The Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911) was the last imperial dynasty in China. It was founded by the non-Chinese people of the Manchus who originally lived in the northeast, a region later called Manchuria.
The Manchus used the disintegration of the central government of the Ming empire 明 (1368-1644) to conquer China. They established a political system that successfully integrated the Chinese intellectuals into the administration of the empire. The Manchu people was organised militarily in the Eight Banners (baqi 八旗) and lived in "Manchu cities" in Beijing and most provincial capitals.
The early and high Qing emperors with the reign mottos Kangxi 康熙 (1662-1722), Yongzheng 雍正 (1723-1735) and Qianlong 乾隆 (1736-1795) were patrons of arts and literature. They also substantially expanded the territory of China by defeating the Oirats or Dzungars (Western Mongols) that had tried to establish an independent khanate in Central Asia, and by conquering the Uyghur city states (modern Xinjiang), Tibet and the island of Taiwan. Qing China was the largest and most powerful empire of the world in 1795.
At the end of the eighteenth century increasing problems began to haunt China. Monetary inflation and rampant corruption among the officialdom led to numerous peasant rebellions. The long period of peace had contributed to a sharp increase in population growth, with ever more people not being able to nourish themselves. Qing China was caught in the so-called "high equilibrium trap" (Mark Elvin) with a relatively high agricultural productivity without technical progress. Very cautious towards the sea and its dangers, the Qing - like their predecessors, the Ming - were hesitant in the question of promoting international trade. The government allowed foreigners to purchase tea, silk and chinaware in one single port, Canton (Guangzhou 廣州, Guangdong), but refused to open more ports to British and other overseas merchants. The question of opium smuggling was the spark igniting the first of a series of wars in which Western powers "opened" China for trade and missionaries. These concessions were made by the Qing in the so-called "unequal treatises" in which China was made a "semi-colony" of Western powers.
Qing China's society was "upside down" (Lin Man-Houng), and these problems exploded in the large Taiping rebellion that nearly brought the Qing dynasty to an end. Political reforms in the late nineteenth century were only begun hesitatingly, and therefore caused the rise of political parties. The most successful of these were of a revolutionary character. In 1911 a mini-revolution initiated the disintegration of the empire and the foundation of a Republic (1912-1949) without any clear political concept.
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