Where was the Qing Dynasty?

de rebus sinicis

At this year's edition of the lecture series “Cultural History of the Euro-Atlantic Area in a Global Context”, which is offered every summer semester at the Institute for History of the University of Vienna [1], I wrote the 18th century for the lecture unit dedicated to China on May 13th in placed the focus of my remarks.

The introductory remarks applied not only to the “Chinese concept of culture” but also to the distinction between the terms “China” and “Chinese Empire” when dealing with the history of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) [2].

An overview of the three "great" Qing emperors who ruled the empire from 1662-1796 [3] was naturally based on the major cultural (and especially literary) projects realized during this period: dictionaries, encyclopedias, Compilation projects. The southern travels of the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors [4] and the latter's poetic ambitions were discussed as well as the promotion of Lamaism by the imperial court [5].

The topic of chronology and calendar, which was repeatedly taken up in the lecture series during the course of this semester and considered for different times and cultures, was examined in the case of China in connection with aspects of the Confucian state cult. In addition to the Chinese zodiac (2014 is a year of the horse) and the sexagesimal cycle [6], I also pointed out the importance of bell towers and drum towers for the time signals (in Beijing, for example, until 1924). In connection with the Confucian "state cult", the sacrificial area of ​​heaven [7] moved into the center of attention.

To illustrate imperial power and representation, comments were made on the symbolism associated with the dragon (the five-clawed dragon was reserved for the emperor until the end of the empire) and, on the other hand, insights into the architecture of the "Forbidden City" [8]. Comments on the system of official examinations [9] were made at the end of this lecture unit.

One of the questions following the lecture was the extent of Chinese-Western cultural contacts and cultural transfers in the 18th century. The inclusion of European style elements was probably most visible in the so-called "buildings in the western style" on the area of ​​the Yuanmingyuan 圓明園 (today also known as the "Old Summer Palace").

A little more than a century after these buildings were erected by the Jesuit missionaries, British and French troops destroyed this ensemble in the autumn of 1860 - the ruins that can be seen today only give an idea of ​​the former splendor ...

  1. For the two lectures I designed in the 2013 summer semester, see “Transculturality and Cultural History. At the beginning of a lecture series ”and“ 2500 years in 90 minutes? Cultural history of China "in a lecture series". [↩]
  2. See "Culture and Space - Considerations on the" Cultural Space "China". [↩]
  3. Kangxi 1662-1722, Yongzheng 1723-1735 and Qianlong 1736-1795 / 96. [↩]
  4. See "nanxun 南巡 - Imperial journeys to the south", [↩]
  5. See "The Qing Emperors and Lamaism". [↩]
  6. See "The 60-Year Cycle of Chinese Chronology". [↩]
  7. See also "The Sacrificial Grounds of Heaven and the Confucian State Cult" [↩]
  8. See "On the Chinese name of the Forbidden City", "The Noon Gate - the entrance to the Imperial Palace" and "Qianqinggong - the 'Palace of Heavenly Purity'" [↩]
  9. On De rebus sinicis so far: “Costly studies - with perseverance to success - two legends” and “Carp and career”. [↩]
ArchitectureBuddhismCultural HistoryQing DynastyState CultSymbolism

After the beginning of the eight banners, after the capture of Beijing (1644) by the Manchu, this military organization was transferred to the northern part of the capital, where the imperial palace was also located. The Russian monk Iakinf Bičurin (1777-1853) already mentioned this fact in his description of the city:

The yellow banner occupies the part of the city between the gate of virtuous victory (163), Sching-men [i.e. Deshengmen 德勝門], and the Gate of Great Perfection (136), Feou-ching-men [Fuchengmen 阜成 門], in the inner city; the yellow banner with border is for the eastern part of the outer city, the white banner covers the eastern quarter of the inner city between the perimeter wall and the gate of the rising sun (126), Chao-yang-men [Chaoyangmen 朝陽 門]; The western quarter of the inner city has another white banner with border. The red banner is for the southeastern part of the inner city, and the red banner with borders is for the southwestern quarter. The blue banner belongs to the central quarter of the western part of the outer city; the blue banner with border lies next to the gate of the proclaimed war (113), Siouan-wou-men [Xuanwumen 玄武門]. [1]

If this classification is consistently based on the gates of the "inner city" of imperial Beijing, the following picture emerges [2]:

  • North: The area near the Deshengmen 德勝門 was reserved for members of the (simple) yellow banner, near the Andingmen 安定門 members of the rimmed yellow banner were stationed
  • East: The sector between the gates Dongzhimen 東直門 and Chaoyangmen 朝陽 門 was reserved for the simple white banner, the section south of the Chaoyangmen for the bordered white banner
  • West: Members of the simple red banner were stationed in the sector between Xizhimen 西直門 and Fuchengmen 阜成 門, south of Fuchengmen those of the edged red banner
  • South: The southeast area of ​​the “inner city” (the area within Chongwenmen 崇文 門) was intended for the simple blue banner; the southwest area (within the Xuanwumen 玄武門) for the rimmed blue banner.


