As a Manchu-led imperial dynasty of China and the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history, the legacy of the Qing dynasty has been significant and enduring. It is generally agreed that the Qing dynasty had major impact in China, laying the foundation for the modern Chinese state as a geographic and ethnic entity.[1] Additionally, it had varying degrees of influence in surrounding countries (such as Russia and Mongolia) and other parts of the world.


The Qing dynasty in 1911

The Qing dynasty (1644-1912) was the largest political entity ever to center itself on China as known today. Succeeding the Ming dynasty, the Qing dynasty more than doubled the geographical extent of the Ming dynasty, which it displayed in 1644, and also tripled the Ming population, reaching a size of about half a billion people in its last years. The vast majority of its large territory, together with its immense and expanding population as well as the associated problems, would be bequeathed to its successor states, the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China. For the Qing was many things, but the closing chapter of the 2000-year history of imperial China was one of them.[2]

During the Ming dynasty the name "China" (中華; 中國) was generally understood to refer to the political realm of the Han Chinese, and this understanding persisted among the Han Chinese into the early Qing dynasty, and the understanding was also shared by Aisin Gioro rulers before the Ming-Qing transition. The Qing dynasty, however, "came to refer to their more expansive empire not only as the Great Qing but also, nearly interchangeably, as China" within a few decades of this development. Instead of the earlier (Ming) idea of an ethnic Han Chinese state, this new Qing China was a "self-consciously multi-ethnic state". Han Chinese scholars had some time to adapt this, but by the 19th century, the notion of China as a multinational state with new, significantly extended borders had become the standard terminology for Han Chinese writers. William T. Rowe noted that "these were the origins of the China we know today".[3]

The immediate roots of the modern political term Zhonghua minzu (lit. 'Chinese nation') also lie in the Qing dynasty founded by the Manchus.[4] While the dynasty assembled the territorial base for modern China, the 1727 Treaty of Kyakhta established the northern border of Mongolia (what was then part of the Qing-Russian border). Although the dynasty reached its peak during the High Qing era, it later ceded regions like Outer Manchuria (to Russia) and Taiwan (to Japan) following the Opium Wars and the First Sino-Japanese War. With the outbreak of the 1911 Revolution and the fall of the Qing dynasty, the Republic of China promoted the Five Races Under One Union principle, but the Mongols in Outer Mongolia declared their independence and established the Bogd Khanate of Mongolia in December 1911. Actual independence from the Republic of China was also achieved in 1921, and Mongolia (as a satellite state of the Soviet Union) joined the United Nations in 1961. Otherwise China kept its territory basically intact as the Qing dynasty was transformed into a modern Chinese nation state.[5]


The Confucian concept of the dynastic cycle was used by traditional Chinese historiography to organize China's past in terms of consecutive ruling houses that arose and collapsed. However, by the second half of the 20th century, Confucian historiography had lost favor at least in the west. Rather, John King Fairbank of Harvard University, a historian who is essentially credited with founding modern Chinese history in the United States, steadfastly maintained a perspective that split the history of China's past half millennium around 1842. All that fell before remained part of "traditional China", and with the Western "shock" of the First Opium War and the resulting Treaty of Nanking, "modern China" was born. In contemporary China there is also a similar view for such a division.[6]

A popular position among many Chinese writers and scholars since the fall of the Qing has been that its rulers and administrators were largely to blame for China's weakness during the century of humiliation. However, other scholars have emphasized various positive aspects of the Qing dynasty, such as the economy prior to the Opium Wars, and a more favorable view has also emerged in popular culture. In the 21st century, scholars like American historian Peter C. Perdue has characterized the Qing as a colonial empire in the same league as the great powers of New Imperialism, in reaction to a traditionalist and nationalist views that reject the comparison of the imperial Chinese system with European-style colonialism.[7] Instead, nationalists have often portrayed imperial China (also known as the Celestial Empire) as more or less benevolent, as well as stronger and more advanced than the West. Although officially anti-imperialist and anti-feudalism, China's present leaders have often played on this popular sentiment to proclaim that their current policies serve to restore China's historical glory.[8][9][10]

