen took the throne were not new, and he had been aware for some time of the problems and had attempted to take measures against the amount of power that his uncles would be able to amass. The problem with this was that in order to control the Mongolians Zhu Di had been given control over the area of Beijing to try and prevent an invasion. While doing this Di had gained quite a reputation for his military attitude, and he soon became the most feared of all of Jianwen’s uncles. Jianwen retaliated by arresting many of Zhu Di’s friends and associates, and this in turn caused Di to plan and execute a rebellion.
To accomplish his mission Di went into the city of Nanjing while pretending to be there to rescue Jianwen from officials that had him under his influence and were corrupting him. Di then went into the city and burned everything. This including setting fire to the building that Jianwen was in, along with his wife, his mother, and his entire setting of courtiers. This meant that in 1402 Di was able to ascend the throne himself as the Yongle Emperor, and he immediately set about undoing many of the policies that his father had first put into affect. In retrospect many historians and philosophers have referred to Yongle’s reign as the “second founding” of the Ming Dynasty because of the drastic changes of his policies.
One of the first things that Yongle did was to take the capital that was based in Nanjing and move it to Beijing, announcing in the process that Nanjing was to be considered the secondary capital. When he did this he began construction in Beijing that started in 1407 and would last until 1420. This process gave hundreds of thousands of workers jobs, and while the central part of the construction was centered in the Forbidden City, he also added an Outer City, which dramatically increased the total size of Beijing.
In order to resolve the problem of making sure that grain and other supplies could easily be shipped to Beijing Yongle also instituted the restoration of the Grand Canal beginning in 1411. Before the restoration the grain had to be shipped along a series of routes that had to be transferred along different barges and in the process it had to be transferred among multiple ships and also sometimes relied on canals whose waters were so shallow that they could not house deep barges. Starting in Shandong, Yongle hire over one hundred and sixty thousand workers to start dredging the canal’s base. He then had them build fifteen locks that would allow the deep barges to move freely along the canal’s varying depths.
The one thing that Yongle did do that was similar to Hongwu’s control was to have periodic, and bloody, purges of the power base to ensure the safety of his power base. But he compensated this with the restoration of the importance of scholars in Chinese society by instituting a system that helped people prepare as they studied for the civil service exams. To do this he commissioned the assembly of the Yongle Encyclopedia that housed the information contained in seven thousand different books into this edition that had fifty million words and close to twenty three thousand chapters. This book then became the largest of the encyclopedias, surpassing all of the others in both size and scope of their information.
Yongle built a series of ships that were designed to be a naval fleet that would go out on international missions. For the most part the Chinese had relied on land travels to send their diplomats out into the international arena for twelve hundred years (since the Han Dynasty in 202 BC). The large size of the Yongle fleet was unlike anything that China had ever seen before for a mission that was assembled by the government. This meant that two thousand different ships were built between 1403 and 1419. The first of these voyages left in 1405 containing over three hundred ships led by Zheng He, a eunuch that Yongle favored. China conquered Vietnam in 1407, but was later pushed out in 1428, and after the death of He in 1433 the large naval missions were almost completely disbanded.
In 1435 the Zhengtong Emperor ascended the throne, and fourteen years
later he faced a major crisis when the Mongolian leader Esen Tayisi
decided to invade China. The Ming army’s first battles with the Mongols
were defeated and Emperor Zhengtong went out to face the invading
troops in person with fifty thousand other troops to support him. While
he was on the mission he left his half-brother, Zhu Qiyu, as a
temporary regent in control of many of the day to day affairs. On
September 8th, Zhengtong went into battle against the Mongols and his
forces were immediately destroyed, and he was taken as a prisoner of war
by the opposing forces and held in captivity. This was known as the
With Zhengtong out of the way, Tayisi’s troops began working their way across the country toward Beijing. The arrival of the Mongols caused many who were enlisted in the Ming army and of Mongol descent to start posing as invading Mongols and plunder the outlying areas around Beijing. In an attempt to commandeer Beijing, the Mongols used their captive Zhengtong as leverage and demanded ransom for their captive. This might have worked except that Zhengtong’s younger brother named himself heir to the throne under the title of the Jingtai Emperor.
The newly anointed Jingtai Emperor quickly commanded the defense minister, Yu Qian to gain complete control of the army and began to push the Mongols back. They realized that there was no point in holding Zhengtong hostage if they could not use him as a bargaining chip, so they released him in Beijing. He was immediately seen as a new threat to the Jingtai Emperor’s throne and was put under house arrest to prevent him from causing any problems.
After his defeat of the Mongol invaders, Jingtai was able to keep his throne for eight years, until an incident known as Wresting the Gate, caused him to be dethroned in a coup in 1457. With Jingtai out of the way, Zhengtong reassumed the title of emperor, this time calling himself the Tianshun Emperor.
Realizing the adherent weakness of Tianshung, the forces within the military that were of Mongolian descent began to cause problems almost immediately. In order to make sure they were not among the next on the list of those to be purged, many of those Mongolian descendants in the army banded together with Cao Qin to stage a coup against Tianshun on August 7th, 1461. This was also a preventative strike as many others in the armed forces had begun to get upset and distrustful over those of Mongolian descent ever since the Tumu Crisis. Qin’s supporters actually managed to set fire to the gates on the side of the eastern and western corners of the Imperial City, but his troops were cornered and he committed suicide.
This defeat did not dissipate but continued throughout the fifteenth century with continued sporadic raiding parties that went on through the Ming Dynasty. There were so many problems with potential raiding parties and Mongolian overthrows that it prompted the government to work on the Great Wall of China. In fact, while there are many ancient parts to the wall that were assembled before the unification of China, there are even more that were assembled during the Han and Qin Dynasties; however, the largest portion of the wall was assembled during the Ming Dynasty during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Over the years many historians have remarked that the Great Wall did not serve well as a means of keeping the enemy troops out, but it was actually designed to be more of a prevention system as the beacons would function as a way of signifying other stations of troops of the advancement of unfriendly masses. While they did hope that the fortification served to deter some of the minor attacks, the ability to warn others and have a functioning watch post was a significantly more important role.
With the construction of the Great Wall also came the increased inward approach to the governing of the country. One thing that signified this more than anything else was when the Ministry of War’s Vice-President made sure to go through and destroy all of the formal records that documented Zheng He’s voyages and his international fleet. It was a turning point in which China’s government began to look more inward for its policies and to try and cut off all of the foreign influence. To make sure that ships could not sail that far away new laws were enacted that greatly restricted the measures by which the builders were allowed to construct new vessels. This smaller size restriction would ensure that no one could go too far.
The downside effect of this was the fact that without a large navy to protect its borders the rise in piracy was almost immediate. Some of the groups causing the most problems were bands Japanese pirates who staged raids on both Chinese ships and small cities along the coast. Although there is evidence that many of the Chinese natives caused a lot of the piracy problems that were sometimes attributed to outside bandits. To cope with the pirate problem the Ming government decided instead to shut down all of its coastal areas and facilities in an attempt to make the pirates move on for a lack of supplies available.
They also commanded that any foreign trade was to be done exclusively through the state which would transport the accommodations under the disguise of a government mission. The laws that governed these principals were known as the hai jin laws and their strict enforcement of maritime laws and codes would continue until 1567, and it even assigned different ports to deal with different countries’ trade needs. They were especially harsh in dealing with the Japanese as they were only allowed to come into port once a decade and at that time they were not allowed to bring in more than three hundred sailors on two different ships. The laws may have cut back on piracy, but they also caused Chinese merchants to use many illegal trade and smuggling techniques just to make sure that they did not lose their deals.
These policies did not do much to help with the already fragile relationship that China held with Japan, and this grew even more problematic in 1592 when Hideyoshi (a warlord ruler from Japan) declared that he was going to conquer China and place it under his control. This led to the beginning of the Imjin War, a series of two different military campaigns that allowed Japan to move into China quite a ways. The battles ended with victories on both sides of the equation, but before there was a decisive victory Hideyoshi died in 1598 and forced the Japanese to relinquish the rights to their Korean bases and head back. The Ming government declared this a victory against Japan, and although they did technically come out victorious in the war, it nearly bankrupted the treasury with a loss of twenty six million ounces of silver being spent on war time activity.
However, these financial problems were just the most recent in an even larger group of problems that were surrounding the emperor of China at the time, Emperor Wanli. When he first assumed the title in 1572 Wanli began to try and take an active stance in the government duties by surrounding himself with competent advisors. He had a very well-connected Grand Secretary, Zhang Juzheng, who worked to set up alliances with certain officials and to make sure that there was a network in place that would back up the emperor. After he left office in 1582 there was no one around who was capable of maintaining these connections on a level that would benefit anyone. This disparity between the officials in government caused the differing parties to try and band together in support of the different political factions that existed. These constant fights that existed in the political sphere caused Wanli to withdraw from the political realm and stay in the Forbidden City, far removed from political affairs.
Even while he was attempting to hide from politics, he was constantly
being pressured to name one of his sons as the heir to the throne while
at the same time those officials were arguing with him about which one
it should be. This problem was even further exacerbated when the senior
officials continued to come to him with quarrels over how they wanted
to run the affairs of the state, and there were many problems in dealing
over the philosophical approaches that were taking place in respect to
Neo-Confucianism and some of its more orthodox views.
All of these problems mounted and in Wanli’s views began to cause him unnecessary stress. He decided to rebel against this oppression by refusing to show up for his duties. He often did not go in front of audiences or discuss the political future of China and he completely lost all interest in Confucian literature and the study of this philosophy. Wanli started to use eunuchs to run errands and messages between himself and his officials, and this caused a displacement in power as the officials began to not be able to communicate with the emperor as much as the eunuchs. This sometimes resulted in eunuchs demanding bribes from the officials just to relay messages about important state affairs.
This domination of eunuchs in the state affairs was new territory for many of the officials. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty Hongwu would not allow eunuchs to know how to read or engage in politics on any level. However, during the reign of the Yongle Emperor the eunuchs were allowed to have large workshops, command armies, and even assist in the appointment of some government officials, but they were still not directly involved in the political sphere of the Chinese government. Subsequently the eunuchs developed their own form of government and this bureaucracy was organized somewhat similarly to the civil service one that dominated the Chinese system but was not subjected to it at all. There were eunuchs that were involved in some of the emperor’s political functions on a small level before Wanli, but his deferral to the eunuchs on a great number of matters gave them more power than they’d ever had before. In fact, during the 1590’s Wanli issued a law that increased their rights. Now the eunuchs had the power to rule over the civil bureaucracy in some matters while also being able to collect taxes in the provinces. This greatly increased the power that the eunuchs held in Wanli’s court, and the eunuchs continued to hold onto this political power even after Wanli was no longer emperor.
In fact, during the reign of the Tianqi Emperor a powerful eunuch, Wei Zhongxian, controlled the court and retained his power through political purges during which time he had his rivals tortured to death. Throughout the empire he began to order the erection of temples in his honor as well as lavish palaces for himself. He used the funding that had been set aside to build the tombs of the emperors to accomplish these feats. In addition, he began to hand out positions of power to his family and friends, even those who did not have the proper qualifications. All of this combined to cause massive instabilities in the civil service program and the court.
At the same time there were many other problems in the country like pestilence, rebellion, and even foreign invading armies. When the Chongzhen Emperor came to power in 1627 he immediately set about dismissing the problematic eunuch Wei from court. After this Wei committed suicide, but the problems associated with the eunuchs being in power continued well until the end of the Ming Dynasty.
One of the problems that arose during this time originated during the reign of Emperor Wanli, and continued throughout the reign of the next two emperors. It was an economic situation that arose chiefly because of the fact that there was a large spread shortage of silver resulting after the problematic Imjin War. After this there was another blow when King Phillip IV of Spain began to impose harsh laws and regulations intended to fight illegal trading from places like China, and that too severely limited the amount of silver that the country was receiving. Following this in 1639 the Tokugawa reign in Japan closed off almost all of its foreign trades, again causing even more set backs for China.
These problems culminated during a time when the price of silver was rising, and this made it almost impossible for several of the Chinese provinces to be capable of paying their taxes. Even if people had the silver to pay for taxation, they began to hold onto what they had because of the limited amount and fear that they would not get any more. This also caused the price of copper to drop, and therefore caused many peasants to be unable to conduct any form of local trade. The result of these economic problems was widespread and it was even further compounded by the fact that during this time frame there were also famines due to the shortened seasons. This was now known as the Little Ice Age, and the food shortages it caused, combined with large numbers of military abandoning their posts, an epidemic that ravaged the people, and constantly increasing taxes, caused a sort of panic among the population. They no longer trusted the government to handle affairs as the Ming had already failed to properly handle flooding and other issues that had arisen in the past.
All of these factors worked together to cause such instability in the government that the Manchurian tribes were able to expose this weakness, this was particularly true of one Manchurian tribal leader who was known as Nurhaci. In the beginning of his plans for conquest, Nurhaci had just one small tribe; however, he was quickly able to gain control over all of the other tribes in his area. His power and tribes were so consolidated that he was able to offer them as support to the Ming army during the Imjin War. While his offer of assistance was rejected by the Ming government, they decided to bestow honorific titles on him to compliment him for this gesture.
Nurhaci took a military approach to Ming China and realized that their weakest points were in the northern provinces and areas just outside of their borders, he began a conquest to gain control of all of those tribes that were unrelated to his and in that area. This gave him an advantage over the Ming government and he cut ties with them in 1610. He was planning to do something that would cause him to act out against the government’s control and he did not want them to be aware of this ahead of time.
In 1618 Nurhaci sent the Ming court a declaration that listed out the Seven Grievances, and he demanded that the government pay him and his tribes’ tribute. He recognized the fact that the Chinese were not going to pay anything to the Manchurians, no matter what documentation they may have been given about grievances and other associated problems. So, in effect Nurhaci was issuing a declaration of war as the underlying threat of violence if these demands weren’t met was very clear.
Luckily for the Ming government at this time, they had had Yuan Chonghuan leading the battle against the Manchurians. Chonghuan was the Ming government’s secret weapon for fighting back the Manchurian troops for many years. In 1628 Chonghuan lead the Ming Chinese at the Battle of Ningyuan, and during the fighting Nurhaci was mortally wounded and died. His death, however, did not stop the problematic Manchurian advances, and while Chonghuan was commanding the troops he worked hard to make sure that they closed off the Shanhai pass. This was an important and critical maneuver as it ensured that the Manchurians would not be able to cross over the pass to launch an attack on the Liaodong Peninsula.
Chonghuan was named as the field marshal for all of the Ming’s northeastern forces in 1628 as a reward for his good work in making sure that he expelled the Manchurian threat. This was just a short lived honor as two years later in 1630 Chonghuan found himself being charged with collaborating with the Manchurians when they launched their raids on the Ming. It is unclear where the charges came from or who may have issued these charges to get rid of Chonghuan, but he was executed that same year. Following commanders did not have Chonghuan’s understanding of the Manchu enemy and would ultimately prove unsuccessful at repelling the threat.
Around the same time as Chonghuan’s death, the Manchurian forces decided that they would try another tactic to defeat the Ming. They withdrew much of their attacking forces and decided instead to try and wait out the Ming. While the waited they also worked to put together a large supply of arms. They also worked on strengthening their base of allies, and in time they were even able to infiltrate the Ming government by getting officials and generals that were loyal to the Ming to cross over and support the Manchu cause in the capacity of strategic advisors. They were learning and studying their enemy, taking this time to exploit all of their weaknesses and to build up knowledge of how to effectively beat them in combat.
One of the first things that the Manchurians did with this newly gained information and approach to the government was that they turned their attention away from the highly fortified Ming and instead worked on conquering Inner Mongolia. They had succeeded in this bid by 1632, and were able to get a large number of Mongolians in the Ming army to desert and pledge allegiance instead to the Manchurians. By taking this round about approach to the Ming government, they were able to secure even more troops and an even higher tactical advantage.
This culminated in 1636 when the Manchurian leader Huang Taiji changed the name of the dynasty to Qing (even this is not officially considered the end of the Ming Dynasty). By 1638 the Manchurians had succeeded in defeating Ming China’s long time ally Joseon. Since they had managed to do this with a relatively small army of just one hundred thousand troops, the Korean government decided that they too would give up all ties of loyalty to the Ming government.
During much of this same time there was a young soldier (Li Zicheng) in western Shaanxi that rallied many of his fellow soldiers to mutiny during the 1630’s because the government shipment of supplies passed them by. The soldiers were beginning to feel abandoned by their government and Zicheng seized on this feeling and started to feed the fires of rebellion. In 1634 the Ming succeeded in capturing him, but they decided to release him is he agreed to return to military service under the Ming government.
Zicheng might have held to this agreement except that another magistrate in a local court decided instead to have thirty six of his friends and rebels executed instead. This angered Zicheng and his band of rebels to such an extent that the troops killed the officials and once again began to work on their rebellion against the government. By 1635 this rebellion was situated in the central Henan province city of Rongyang and it was growing. During this same time another commander of rebel forces, Zhang Xianzhong, had his base stationed in Chengdu, Sichuan, and was a firm rival of Li’s in this new struggle for power among the rebels.