  1. "Description of the City of Beijing". In: General construction newspaper, Jg. 1859, p. 323. The numbers given relate to the plan in the supplement (cf. ibid 298/1 and 298/2). In addition to this plan attached there, see also the map “Residential segregation between the Manchu and Han people in Beijing - with eight banners around the imperial palace living in the inner circle of the city, and Han people living outside” at http: // pages .uoregon.edu / inaasim / Mingqing04 / Qing3.htm. [↩]
  2. Compare with this Manzu da cidian 滿族 大 辭典 (Large Encyclopedia of Manchu) (Shenyang 1990) 12 (keyword 八旗 方位, i.e. the cardinal points or the geographical location of the eight banners). [↩]
ArmyBeijingPoints of the compassQing Dynasty

Corruption has a long history. In imperial China, too, it was "always a part of public life." [1]

The cause of this - here formulated very drastically - phenomenon was closely linked to the salary scheme of the lower levels of the civil servants:

The official salary, especially of the local officials, who ensured the cohesion of the empire at the lowest level, was low. The pay system therefore included manifold forms of enrichment, which in western eyes generally appear as corruption. However, this does not do justice to the tradition in which the unwritten rule applied that a new civil servant had to support at least three subsequent generations of his family. ”[2].

The Qing dynasty was confronted with this problem as early as the 17th century, i.e. in the first decades of its rule over China. To curb the apparently widespread corruption, the Kangxi emperor (r. 1662-1722) ordered increases in salary. But that didn't solve the problem at all. His son and successor, the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723-1735), appears to receive a surcharge for "maintaining honesty" or an incentive for "cultivating incorruptibility" (yanglian fei 養廉 費) [3] as the tried and tested means - linked to this was the message "clean and uncorrupted" (qinglian 清廉) [4]. But even this did not guarantee a “clean” administration.

The last quarter of the 18th century saw the rapid rise of Heshen 和 珅 (1750-1799). Within a single year, a simple member of the imperial bodyguard became a member of the Grand Council or State Council (junjichu 軍機 處). [5]

Heshen is notorious as one of the most corrupt officials in Chinese history: a treacherous villain who abused his authority to illegally accumulate an unbelievable amount of wealth, who committed a long list of atrocities against honest officials and ordinary people, and who led the Qing empire from its zenith to its decline. [6]

The basis for this was a “senile, feeble-minded tendency” of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1735 / 36-1796) to Heshen, who “began to systematically exploit the empire” [7]. Even after the abdication of the Qianlong emperor (1796), Heshen was able to pursue his corrupt machinations. In February 1799, however, the end followed: after the death of the Qianlong emperor, his son and successor, the Jiaqing emperor (r. 1796-1820) [8] ordered that Heshen's property be confiscated and that Heshen commit suicide. [9]

  1. Oskar Weggel: History of China in the 20th Century (Stuttgart 1989) 101. - On the subject see also Brunhild Staiger, Hans-Wilm Schütte, Stefan Friedrich (eds.): The great China lexicon (Darmstadt 2003) 401 f. (“Corruption”, Thomas Heberer). [↩]
  2. Wolfgang Bartke: The great Chinese of today (Frankfurt 1985) 324 (“Gentry”). [↩]
  3. See Charles O. Hucker: A. Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford 1985), 96. Jacques Gernet: The Chinese world (Frankfurt a. M., 1988), 401 - cf. also Grand Dictionnaire Ricci, Vol. 6, p. 759 (No. 12490). [↩]
  4. Patricia Bjaaland Welch: Chinese Art. A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery (Singapore 2008) 30. [↩]
  5. Cf. lastly Wook Yoon: "Prosperity with the Help of 'Villains,‘ 1776-1799: A Review of the Heshen Clique and Its Era ", T’oung Pao 98 (2012) 479-527. [↩]
  6. Ibid., 480. [↩]
  7. John King Fairbank: History of Modern China 1800-1985 (Munich 1989) 48 f. [↩]
  8. On the death of the Jiaqing emperor from a “western” point of view, see Monika Lehner / mind the gap (s): China-News: The death of the Jiaqing emperor (1820) in Austrian newspapers. [↩]
  9. Jonathan Spence: The Search for Modern China (New York 1999) 116. [↩]
BureaucracyRuleEmperorCorruptionQing Dynasty

In the course of their increasing military and political importance in the areas north of the Great Wall, the Manchurians introduced the system of "banners" in 1601.

