The early Qing emperors adopted the bureaucratic structures and institutions from the preceding Ming dynasty but split rule between the Han and Manchus with some positions also given to Mongols. Like previous dynasties, the Qing recruited officials via the imperial examination system until the system was abolished in 1905. The Qing divided the positions into civil and military positions, each having nine grades or ranks, each subdivided into a and b categories. Civil appointments ranged from an attendant to the emperor or a Grand Secretary in the Forbidden City (highest) to being a prefectural tax collector, deputy jail warden, deputy police commissioner, or tax examiner. Military appointments ranged from being a field marshal or chamberlain of the imperial bodyguard to a third class sergeant, corporal or a first or second class private.
The formal structure of the Qing government centered on the Emperor as the absolute ruler, who presided over six Boards (Ministries[a]), each headed by two presidents[b] and assisted by four vice presidents.[c] In contrast to the Ming system, however, Qing ethnic policy dictated that appointments were split between Manchu noblemen and Han officials who had passed the highest levels of the state examinations. The Grand Secretariat,[d] which had been an important policy-making body under the Ming, lost its importance during the Qing and evolved into an imperial chancery. The institutions which had been inherited from the Ming formed the core of the Qing "Outer Court", which handled routine matters and was located in the southern part of the Forbidden City.
In order not to let the routine administration take over the running of the empire, the Qing emperors made sure that all important matters were decided in the "Inner Court", which was dominated by the imperial family and Manchu nobility and which was located in the northern part of the Forbidden City. The core institution of the inner court was the Grand Council.[e] It emerged in the 1720s under the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor as a body charged with handling Qing military campaigns against the Mongols, but soon took over other military and administrative duties, centralizing authority under the crown. The Grand Councillors[f] served as a sort of privy council to the emperor.
The Six Ministries and their respective areas of responsibilities were as follows:
Board of Civil Appointments[g]
Board of Revenue[h]
The Board also controlled the relief in the event of natural disasters and maintained a granary reserve of 18,250,000 shih of grain, the practice of private granaries was also protected and both private and state granaries were guarded by bannermen. In the event of disaster the Board would often cancel tax arrears or reduce the current taxes or even not collect taxes for a time, charitable works would also be organised such as orphanages, hospitals, poorhouses, widows and the shipwrecked.
The board recorded the total size of the empire to be 1,047,783,839 Mou of land of which 70% belonged to the people, 7.8% to the military who farmed it with soldiers, 1.9% by bannermen and Imperial Clansmen, 17% frontier land which could be claimed by any citizen, 0.58% as official land and 0.1% as scholars land. Most farms during the period were reported to be small and not exceeding several Mou in size.
There were two types of taxes, the land-poll tax and commodity taxes. In 1713 the Kangxi Emperor decided that the census of that year should be used for setting the poll tax to avoid tax dodging this census was still quoted in government figures in 1887 despite the rapid growth in population in the intervening 174 years. The Poll tax was eventually combined with the land tax in 1857 almost universally, only government, sacrificial and hunting land was exempt from this alongside canals and barracks. The magistrates who collexted taxes levied a 10% surcharge on the collection which was sanctioned by the Kangxi emperor in 1709 this was routinely abused however and peasants were exploited and charged higher surcharges with instances of a 50% surcharge. Despite the reputation of corruption within the Qing dynasty the collection of taxes was efficient and regular and the chief duty of Magistrates was to collect taxes and this was done twice annually in Spring and Autumn with 2 months available for payment per period with an equal apportionment per collection. It was regular for taxes to be waived in poorer regions on an account of bad harvest as the continued collection would make the Emperor appear as a tyrant. Taxes were collected per group of households 5 or 10 and each was summoned to pay taxes with records kept by the taxpayer, the magistrate and Beijing the burden of paying taxes was given to the payer though in the event of a failure to pay the Magistrate would hire professional collectors. However, there was no uniform tax rate and it varied considerably from over 2.9 taels per mou in Hubei to 0.0002 in Gansu. Thus in 1887 on 1,047,783,839 mou of land the Board only collected 31,184,042 taels an average of 0.31 per Mou a very low rate of taxation.
Board of Rites[i]
Board of War[j]
The Board contained 4 Bureaus
The Bureau of Military section which handled the appointment and dismissal of officials as well as their ranks titles and organisation of army Corps.
The Bureau of Statistics for the rewarding/punishment of officials and for the investigation of officials, defense, policing and issuing passports for those leaving the country and enforcing regulations.
The Bureau of Communications which managed the supply of horses and the relay communication system.
The Comissariat Bureau which handled the records of servicemen, the recruitment of officers from the examinations as well as the supply of ammunition and uniforms.
The division of the Board into 4 Bureaus did not follow a scientific process and it was confused and unsatisfactory.
Like many organisations in the Qing government appointments based on racial background were made. Certain positions could only be held by Bannermen, others namely in the provincial forces were exclusively Chinese, Guard posts for rivers and canals were also exclusively Chinese where as Gate posts for city gates were exclusively held by Chinese bannermen, though this exclusivity was not always present many of the Bannermen were given concurrent appointments holding multiple offices that did not give them work but gave them a title. Only the Zenone or Tartar-General (the commander of a Province's forces) were not given concurrent appointments.