This was complicated by the fact that there were a massive amount of Chinese peasants who had been driven to desperate lows in both poverty and famine began to launch their own attacks on the Ming government. These sporadic groups of rebels were often starving and driven by pure anger as they were no longer worried about the threat of China’s army and they decided to lash out at their government. This was at the same time that the Manchurian army was raiding in the northern provinces and the Chinese armed forces could not deal with the approaching threat of the Manchu’s organized forces while at the same time try to handle to uprising among the large number of peasants. The stretch between the two caused problems in the army as it attempted to divide its attention between the two very different and equally problematic fronts, and before long it had almost completely fallen apart. One of the main reasons was that many of the lesser bands of soldiers had gone without food or money for a long time, so they were easily conquered by Zicheng’s troops.
Zicheng renamed himself as the Prince of Shun. The troops that were
supposed to be protected the capital city opened the doors to Zicheng
and his soldiers marched in without a large fight. When Beijing finally
fell to Zicheng’s troops on May 26th, 1644, it was discovered that the
last Ming emperor, the Chongzhen Emperor, had hung himself from a tree
in the Forbidden City’s Imperial Garden.
During this same time the Manchurians were given a leg up in their plight when the Ming general, Wu Sangui heard about Zicheng’s march on the Capital City and decided that his options would be largely better if he sided with the Manchurians. In a show of his allegiance with the Manchus he opened the gates on the Shanhai Pass, and their army began to march toward Beijing led by the Manchu Prince Dorgon and Wu Sangui. They continued their march after an army that was sent out by Zicheng was conquered in Shanhaiguan. Following this, Zicheng’s army fled the capital just a few days later on June 4th, 1644. The Manchu army entered Beijing on June 6th and proclaimed the Shunzhi Emperor to be the new ruler of all China.
The self-proclaimed Prince of Shun (Zicheng) fled from the Manchurian Army, fleeing first from Xi’an, then running down the Han River. Eventually Zicheng fled to the far northern edge of the Jiangxi province where he later died during the summer of 1645. It is unclear as to whether his death was a suicide or not, one report even claimed that Zicheng was beaten to death by starving peasants after he’d taken their food. While it was brief, his death brought about an end to the Shun Dynasty. Zicheng’s rival, Zang Xianhong had fled Chengdu in front of the Manchu troops and had scorched the earth behind his retreat so that they would find the barren land almost impossible to live off of. He was later caught and killed by Manchurian troops in January of 1647.
Even after the collapse of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, there were still remnants of those who were loyal to the Ming government scattered throughout the countryside. While the dynasty may have lost its emperor and its capital city, there were still those who founded its power base. But the inability for them to choose the next likely heir to the throne and to move forward caused this power to rapidly diminish, but even so there were small clusters who continued to support the reinstatement of the Ming Dynasty until the collapse of the imperial system and the beginning of the Republic of China. The newly installed Manchu government began to hunt down these groups until the last vestiges of the Ming Dynasty were finally wiped out in 1662 with the death of one of the last possible heirs to the throne, Zhu Youlang.
While this may have been the official end to the Ming Dynasty, there were still things that were events and governmental institutions that began during this era that are still recognized as being important to the development of China today. For example, at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Hongwu abolished the administrative system known as the Secretariat that administered control over the Six Ministries. In fact, he held the sole responsibility of overseeing not only the Six Ministries, but also the Chief Military Commission and the Five Military Commissions. This started a trend toward a more decentralized provincial government that was to become even more increasingly apparent over the years of the Ming Dynasty as those positions that had specifically been designed to oversee the state institutions had almost completely been abolished.
Another important factor in the Ming Dynasty was the widespread growth of the arts and an appreciation for it. There were many different styles of art being explored during this time and music, theater, painting, sculpting, and literary arts were all evolving at a highly rapid pace. One of the more famous things to come out of the Ming was the intricately designed porcelain pottery. The scenes painted on and depicted in much of the porcelain during this time were so complex that they rivaled that of many full canvas paintings that were being done.
As the skill of the artwork rose, so did the demand for it by many of China’s elite. It was seen as a gesture of great prominence to have things displayed in your home that were aesthetically appealing. This is not unlike how it is today, but at the time this kind of demand for intricate artwork in a person’s home was not the normal procedure. In time the demand grew to such proportions that an underground system was set up and people who imitated the artwork managed to funnel large quantities of false art into the dealers’ hands.
The quality of the forgeries was nearly impossible to detect, and it has been said that the scam artists who were doing this had become highly intelligent about their plans and knew exactly what items to copy and how to go about it so that they received huge profits in the payoff. This large influx of false items into the market caused booklets and guides to be circulated that could show people how to accurately determine whether the items they were purchasing were the authentic versions or phonies. Some of the methods of the scam artists that were discovered was the porcelain on many of the fake wares was not as thick or as of high a quality as the originals. Likewise, the fake bronze would not have as nice or as refined of a shine to it as the real piece of art. Even as people were becoming wary of the way that the imposters were handling business, the scammers were inventing new ways with which they could ply their wares.
The arts movement during the Ming Dynasty also extended to the
literary circle. During this time everything from travel guides to
fiction and even newspapers became more and more accessible to the
public. As larger numbers of Chinese were able to read and write, this
trend of publishing material suited for specific groups became even more
widely prominent. For example, a guide demonstrating how merchants
were supposed to employ ethics and morals in their business was put
together during this time, its material specifically geared toward a
certain set of individuals.
Fiction flourished during this time as well and some of the most important works in China were published during this era, including the Journey to the West, an epic adventure tale, and the Jin Ping. The imaginative circumstances and environments that the characters found themselves in during these tales were so vastly different from the traditional (and far more technical) approaches to literature that China had seen in the past that many of those who were in lower classes and often did not have the luxury of reading found themselves caught up in the stories.
This movement in turn allowed many of the scriptwriters of plays during that era to be that much more creative with their work, employing story methods and techniques that had previously not been brought into the theater in China. This resulted in plays like The Peony Pavilion, that went on to become an outstanding work of art and is considered by many to be the most famous theater production in the whole of Chinese history. Poetry also blossomed during the Ming Dynasty and many poets began to use their work to express their ideals and hopes for the government. These large literary showcases were able to say things to people that could not be spoken directly with their inferences and their subtle hints.
The affect on many from all of this imagination and freedom could
very easily be felt in the attitudes of many of the officials. Arranged
marriages were could not hold up to the romantic ideals put forth in
literature, poetry, and drama, and many high ranking officials began
looking for an actual mate that they could relate to and with whom they
shared some of this romantic chemistry. People were relating to the
literature and trying to connect their lives with the higher ideals that
were expressed in the arts.
The paintings of the Ming also became more flamboyant and more in-depth as their styles began to evolve into something that was even more complex and evocative. The high caliber of the artwork during this time meant that many artists could actually make a living painting and selling their works, something that was rarely done in the past. These artists could command large amounts of money for their works, and they were often followed by an entourage of lesser-known artists who were trying to work toward making their own impression in Chinese society. The Ming was a period in time in which creativity and beauty took a large step forward as many of these items were not simply pieces to be enjoyed, but often times they were also something that connected with the people and evoked an emotional response.
Another factor which may have attributed something to the artistic explosion during the Ming was the fact that the amount of travel times between rural and urban destinations was getting shorter. This connectivity allowed groups of people who had previously known nothing of urban life to stretch the boundaries of their existences and see more of the world. The population was expanding and the towns were growing more connected and interdependent on each other. This continuing trend meant that many of the educated citizens of the cities were interacting with local villagers, something that had not traditionally been allowed to happen before. This opened up the realm of the villagers and allowed them to experience more of the culture and arts that they had previously not known existed. The Ming Dynasty was one of the first to see an extraordinary change in certain circumstances due to the rise of a consumer driven culture.
Just as it opened up a doorway to the arts, this blurring between the two worlds also caused many of the distinctions in class and job title to be less visible than they had been in years past. Artisans and other urban individuals might find their way out to the farms to help during the height of the harvest, while farmers could come into the city to look for extra work when the crops were in low season. This clash of the cultures contributed to a more diversified audience to those who were espousing political ideologies and philosophical ideals as well.
One of these philosophers who realized the potential in this melting pot was Wang Yangming. He did not share the view of traditional Confucian officials and stated that it was possible for everyone even those from the poorest of regions could gain the wisdom and knowledge of even the wisest of sages, or Confucius himself. Wang believed that anyone could attain this knowledge because one’s ability to be able to delve into the universal principals that connected all things and events was not exclusive to those with a formal education. Wang would talk at length about his belief that in order to fully understand the nature of life, one had to rely on its experiences. To him a peasant who experienced every day life through his hands and his land was more knowledgeable than a scholar who merely read about the ancient principals and beliefs, but never went out into the world to observe them for himself.
This ideology appealed to large numbers of people, but it was a thorn in the side of those who took a more conservative approach to the teachings of Confucius. While Wang was often sent away from the capital and out to run errands to try and take away from his power base, it did not succeed. In fact, it didn’t take long for Wang’s message to reach out and take hold in mainstream China. This lead to many who started to question the rankings of class and wonder why it was that scholars that studied the books were considered to be above the farmers who harvested the land so that others could eat.
Wang’s disciples continued his message even further, insisting that not only was the farmer equal to the scholar. One disciple Wang Gen would give long speeches to villagers and other commoners encouraging them to turn to education to further benefit their lives and status within Chinese society. Others taught that women were equal to men in their ability to be able to learn. Li Zhi was the follower of Wang’s who most openly espoused this ideal, speaking out that a woman’s educational opportunities should not be lessened merely because of her gender. His claim that women were intellectual equals to men sparked a huge debate within Ming China. Li was eventually jailed for his beliefs on the charges of spreading “dangerous ideas.”
Another religious factor that came to the forefront during the Ming
Dynasty was the growth of Christianity. Although there had been
Christian missionaries present in China for some time since the Tang
Dynasty, other denominations began to emerge in China during the Ming.
For example, Jesuits, Dominicans, and Franciscans, arrived during the
latter years of the dynasty and began to establish themselves. The
Christians began to try and earn the respect and trust of the Chinese
through the demonstration of their knowledge and their educations. This
gave them an upper edge with many of the elite in Chinese society.
Despite this, many of the Chinese did not trust the new missionaries and were very critical of their religion. This criticism would eventually led to a conflict in Nanjing that lasted from 1616-1622. The contention between the two groups derived from the fact that a group of conservative Confucians pointed out that they believed many of the western world’s developments were derived from previously existing Chinese models that were superior. This meant that many of those who were present on the Imperial Astronomical Board were now Confucians instead of Western missionaries. For this brief, six year period it seemed as if Chinese tradition had won out, but by 1622 the board was once again filled with Westerners and some of the tightly held Confucian beliefs seemed to take a backslide at this point in time.
The population increase during the Ming era has been noted by different historians, although an exact population count during that time period has not been accurately given. One of the problems is that taxes were so high during this time that many families would lie about how many were in the household in order to avoid excessive charges. Many times women and female children were not reported and there are some skewed figures which obviously represent this fact. In North Zhili in 1502 the official population report held that there were about three hundred and eighty thousand males in the area, while only two hundred and twenty five thousand females. In fact, the number of citizens living in China that were reported to the government between 1381 and 1391 dropped by three million even though the country was obviously expanding its population size.
This obvious irregularity within the census reporting for this time period demonstrates that one cannot rely on these numbers to produce an accurate picture of how many people were living during the Ming Dynasty. Some have attempted to calculate a reasonable population number and one estimate given by historians is that there could have been as many as sixty five million people living in China during 1393. Others however have said that this is a moderately low estimate and point out that the number could have been as high as ninety million people in 1400.
One way that historians are trying to demonstrate the possible population during the Ming Dynasty is the newspapers (gazetteers) in hopes that they might give out some form of consistent information about the population. By doing this it was estimated by some that the population of China around 1475 was near seventy five million even thought the official consensus only lists about sixty two million. There were reports of too many workers and not enough land for them to harvest even as the government was receiving reports of a shrinking populace. Many have placed the population at the end of the Ming Dynasty in the 1600’s to be somewhere in the range of one hundred and sixty million to two hundred million. This number dropped dramatically during the Qing Dynasty in 1642 when a large illness wiped out many people. According to some documents from Zhejiang the illness had a ninety percent mortality rate of those that it sickened, dramatically reducing the population density.
The economic and artistic climate of the Ming Dynasty created an atmosphere that would ultimately lead to the revolutionary ideas that took hold in the twentieth century and culminated in the establishment of the Republic of China and even of the communist ideology that would eventually found the People’s Republic of China. The influence of artistry in all of its forms was a major factor in the development of ideas during this period. People who had never before been subjected to the beauty of art and literature now found it all around them.
This was only added to by the development of philosophical ideas that spoke to the everyday man. Many Chinese citizens who had not before thought that their lives would be any different than those set by the social caste of their forefathers now began to realize that there were other options available to them. This hope founded something that sparked a common hope for generations to come. While the imperial government may have managed to hold onto control of China for another two hundred years during the Qing Dynasty, the base of the ideology to which it crumbled was almost certainly established during the Ming Dynasty.
Despite this the Ming Dynasty has often been referred to as a controlled government that offered the most social stability in the sum of human history. This was mostly due to those practices put into effect at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty by Emperor Hongwu as his ultimate goal was to make Chinese society to where it could be as self reliable as possible while keeping migrants down to a minimum. His dream of keeping the urbanized areas and rural farm lands separated at all costs did not come to fruition, but thanks to many of the plans that he implemented, the Ming was able to sustain itself with very little conflict for nearly three hundred years.
The Second Opium War
Unlike the First Opium War that was fought between the Qing government and the British, the Second Opium War saw the Qing government having to fight off Ireland, Britain, and France. This war has also been called the Second Anglo-Chinese War or the Arrow War depending on who you are talking to. The war began in 1856 and lasted until 1860, however, the roots of discontent which led to the conflict began much earlier.
One of the reasons that the Chinese found themselves again engaged in war with the Western powers had a lot to do with the trade arrangements that the countries had made with China. Each country and government, including the United States, France, Ireland, and Britain, had signed a treaty with the Chinese government that gave them certain rights when trading. Each treaty was up to be renegotiated after twelve years. Britain was unhappy with the amount of privilege and attention they were receiving and they sought to turn the tide in their favor by demanding that the Chinese renegotiate their treaty with extra rights. A few of the things that the British wanted were legalization of the Opium trade as well as the opening of all merchant ports to the British and for all English treaties that were signed by the British to be considered to be more valid that those which were written in Chinese.
In an attempt to assert their rights in their country the Qing government rejected all proposals that were brought forth by the British government. They also equally rejected the demands made by the French and the United States. This proved to be the action that set the boiling in motion for the next conflict.
One of the reasons that the Second Opium War is sometimes referred to as the Arrow War is because the Arrow was the name of the ship where the outbreak of war began. The entire episode has come to be more widely known as the Arrow Incident, occurring on October 8th, 1856. Unlike many scenarios that have led to war over the years, the Arrow did not fire upon anyone, nor was the ship fired. Instead the entire debacle began when the Chinese forces went onto the ship to arrest twelve Chinese men who had been accused of piracy. The British government that was residing in Guangzhou immediately demanded that the Chinese turn these men over to be released. Their claim was that the ship had been registered with the British even though it was owned by Chinese subjects and that therefore their actions were properly covered under the Treaty of Nanjing.
When this argument did not work the British insisted further that the
Arrow had been under their command because the ship was seen to have
been flying the British flag and that by going onboard and arresting
those men the Qing government was insulting the British. However, the
Qing government proved their arrests of the criminals to be lawful when
it was proven that the Arrow could not fly the British flag because its
registration with that country had already lapsed. This meant that the
arrest was not only deemed to have been valid and lawful, but the
Chinese had stood up to Britain twice now, provoking the country. The
downside was that the Qing government had found itself in the middle of
the Taiping Rebellion and was in a no win situation when it came to
dealing with any potential military threat from the west.
For awhile however it seemed as if the British were going to let the entire incident slide. After all, they had their hands just as full as the Chinese government as they found themselves dealing with the Indian Mutiny. When this conflict was over a year later the British government once again set its sights on China and promptly responded to the earlier Arrow Incident by launching an attack from the Pearl River against Guangzhou. While the attack was going on the governor of the provinces Guangdong and Guangxi (Ye Mingchen) gave out an order that Chinese soldiers at the forts were not supposed to resist the British army at all. This made it possible for the British forces to quickly take over Guangzhou once they had complete control over its fort.
Matters were only complicated even further when it was discovered that all of the bakers in Hong Kong had plotted to poison the Europeans that were living there. The bakers, however, had foiled the attempt when they had put enough of the arsenic in the dough for it to be detected. Once authorities had been alerted to the potentially harmful situation an alert was sent out through Hong Kong and the disaster was averted. This became a large controversy in Britain when the plot was discovered, and many of the liberals who had been in support of China at this time were quickly hushed. This also gave Lord Palmerston (who’d been responsible for the First Opium War) the ammunition he needed to disband the 1857 Parliament.