The New Qing History is a revisionist historiographical school that emerged during in the mid-1990s that emphasizes the particular Manchu character of the dynasty. Earlier historians had emphasized a pattern of Han sinicization of various conquerors. In the 1980s and early 1990s, American scholars began learning the Manchu language, taking advantage of archival holdings in this and other non-Chinese languages that had long been held in Taipei and Beijing but had previously attracted little scholarly attention.[11] In addition, a revitalized interest in the study of ethnicity led to new understanding of non-Han peoples within Chinese politics and society, also forming part of a broader rethinking of how the Chinese nation-state developed.[12] This research concluded that the Manchu rulers 'manipulated' their subjects through fostering a sense of Manchu identity, often adopting Central Asian models of rule as much as Confucian ones.[13] The most critical academic interest of New Qing historians has been to discover the Inner Asian dimension of Qing rule, to better incorporate the use of non-Han historical evidence, especially Manchu-language documents, and to pay additional attention to the greater trends in global history. Some argue that the Manchu rulers regarded Han China as merely a core part of a much wider empire that extended into Mongolia, Tibet, Manchuria and Xinjiang.[11] However, Mark Elliott, a prominent New Qing scholar, emphasizes he views the popular retort that New Qing History unduly separates the dynasty from China as a misunderstanding. Instead, it simply raises questions about the relationship between the two—with the concept of 'China' being fluid and multifaceted over time, not fixed; the school hopes to understand how the concept of 'China' evolved during the Qing dynasty, and does not attempt to argue that the Qing dynasty was not Chinese.[14]

Ping-ti Ho criticized this new approach for a perceived exaggeration of the dynasty's Manchu character, hewing towards the traditional position of sinicization,[15] while scholars like Zhao Gang and Zhong Han have argued from the evidence that the Qing dynasty self-identified as China.[16] Some Chinese scholars have accused the American group of scholars of projecting particular American conceptions of race and identity onto China in an unjustified manner. Others within China instead support these perspectives, seeing the scholarship as opening new vistas within the study of Qing history.[17] Inspired by New Qing History studies, the so-called "New Ming History" has emerged, which similarly attempts to draw attention to the Inner Asian characteristics of the preceding Ming dynasty.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Zhao 2006, p. 3.
  2. ^ Rowe (2009), pp. 1.
  3. ^ Rowe (2009), pp. 210–211.
  4. ^ "Nationality". Retrieved March 25, 2024.
  5. ^ Joseph Esherick, "Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World", Page 229.
  6. ^ Rowe (2009), pp. 2–3.
  7. ^ Perdue, Peter C. (1998). "Comparing Empires: Manchu Colonialism". The International History Review. 20 (2): 255–262. doi:10.1080/07075332.1998.9640822. Retrieved September 12, 2023.
  8. ^ Haiyang Yu, "Glorious memories of imperial China and the rise of Chinese populist nationalism." Journal of Contemporary China 23.90 (2014): 1174–1187.
  9. ^ Zhang Weiwei (2016). China Horizon, The: Glory And Dream Of A Civilizational State. World Scientific. p. 80. ISBN 978-1938134753. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  10. ^ Cheng Chen (2016). The Return of Ideology: The Search for Regime Identities in Postcommunist Russia and China. U of Michigan Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0472121991. Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  11. ^ a b Waley-Cohen (2004), pp. 194–197.
  12. ^ Elliott (2001b), pp. 70–71.
  13. ^ Rawski, Evelyn (1996). "Reenvisioning the Qing: The Significance of the Qing Period in Chinese History". Journal of Asian Studies. 55 (4): 829–850. doi:10.2307/2646525. JSTOR 2646525. S2CID 162388379.
  14. ^ Mark Elliott (Aug 28, 2013). 歐立德:新清史研究的影響與回應 [Elliott: The Influence and Response of New Qing History Studies] (Press release). Beijing.
  15. ^ Ping-ti Ho (1998). "In defense of Sinicization: A Rebuttal of Evelyn Rawski's 'Reenvisioning the Qing'". Journal of Asian Studies. 57 (1): 123–155. doi:10.1017/S0021911800022713. JSTOR 2659026. S2CID 162071050.
  16. ^ Wong (汪榮祖), Young-tsu (2021). "Zhong Han's Critique of the New Qing History". Journal of Chinese Humanities. 7 (1–2): 201–211. doi:10.1163/23521341-12340114. S2CID 245204710. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  17. ^ Ding, Yizhuang (2009). "Reflections on the "New Qing History" School in the United States". Chinese Studies in History. 43 (2): 92–96. doi:10.2753/CSH0009-4633430208. S2CID 161545950.
  18. ^ "Paul: The "New Qing History" is not over yet, is the "New Ming History" coming?". Retrieved September 16, 2023.