The Qing Dynasty was founded by the Manchu clan, who belonged to Manchuria (the north eastern region of present day China). It succeeded the Ming Dynasty in 1644, with the help of the Ming rebels. It lasted till 1912, until the Xinhai Revolution dethroned its last emperor. Other than the Yuan Dynasty (founded by the Mongols), the Qing Dynasty was the only dynasty that was not founded by the Han Chinese who are the natives of China. Hence, the Yuan and the Qing Dynasties are considered to be foreigners to have ruled China.
Birth of the Qing
It was founded in 1636, by Huang Taiji, when he donned the title of emperor and renamed the state of Later Jin ,founded by his father Nuarhaci to the Great Qing. In 1644, Li Zicheng led a rebellion of peasants against the Ming dynasty that was already weakened by its defeats under Nuarhaci and Huang Taiji's armies. Li Zicheng's men overthrew the Ming dynasty and set up a new regime in Beijing. However, in 1644, the Qings succeeded in wooing a general named Sangui to rebel against Li Zicheng. With his help, the Qings were successful in capturing Beijing, which laid the foundation of the dynasty in China.
Rule and Style of Ruling
The Qing largely based their form of government on that of the Ming Dynasty. They continued to strengthen the system of centralized power. All positions of importance in the government were dual in nature. Each position had a Manchu and a Chinese official. However, the Manchu official always had more power invested in him than his Chinese counterpart. The military organization of the Qing was one of its time. They organized their troops into banners, each of which was a separate unit. These units were highly organized, and consisted of men who were fiercely loyal to the emperor. Sometimes even bureaucrats were chosen from the pool of talented men.
It ruled in a very intelligent fashion. While they did adopted the Ming way of ruling, they also preserved their own identity. They kept communicating in their own language and never divulged their documents to the Chinese. The rulers spent the summers in Manchuria, their homeland which was closed to the Chinese. They maintained their superiority over the Chinese by giving greater powers to the Manchu officials. They separated the duties of the Chinese and the Manchu troops, and never allowed the Chinese troops to become stronger than the Manchu troops. The Qing also resorted to imposing the Queue Order and the literary inquisition to subjugate the non Manchu population of China. Under the Queue Order, the Chinese men were required to shave the front half of their head and braid the remaining hair in a ponytail or a queue. In the other measure of literary inquisition, the writings of intellectuals of China were judged by Manchu authorities. If the literary works were found to be against the ruler, the writers would be persecuted.
The period of rule of this dynasty was that of peace and prosperity. Public works improved under the Qing rule. The rulers reduced taxes and also exempted the population from paying them when famine or drought struck them. Trade and commerce flourished as well. For the first time influence of the west was felt in China. England wanted to import tea and silk from China. European effect was also seen in Chinese art. While writers produced brilliant works in the form of novels, short stories and drama, artists made numerous innovations in creating new colors. The reign of the Emperor Kangxi, Emperor Yongzheng and Emperor Qianlong is termed as the Golden Age of the Qing Dynasty. The 250 years rule, of the three emperors, saw arts and science reach the highest levels during the entire rule of the Qing. Impressive literary works like A Dream of Red Mansions, The Scholars and The Peach Blossom Fan, were written.
With the beginning of the 19th century, control of the dynasty over China started to weaken. China entered into the Opium Wars around 1840s with Britain in which they were defeated by the British armies. Internal rebellions, like the T'ai P'ing rebellion, further weakened the kingdom. Japan's ambition to conquer its neighboring lands, in order to use them as buffer against foreign attacks and also to establish trade relations, were also felt in China. Besides all these external problems, the royal family itself had to deal with young and incompetent rulers. The final blow to the dynasty came with the Xinhai revolution when Puyi, the last emperor of it abdicated the throne on February 12, 1912.
The fall of the Qing dynasty paved way for the establishment of the Republic of China. However, the Republic was not established immediately with the Xinhai revolution. The country faced a second failed revolution and the Chinese Civil War until the People's Republic of China was officially established on October 1, 1949.