When the new Parliament began its session they immediately decided that China needed to offer them some form of compensation for the Arrow Incident and declared their intentions to go to war with China by putting out a request to Russia, the United States, and France, asking that the countries stand with them in an alliance against China. France responded in kind by deciding to go to war with China due to the death of Father August Chapdelaine, a French missionary that had been living in China when executed on the orders of authorities in the province of Guangxi. Russia and the United States, however, declined to send military aid, but did send some supplies to Hong Kong to aid the British in their efforts.
The British and French forces were led by Lord Elgin on the British side and Gros on the French side. When they occupied Guangzhou in the later part of 1857, they arrested the provincial governor of Guangdong, Ye Mingchen, who had ordered the Chinese soldiers not to fight back. However, since Mingchen was seen as ultimately being one of the responsible parties in the death of the French missionary August Chapdelaine, he was exiled to Calcutta, India, when the forces arrested him. While in exile Mingchen starved himself to death. The local governor of Guangdong, Bo-gui, surrendered completely to the British and French forces and he was allowed to maintain his post so that he could work to keep order in Guangdong. The British knew that if they were going to establish any type of semi-permanent residence in the area then they would need to rely on those who had been in positions of power to help them maintain the public. The British-French forces would go on to keep control of the Guangzhou province for close to four years.
Starting in June of 1858, the British and French (along with Russia and the United States) began to make demands on China that they sign more treaties which would grant the foreign western countries more trading demands. In the beginning the Qing government did not want to sign the treaties or have any part in their ratification process. This was probably because the demands would force China to open up much of its restricted trade agreements with the outside world. For example, the treaty demanded that all foreign vessels would be allowed on the Yangtze River and that the country would have to open up the interior areas to foreigners as well as ten additional ports. Also, China would have to pay both Britain and France a sum that tallied up to six million taels of silver. This was a large sum of money for China at the time, and after the Taiping Rebellion and the First Opium war it was probably not a sum that they could easily come up with without causing a large stress to be placed on the country. Eventually China gave in and the terms of the Treaties of Tianjin, but they were not ratified or signed until the end of the war. Even then, they were not agreed upon with the emperor, but rather with his brother, Prince Gong.
This was not the only treaty or the only concession that China would make during the Second Opium War. In fact, just prior to having signed the Treaties of Tianjin (May 28th, 1858, to be exact) China had signed the Treaty of Aigun with Russia that forced them to redraw their border so that Russia got a larger portion of the left bank of the Amur River. Two years later Russia would found Vladivostok in this spot.
This might have been the end of it, but after China had already signed the treaties with the Western powers some of the ministers went to the Xianfeng Emperor and persuaded him to fight against any further movements of the West on their lands. The Emperor then sent out Mongolian troops to guard the Dagu Fort in Tianjin. Protection was added to this fort in the form of heavy artillery as well as four thousand additional soldiers.
One year after the treaties were signed the British began to move troops and ships toward Beijing in order to set up the British and French embassies that were supposed to be developed there. Once they tried the commander at Dagu Fort (Sengge Rinchen) insisted that the envoy must go alone without their troops and that they must only stop when they reached Beijing. The British troops were upset at this and insisted that they land at Dagu. During the night of June 24th, 1859, the British fired upon everything the Chinese had placed in the river to prevent them from moving ahead. When the British continued to sail up the river through force the following day they found that they would indeed encounter resistance from the troops that Sengge had employed. The two sides fought for over twenty four hours and in that time the British convoy had lost four gunboats and found that another two were damaged very badly. They promptly withdrew after they convinced Commodore Josiah Tattnall to provide them cover fire through intervention. Tattnall was an officer in the United States Navy, and since his ship had offered aid to the British convoy while they were engaged in a battle with Chinese forces it completely violated the neutrality that the United States had held with China. This violation of what the Chinese had considered to be a good faith act with the U.S. caused anti-West sentiment to rise to an all time high within the Qing government.
The next summer, 1860, a much larger force of British and French troops (17,700) and ships (173) left from Hong Kong. They immediately managed to overtake the Chinese port cities of Dalian and Yantai as a measure to seal off the Bohai Gulf. From there they managed to land about two miles away from Fort Dagu in Pei Tang on August 3rd. The battle at the fort lasted for three weeks before the Anglo-French forces were finally able to conquer it on the 21st of August.
The forces continued their march over land toward Beijing. By this time the emperor realized that he would have to do something to prevent further unnecessary bloodshed, so he sent some of his ministers out to try and carry out negotiations. However, during these discussions one of Britain’s diplomatic figures, Harry Parkes, was arrested on September 18th. It was reported that both he and his group were not only placed in prison but that they were also tortured and that some had even been hideously murdered. The same day the British and French forces took up battle with Sengge’s Mongolian troops. The fighting began in Zhangjiawan, but quickly moved toward Beijing, where just three days later Sengge’s ten thousand troops of highly skilled soldiers had been obliterated. The British and French forces entered Beijing completely victorious on October 6th, 1860. The Anglo-French forces did not occupy Beijing, choosing instead to remain camped outside the city.
The emperor knew that his side was losing, so he fled the capital city and left his brother (Prince Gong) in Beijing to work on some form of peace agreement with the invading troops. When the British and French arrived they began to loot the emperor’s Summer Palaces right away as they knew that these buildings were full of priceless heirlooms and valuable artwork and other pieces. On the 18th of October, Lord Elgin told his troops to burn down both the old and the new summer palaces. For awhile the troops considered burning both the Summer Palaces and the Forbidden City as a means of showing their extreme displeasure at the way their people were treated while captured. However, they reasoned that they might not ever be able to bargain with the Qing government again if they were to do something so grievous, so they settled on the destruction of the two Summer Palaces instead. Some believe that the burning of the buildings was not done to set an example for the government, but to instead hide the extent to which the troops had looted and robbed the two palaces. This theory, though, has never actually been proven.
Prince Gong finally signed the 1858 Treaty of Tianjin on October 18th, 1860, at the Convention of Peking. This act was seen as the closure of the Second Opium War. The Western powers were even granted the right to a diplomatic presence in Beijing. This was one of the most contested items on the treaty as it signified that the other governments could be seen as equals to the emperor, and the Qing government did not see any of the countries as being on equal ground as China. Also, by the time the treaty was signed the amount of requested silver had gone up from six to eight million silver taels. Also, the Opium trade was finally legalized in full and all Christian missionaries were given rights under Chinese law, including the right to own land and to preach their gospel.
The two Opium Wars are both used in many of the modern examples by the People’s Republic of China as ways in which the imperial government failed the people and the country. It was seen as a very shocking blow that the larger Chinese forces could be brought down so low by a very small fraction of troops from Britain and France. Compounding this was the fact that the Chinese emperor had fled and allowed his Summer Palaces to be burned and looted. It was one of the many catastrophes the Qing Dynasty would suffer over the next few years that would contribute to their death throes in the early part of the nineteen hundreds when two thousand years of imperial rule was overthrown by the Xinhai Revolution in 1911.
The Sino-French War
The Sino-French War began in August of 1884 and continued until April of the following year. The conflict originated when France tried to replace China as the seat of power in the northern section of Vietnam. The war was an important part of Chinese history not just because of France’s victory, but also because of the Chinese army’s losses and how that affected the public’s morale and belief in the government.
The beginning of the war had its roots planted nearly twenty years before when France set aside certain parts of Vietnam in order to establish them as a French colony in Indochina known as Cochinchina. This allowed the French the opportunity to explore the surrounding area and they discovered that they could trace the Red River back to the Yunnan. This was a great benefit to many in France as they felt that it might give them the opportunity to open an overland trading route with the Chinese without having to deal with the specific ports and treaties with the Chinese government.
To work toward the means to this end in 1881 Henri Riviere went in
with a small military force to northern Vietnam to look into many of the
civilian’s complaints concerning the activities of the merchants in the
area. Although Riviere had been told not to take a military action he
used the force of his troops to take control of Hanoi’s citadel in April
of 1882. This caused a political outcry in Vietnam and China, and
began to set the events of the war into action. The Vietnamese knew
that their army would be no match against the French, so they called on
the support of a group known as the Black Flag soldiers as well as the
In response to this China worked with the Vietnamese government to help provide arms and financial support to the Black Flags. In doing this they would work in secret against the French as they were unwilling at the time to provoke an all out war with the country. The Qing government did, however, work to let the French government know that they did would not stand by and let Tonkin fall to France.
To help pressure this point the Chinese army sent their own troops into part of Tonkin as a means of backing up their statements following Riviere’s actions in the summer of 1882. In response the French ambassador with China agreed to separate the area of Tonkin into different sections that would be controlled by both French and Chinese forces. All of this was done without the consent or the opinion of the Vietnamese government.
Riviere decided that he did not like this agreement and six months later in the early part of 1883 he took his men and took control of another citadel at Nam Dinh with just over five hundred French soldiers. At first Riviere was worried that he would be reprimanded for his actions, but because of a recent shift in France’s government he found that he was instead being given the respect due to a war hero. This new administration strongly endorsed the idea of expanding their empire through colonization, and at the time of Riviere’s march into Nam Dinh the new French government was relaying word to the Qing government that they fully intended to place all of Tonkin under their control.
By April of that year the Chinese government had persuaded the leader of the Black Flag Army, Liu Yongfu, to go to war against Riviere’s troops. Liu took up this challenge by placing a well worded message on the walls around Hanoi that was intended to goad Riviere into meeting him in battle. The message worked and Riviere took his troops out to meet Liu’s on May 19th with a small battalion of around four hundred and fifty men. Liu had been prepared for this and his Black Flag forces promptly set up an ambush for Riviere’s men. This became known as the Battle of Paper Bridge and during the fighting Riviere was killed, spurring the French to react. They responded by making sure that any further attack by the Black Flags on Hanoi would be prevented and to secure their military fortifications.
August 20th, 1883, the French forces (led by Admiral Courbet) attacked the capital city of Vietnam (Hue) during the Battle of Thuan An and demanded that the Vietnamese government sign over their rights in the Treaty of Hue. This treaty placed all of Vietnam under the official protection of the French. While this was attack was going on the French decided to attack the Black Flag forces at approximately the same time to help prevent any immediate retaliation.
The first battle between the two took place on the fifteenth of August and was called the Battle of Phu Hoai, and the French soundly defeated the Black Flag troops during this time. Two weeks later the Black Flags were defeated again on September 1st at the Battle of Palan; however, even after these two victories the French found themselves unable to completely overtake all of the strategic positions that were held by the Black Flag forces. To many in the western world the fact that the French were unable to secure all of their positions and ensure a sound Black Flags defeat was a sign of their own military weakness.
The leader of these expeditions against the Black Flags, General
Bouet, was publicly chastised for having failed in his original plans.
After the end of the Battle of Palan in September he resigned from his
post to further demonstrate his failure. Despite the fact that Liu
prevailed in preserving some of his more important positions, his troops
were eventually forced to move because of deep flooding in the area.
Liu moved the Black Flags from the edge of the Day River a few miles
west toward the city of Son Tay, which also provided good fortification
against the French.
While the Black Flags were holed up in Son Tay, the French began to work toward completely destroying the rebellious troops. At the same time they engaged the Chinese in diplomatic discussions to try and persuade the Qing government to halt its continued sponsorship of Liu’s offensive. Originally the Chinese met with the French minister, but after the Qing court was told that it was highly unlikely that the French would want to participate in a full fledged war with China they withdrew from negotiations. The French government continued to try and meet with the Chinese liaison in Paris, but these attempts at reaching a truce also fell short.
One of the things that the French wanted China to agree to was the withdraw of Chinese soldiers from the key areas of Son Tay, Lang Son, and Bac Ninh. The Qing government refused to consider pulling out there troops and continued to hold to their belief that the soldiers had a right to be there even when the French threatened them with an imminent attack. During this time China had commissioned the Germans to build two battleships that would help to modernize their fleet. The French realized that if the battleship production were delayed this would give them an edge against the Chinese and so they worked with the Germans and arranged for the ships (Zhenyuan and Dingyuan) to not reach the Chinese on time. Simultaneously, the French also built up their forces in Vietnam and built posts at three major areas in anticipation of the oncoming conflict.
In December of 1883 the French launched the Son Tay Campaign as a complete attack on Liu Yongfu and the Black Flags. This was an all out attack by the French and by far the most aggressive battle that they had launched in Tonkin. There were Chinese and Vietnamese forces in Son Tay, but it was reported that most of the fighting took place on the part of the Black Flags as they worked to try and retain their hold on the city. In fact, the first attack that the French launched on Phu Sa was not successful as they suffered a heavy number of losses and were forced to pull back.
This gave Liu and the Black Flags a greatly overestimated sense of comfort and they launched an attack against the French that night in hopes that they could catch the soldiers off guard; however, their counter attack failed badly. After taking just one day to rest and regroup, the commander of the French forces, Admiral Courbet, once again attacked Son Tay on December 16th. Because the Black Flags’ forces were so worn down from the fighting the French forces were able to overtake the western side of Son Tay and work their way into the city by five o’clock that evening. Realizing that their position had been compromised Liu pulled his troops back and later left the city at dark.
While the French had been able to achieve their goal of pushing the Black Flags out, they did so with four hundred soldiers either dead or wounded. Liu’s troops also had considerable losses and this conflict is believed to have been one of the things that ended the Black Flags as a fighting force for hire. Since the Chinese and Vietnamese soldiers that were in the area had not helped out Liu, he decided that they had willingly left him to fight their battles without the proper amount of assistance.
The campaign continued in 1884 when General Millot took control from Courbet and the French government had sent in extra troops that now totaled more than ten thousand strong. These soldiers were then split into two different sections so that they were better able to exert control over the men. One of the groups then launched an offensive against Bac Ninh because this was where a large contingent of the Chinese soldiers in the area were staying. Without the support of the Black Flags the battle went even easier than expected and the French forces were able to overtake the city in a single day. The beginning of the war was going exceedingly well for the French.
By the middle of 1884 the French had succeeded in overtaking two more
cities, Thai Nguyen and Hung Hoa. While there was still a contingent
in the Chinese government that believed they should not deal with the
French and considered themselves to be purists in wanting to keep China
as severed from the western world as possible. However, the defeats
served to make Empress Dowager Cixi go into talks with France and an
agreement came to fruition on the 11th of May 1884 and was known as The
Tientsin Accord. In it the Chinese promised to pull out the remaining
troops and the French agreed to work on a agreement which would better
organize and resolve any remaining trade problems between the two
This agreement caused a major problem in China, and since the treaty had not specified how long the Chinese troops had to withdraw their soldiers and this left a large loophole in which the backlash could manifest. The part of the government that was in support of the war sent word to all of the remaining soldiers in Tonkin to continue to hold their positions, and while the French were told that there might be problems in negotiating the withdraw promptly they did not give it too much thought.
However, this became a problem the next month when a cluster of French troops moved toward Langson in order to secure the area. While doing this advance they ran into a large group of Guangxi Army troops that had taken up defensive positions and were protecting the Song Thuong River near the town of Bac Le. Instead of relaying the information to his superiors, the leader of the French expedition, Lieutenant-Colonel Dugenne, immediately set out for the Chinese troops, telling them to leave. When they said that they weren’t going to move Dugenne continued to go toward them, and the Chinese fired on them. This began a two day long event in which the French forces had to remove themselves from a circling group of the Chinese army soldiers.
The battle at Bac Le, better known in France as the Bac Le Ambush, caused a massive uproar in Paris as they thought that this was an act of treason on the part of the entire Chinese government. The French government implemented a series of demands in which the Qing government would be required to apologize and pay reparations to the French and withdraw all troops effective immediately. The Chinese wanted to work on the terms of the treaty, but they absolutely refused to issue a formal apology or pay any form of retribution.
The two governments continued to try and work toward a resolution for the next month, but during this time the French prepared to launch another attack against the Chinese. While in talks they ordered Courbet to move his troops into position in Fuzhou so that he could destroy the Navy Yard there that was under the control of the Chinese. Around the same time (August 5th) an attack was launched against China that destroyed three of their ships that were stationed at a port in Taiwan. This was meant to be a demonstration of their willingness to launch an offensive against China, but all it succeeded in doing was stopping the negotiations just a few days later.
In response to this halt in talks Courbet launched the Battle of Fuzhou on August 23rd. The French saw this as a response to the aggression that had occurred at Bac Le. Their weapons and ships were far better than the Chinese and the battle was over in a relatively short amount of time. The result was the loss of nine Chinese ships in just under an hour and an estimated three thousand dead. This battle permanently cut off all political communication between the two countries and the status of war was once again resumed.
