Qing Dynasty: Facts, Timeline & Emperors

Instructor: Margaret Moran
The last Chinese dynasty only came to an end about one hundred years ago. This lesson will discuss the rise and fall of the Qing Dynasty and its ruling emperors.

The Last Dynasty

China's Qing Dynasty might never have ruled China had it not been for a Ming Dynasty general who opened the Shanhai pass to Qing armies in 1644. It took the Qing until 1683 to conquer all of China, but that opening allowed the Qing Dynasty to conquer the Ming capital.

The Qing Dynasty was China's last great empire, ruling over the country from 1644 until it ended in 1912. The Qing's emperors ultimately ruled an area that was over 5 million square miles - or the size of the continental United States, Mexico, and all of Central America combined!

The Qing Dynasty ruled over 5 million square miles in the 18th century.

Birth of a Dynasty

The Qing Dynasty was established in 1636 in Manchuria, where the Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan solidified into a unified military unit, and renamed itself the Manchu clan.

In 1636, the clan started to push against the ruling Ming Dynasty forces in Liaodong, and declared the birth of the Qing Dynasty. Their fight was helped in an unusual way in 1644, when a group of peasant Ming rebels attacked Beijing, the capital of the Ming dynasty.

Instead of surrendering to the rebels, a Ming general posted at the Great Wall, Wu Sangui, formed an alliance with the Qing Dynasty and opened the Shanhai Pass for Qing armies. The rebels were forced out, and the capital was seized by the Qing.

On October 30, 1644, Emperor Shunzhi claimed the ''Mandate of Heaven'' for the Qing Dynasty. He had been crowned in 1643 at the age of five! The Qing Dynasty would eventually see a total of nine emperors.

In 1650, after his regent died, Shunzhi took over for himself until his death in 1661 at age 24. Although his rule was short, he was able to establish the Qing's rule over the entire Chinese Empire.

Qing Golden Age

After Shunhzi's death, Emperor Kangxi ruled from 1661-1722, beginning the Qing Golden Age. His 61-year rule solidified the power of the Qing dynasty and was a time of improvements. These improvements included stabilizing the flow of the Yellow River, which virtually eliminated flooding in the northern region, as well as repairing the Grand Canal, which facilitated the transport of rice from south to north.

Kangxi was interested in the world beyond his empire and actively sought to bring the Western world to China. He lessened restrictions on coastal trade and even opened four different ports to foreign traders. These foreign buyers traded silver for Chinese goods such as tea and silk. This increase in trade led to industrial growth throughout the regions.

Kangzi believed in a solid education, so he commissioned a dictionary of Chinese characters and a general encyclopedia. His desire to further his own knowledge led him to hire Jesuit priests as personal tutors. Amazingly, this acceptance of Western religious doctrine even led Kangxi to build a Christian church in Beijing!

Emperor Kangxi (1661-1722) saw 61 years of rule, and the start of the Golden Age for the Dynasty.

Emperor Yongzhen took power in 1723 and ruled until 1735. Emperor Yongzheng is not very well-known, although he did maintain his father's growing nation.

His son Emperor Qianlong ruled China from 1735-1796, and had a 61-year reign like his grandfather. His rule was prosperous and saw the population of the empire grow to almost 300 million people, as well as add both Tibet and Xianjiang province to its territory. Unfortunately, in the later years of his rule, the emperor became more interested in luxuries and began appointing corrupt officials who ended up stealing almost half of the nation's treasury. This financial loss, as well as the devastating costs of several wars, harmed both the stability and public image of the dynasty.

Western Influence

The 1800s began with strict governmental control over Western influences, including technology and science. The inability of the Qing dynasty to accept modern advancement saw Emperor Jiaqing have a stable but slow growth to the nation, but the dynasty had begun to decline. The government could not adapt quickly enough to the changing world and saw numerous uprisings.

These difficulties with the West would taint the rule of Emperor Daoguang. During his rule, China had its first war involving a Western European country. Britain, during the early 19th century, had begun forcing the Qing Dynasty to give them trading cities along the coast. The Qing, however, did not want this influence from the West - or the opium it brought. British forces twice defeated China in the ''Opium Wars'' of 1838 and 1854. Britain gained Hong Kong under the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, and would hold it until 1997.

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