The Confused organisation of troops led to severe organisational and command issues and led to a lack of standardisation. The Provincial commander in chief would command a couple thousand men in Canton as would the Governor of Guangdong and the Viceroy of Liangguang, each would maintain their own distinct forces. The Viceroy could technically command the other 2 being a higher ranked official but the Governor could also command the Provincial commander in chief simultaneously the Provincial commander in chief was the Supreme Military official of the Province, however other Circuits did not have to heed the orders of the Provincial commander in chief as his control was indirect thus in a province there was no singular military official.
Board of Punishments[k]
Board of Works[l]
From the early Qing, the central government was characterized by a system of dual appointments by which each position in the central government had a Manchu and a Han Chinese assigned to it. The Han Chinese appointee was required to do the substantive work and the Manchu to ensure Han loyalty to Qing rule.
In addition to the six boards, there was a Lifan Yuan[m] unique to the Qing government. This institution was established to supervise the administration of Tibet and the Mongol lands. As the empire expanded, it took over administrative responsibility of all minority ethnic groups living in and around the empire, including early contacts with Russia – then seen as a tribute nation. The office had the status of a full ministry and was headed by officials of equal rank. However, appointees were at first restricted only to candidates of Manchu and Mongol ethnicity, until later open to Han Chinese as well.
Even though the Board of Rites and Lifan Yuan performed some duties of a foreign office, they fell short of developing into a professional foreign service. It was not until 1861 – a year after losing the Second Opium War to the Anglo-French coalition – that the Qing government bowed to foreign pressure and created a proper foreign affairs office known as the Zongli Yamen. The office was originally intended to be temporary and was staffed by officials seconded from the Grand Council. However, as dealings with foreigners became increasingly complicated and frequent, the office grew in size and importance, aided by revenue from customs duties which came under its direct jurisdiction.
There was also another government institution called Imperial Household Department which was unique to the Qing dynasty. It was established before the fall of the Ming, but it became mature only after 1661, following the death of the Shunzhi Emperor and the accession of his son, the Kangxi Emperor. The department's original purpose was to manage the internal affairs of the imperial family and the activities of the inner palace (in which tasks it largely replaced eunuchs). Additionally, it also played an important role in managing the relations between the imperial court and the regions of Tibet and Mongolia, both of which were under Qing rule; engaged in trading activities (jade, ginseng, salt, furs, etc.); managed textile factories in the Jiangnan region; and even published books. Relations with the Salt Superintendents and salt merchants, such as those at Yangzhou, were particularly lucrative, especially since they were direct, and did not go through absorptive layers of bureaucracy. The department was manned by booi,[n] or "bondservants," from the Upper Three Banners. By the 19th century, it managed the activities of at least 56 subagencies.
Further information: Administration of territory in dynastic China § Qing dynasty (1636–1912), and Qing dynasty in Inner Asia
Qing China reached its largest territorial extent during the 18th century, when it ruled over China proper (Eighteen Provinces), Manchuria (Northeast China and Russian Manchuria), Mongolia (Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia), Xinjiang, Taiwan, and Tibet, at approximately 13 million km2 in size. There were originally 18 provinces, all of which in China proper, but later this number was increased to 22, with Manchuria and Xinjiang being divided or turned into regular provinces. Taiwan, originally part of Fujian province, became a province of its own in the 19th century, but was ceded to the Empire of Japan following the First Sino-Japanese War by the end of the century. In addition, many surrounding countries, such as the Joseon dynasty, the Later Lê dynasty, the Tây Sơn dynasty, the Nguyễn dynasty, the Ryukyu Kingdom, and the Katoor dynasty,[full citation needed] among many others, were tributary states of Qing China. During the Qing dynasty, the Chinese claimed suzerainty over the Taghdumbash Pamir in the south-west of Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County but permitted the Mir of Hunza to administer the region in return for tribute. Until 1937 the inhabitants paid tribute to the Mir of Hunza, who exercised control over the pastures. The Khanate of Kokand were forced to submit as protectorate and pay tribute to the Qing China between 1774 and 1798.
There were 18 provinces in the early Qing dynasty later joined by 3 in Manchuria, Taiwan and Xinjiang. Amongst the original 18 orovinces there were 8 Viceroys, 18 Governors, 19 Finance commissioners, 18 Judicial Commissioners, 92 Circuit-intendants, 185 prefects, 41 First-class Independent sub-prefects and 72 of the second class and 1,554 Magistrates. These 2,000 officials formed the Zhengyin or principal officials, the other officials were known as the accessory officials (Zuo er) who were appointed to assist the Principal such as an assistant prefect. The accessory officials could carry out all the functions of the principal they were seconded to except to hear a case and listen to litigants. There were 3,138 accessory officials in the provinces.