When people in China heard about the attack at Fuzhou they became so enraged that they began to attack all foreigners, perceiving them to be the enemy in general. The riots took on the face of patriotism and Chinese nationalists began to rage against what they considered to be an insult. This movement continued in Hong Kong even though it was under British rule at the time, and in October at that time there was a rebellion of the dock workers when they refused to do anything to fix a French ship. When the British government tried to intercede and force the workers to do something it resulted in massive riots.
In the last months of 1884 the French moved in and produced a
blockage of crucial Chinese ports. This French strategy continued into
January when the French moved four thousand troops into the area of
Formosa. The Chinese forces in the area numbered around twenty five
thousand, but this did not prevent the French forces from managing to
take out a number of smaller posts that the Chinese were holding.
However, the fighting was called off when the two forces found
themselves trapped in the rainy season.
While this outpost of troops in Formosa was forced to halt their march on the Chinese there were other battles going on throughout the early part of 1885. A Chinese fleet of ships was on its way to try and break up the blockade in Formosa when it was encountered by the British fleet that was being led by Courbet. The ships scattered in an attempt to keep from losing any more important resources. In the end, however, there were two battleships that were unable to avoid the French advance and they suffered heavy damage and were sunk by torpedoes.
Unwilling to let the other ships go, Courbet tracked down the three that had scattered from his fleet. These ships (Nanchen, Nanrui, and Kaiji) were found with four other Chinese warships in Ningbo port. After some consideration, Courbet decided against direct confrontation and instead used the bay as a bottleneck so that he could contain those ships in the port and prevent them from engaging in any further battles.
In February the British revoked France’s ability to settle their ships in any of their ports in the Far East, including those in Hong Kong. Since the French could not directly do anything to the British then they used the Yangzi River as a means to block rice from reaching northern China. They were hoping that the short fall of rice would create a disruption in the economy and force the Qing government to come to a resolution. The Chinese responded by shipping their product on land routes.
In Tonkin the French were continuing their aggression against both the Chinese troops who were still there as well as any Black Flag troops that were still supporting them. Clusters of the Chinese Army managed to march up into the Luc Nam Valley and launched a sneak attack against French gunboats. The French immediately sent three thousand troops into the area and began attacking the remaining Chinese forces.
They scored marked victories on October 6th, 8th, and 10th. The battle at Kep on October 8th caused a lot of public outcry in Europe when it was discovered that after the fighting was over the French soldiers wondered through the field choosing to either shot or bayonet the surviving Chinese soldiers who were wounded. The Chinese were not completely clean in these acts as they would cut off the heads of the dead French soldiers and sell them as a bounty.
The fighting continued on until the end of the year. In December of that year the French government ordered that the army in Tonkin launch a major offensive in order to completely wipe the Chinese presence out of the country. They were commanded to attack Lang Son as soon as possible and another part of the offensive was scheduled to begin on the third of January 1885. As planned French General de Negrier attacked an encampment of Chinese Army soldiers that had gathered near a town called Nui Bop. The French were outnumbered ten to one, but they still managed to successfully defeat the Chinese.
The Lang Son Campaign officially began in February 1885 when the French began to move toward Chu with close to ten thousand soldiers. In just over a week the troop had managed to find themselves outside of Lang Son even though the were heavily laden with equipment and arms and had to make their way through hard to traverse territories. Along the way they had also been forced to take over several Chinese encampments. Despite these circumstances the French army managed to move into Lang Son on February 13th without too much of a problem.
This victory gave the French the opportunity to move troops and supplies to an outpost of French soldiers at Tuyen Quang that had been under constant and heavy attack since the previous November. The Black Flags had worked together with some of the Chinese forces to hold the French forces to the garrison while systematically assaulting their defenses. The French had been somewhat successful in holding them off, but by early February the Chinese and Black Flag forces had managed to breach their outer perimeters.
While the French had managed to go keep Tuyen Quang from being taken and had only lost a third of their forces it was only a matter of time before they would have been taken over by the opposing forces. When the French managed to win Lang Son they sent out a brigade of soldiers to relieve the troops at Tuyen Quang. This led to the Battle of Hoa Moc in March of 1885, which turned out to be the harshest battle of the entire war. The French managed to overtake the Chinese strongholds protecting the path to the garrison, but they suffered a high casualty percentage. When they finally managed to make it to Tuyen Quang the opposing forces realized that they were outnumbered and withdrew, allowing the reinforcements to reach the French troops that had fought to retain the area.
The French troops continued to march out from Lang Son to push all of
the remaining Chinese army remnants out the Tokin altogether. To make
sure that they made their point about having Chinese troops in Tokin
they decided to completely blow up a Chinese customs building that sat
on the border of Tonkin and Guangxi. Thinking that they had
accomplished a decisive victory the French troops pulled back to Lang
Son by the end of February.
In March the two sides found that they were at a stalemate of sorts. In the case of the Chinese army they knew that they would be unable to fight the French for a few more weeks, and the French forces were still recovering from the battle at Lang Son and had not recovered well enough to fight off the Chinese forces successfully. The French government was becoming impatient with the situation and they tried to pressure the commanders of the troops, Briere de l’Isle and de Negrier, to go ahead and launch an attack inside Chinese territory at Guangxi. They think that this possible attack on the Chinese homeland will finally convince the Qing government to seek an end to the conflict and a means for peace.
Despite this wish by the French government the forces were simply incapable of launching that kind of offensive with any hopes of it being successful. Reinforcements to the existing troops did arrive in Tonkin in the middle of March, which were ordered by de l’Isle to move to Hung Hoa to back up those of the first brigade who were stationed there at that time. The second brigade was to hold their position in Lang Son, but on the twenty third of March they found themselves engaged in deep conflict and outnumbered almost twenty to one when they decided to try and overtake Chinese outposts near the border. This was known as the Battle of Bang Bo and it resulted in a good number of French losses and the Chinese troops forced the French to fall back to Lang Son.
The Chinese saw this as an opportunity to exploit a possible weakness in the French line and they began to follow the retreating French brigade, forcing them to now work on the defense in order to protect Lang Son. The resulting battle on the twenty eighth of March ended with heavy Chinese casualties as the French were back in their element and had already recovered from the previous battles. While the French only lost seven men in this latest conflict, there were more than twelve hundred Chinese dead and an approximate six thousand more wounded.
While pursuing the retreating army back to the Chinese border the commander of the second brigade, de Negrier, ended up with a severe chest wound and had to give his command to Paul-Gustave Herbinger. Herbinger was inexperienced in the actual art of war and while he was considered to be one of the better military strategist his ineptitude had already shown itself on the battlefield at Lang Son and the Battle of Bang Bo. Once he was given command of the troops Herbinger appeared to go into panic mode and he became instantly convinced that the Chinese were trying to trick them by circling around Lang Son in order to completely disrupt the supply line.
Even though many of the officers under his command protested, Herbinger demanded that they abandon their hold on Lang Son and move their position back to Chu. While there was no evidence they were facing any conflict Herbinger ordered his troops to move out immediately, leaving behind much needed supplies of food and equipment. By the time the entire second brigade made it to Chu the soldiers were completely exhausted and running short on supplies. The Chinese forces saw this and set about reestablishing their presence in Lang Son and by the thirtieth of March they had completely reoccupied the area. It might have ended badly for the French at that time if the Chinese soldiers had followed them to Chu, but instead they decided to reinforce their positions at Lang Son and Dong Song.
When he arrived in Chu Herbinger sent out a report detailing his alarm and the company’s retreat to de l’Isle. The report was so fearful that de l’Isle sent a telegram to Paris notifying them that the situation was worsening. Without knowing it, Herbinger had managed to set off a political chain reaction. The head of the government in France, Jules Ferry, immediately telegraphed back that more reinforcements should be sent to Tonkin. By the time that de l’Isle realized the mistake and sought to remedy the confusion by letting the government know that the front could easily be stabilized it was too late. The first telegram had reached the public and the Chamber of Deputies immediately issued a motion of “no confidence” against Ferry, thus ending the reign of his government.
Charles de Freycinet replaced Ferry and reached out to the Chinese government in order to reach some form of peace. In response the Qing government readily agreed to go ahead and follow the conditions of the Tientsin Accord that established the French control exerted in Tonkin. In response the French government agreed to drop their demands for reparations from the Bac Le Ambush. By April 4th a preliminary peace agreement had been signed to end the fighting and a more complete treaty was signed and put into effect by the 9th of June, 1885.
The effects of the war were long lasting, especially in China where is sparked the beginning of a very strong nationalist movement. In doing so it also hastened the end of the Qing Dynasty as the Chinese public considered many of the defeats by their army to be humiliating. One of the worst things that they felt had happened was the loss of an entire fleet in the Battle of Fuzhou was one of the most problematic losses for the public to accept. Another problem that the public saw during the fighting was the fact that the different factions of the Chinese army refused to work together.
The Qing government responded to these criticisms by trying to establish a modern fleet of ships and establishing a naval system that is more closely related to those of western powers. But his was too little too late as the continued corruption and poor leadership of the troops would not allow these improvements to take root. And, ten years later during the First Sino-Japanese War many of the modern ships assembled by the Qing government would be completely destroyed or overtaken by the Japanese forces, effectively putting an end to any hopes that China had of maintaining any naval power.
The Taiping Rebellion
By the middle of the eighteen hundreds, China found itself in the middle of a political and social upheaval after a series of problems and defeats had made the citizens of China doubtful of the Qing government’s ability to properly regulate and take care of them. The Qing Dynasty had originally come into affect at the end of the highly prosperous Ming Dynasty at the hands of the Manchurians. Even after nearly three hundred years of rule the traditional Han Chinese still considered the Manchurian Qing government to consist of foreigners. This anti-Qing school of thought was especially prevalent throughout the working classes, and it was mainly this group of Chinese who began to follow the teachings of Hong Xiuquan.
Hong first turned to the lifestyle of a visionary when he did not pass the civil service examination that would have allowed him to work among the government and be considered elite. Once this path was closed to him then he decided instead to turn his attention to Christianity and studied the Bible for a number of months in the company of a young missionary. This culminated with Hong declaring that he had received a vision from God that he was to take on the role of Jesus’ brother. Since he now believed himself to be the brother of Jesus, then he saw it as his mission in life to go from town to town to spread the gospel of Christianity. However, this newfound duty also included the side requirement that the Qing government had to be overthrown so that China would be free from oppressive foreign rulers.
Hong’s group also included Yang Xiuqing. Yang had been a salesperson from the province of Guangxi, however, with Hong he turned into a prophet, proclaiming that God spoke through him as a means of working to direct the masses. In using this power Yang fully believed that it would also work to garner him a massive amount of political power as well.
This cult-like group was known as Heavenly Kingdom and was fully formed and their power base had grown considerably by the late 1840’s. During this time they had launched a major attack against the bandits and pirates that were looting the citizenry. The Qing government did not like this interference by Hong and his followers and they began to try and lessen their sphere of influence through persecution. This angered Hong’s followers began to retaliate and eventually the rebellious movement turned into a civil war.
The foundations of the rebellion took place in the Guangxi Province. There had been small squabbles during the latter part of December 1850 and January 1851 between the rebel forces and the Qing army. The rebels easily won these contests and retaliated even further by raising together close to ten thousand roughly organized troops to move the army line back even farther. This rebel army was led by Feng Yunshan and Wei Changhui, and they led the troops to victory over the Imperial Army soldiers that had been staying in Jintian. Consequently Hong Xiuquan declared that this was the beginning of the Jintian Uprising on January 11th, 1851. Later, in August of that year Hong also decreed the founding of the Heavenly Kingdom of Peace and established himself as the supreme ruler of that kingdom.
Over the next year and a half the uprising continued to spread across China, gaining momentum in the northern provinces. During March of 1853 close to eight hundred thousand rebel soldiers that were being led by Yang Xiuqing marched into Nanjing. The march was not peaceful and during the movement thirty thousand of the Imperial army troops were murdered, as well as thousands of innocent civilians who found themselves caught in the midst of the battling. After the fighting was over and Nanjing was cleared of the Imperial government Hong declared that its name be changed to Tianjing and established it as the new capital. He even overtook the residence that had belonged to the Qing government officers and made it into the Palace of the Heavenly King.
During the main part of the revolution the newly formed Heavenly Kingdom ruled over a good portion of both southern and central China. Their territory was mainly stationed around the Yangtze river. This was important to the Taiping rebels because as long as they could maintain control of the waterway meant that they could easily control the shipments of supplies through the area and make sure that Nanjing could maintain its position of control. This was a crucial element of their war strategy as they had to keep their capital secure in order to be able to keep up the assault.
The rebellion continued in earnest as two different branches of the Taipings army was sent out to secure Beijing. This conquering of the Imperial government’s capital would have been a large boon to the movement. The army had already secured the northern branches of the Yangtze River, so the possession of Beijing was something that the rebels felt they could easily accomplish. However, the chance to take Beijing resulted in a failure on the part of the Taipings. What should have been a giant expedition that succeeded in bringing about a swift resolution to the conflict instead ended in a deflating defeat.
It was around this time in 1853 that Hong began to withdraw almost completely from having any form of active control over the government’s administration. Instead he began to rule through proclamations that were infused with religion. Hong also started to grow paranoid that Yang was going to try to overthrow the Heavenly Kingdom for his own ambitious purposes. He began to disagree more and more with Yang on policies and their differences were duly noted by those in the court. Hong also became certain that Yang’s prophecies that came to him when he was speaking as the voice of God were no longer pure. His distrust of Yang grew until 1856 when Hong’s believers killed Yang, his family, and all of those troops that had expressed loyalty to Yang.
This withdraw by Hong made it nearly impossible for the Taipings to try and establish delegations outside of their own support system. They tried to reach out to both the middle class in China as well as many of the European nations to form some form of alliance and to set themselves up as a true government. However, the middle class inside China remained at odds with the rebellion, while the foreign governments elected to stay out of the conflict. The upper class in China sided with the Imperial government as the Taiping belief that men and women should remain separated even if married was at odds with their own customs and was a little too far fetched for their belief system.
Hong’s cousin (Hong Rengan) joined the rebellion forces stationed in Nanjing in 1859 when he was given a large amount of power by Hong. Rengan had developed a strong plan that would have given the Heavenly Kingdom even more territories. This plan was ambitious to say the least and it seemed that for a little while it was going to succeed when the rebel army managed to take the cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou in 1860.
However, when they found that they could not overthrow Shanghai the Kingdom faced a significant loss which started to affect its decline in power. The attack on Shanghai took place in August of 1860 and part of the reason that it did not succeed was that it faced a number of western troops that had been organized by Frederick Ward. The Imperial army forces began to work with the western ones and were regrouped so that the government could begin its mission to retake the parts of the country that were under the command of Hong’s Heavenly Kingdom forces. This proved to be successful as by the beginning of 1864 the Qing government had managed to retake large sections of the country and reestablish their control over the regions.
Even as the movement lost a lot of ground Hong continued to insist that God would work with them to keep Nanjing from falling. However, Hong would not live to see this promise fulfilled. When the rebel forces had lost their control of the Yangtze River the food supply to Nanjing had been cut off. Without a steady supply of food to eat, those who were in the city began to turn to the wild fruit and vegetables that were available in the area. The downside of this was the fact that it was difficult to tell if the food that they were eating was safe or not, and as a consequence of this Hong fell ill.
The Qing army was approaching Nanjing as Hong lay dying for twenty days. During this time they were unable to overtake Nanjing, but two days after his death they finally managed to breach the Heavenly Kingdom forces. Hong’s followers had buried his remains in the Ming Imperial Palace. After the city was once again under the control of the Imperial government the conquering forces dug up Hong’s body in order to verify that he was indeed dead. As a sort of punishment after death Hong’s body was cremated and his ashes were then scattered over the land by being blasted out of a cannon. This was done as a sort of never ending punishment against his soul for beginning the rebellion.
Almost four months before Nanjing had fallen Hong had officially handed over control of the Heavenly Kingdom to his oldest son, Hong Tianguifi. At the time, Tianguifu was only fifteen years old and could not actually do anything to help keep the movement together. This meant that when the capital was overtaken and his father was dead, the Kingdom was over. Tianguifu and his brothers were executed by the overriding forces once they had entered Nanjing in July of 1864.
While the Kingdom may have officially collapsed after the fall of Nanjing and the death of Hong, the rebellion had not. The Taiping Rebellion continued on as hundred of thousands of renegade Taiping forces kept fighting. In fact, there were more than a quarter of a million troops alone in the regions of Jiangxi and Fuijian. Because these groups were loosely organized and scattered across different sections of China, it would take the Qing government nearly five more years before they could consider themselves free of the rebellion. The last battle would take place near Hunan, Guizhou, and Guangxi. It was here that the last of the Taiping rebellion would finally fall in 1871.
After nearly fifteen years of fighting, the Taiping Rebellion was finally at an end. It has been estimated that nearly twenty million Chinese lost their lives during this period of fighting. However, this number has grown as large as sixty million by some estimates. These higher figures could be exaggerated because of the addition of numbers of people who also lost their lives due to natural disasters and other rebellions that happened around that same time.
It is hard to differentiate between the reasons for the deaths as no exact numbers were given. It is known, for example, that over one hundred people died at the Third Battle of Nanjing in 1864, but this does not take into account those who had died in the city from starvation or food poisoning (like Hong). The Taiping Rebellion is currently considered one of (if not the) largest wars of the nineteenth century by some historians, even though it occurred at the same time as the American Civil War and just years after the Napoleonic Wars.
One thing is for certain and that is that the Taiping Rebellion was
an event that shaped the history of modern China. It led the way for
other rebellions by the people who were upset with the Qing government
and by the early nineteen hundreds it led to the downfall of the
Imperial government and the establishment of the Republic of China.
The Terracotta Army
The terracotta army is a collection of terracotta figures that were carved to represent an army, complete with horses, that was intended to represent the First Emperor of China’s warriors in the afterlife. These figures were originally carved in 210 BC, but they were nearly forgotten to time and were not rediscovered until 1974. It is estimated that there are more than eight thousand soldiers in the pits, along with close to two hundred chariots and seven hundred horses.
The terracotta army was discovered completely by accident when a group of farmers set out to drill a new water well just to the east of Mount Li. Once they were sure that they had found something important a group of archeologists traveled to the area to look in on the discovery and they found the impressive collection of funerary statues. It was discovered that the terracotta that made the army was from material found in Mount Li. Besides the impressive army, there was also a huge town of the dead that had also been built by hand.
There was a report from a historian that lived just after the mausoleum was constructed, Sima Qian, claimed that construction began in 246 BC, and close to three quarters of a million workers started construction of the project. According to Qian the Emperor’s mausoleum was full of palaces, utensils, towers, officials, and even more than one hundred rivers filled with mercury. For a long time it was unclear if the mercury rivers were real or if they were literary references to something else, however, in recent years extremely high levels of mercury were found in the soil of Mount Li. These high levels add believability to the writings of Qian.
The actual tomb of the First Chinese Emperor is near the site of the terracotta army. His remains are actually entombed within a pyramid approximately seventy five meters tall. As of right now the actual tomb has not been opened, and excavation on the site is going rather slowly to make sure that the site remains intact as possible. Only a small section of the tomb has actually been uncovered at present.
The complex was designed to serve as a blueprint for Emperor Qin’s afterlife experience. It had all the markings of an Imperial palace. The terracotta compound had several different rooms and halls and is even encircled by a large wall with gated entrances. Along with these man made edifices, there are also several remains that are believed to be those of the workers who built the site. They were sealed up within the complex to prevent them from telling any information about the interconnected tombs. There is also a Chinese legend that says that for every single terracotta warrior that was carved and placed in the compound, there is the real life version that has been buried with the emperor.
It is estimated that the terracotta army was assembled through a variety of means. Some of them were carved by local craftsmen, while others were built in workshops and through the use of government labor. It’s been proven that the bodies were assembled separately from the head, arms, and legs, were installed later. They’ve also determined that there were eight different face molds which were used for the soldiers and that terracotta bits were used to form separate facial features to distinguish each soldier as unique and to add depth to the different facial expressions. While the army was a huge undertaking, this revelation makes the entire thing seems to be something like an assembly line with different workers specifically assembling individual parts.
Each of the different parts were fired individually, assembled and then put together with more of the terracotta clay and fired once more as a whole. One of the reasons that they are so sure of this is that each different part was inscribed by the person that made it. This has made it very easy for modern day historians to know exactly how each of the statues were assembled. After the soldiers were completed and put into the pit they were then arranged by rank and order.
Each of the terracotta soldiers varies in both height and weight. Their uniforms and hairstyles are accordingly matched up with their rank. Replicated armor and weapons were also included to add to the statues’ reality. They were all also covered with different colors of paint to help their appearance seem more realistic as well. Much of this paint has deteriorated over the years and many of the weapons were stolen shortly after the compound was created.
The walls surrounding the complex were constructed with packed dirt that were so tightly that they formed something almost as hard as concrete. There are four different pits that are just east of the burial plot and are approximately seven meters deep. The main army is all contained within the first pit and it is two hundred and thirty meters long. There are nearly six thousand figures in this complex area with eleven different corridors. These areas are about three meters wide and the floors are constructed of bricks and the ceilings were built with large wooden posts and were waterproofed with reed mats and multiple layers of clay. It was constructed so that it closely resembled what the palace halls would have looked like during that time period.
The second pit is full of cavalry and chariots and the infantry soldiers that would have commanded them. It represents a full blown military guard. The third pit is considered to be the command center. In this pit there is a lot of higher ranking troops and even a full blown war chariot. The fourth pit has been left purposefully empty, although the reason why is uncertain.
There are some damages to the terracotta army and the area in which they were housed that is believed to have been caused by a fire that occurred shortly after the First Emperor’s death. Qian wrote that the tomb was raided by a General Xiang Yu just five short years after the emperor was entombed. He claims that the army took much of the important and valuable items from the pits and then set fire to the area that housed the warriors. The blaze that ensued from this was said to have lasted for three months.
The status of the terracotta army is currently in a state of limbo. There have been some claims that the army is suffering form decay due to humidity and tourists, but scientists have decided that this claim is untrue and that the spots of decay that can be seen on some of the warriors likely resulted from pollution from nearby coal burning plants. Also, a section of the statues has been released for display at museums like the British Museum, which housed a section from September of 2007 to April at 2008.
The Third Battle of Nanking
The Third Battle of Nanking was a major battle in 1864. It was the final battle of the Taiping Rebellion and occurred after the death of Hong Xiuquan. The battle itself saws over one million troops enter the combat zone over three days. The Taiping army was defeated and many of the citizens of the city of Nanking were killed. Following the battle, the remaining Taiping forces fell very quickly, and the rebellion was ended.
Prior to the battle, in June of 1863, Imperial General Bao Chao routed the Taiping forces from the Yangtze and took control of the lands around the Shence Gate of Nanking. In September of that year, General Zeng Guoquan took the Upward Bridge section and the Eastern Riverine Bridge, and by November, he had taken several other suburbs of Nanking, forcing the Taiping army back even further into the city proper. The Imperial forces continued taking much of the region around Nanking, and by the end of November, Nanking was essentially surrounded.
Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion, refused to surrender his capital, however, despite his advisors pushing for this course of action. Instead, Hong had any who disagreed with him executed, which did not set well with his forces. In fact, due to Hong’s actions and other factors, over 200,000 Taiping soldiers surrendered before and during the battle or deserted.
The Third Battle of Nanking
On March 14, 1864, the stalemate broke when Zeng Guoquan ordered his Imperial forces to attack Nanking. They attempted to surmount the walls by using ladders, but the Taiping forces repelled them. The Imperials then attempted digging ten underground tunnels under the walls, but this plan, too, was not successful. For several months, the Imperial forces attempted to take Nanking, but they were not successful.
Hong Xiuquan died in late May, and Li Xiucheng took charge of the Taiping forces. He had previously advised Hong Xiuquan to surrender, and only his keen military mind kept him from being executed. However, by the time he took charge, surrender was no longer an option.
On July 3, the Imperial army took control of Dibao Castle, a strategic location that allowed them to build artillery and bombard the city. The rebel army had no way of counterattacking and was forced to stay under cover. The Imperial forces were then able to go both over and under the walls with few obstacles.
On July 18, Li Xiucheng tried a last-ditch effort to stop the Imperials by ordering over a thousand men to disguise themselves as Imperials and attempt to sabotage the tunnels and ladders the Imperial forces were building. However, the disguises failed, and the next day, the tunnel under the gates was finished. The Imperials detonated explosives in the tunnel, collapsing the Taiping Gate.
Four different Imperial forces stormed into Nanking, each taking a part of the city. The rebels fought desperately to defend the city, and heavy casualties were suffered by both sides. Once the Chaoyang Gate was taken, however, the rebels realized the battle was lost, and by that evening, all of the city gates had been captured by the Imperial forces.
Li Xiucheng attempted to escape with Hong Xiuquan’s son, but his remaining forces were defeated. Later that night, Li Xiucheng was left with only a thousand soldiers. They once again disguised themselves as Imperial forces and attempted to escape through a collapsed section of the wall. The Imperials, busy looting and carousing, failed to stop them.
On July 26, the Imperial forces set fire to Nanking, burning it to the ground.
While Li Xiucheng managed to escape, Zeng Guoquan sent a force after him. Li and Hong Xiuquan’s son were separated, and many of the Taiping officers who fled with them were captured. Li Xiucheng himself was captured on July 22. He was ordered to write his confession of treason, and after doing so, he was executed on August 7.
The Imperial forces victory was due to more than just numbers. The
Third Battle of Nanking was the first major test for new weapons,
including the bolt-action single-shot rifle. While there were only a
few of these new models in use in the battle, they proved to be far
superior to the rebels weapons and contributed greatly to the Imperial
Three Kingdoms Period
The Three Kingdoms period was a part of the time referred to as the Six Dynasties. It followed the fall of the Han dynasty and begins in 220 with the founding of Wei and ends with the fall of Wu in 280. Some historians, though, prefer to use the date of the Yellow Turbans Rebellion (184) as the beginning of the Three Kingdoms time.
The three kingdoms in question were Wei, Wu, and Shu. While we refer to them as kingdoms, the head of each called himself emperor, and his goal was to unite China under his state. Each of these emperors claimed he was the legitimate successor to the Hans. The period was marked by many different battles, allegiances, and political intrigue. Because of this, the period has become a favorite setting for novels, movies, and operas even though it was one of the most violent and bloodiest periods in Chinese history.
Despite the many battles and wars, technology still progressed quite steadily. While one may think all advances made during this time would be related to battle, they weren’t. The wheelbarrow, for example, was invented by Zhuge Liang during this time. Another inventor created a hydraulic-powered puppet theatre to entertain royalty. A non-magnetic compass was all created during the Three Kingdoms time. Also, while the kingdoms were often at war with each other, trade was still quite important and occurred between the three major powers, the many minor states, and even with other countries.
The lead-up to the Three Kingdoms time period featured many different warlords battling for control of China. From 180 to 220, there were few stable kingdoms, and the entire country was in upheaval. In 220, Wei, Shu, and Wu emerged as the three main powers in the country and brought an uneasy peace to China.
The Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Fall of the Hans
The Three Kingdoms period unofficially began in 184 when Zhang Jiao launched the Yellow Turban Rebellion. The revolt lasted over a year, and while the rebellion forces were mostly farmers, they still held out against the imperial army for quite some time. The rebellion ended, in fact, not with defeat but with the death of Zhang Jiao from sickness. While they didn’t take the capital, the Yellow Turban Rebellion destabilized the Han government.
Emperor Ling died in 189, leaving behind a regency led by General He Jin. However, He Jin didn’t have a strong hold on the government, and he found himself at odds with the eunuchs and other government officials. He was soon assassinated. His death set off a battle between his followers, the eunuchs, and the imperial officials. The military killed many of the eunuchs, which led to General Dong Zhuo bringing his forces back from the frontier to the capital. Dong Zhuo eliminated both forces and took control of the government. He then put Emperor Xian on the throne instead of his older half-brother.
While the two stabilized China for a short period of time, Dong Zhuo continued to become more violent than Emperor Xian liked. He began executing people for little reason and usurping the emperor’s power. In 190, the provincial authorities had had enough, and they formed an alliance to oust Dong Zhuo. They drove both Dong Zhuo and the emperor to Chang’an, and he was later killed by Wang Yun and Lu Bu is their coup.
Cao Cao Comes to Power
The Han empire was then split between several powerful warlords who could not agree on an emperor. Each of these warlords then began plotting against the others with the goal of taking China for himself. One, Cao Cao, found himself in a struggle against Liu Biao and Sun Ce. Lu Bu, meanwhile, became caught up in battling Dong Zhuo’s allies and supporters.
In 196, Cao Cao received Emperor Xian, who continued to flee from many enemies. By this point, most of the less powerful warlords had been defeated, leaving only the most powerful factions to vie for control of China. With the emperor now in his grasp, Cao Cao believed he had the power to force the other warlords to submit.
However, with control of only the Kingdom of Wei, Cao Cao didn’t have the military force to thoroughly defeat the other warlords. To remedy this, he began making allegiances, including joining with the Yellow Turbans. In 196, with his forces now quite significant, Cao Cao established his own imperial court and set up a number of farms to support his military troops while continuing to battle a number of forces.
In 197, Yuan Shu defeated a number of warlords thanks to his general Sun Ce, who was the true military genius of the Wu Kingdom. Yuan Shu declared himself the first emperor of the Cheng dynasty at this point, despite the fact that he ruled maybe a third of China. This greatly upset the other warlords and powers, and even Sun Ce was displeased. Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Lu Bu, and Sun Ce joined forces and defeated Yuan Shu, ending his “dynasty.”
However, following this alliance, Lu Bu betrayed his friend Liu Bei and actually joined with Yuan Shu’s forces. This led Liu Bei to seek shelter from Cao Cao, and the two joined forced to defeat Lu Bu. Lu Bu found his army siding against him, and his reinforcements from Yuan Shu’s army never arrived. Lu Bu was quickly executed, bringing an end to one of the powerful players of the Three Kingdoms time.
Liu Bei was quick to turn on his new ally, however. In 200, he joined forces with Dong Cheng to assassinate Cao Cao. Before they could carry out their plan, however, Cao Cao discovered it. He executed Dong Cheng and many of the conspirators, but Liu Bei escaped and joined Yuan Shao, a ruler in the north of China. Cao Cao once again, therefore, took up arms against Yuan Shao. The two clashed later in 200, the same year that Sun Ce died from an arrow wound. Control of his kingdom went to his brother, Sun Quan.
Cao Cao’s forces struck at Yuan Shao and, despite the fact that Yuan Shao had the larger force, Cao Cao defeated him and burned his supplies. Liu Bei fled once again, this time to the fortress of Liu Biao. With one of his enemies defeated, Cao Cao spent the next four years consolidating his power and taking more territory, including the provinces of Qing, You, Bing, and Ji. Three years later, in 207, Cao Cao had conquered nearly all of Northern China.
The next year, Cao Cao Began his march south. Liu Biao’s son surrendered Jing Province to the army, but Sun Quan refused. He allied with Liu Bei, and the two launched a campaign against Cao Cao. However, they were hopelessly outnumbered. Despite this, they managed to burn Cao Cao’s fleet, which forced him to retreat.
Cao Cao then spent several years consolidating power and preparing another army. In 217, he was named Prince of Wei by the Han emperor (who was little more than Cao Cao’s puppet). While he was planning his next move against the southern kingdoms, Liu Bei was also consolidating power. He conquered several weaker warlords and took control of four different provinces. This created tension between Liu Bei and his ally Sun Quan, who was uncertain about Liu Bei’s intent in seizing so much power. Things came to a head in 219 when Liu Bei took Hanzhong from Cao Cao’s forces and Sun Quan launched a sneak attack against Liu Bei’s Jing province, capturing it and killing one of Liu Bei’s top commanders.
The Formation of the Three “Empires”
In 220, Cao Cao died, leaving his forces under the command of his son Cao Pi. Cao Pi, after forcing Emperor Xian to abdicate, created the Wei Kingdom and named himself emperor. In response, Liu Bei named himself the Han emperor, although most refer to his state as Shu to differentiate it from the main Han dynasty. In an effort to buy an alliance with Sun Quan, Cao Pi named him King of Wu, thus creating the three kingdoms.
In 222, Shu attacked Wu, but Liu Bei’s forces were handily defeated. Liu Bei died shortly thereafter, leaving Shu without a strong commander. They sued for peace with Wu, and the two formed an alliance. That same year, Sun Quan declared that Wu did not recognize Cao Pi as emperor of China. In 229, Sun Quan declared himself emperor of China.
The End of the Three Kingdoms
After his father’s death, Liu Shan took control of Shu in 223. Wu and Shu then allied themselves more closely and began focusing on internal issues and on battling the Wei forces. In 227, the Shu forces launched an attack on Wei. Over the next six years, the Shu forces, led by Zhuge Liang, would make several attempts to take Wei territory. However, they weren’t that successful, and when he died in 234, the Shu army withdrew.
During Zhuge Liang’s attacks on Wei, Wu was defending its territory from the other half of the Wei army. Skirmishes along the borders between the two were so bad many Wu citizens chose to move away from the border towns to avoid death. After the defeat of Shu, Wei increased its forces, but they could not defeat Wu’s entrenched armies.
Despite losing to Wei, the Shu forces were strong enough to hold the state from conquest. In fact, during the entire Three Kingdoms period, Shu prospered. Sun Quan reigned for quite some time, and during his reign, Shu prospered. Many people left Wei and Wu for the more stable Shu, and trade with many factions flourished. Shu even traded with Mancuria and Taiwan frequently.