Viceroys, Governors and Financial/Judicial Commissioners were directly appointed by the Emperor with lower ranks either recommended to the Emperor, sent by the Board of Civil appointments or appointed direcrly by the Provincial authorities above them. A Viceroy would hold many ranks ex-officio such as Junior censor-general and minister of war with a Governor being a Junior associate censor-General and vice-minister of war. The Viceroys of Zhili and Liangjiang were also Ministers of Beiyang and Nanyang respectively. The reason for the consolidation of titles was to give the Viceroys and Governors the necessary powers to consolidate necessary authority in one man and to allow for general co-ordination to occur the appointment as minister allowed them to bypass official regulation and directly address the Emperor, their status as a censor-general allowed them to report on conditions outside of their domain something they could not do without being a censor. Theoretically, a Viceroy was half a rank above the Governor but with many Viceroys and Governors residing within the same city struggles between them were common for influence and control and often one would be transferred elsewhere this system of joint residence was a part of the inherent checks and balances placed within the administration by the Qing dynasty as those residing within the same city needed to present joint signatures on documents and often where both resided within the same city one would be Manchu and the other Chinese. However, as the dynasty progressed many Viceroys became concurrent governors of the city they resided within.
Viceroys and Governors increasingly attempted to centralise their powers and reduce Central Government oversight towards the end of the dynasty though they still remained easily dismissable according to the Imperial will even Li Hongzhang the most powerful Viceroy and Viceroy of Zhili the region most immediate to the capital was dismissed following his failure in the First Sino-Japanese war. It was also common for officials to be rotated every 3 years as per the law of avoidance to avoid regional ties between officials and the regions they governed.
The Qing organization of provinces was based on the fifteen administrative units set up by the Ming dynasty, later made into eighteen provinces by splitting for example, Huguang into Hubei and Hunan provinces. The provincial bureaucracy continued the Yuan and Ming practice of three parallel lines, civil, military, and censorate, or surveillance. Each province was administered by a governor (巡撫, xunfu) and a provincial military commander (提督, Provincial commander in chief). Below the province were prefectures (府, fu) operating under a prefect (知府, zhīfǔ), followed by subprefectures under a subprefect. The lowest unit was the county, overseen by a county magistrate. The eighteen provinces are also known as "China proper". The position of viceroy or governor-general (總督, zongdu) was the highest rank in the provincial administration. There were eight regional viceroys in China proper, each usually took charge of two or three provinces. The Viceroy of Zhili, who was responsible for the area surrounding the capital Beijing, is usually considered as the most honorable and powerful viceroy among the eight.
By the mid-18th century, the Qing had successfully put outer regions such as Inner and Outer Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang under its control. Imperial commissioners and garrisons were sent to Mongolia and Tibet to oversee their affairs. These territories were also under supervision of a central government institution called Lifan Yuan. Qinghai was also put under direct control of the Qing court. Xinjiang, also known as Chinese Turkestan, was subdivided into the regions north and south of the Tian Shan mountains, also known today as Dzungaria and Tarim Basin respectively, but the post of Ili General was established in 1762 to exercise unified military and administrative jurisdiction over both regions. Dzungaria was fully opened to Han migration by the Qianlong Emperor from the beginning. Han migrants were at first forbidden from permanently settling in the Tarim Basin but were the ban was lifted after the invasion by Jahangir Khoja in the 1820s. Likewise, Manchuria was also governed by military generals until its division into provinces, though some areas of Xinjiang and Northeast China were lost to the Russian Empire in the mid-19th century. Manchuria was originally separated from China proper by the Inner Willow Palisade, a ditch and embankment planted with willows intended to restrict the movement of the Han Chinese, as the area was off-limits to civilian Han Chinese until the government started colonizing the area, especially since the 1860s.
With respect to these outer regions, the Qing maintained imperial control, with the emperor acting as Mongol khan, patron of Tibetan Buddhism and protector of Muslims. However, Qing policy changed with the establishment of Xinjiang province in 1884. During The Great Game era, taking advantage of the Dungan revolt in northwest China, Yaqub Beg invaded Xinjiang from Central Asia with support from the British Empire, and made himself the ruler of the kingdom of Kashgaria. The Qing court sent forces to defeat Yaqub Beg and Xinjiang was reconquered, and then the political system of China proper was formally applied onto Xinjiang. The Kumul Khanate, which was incorporated into the Qing empire as a vassal after helping Qing defeat the Zunghars in 1757, maintained its status after Xinjiang turned into a province through the end of the dynasty in the Xinhai Revolution up until 1930. In the early 20th century, Britain sent an expedition force to Tibet and forced Tibetans to sign a treaty. The Qing court responded by asserting Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, resulting in the 1906 Anglo-Chinese Convention signed between Britain and China. The British agreed not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet, while China engaged not to permit any other foreign state to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet. Furthermore, similar to Xinjiang which was converted into a province earlier, the Qing government also turned Manchuria into three provinces in the early 20th century, officially known as the "Three Northeast Provinces", and established the post of Viceroy of the Three Northeast Provinces to oversee these provinces, making the total number of regional viceroys to nine.