However, while trade was strong during much of the time, around the late 230s, the three kingdoms began to decline. First, in Wei, tension between the Caos and the Sima family began to rise. After Cao Zhen died, his heir, Cao Shuang, and Sima Yi came to a head. Cao Shuang did his best to replace Sima with other advisors, but the Sima clan fought back. After manipulating events to give him more authority, Sima Yi forced Cao Shuang from power in 238. While a number of Cao rulers would work against Sima Yi and try to retain power, none of them could quite get Wu fully under their influence. In 264, Cao Huan abdicated in favor of Sima Yan, ending the Wei dynasty. The Jin dynasty rose to power in its place.
Meanwhile, the Shu empire was also on the decline. By 258, the eunuchs controlled most of the political power, and corruption ran unchecked. While Jiang Wei, successor to Zhuge Liang, tried to hold the kingdom together, he had little success. In 263, Wei attacked the Shu, easily defeating their forces. Emperor Liu Shan was forced to surrender, and Shu was absorbed into the Wei empire
After Sun Quan died in 252, Wu was controlled by Sun Liang. However, Wu, too, began to decline. When Shu fell to the Wei and Sima Yan took control of the kingdom, he had little to fear of the Wu. Sun Liang was followed by Sun Xiu, then Sun Hao. While many felt Sun Hao may have been able to restore the Wu empire, he became quite tyrannical and corrupt once he seized power. In 269, the Wei, now called the Jin dynasty, began preparing to invade Wu. However, the Sima family was very savvy military-wise, and they waited until after the powerful Wu general Lu Kang died. In 279, they launched a full-scale invasion of Wu, and by 280, Emperor Sun Hao surrendered. With China now unified under the Jin dynasty, the period of the Three Kingdoms officially ended.
The Three Kingdoms Legacy
This time period of Chinese history has become one of the most
famous, mainly due to the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo
Guanzhong. The story has also appeared in many different movies, TV
series, video games, and operas.
Between April 15th and June 4th, 1989, a series of protests took place in Tiananmen Square in the People’s Republic of China. These protests were due to a liberal faction of the Chinese society which had decided that there was a great need for the Communist Party to relax some of its political standards and to ease more of the controlling aspects of the government. While leader Deng Xiaping had begun a widespread set of economic reforms that had been intended to give some form of liberalization to the institutions that Mao had restricted so severely under his leadership, many thought that more should be done to reduce the government’s control and that larger reforms were necessary.
One of the largest leaders inside the government that called for such changes was Hu Yaobang. In 1987 Hu called for an end to come to the Maoist era of political reign and he resigned his post as Secretary General amid calls for the system to reform as radically and as quickly as possible. Upon his resignation Hu was forced to go ahead and write a self criticism by the Chinese Communist Party that was ultimately deemed as humiliating and unnecessary. Ultimately, however, Hu’s statements would have a profound impact two years later when his death of a heart attack sparked the beginning of the Tiananmen Square protests.
Originally when the students and workers began to gather it was not necessarily meant as a protest, but rather as a means of discussing one of their best supporters and mourning his passing. In the beginning their calls for attention to be brought to their demands and for the reversal of the verdict that the CCP had placed on Hu were not the reason for their gathering, but it was these calls for reform which eventually began to draw in more and more people. In fact, in the beginning the only thing that the protestors were calling for was a revision of the official view of Hu.
By the third day of the protests ten thousand students had migrated to Tiananmen Square to join in on the protests. When the group marched to Zhongnanhai demanding that they be able to speak to their government leaders they were dispersed by the police. As news of this conflict spread, more and more protestors began to join in on the Tiananmen Square rallies. Many people came because they believed that the government was not being truthful about what was going on there and they wanted to make sure that they saw it for themselves. By the time that Hu’s funeral came around on the 21st of April more than one hundred thousand people had gathered on Tiananmen Square, filling it up before it could even be cordoned off for the funeral proceedings. That same day protests began in both Xi’an and Changsha.
Students began to call for a full fledged strike at the colleges, asking that both students and teachers not go to class to show support for the cause that was now escalating in Tiananmen Square. The government fought back three days later on the 26th of April by issuing a statement in the People’s Daily asking citizens to stand up to the protestors and to hold up the Chinese flag to symbolize their support of the government’s stance on the issue. The next day the students were so upset by what had been posted in the paper that fifty thousand of them took to marching in the streets in complete protest demanding that the government retract the statement. Students also began to reject the traditional government endorsed Communist clubs in favor of their own organized student groups and other associations. Many of the professors supported these endeavors and helped the students to better organize.
During this time the original movement was evolving. It had gone from a mourning and memorial of Hu Yaobang to a protest that called for an end to corruption and a revocation of the charges that had been levied against Hu to an outcry for reform among the entire Chinese Communist Party and freedom of the press. The students’ calls for reform to be instituted in the economy to be able to encourage more in the way of liberalizing things even beyond what Deng had already done drew in the workers. Many of these workers found themselves in very tight situations over their working conditions as well as the alarming rise of inflation problems and corruption.
The protests began to escalate as on May 4th (a date which corresponds to the infamous May Fourth Movement of 1911) the protestors issued a declaration that declared that the government had to work on speeding up all of the necessary political and economic reforms that were needed in order to guarantee civil rights and put an end to government and corporate corruption. One hundred thousand students and workers converged in Beijing demanding that the government speak to chosen student representatives in order to open up a productive conversation to try and meet these requests. However, the government declined, stating that they would only speak to representatives from the Communist Party’s approved student organizations.
The students responded to this by staging a hunger strike on May 13th. This date was important because it was just two days before Mikhail Gorbachev was scheduled to visit Beijing. The hunger strikes went on for a week while hundreds of thousands of students and workers who supported them and sat in on Tiananmen Square during this protest period. They stated that they would remain on the hunger strike until the government withdrew the accusations they made in the editorial the previous month and began to hold real meetings with the representatives that the protesters had chosen.
The movement began to gain ground in other cities across China as those students (and even some faculty members) started to hold their own protests and demonstrations against the government. Many of these students even began to flock into Beijing to join in on the larger protests in Tiananmen Square. Even though the protests that were going on in the square at this point in time were on a massive scale they were very well organized with students marching at different times in order to show that they were boycotting the colleges. Unlike many social reforms and protests, the students were even respectful of the soldiers, helping them to arrest some people when pictures of Mao were ruined.
The students knew that in order for their movement to gain any further momentum they would have to sustain the hunger strike. They were right as once the strike had begun many of the ordinary citizens of Beijing came to their aid and support. It was clear to them by the refusal of the students to eat that they were not just trying to do something to get attention, but rather that they fully believed in what they were doing and they were determined to make a sacrifice of their health and well being for the Chinese people’s best interest. The government noted the increase in support and as such the General Secretary Zhou Ziyang went to Tiananmen Square on May 19th. During his speech he urged the students to eat rather than cause permanent damage to their health, stating that they were young and healthy and that they should work to remain that way. It was to be Zhou’s last public appearance.
Since Gorbachev was visiting there were a lot of foreign media operatives in the country and they covered the protests extensively. The media coverage tended to be very favorable toward the protestors, and at the end of May the protestors put up a Goddess of Democracy statue in the square and that became the focus of the media’s attention as a sort of symbol of the movement as a whole.
Around this time it became apparent to the government and the party leaders that the movement was not going to die out on its own. They had tried a variety of methods to try and bring about an end to the protests without any violence, however, their attempts to persuade the students to give up their cause and to return to class had not worked. The government did not want to meet with the protestors because there were too many different people there supporting their own agendas and demands and they were afraid that if they caved into some of the requests that they would open themselves up to even more demands and further problems. Some of those in the top of the government were in favor of taking a soft approach to the demonstrators while others went after a stronger more military based approach to the problem.
The decision was eventually made to go into the situation with the military as an attempt to keep the protest from spreading into a problematic situation like the one that was created by the Cultural Revolution. Martial Law had been declared by the Chinese government on May 20th, but hordes of protestors blocked the military’s entrance into Beijing and eventually forced them to retreat. The government noted that the hunger strike was entering into its third week and they did not want protestors to start dying while there was such a large contingent of the press on hand. This sparked another debated among political leaders about whether or not they should use complete military force to go into the situation. The General Secretary (Zhao Ziyang) who’d spoken to the protestors and urged them to eat for their own safety was ousted from the party as he was in strong support of the protestors and favored a much softer approach to the situation.
It has even been said that within the military there was some dissent
on whether or not they should break up the protest through aggressive
tactics. This left the government working hard to try and piece
together a group of troops to go into Tiananmen Square.
Eventually soldiers and tanks were brought in from the 27th and 28th sections of the People’s Liberation Army were sent into the city. In response to this decision President H.W. Bush ordered that sanctions be put against the People’s Republic of China in order to help contain the events. In fact it was even reported that members of the local army (38th Division) burned their own vehicles and left them in order to join in with the protestors. As the military moved into Beijing the public demonstrated their support with the protestors by lighting buses and other vehicles on fire and pushing them into the streets to block the army’s progress. The army resorted to using force and tear gas in many occasions to push their way through to the crowds.
The government began their assault on the protestors gathered in the square on June 3rd. The soldiers went in both on foot and in tanks. According to reports the soldiers began firing indiscriminatingly into the crowd of people. Students who attempted to flee or hide were beaten by the soldiers who caught them. Sometime early the next morning the tanks began rolling into the square, squashing students with their treads, and around five thirty it was reported that the square had been cleared of protestors. One of the famous scenes resulting from this was of a long unarmed man in a white shirt standing in front of the tanks as they approached, continuously moving in front of them to try and prevent them from going into the square. He climbed onto the tank to ask them why they were hurting people and was taken away by members of the secret police. When later the man could not be produced by the Chinese government many came to believe that he had probably been executed for his defiance.
The protests did continue for several days after the invasion of Tiananmen Square in other cities throughout China and in other countries, but the government soon asserted control in those areas too, wishing to avoid another disaster. It is estimated by the Chinese Red Cross that anywhere between twenty five hundred and three thousand were killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but exact numbers are unknown. However, the People’s Republic of China has repudiated this claim instead stating that only two hundred and forty one people were killed. The disputes as to exactly how many died and were injured still vary to this day, but considering that several press witnesses reported how the students were shot at, beaten, carried off, and crushed under the tanks the number is probably somewhat higher than the traditional version the Chinese government released.
After the protests were over there were several rounds of political purges which helped to get rid of anyone who supported the protestors or enabled them in any way. This also took place in several smaller cities as well as Beijing. Several of the news reporters who covered the massacre were fired from their jobs for showing favoritism or sadness when reporting what happened.
Warring States Period
This early period in Chinese history often refers to the time span between the fifth century BC to the beginning of the Qin Dynasty and the unification of China in 221 BC. During this period of time the various warlords in power began to break apart the lands around them into smaller state like governments that they used to increase their power base and consolidate their rule. While these figures had once been considered as Dukes under the rule of the Zhou King, they now began to call themselves Kings, believing that they were in complete power over the kingdoms and areas they ruled. This meant that in their eyes they were on equal footing with the king himself.
It is believed that a lot of the problems that would eventually lead to the Warring States Period began during the Spring and Autumn Period. During this time there was a powerful kingdom, the State of Jin, and it was considered to be the most powerful state in all of China. However, by the end of the Spring and Autumn Period the power base of weakened and the ruling family eventually gave over control to six different families. The beginning of the Warring States Period saw that only four families had retained this power (Zhi, Han, Wei, and Zhou). A struggle began between the families to overtake each other and resulted with the destruction of the Zhi family. The remaining three families became known as the three Jins and the Zhou King gave them the titles of Marquis in 403 BC.
Thirty two years later in 371 BC, the ruling member of the Wei family, the Marquess Wu of Wei, died without having officially named a successor to the position. This caused the family to begin an internal battle for who would be named the next Marquis of the Wei family, and resulted in a three year long Civil War. The Zhao and Han families attempted to move into the Wei territory, but the attack fell apart when the two could not decide how to evenly break apart the country and during this brief respite a leader was named to the Wei family and the land regained its power base.
Fifteen years after this, in 354 BC, King Hui of Wei launched his own attack against Zhao as a form of retribution for the attempted overthrow of Wei during the Civil War period. When it became apparent that Zhao was going to lose the war, the nearby State of Qi threw their support behind Zhao to try and make sure that Wei did not gain any more land or power. They accomplished their goal by attacking the Wei territory that was left unguarded while the Wei troops were in Zhao. This sudden attack caused Wei to pull back and retreat from their position in Zhao. While the troops were returning to Wei they met with the Qi troops and were defeated at the Battle of Guiling. This pattern would continue in 341 BC when Wei launched another attack, this time against Han. Qi once again assisted and beat Wei at the Battle of Maling.
The next year, 340 BC, Wei’s vulnerability after its two losses to Qi was exploited by Qin when they attacked. Wei found themselves unable to repel the advances and was soundly defeated. The country was only able to enter into a state of peace with Qin when they agreed to offer up a large portion of their territories. Because of this Wei was forced to relocate its capital city from Anyi to Dalaing. This left the states of Qi and Qin as the two most powerful states in China at the time. It is believed, however, that Qin was capable of establishing such power because of the influence of one of the country’s ministers, Shang Yang. Beginning in 359 BC (at least nineteen years prior to the invasion of Wei) Yang went through and began to reform the state based on the doctrine of Legalism. It’s thought by many historians that this was the point in history when Qin began to ascend to the position of the most powerful state in China.
Six years after Qi and Qin had succeeded in becoming so dominant,
they both agreed that they deserved to be recognized as Kings. This
granted a sort of formal separation from the Zhou throne, and emphasized
the complete lack of power that the position now held. This led to a
domino effect whereby the other states began to declare their leaders as
Kings, marking the end of the Zhou Dynasty when the ruler of Zhao
declared himself King in 299 BC.
As the Warring States Period drew to a close it was apparent that the State of Qin had become much more powerful than the other six states. This left the others on offense and they began to think of ways of dealing with the problematic Qin expansion. The devisiveness of the situation led to two completely different schools of thought on how the problem should be dealt with. On one hand those who followed the principals set forth by Hezong thought that they should team up to try and stop the growing power of the Qin government. Those who supported the idea of Lianheng, however, thought that they should work together to form alliances with Qin and support the rising state’s ascension to power.
Between the years of 316 and 260 BC many different battles were waged between Qin and the other states. However, at the end of this fifty year period of warring and turmoil it was clear that the superior ranking of the Qin state was completely secured. Some believe that these victories were due to the powerful military base that Qin had established. But it is far more likely that the constant bickering and difference between the other states was the main contribution to the victory of Qin as they were able to go into these regions and exploit this unease for their own military gain.
In 230 BC Qin launched a decisive attack against Zhao. Han, being a far weaker state and being so close to Qin grew worried that they would be next and sent a diplomatic envoy to Qin and surrendered their entire kingdom without putting up any resistance. With the smaller state surrendering to them completely it marked the beginning of Qin’s conquest to overtake all seven of the Warring States. The first state that Qin succeeded in overtaking by force was Wei. Wei was conquered in 225 BC after the Qin troops were able to flood the walls of the capital city, Kaifeng, by using the Yellow River to their advantage. The King of Wei surrendered his lands to Qin to prevent more of his people from dying.
By 221 BC Qin had conquered the last of the states when it overtook Qi. The Qi government had not offered to aid or ally itself with any of the other states when Qin was conquering them. While this may have left the Qi government secure for a few more years than its neighbors, this meant that when Qin began to launch an invasion on its territories that it had no one to turn to for aid. Therefore, the King of Qi decided (much like the King of Han had a decade before) that it would surrender to Qi without a fight in order to preserve much of the kingdom and spare the people from unnecessary bloodshed. With all of the seven states unified under the Qin banner, China was now functioning as a singular country unit, and it brought about the beginning of the Qin Dynasty.
One thing that is often credited to the Warring States Period is the
massive development of armor and weapons during that time period. These
new innovations included the widespread use of cavalry and iron in
warfare. In fact, in 307 BC, the King of Zhao established the first
official unit of Chinese Cavalry. And, as the size of armies continued
to grow in the different kingdom states (sometimes into the hundreds of
thousands) it became much more feasible to use iron instead of bronze
for much of the armor and weaponry.
Western Xia Dynasty
The Western Xia, or Xi Xia, dynasty, took place between 1038 and 1227 in the northwestern area of China. Sometimes called the Tangut Empire, the dynasty was established by the Tangut tribes and shared a border with the Song and Jin dynasties. The Tanguts did not name themselves the Western Xia—that was done by the Han. However, since their dynasty did not last very long, it was the Han name that was officially recorded and passed down through history.
Origin of the Western Xia
During the Tang dynasty, some of the Tangut tribes surrendered after being pressured to join the empire. They were moved from their traditional homes to an area near Ningxia. When the Tang dynasty collapsed in 906, the Tangut were more or less independent during the succeeding Five Dynasties period. By 982, the Tangut founded their own state under Li Deming. However, they would not officially become a dynasty until his song, Li Yuanhao, created the Tangut writing system, translated many Han classics into this new system, and declared himself Emperor of Da Xia. He then demanded that the Song recognize Da Xia as an equal.
The Song recognized Li Yuanhao as the governor of Western Xia but not as an emperor. After a number of years negotiating, the Tangut finally accepted the authority of the Song emperor, but the Song, in exchange, had to pay annual tribute to the Tangut. Records from the time show that the Song may have done this to avoid war with the Tangut, who had a very powerful military at the time.
During the reign of Yizong, who was only two when he ascended the throne, his mother the regent had to deal with an invasion from the Liao dynasty. The Liao made Western Xia into a vassal state. Yizong was killed, and the new emperor, Huizong, was held under house arrest by his own mother, who took power. She launched an attack on the Song, but it ended in failure. Huizong regained power, but when his son Chongzong took the throne, Huizong’s mother again became regent. This time, she attacked both the Liao and the Song. Chongzon overthrew her after these disastrous attacks and began negotiations with both powers.
During the year 1115, the Liao dynasty was defeated, and in 1123, the Liao emperor escaped to Western Xia. However, wishing to avoid more war, Chongzong gave in to the Jin demand to hand him over and to become a vassal state. The Western Xia were involved in the battle between the Jin and the Northern Song dynasty, and they seized a good portion of land from the Northern Song. However, shortly after Renzong too the throne, Western Xia was faced with several natural disasters, leaving the government little time to focus on this new acquisition.
When Renzong’s son, Huanzong, took the throne, he inherited a state that was vastly corrupt. The economy was faltering, the nobles held too much power for the government to control, and the lower classes were suffering. It was at this time that the Mongolians invaded. They launched six different campaigns into the Tangut state.
Huanzong was overthrown by a coup led by Xiangzong in 1206. Xiangzong then surrendered to the Mongolians by offering his daughter to Genghis Khan as a wife. After making allies with the Mongols, Xiangzong launched a ten year war with the Jin Empire, all the while ignoring the corruption within his own state. His army was untrained and did not have the resources to win the campaign, and Xiangzong abdicated when Shenzong launched his coup.
In 1216, the Mongols requested aid from their allies in a war against various Islamic countries. Shenzong agreed, but his generals and many of the nobles were against sending troops. When Genghis Khan returned from the front lines, the newly crowned emperor Xianzong tried to negotiate. However, his general challenged Genghis Kahn to battle. Xianzong was killed, and his successor, Modi, immediately tried to negotiate with Genghis Khan. While Khan accepted the Western Xia surrender, his son believed Modi would betray them and killed him. Rather than allow another Western Xia emperor, Genghis Khan simply assimilated the Western Xia lands into his Mongolian empire, ending the dynasty.
The Xia dynasty is the first dynasty in Chinese history. It took place between the years 2100 BC and 1600 BC, right after the period known as the time of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors. Much like this period, however, historians do not always agree on many facts of the Xia dynasty. What we do know comes from ancient records like the Bamboo Annals, the Records of the Grand Historian, and from archeological digs.
According to these sources, the Xia dnasty officially began when Shun gave up the throne to Yu, his minister. Shun believed Yu demonstrated everything that a civil servant should and that the empire would flourish under his leadership. As ruler, Yu ordered canals built on major rivers to stop flooding, a move that was greatly praised by the Chinese. Yu also created the idea of a dynasty when, instead of giving the throne to the individual who appeared most capable, he named his son Qi the next emperor upon his death. Yu’s tribe would rule China until the last ruler of the Xia dynasty, the corrupt Jie, was overthrown by the Shang (eastern Chinese) and replaced by their leader, Tang.
Archaeological digs have discovered bronze items, tombs, and even cities that fit the location and descriptions of those used in the Xia dynasty according to historical texts. This has led some to believe that the Erlitou culture existed during the same time or was a part of the Xia dynasty.
Nothing from the period indicates that it was actually called the Xia dynasty, but later historical texts use the name. This casts even more mystery around the period, although the discovery of what is believed to be the capital of the Xia dynasty in 1959 helped answer some of the questions about the period.
Following the Shang invasion and victory over the Xia, the Xia and their allies were forced to retreat to the small Qi state. Qi lasted as an autonomous state until around 445 BC. While it is listed in many records as a great supporter and ally of the Xia dynasty, these records also indicate that the small area was unimportant in the overall history of China. Eventually, Qi was destroyed by the Chu.
The Xiongnu were a nomadic group of tribes who lived in Central Asia, primarily the steppes to the north of China. The first mention of the Xiongnu is from Chinese records dated to the 3rd centry BC. They state that the Xiongnu controlled an empire that spread through parts of Mongolia, Siberia, Manchuria, and into some modern Chinese provinces. The Xiongnu were originally from the Ordos, a desert and steppe area that features mostly clay and sand soil, making agriculture difficult. During the Qin dynasty, the emperor found these nomadic tribes a danger to China and so began the construction of the Great Wall. Over the centuries, China and the Xiongnu had a number of military conflicts, marriage treaties, and traded often.
The Xiongnu tribes were led by a chief known as the shanyu. The shanyu was assisted in his duties by the king of the right and the king of the left, who served as territorial governors. The shanyu lived mostly in upper Orkhon, while the king of the left watched over to the east and the king of the right held sway in the west.
Little is know about the origin of the Xiongnu, and most of what is known about them comes from Chinese records and may or may not be completely unbiased. The name Xiongnu comes from a transliteration of Chinese characters, and little is known about the Xiongnu language itself. Only a few words, mainly titles, have been preserved. Some believe their language may have evolved into or branched off of the languages that evolved into Turkic, Yeniseian, or Mongolic. Some believe their language is completely unique and is now unknown. It is agreed upon that the Xiognu, due to the numerous tribes they were made up of, probably had a number of different languages or at least dialects, but which of these was the chief language or dialect is not known.
Excavations conducted in the 1920s in northern Mongolia revealed much about the Xiongnu culture, as did digs in Inner Mongolia and other sites. Remains show that the Xiongnu were mainly Mongoloid and were influenced by other cultures, especially the Chinese. Comparisons of Chinese and Xiongnu artwork show that the two often influenced each other. Some artwork found in Xiongnu sites show them wearing their hair in long braids with wide ribbons, a style preferred by the Turks of the Ashina clan
Early History of the Xiongnu
Sima Qian, one of China’s most famous historians, claims the Xiongnu were descended from Chunwei, a possible son of the last ruler of the Xia dynasty. However, there is no evidence to support Sima Qian’s claim, although there is nothing to disprove it, either.
Originally, the Xiongnu were a small gathering of tribes who constantly had to deal with barbarian threats. However, when the Eastern Zhou dynasty destroyed most of these barbarians, the Xiongnu were able to grow without fear of attacks. They soon shifted to a nomadic society. With mounted soldiers, the Xiongnu were able to quickly attack Chinese settlements and steal food and supplies. To combat this, the states of the Warring States period, three of which shared borders with the Xiongnu, built a series of fortresses. These fortresses would later be connected via the Great Wall.
During the Qin period, General Meng Tian and his forces drove the Xiongnu out of the Ordos region and took the area for the empire. Forced north, the Xiongnu found themselves migrating often during this period while battling the Qin and the clans of the Donghu and Yuezhi. Finally, after the Qin dynasty fell, the Xiongnu returned to the Ordos area.
The Xiongnu under Modu
In 209 BC, Modu Shanyu united the Xiongnu into a new alliance. Now under one ruler, the Xiongnu became more of a threat to China. However, there is no evidence as to why Modu united the tribes. Some say it was to strengthen the Xiongnu, while others say it was in response to the Qin. No matter what the reason, Modu expanded the Xiongnu empire dramatically, claming parts of southern Siberia, the lands of the Donghu and the Yuezhi, and all the area taken by the Qin. After his death, the Xiongnu continued to beat back the Yuezhi, even killing their king.
While in power, Modu created a new form of government. He split the left and right branches of the tribes into regions. He, as the supreme ruler, controlled the central territory. He placed the Xiongnu annual meeting place at Longcheng, making it more or less their capital.
The Xiongnu and Han War
The Han, like previous dynasties, also felt threatened by the Xiongnu. Emperor Wu began forming a plan to defeat the Xiongnu and attempted to make a military alliance with the Yuezhi. However, the Yuezhi refused, leaving the Han on their own. While it took years to prepare, in 133 BC, Emperor Wu revoked the peace treaty between the two countries, and in 129, war began when over 40,000 Chinese soldiers attacked the Xiongnu borders. In 127, the Han took Ordos, and in 121, five Xiongnu kingdoms fell in quick succession to General Huo Qubing and his light cavalry.
A few years later in 119, the Xiongnu court was forced to flee to the Gobi Desert as the Chinese took more and more Xiongnu territory. However, the Chinese were not able to completely destroy the Xiongnu. The issues of providing food and dealing with the dry, arid climate of the Gobi were too much for the Han forces. However, they were able to control Ordos and several other strategically valuable areas, plus the war cut off the Xiongnu from the Qiang, their southern allies.
Peace with the Han
In 53 BC, the Xiongnu leader Huhanye approached the Han with a peace treaty that involved the Xiongnu paying tribute to the Han. The Han, however, insisted on several revisions to the treaty, first and foremost of which was that Xiongnu state change from a “brother” state into a vassal state that served the Han dynasty. The Xiongnu would still govern themselves, but they would follow the Han’s lead in any major event. Huhanye accepted these terms, and in 51 BC, he personally went to Chang’an to pay his respects to the emperor and deliver the Xiongnu tribute.
Huhanye’s trips were not one-sided. He and his court received many gifts from the Chinese, including silk, horses, gold, and grain. He would visit Chang’an twice more, and each time, he was awarded riches for making the trip to the Han capital. On his third trip, Huhanye even approached the emperor with the idea of making him an imperial son-in-law. However, Emperor Yuan refused this request and instead gave Huhanye five of his imperial ladies-in-awaiting, includes Wang Zhaojun, one of the most beautiful Chinese women.
The Xiongnu continued paying tribute to China until the Xin dynasty fell. During the political turmoil, Xiongnu leader Huduershi took advantage of the chaos to seize the retake some of the Xiongnu land. As the Xin continued to decline, Huduershi even spoke of making them pay tribute to the Xiongnu, although his plan never came to fruition.
Later History of the Xiongnu
Huduershi, who considered himself as powerful as Modu, actually fractured the Xiongnu. They became increasingly regional during his reign, and he never had absolute authority over the various tribes. He further shattered the Xiongnu unity when he named his son his heir, something that had never been done before. One of the tribal rulers, Bi, then refused to attend the annual tribal meeting at Huduershi’s court.
Part of the reason Bi refused to attend was that he had a legitimate claim on Huduershi’s position. After Huduershi’s son, Punu, took the throne, Bi and seven other Xiongnu tribal leaders withdrew from the unified Xiongnu tribes. These eight tribes declared Bi their shanyu and became known as the Southern Xiongnu.
Under pressure from the north and after dealing with multiple natural disasters, Bi entered into a tributary relationship with the Han in 50 BC. The Han were quite strict with Bi’s Xiongu, even going as far as to tell them where to base their court. The southern Xiongnu were put into eight frontier commanderies, which were then populated with many Chinese in an attempt to culturally assimilate the Xiongnu. Once they were no longer considered a threat by the Han, however, Bi’s Xiongnu were able to co-exist peacefully. The same cannot be said for the northern Xiongnu. In 85 BC and 89 BC, the Han soundly defeated the northern group. After the Battle of Ikh Bayan in 89 BC, the northern Xiongnu dispersed, and their court fled.
The southern Xiongnu, however, did eventually fully assimilate into the Han culture. This happened after the southern Xiongnu were pulled into several rebellions against the Han. However, these rebellions were put down every time, and more and more restrictions were put on the Xiongnu. Eventually, in order to help blend in and to have a chance at becoming more than second class citizens, the Xiongnu aristocracy changed their name from Luanti to Liu.
The Liu family would be active in Xiongnu and Chinese politics for years. They did not take part in any of the rebellions up to 300 AD, thus avoiding the fate of many of the Xiongnu tribes that rebelled against the Han and the succeeding dynasties. The Liu were very active in northern China for several decades. However, by 431, when the Northern Wei state was absorbed into the Xia, the Xiongnu lost the last state in which they had any power. From then on, they no longer played any major role in China.
The Northern Xiongnu and the Huns
One theory that has arisen over time is that the Northern Xiongnu eventually became the Huns. However, this theory is only speculation, and there is no conclusive evidence. DNA tests have been done, but historians and scientists have not sufficiently determinded the origin of the Huns.
Linguistics shows that the first character of the word “Xiongnu” could be read as “Hon,” which could have been recorded as “Hun” by Europeans. However, there’s no clear indication that this is how the Xiongnu were known to the Europeans, especially since the actual Huns could have simply taken the name from the Xiongnu. There’s also the possibility that the Xiongnu were a part of the Hun’s confederation of tribes and states.
The Yellow Turban Rebellion
The Yellow Turban Rebellion took place in 184 against Emperor Ling of the Han dynasty. The rebellion takes its name from the yellow scarves the rebels wore on their heads. The rebellion is featured in the novel Romance as the Three Kingdoms and is the event that launches the novel.
Causes of the Rebellion
The Yellow Turban Rebellion began when the Han government failed to do much to stop a famine. Many farmers in the north found their crops insufficient to make a living so they attempted to move south to find work. However, few jobs could be found. When the Yellow River flooded during this time, even more jobs and crops were lost. Finally, the Han government’s high tax rate on the peasants led to even more financial stress. Around 170, landowners and peasants began forming small private bands to protect themselves and their meager resources from bandits.
During this time, the Han dynasty began to weaken. The eunuchs held considerable power at court, and the emperor even referred to one of the most powerful eunuchs as his foster father. This led to widespread corruption in the government, leading most government offices and programs to become inefficient and incapable. The various famines and the Yellow River flood even had some whispering that the Han had lost the Mandate of Heaven.
The Zhang Jiao sect of the Yellow Turbans was the most active and was the first to begin planning a revolt. They worked to gain support throughout Northern China, and they even made some allies in the court. Because of this, they were able to very effectively plan their rebellion. However, before the mass uprising could take place, the rebels were betrayed and many of their men in Luoyang were arrested and quickly executed. The rebel forces in some of the provinces also began in early 184, a few months ahead of schedule. However, even though the rebel forces were uncoordinated, their forces still numbers in the ten thousands, and they easily destroyed various government offices and outposts. In response, the government deployed the imperial army.
The rebel forces were led to Zhang Jiao (called Zhang Jue in some translations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms). His two brothers, Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao, served as his lieutenants. The two of them had earlier founded a Taoist sect in Shandong Province and were healers by profession. The two generally assisted patients who were too poor to pay for medical services. Once they saw how little the Han government cared for the lower classes and how heavily they were taxes, they joined Zhang Jiao in preparing to overthrown the corrupt system.
Zhang Jiao claimed that the deity Huang-lao had given him a book, the Crucial Keys to the Way of Peace. This sacred book supposedly made Zhang Jiao a sorcerer and his Taoist sect the one true sect that could lead China to prosperity. Because the three Zhang brothers worked as healers, they were easily able to spread the message of their sect and its goals of equal rights and equal land distribution via their many patients.
While the three were trained in medicine, Zhang Jiao claimed to use Taoism to cure the ill. He did this through confession of sins and faith healing, although there is no evidence that his methods actually worked. Also according to Zhang Jiao’s religious beliefs, the sky was going to turn yellow when the new world cycle began. This yellow sky would indicate that the Han dynasty’s rule would come to an end. This inspired the yellow headbands worn by most of the rebel soldiers.
The Battles of the Yellow Turban Rebellion
The rebel forces were divided into three main groups: Zhang Jiao and his brothers commanded the northern army that was stationed near the Yellow River and the territory of Julu. The second army was based in the You province near what is today Beijing. The final third uprising took place in the commanderies of Nanyang, Runan, and Yingchuan. While the forces originally were going to work together with the Luoyang insurgents, after they were captured, the plans to take the capital fell through.
Emperor Ling was at first more concerned with finding the Luoyang traitors and executing them than with putting down the rebel forces, but after several months, he shifted the army’s focus to defeating Zhang Jiao. He sent out three armies, one to battle Zhang Jiao’s forces and two to take down the rebels in Yingchaung, Nanyang, and Runan. The armies recruited as many soldiers as they could while traveling, and the men from nearby provinces were often pressed into the military. Despite this, the battles in the three commanderies were quite fierce, and rarely did one side gain the upper hand for long. However, this changed during the third month of the year.
At that point, Yellow Turban commander Zhang Mancheng killed the Grand Administrator of Nanyang. A month later, the imperial force commanded by Zhu Jun was defeated in Yingchuan. Soon after that, the Grand Administrator of Runan was killed, leaving the three commanderies without three important officials.
The Yellow Turbans then began moving into Shandong and Henan provinces. In response, the emperor called upon many more men to join the military. One of these was Liu Bei, a man who would become a major player in the Three Kingdoms period. The imperials faced a force of over 360,000 rebels. With many of his key officers defeated, the emperor placed his brother-in-law, He Jin, in command of the army.
Fighting continued for several months until, in the middle of the year, the imperial armies defeated the rebel forces in Runan. The army began pressing the rebel forces near the Yellow River and around Nanyang. Zhang Mancheng was killed, and while the imperial forces won several key battles, the rebels claimed Wan city.
Near midwinter, the imperial forces finally reclaimed Wan city, and in 185, most of the rebel forces were scattered and defeated. Zhang Jiao and his brothers had all been killed, and the government declared the rebellion destroyed in the second month of 185.
However, two months later, the rebellion forces launched another attack, and by 186, they had reached Shaanxi, Liaoning, and Hebei provinces. By 188, they had forces in the Shanxi province. That year also saw a rebellion launched in Sichuan, although it was not a part of the Yellow Turban Rebellion.
With the imperial forces dealing with two rebellions and natural disasters, they were quite weak. In early 189, rebel forces drew near Luoyang. While imperial forces in the south scored several victories, the rebel forces continued to threaten the capital. In 192, another important Three Kingdoms figure, Cao Cao, defeated rebel forces near Yanzhou. This was the first of several key victories by Cao Cao that eventually allowed the imperials to defeat the rebellion in 206.
Impact of the Yellow Turban Rebellion
While the imperial army defeated the rebellion, their victory came at quite a high cost. Many government offices were destroyed, high ranking officials had been killed, and transportation routes were completely destroyed. Many innocent people were dead or left homeless, and the economy, already weakened by famine and flood, was devastated. The countryside was controlled by bandits, and the imperial forces no longer had the manpower to stop them. The government needed years to regroup, but they would not be given this time.
Power in many of the provinces began to shift away from the Han and more towards local administrators. In 189, after the death of Emperor Ling, the eunuchs and He Jin, a powerful court member, battled for control of the throne. He Jin was killed, and in retaliation, those loyal to him burned the palace and killed as many eunuchs as possible. Warlord Dong Zhuo finally gained power by controlling the child emperor, but he would be assassinated in 192. This would lead to the fall of the Han and the rise of Cao Cao. The Three Kingdoms period began in 220 after the Han dynasty fell.
The Yuan dynasty was founded by Kublai Khan after his Mongol forces defeated the Song dynasty in 1271. Although the Yuan ruled as emperors, the entire empire was considered a khanate of the Mongols. Kublai Khan used the title Great Khan, and since the Yuan empire was a khanate, he technically outranked the emperor.
In 1259, Mongke Khan, Kublai Khan’s brother, died. Kublai Khan was, at the time, battling the Song dynasty in Southern China. The two had one other brother, Ariq Boke, who was stationed in the Mongol capital. After Mongke Khan died, Ariq Boke made a grab for power. However, word reached Kublai Khan, and he immediately halted his invasion of China to return home. He also claimed the title of Great Khan, although Ariq Boke also claimed the title. The two forces clashed for several years until, finally, Ariq Boke was captured in 1264. Despite this, Kublai Khan was not recognized as the Great Khan by the Golden Horde or the Chagatai Khanate. He would have to deal with these various factions for quite some time.
Even though he had been forced to cut his campaign short, Kublai Khan’s forces still controlled China, and he held power even after Kublai Khan withdrew. To celebrate his victory and to distance himself from some of the other Mongol factions, Kublai Khan built a new capital at Beijing. Called Khanbalikh, or City of the Khans, by the Turks, he would found his Yuan dynasty there in 1271. This was the first dynasty of non-Han origin to rule a unified China.
The Southern Song dynasty still existed at this point, something that Kublai did not approve of. He began pushing them farther and farther south. In 1273, his navy formed a blockade on the Yangzi River and laid siege to Xiangyang. His forces continued their march, and by 1276, most of the Song lands were under the Yuan rule. The end of the Southern Song dynasty came in 1279 when Yuan forces defeated them at the Battle of Yamen.
After creating the Yuan dynasty, many pressured Kublai Khan into establishing other tributaries. However, his attempts in Japan, Vietnam, and Myanmar were all failures.
Kublai Khan’s Rule of the Dynasty
Kublai Khan did not hate the Chinese. In fact, unlike many conquerors, he actually tried to gain the support of the people by passing a number of reforms. These reforms were quite thorough and took decades to be fully realized. He centralized the Chinese government and declared himself absolute monarch. While he listened to the Han Chinese advisors, he never fully relied on their advice, and he placed Mongols in all of the important positions. If a Mongol could, for whatever reason, not be placed in a position of power, a non-Han Chinese was often chosen. This led to four different social classes: the Mongols, the Hans, the Southerners (Hans who were not affiliated with the Southern Song dynasty), and the Color-eyed, or people from Central Asia.
Kublai Khan overhauled the tax system as well, working to make the laboring class somewhat more comfortable. He even set up tax break programs during hard times, built public granaries for food shortages, and distributed food to the poor. However, he did spend much on building his summer palace at Shangdu. This capital would later be called Xanadu by Marco Polo and was so luxurious that Samuel Taylor Coleridge would later write about it in his poem “Kublai Khan.”
Like the previous dynasty, the Yuan used paper money called Chao that was made from mulberry bark. While the Southern Song had used paper money, it was the Yuan who truly made it the primary means of buying and selling.
Because he was not recognized as Great Khan by some of the Mongols, Kublai Khan developed a great interest in China. The three other khanates, in fact, operated on their own with no need or desire for Kublai Khan’s input. When Kublai Khan died in 1294, the Mongol Empire was already operating as four different khanates (including the Yuan).
Rulers Following Kublai Khan
Following Kublai Khan’s reign, the line of succession was in question. While Kublai had named his son Zhenjin as his heir, he died before Kublai Khan did. Zhenjin’s son took the throne as Emperor Chengzong for ten years, and he carried on many of the projects his grandfather had started. Rather than conquering his neighbors, however, Chengzong made peace with many of them, including the other khanates. Despite this, though, his reign is recognized as the start of the corruption of the Yuan.
Wuzong took the throne upon Chengzong’s death. Instead of continuing Kublai Khan’s work, however, he attempted to undo much of it. He only reigned for four years (1307 – 1311), but during this time, he managed to nearly bankrupt the royal treasury. After his death, the empire was greatly in debt. His successor, Renzong, is recorded as a competent ruler. He embraced Chinese culture, much to the disappointment of the Mongol elite, and worked to reform the Yuan Empire. He reintroduced the civil service exams in 1313 and set down a codified law system.
Fall of the Yuan Dynasty
While Kublai Khan’s reign was marked by luxuries, the end of the Yuan dynasty was a time of famine and unrest. Most lower classes were quite bitter at the government, especially following the bankruptcy of the treasury. Kublai Khan’s dynasty would become one of the shortest in Chinese history, enduring for less than a hundred years.
By the mid-1300s, the Yuan rulers had no influence in any of the other three khanates, and the Mongol Empire was effectively dead. It wasn’t long after this that the Yuan even began losing their influence in China, and none of the later emperors reigned for very long or was very noteworthy. At best, they simply tried to maintain the status quo; at worst, they had no interest in politics and left their advisors to run the empire. With no support from any quarter, these emperors lost more and more power. The population was restless, and the military was weakened to the point that it couldn’t even protect the outlying cities from bandits and outlaws.
Emperor Yingzong, who ruled for only two years (1321-1323) was overthrown and replaced by Yesun Temur. However, he did not provide the change the people wanted, and he was deposed in 1328. Tugh Temur was then placed on the throne in the northern capital, while Yesun Temur’s song Ragibagh took the throne in Shangdu, splitting the country. Civil war broke out. In 1329, Tugh Temur defeated Ragibagh’s forces and reunited the empire. However, rather than rule, he abdicated in favor of Kusala, his brother. Much to the empire’s shock, however, Kusala would die four days later while dining with Tugh Temur. Many believe Tugh Temur poisoned his brother, especially since he immediately reclaimed the throne.
Tugh Temur attempted to reclaim the Mongol khanates, and he sent envoys to them bearing gifts. Surprisingly, the western khanates accepted these gifts and sent tribute to the Yuan. However, this tribute was mostly simply for show, and the three khanates continued to rule themselves. Rather than being remembered as the man who reunited the Mongol Empire, Tugh Temur is mostly known for his cultural achievements, including having an encyclopedia compiled.
After Tugh Temur died in 1332, he was succeeded by Emperor Ningzong, who would rule for less than a year. Following this, Toghun Temur, who was only 13, was named Emperor Huizong. He was the last of Kublai Khan’s successors. One of his most powerful allies was Bayan. However, as Toghun Temur matured, he began to disfavor Bayan, and in 1340, he banished the official.
Toghun Temur was now the head of an empire beset with natural disasters and, in 1351, a rebellion. The Red Turban Rebellion quickly spread across the empire. Toghun Temor attempted to defeat the rebel forces, but his chances of victory greatly diminished when, in 1354, he dismissed his top general because he feared the general would betray him. This left him relying on local warlords and other smaller forces to put down the rebellion.
After losing interest in politics and handing much of his power over to other officials, Toghun Temor moved his court from Beijing to Shangdu in 1368. He was afraid his southern capital was too close to the borders of the southern Ming dynasty. He was correct—the Ming launched a campaign into the Yuan lands, took Beijing, and, in 1370, conquered all of the empire, ending the Yuan dynasty.
Legacy of the Yuan
Culture was greatly diversified in the Yuan dynasty, resulting in many new social developments. Because of their connections with the West and the other khanates, trade flourished. This led to more than just an exchange of goods—many new cultural concepts were brought into China as well.
Literature and the arts expanded. The novel, especially dramatic novels, was written in the vernacular and could be enjoyed by all, not just the elite. Western-style musical instruments gave Chinese musicians new ideas for symphonies and concerts. Religion-wise, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Islam were all popular, and Roman Catholicism was introduced to China.
The sciences were not forgotten, either. Advances in geography, cartography, printing techniques, porcelain, and glass blowing all occurred during this time. Scientific education rose, as well, and many Chinese production techniques were shared with the Western world, including Europe.
The Yuan rulers worked to use these scientific advancements for the better of their empire. They build many public roads, set up systems of communication, and put in place granaries to handle food shortages. Beijing became the center of the empire, and the Grand Canal was renovated so that it ended in the city.
It was during the Yuan dynasty that the first Europeans traveled to and from China. The most famous of these Europeans was Marco Polo. He wrote in his book Il milione of Kublai Khan’s luxurious capital and of the daily life of the Chinese.
Debate over the Yuan
While many, including the current government and the governments of a good number of other dynasties, see the Yuan dynasty as a legitimate Chinese dynasty, there are some who see it differently. Because it was established and controlled by the Mongols, they see it as a time of foreign rule over China. The Han were mostly regulated to second-class citizens, and while advances were made in the arts and sciences, they were not as great as those of other dynasties.
The Northern Yuan
Following the fall of the dynasty, some Yuan returned to Mongolia. There, the Yuan dynasty continued, although it was renamed the Northern Yuan. Because the Mandate of Heaven stated that only one ruler could have the blessing of Heaven, the Northern Yuan and the Ming both claimed the other did not have the right to the title of Emperor of China. Historically, the Ming dynasty is seen as the legitimate dynasty of the time despite the fact that the Northern Yuan claimed to be rulers in exile.
The Ming attempted to destroy the Northern Yuan in 1372, but they
were defeated by a combined Yuan-Mongol army. They would try again in
1380, and they soundly defeated the Northern Yuan in 1388. At this
point, Yesuder, who was not a descendant of Kublai Khan, claimed the
throne of the Northern Yuan, but he had little power. The dynasty would
continue with weak rulers until 1402 when Orug Temur Khan would do away
with the name Yuan. In 1634, the last of the khans died while traveling
to Tibet. The Mongols were, at the time, fighting with the Manchu.
The khan’s son, rather then battle, surrendered to the Manchu and gave
their ruler the great seal of the Yuan Emperor. The Manchu ruler, Hong
Taiji, then founded the Qing dynasty, the true successor dynasty of the
The third dynasty in Chinese history was the Zhou dynasty. It took place between 1122BC and 256 BC, following the Shang dynasty. The Zhou dynasty is broken up into Eastern and Western Zhou and is often considered the height of the Chinese bronze age (iron was introduced during the Zhou dynasty). Writing evolved and began to take on some modern patterns and styles. Much of the foundation for Chinese philosophy was laid during this time, with two of the greatest Chinese philosophers, Confucius and Laozi, living during this time. The founder of Mohism, Mozi, also lived during the Zhou dynasty, as did Han Feizi, founder of Legalism.
Eastern and Western Zhou
During the early Zhou period, the Ji family was firmly in control of their empire. However, in 771 BC, King You decided to replace his queen with his concubine. This led to the queen’s father, the Marquees of Shen, and his allies, the Quanrong, to attack and destroy the capital city. The queen’s son was then named the king by the Marquess and the aristocrats of the Zheng, Lu, and Qin states. The Zhou and the Shang shared much, including their language and many aspects of their cultures. However, the Zhou empire reached much farther than the Shang.
The Zhou capital was moved to Luoyang in the east in 722 BC, creating the Eastern Zhou empire. It would last until 256 BC. The Western Zhou empire lasted until 771 BC. No one is quite sure when it began—some historians say it was between 1120 and 1020, although 841 BC is the date the Records of the Grand Historian give.
The Eastern Zhou can be further divided into two different subperiods: the Spring and Autumn period (722 to 481 BC) and the Warring States Period (403 to 221 BC). The Warring States period end date is generally given as 221 BC rather than 256 BC, the end of the Zhou dynasty. This is to account for the 30 years between the Zhou and the next dynasty, the Qin dynasty. The Eastern Zhou period is also sometimes called the Hundred Schools period because it was the time during which many different schools of thought emerged. Legalism, Daoism, Mohism, and the Ru all brought about social, political, and philosophical shifts in thinking that were, in part, the reason the Zhou dynasty ended.
The Mandate of Heaven
After defeating the Shang, the Zhou shifted their tradition of ancestor worship to worshipping the Di, the Supreme God, and heaven. To make their rule and their conquest legitimate, they declared that the Mandate of Heaven gave their emperors the divine right to rule and conquer other cultures. However, the Mandate also stated that rulers would lose their throne if they lost the Mandate of Heaven. Natural disasters, uprisings, and other signs could be interpreted as a ruler losing the Mandate of Heaven. The Shang rulers, the conquering Zhou declared, had lost this right to rule.
The Military of the Zhou
In Western Zhou, the military was fairly strong. The forces were split into two sections called the “Six Armies of the West” and the “Eight Armies of Chengzhou.” These two forces spent most of their time in the north Loess Plateau, the Huanghe flood plains, and the area currently called Ningxia. They were at their most powerful during the reign of King Zhao. However, the king and the Six Armies of the West were obliterated while battling enemy forces near the Han River.
The kings of Zhou, especially the early kings, led their forces into battle themselves. They fought many different battles against barbarians and other non-Zhou forces. Their wars were waged in all directions around them. During the Zhou dynasty, chariots took a more prominent place on the battlefield. No longer were they simply used by the upper class as mobile command units as they were during the Shang dynasty. Instead, the Zhou used them as infantry and quick battle units.
The earlier kings like Zhou Zhaowang and Zhou Muwang were much more successful than the later Zhou rulers, perhaps because the forces they were battling began assimilating Zhou technology and tactics.
Feudalism During the Zhou Dynasty
Western Zhou is often compared to the feudal system of Europe because the style of the early Zhou rulers was similar to that of medieval kings. However, some historians prefer to use the Chinese term fengjian, which describes a political system of centralized city-states. These city-states implemented a number of economic and political systems while gave more control to local governments and established a system of taxes. It’s interesting to note that Zhou civil servants were not paid a regular salary. Instead, the king awarded them gifts on a regular basis. These gifts included land, money, and resources.
Zhou Dynasty Agriculture
The Zhou dynasty was marked by very intense agricultural achievements that were often under the direction of the government. The aristocrats owned the land, but, like medieval Europe, their serfs worked it. Often, land was divided into nine equal squares. The government took the crops from the middle square, while the crops from the other eight were kept by the serfs and the nobles who owned the land. This allowed the government to create a food reserve that could be distributed during a famine or flood.
The working of bronze increased during the Zhou times, and many weapons and new farm implements were created out of the metal. Like farming, the furnaces and blacksmith shops were owned by the nobles and worked by the serfs.
Irrigation was also introduced to farming during the Zhou period. During the rule of King Zhuang, the government created an irrigation reservoir by damming a river. Later, an irrigation canal system was established that actually diverted the whole Zhang River, a major achievement at the time.
Decline of the Zhou Dynasty
During the end of the Zhou dynasty, the royal family became fragmented, and eventually, the Zhou kings were simply figureheads with the real governing power held by the nobles. In fact, during the last few decades, the nobles didn’t even recognize the Ji family as the rulers of the kingdom. In 256 BC, the Zhou dynasty came to an end with the death of the final Zhou king. While he had a number of heirs, none of them took the title of king because the noble families were simply too powerful to contend with.