"According to the Manchurian military constitution, the Manchurian, Mongolian and Chinese banner people were divided into eight banners, which were differentiated by color." [1]

The four units first set up in 1601 (at that time each 300 men) received flags in four different colors (yellow, white, blue, red). In 1615 there were already 200 units, which led to the establishment of four more "banners". To distinguish them, these new banners, also in yellow, white, blue and red, are now each provided with a border. The yellow, white and blue banners were bordered in red, the red banner was bordered in white. [2]

From 1626, the establishment of Mongolian associations followed. In 1635, in addition to the eight Manchurian banners, eight Mongolian banners could also be set up. Only a year later, in 1636, the first two Chinese banners were formed. Six more Chinese banners were added to these by 1643. [3]

  1. Erich Hauer: Concise dictionary of the Manchu language. 2. through and exp. Ed., Ed. by Oliver Corff (Wiesbaden 2007) 209 (Art. “gûsa, banner”). [↩]
  2. H.S. Brunnert / V. V. hailstorm: Present Day Political Organization of China (Shanghai 1911), 323-325 (no.718), Immanuel C. Y. Hsü: TheRise of Modern China (New York, 5th ed. 1995), 22. Cf. also Wolfgang Franke (ed.) China manual (Düsseldorf 1974) Sp. 810 (yellow, white, red, blue; "Military units with a specific social framework and external characteristics [...] hierarchically structured military institution") and 816 ("Manchuria", P. W. Thiele). - Translations for non-bordered / bordered banners: see ibid., Col. 548 ("Inner Mongolei, R. Kaschewsky):" Pure and Gerändertes [...] banner "; as well as Hauer / Corff: Hand dictionary, 209: "Rimmed yellow, all yellow, all white, all red, rimmed white, rimmed red, all blue, rimmed blue." [↩]
  3. Herbert Franke / Rolf marriage slip: The ChineseEmpire (Frankfurt a. M. 1968) 279 f., Charles O. Hucker: Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford 1985) 91 (accordingly the Mongolian and Chinese banners installed in 1635). - See also Jonathan D. Spence: The Search for Modern China (New York 1999) 30: Chinese banners: two 1637, four 1639, eight 1642; 1635 Eight Mongolian banners are erected. [↩]
ArmySocietyManjouriQing Dynasty

Late Imperial China could look back on a long tradition of travel. Among other things, the emperors of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC had already traveled. Such "rulers' journeys", which primarily served ritual purposes, are both for the First Emperor (221-210 BC) and for the Han Emperor Wu 漢 武帝 (ruled 140-87 BC, Reise im Year 113 BC). [1]

In the early Qing period, the imperial journeys reached a final climax. Especially the trips to the south - first those of the Kangxi emperor (ruled 1662-1722), then those of the Qianlong emperor (ruled 1735-1796) were comprehensively documented and therefore intensively considered by research.

Both emperors traveled south six times each - the Kangxi emperor in 1684, 1689, 1699, 1703, 1705 and 1707 - his grandson, the Qianlong emperor in 1751, 1757, 1762, 1765, 1780 and 1784. [3]

By the early 1680s, the Manchu had consolidated their rule over China. The trips of the Kangxi emperor to the south - de facto to the region of the Lower Yangzi - officially served the emperor to get an idea of ​​the conditions on site. Unofficially, however, the aim was to consolidate the imperial power and to give the image of the new dynasty shine. While the first trip (1684) rather hesitantly brought the emperor closer to the population, the second trip (January to April 1689) turned out to be a resounding success. The emperor himself played a major role in the success of this trip, on which he set off with an entourage of around 300 people. During the course of the trip, he not only met with specially selected personalities, but also sought direct contact with the local population. [4]

In the 18th century, the trips to the south were officially used to view hydraulic engineering projects. Unofficially, the Qianlong emperor was keen to enjoy the amenities of the rich provinces on the lower reaches of the Yangzi. [5]

The journeys of 1689 and 1751 were documented in a particularly elaborate manner. Under the direction of Wang Hui 王 翬 (1632-1717), court painters made twelve scrolls about this journey between 1691 and 1698. For the journey of the Qianlong emperor in 1751, corresponding scrolls were also made in the years 1764-1770 under the direction of Xu Yang 徐揚 (fl. 1751-1776). [6]

With the end of the Qianlong era (1796) the end of this form of travel had come. Not only the uprisings at the turn of the 19th century contributed to this end. The Daoguang emperor (r. 1821-1850) refrained from similar inspection tours "because the areas visited were financially ruined." [7]

  1. Compare with Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer:History of Chinese Literature. From the beginning to the present (Munich, 2nd edition 1999) 46 f. [↩]
  2. Michael G. Chang, "Fathoming Qianlong: Imperial Activism, the Southern Tours, and the Politics of Water Control, 1736-1765." Late Imperial China 24.2 (Dec 2003) 51-108; "The Southern Expeditions of Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong". China Heritage Quarterly No. March 9, 2007: http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/features.php?searchterm=009_expeditions.inc&issue=009, Maxwell K. Hearn, Recording the Imperial Southern Inspection Tours http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ nanxuntu / html / scrolls / index.html.See Meredith Hindley, Imperial Scrolls of China. In: Humanities 30.6 (Nov-Dec. 2009) http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/2009-11/ImperialScrolls.html. [↩]
  3. Jacques Gernet: The Chinese world. The history of China from the beginning to the present day (Frankfurt a. M. 1988) 401. [↩]
  4. Cf. Simon B. Heilesen: "Pictures from the southern journey of the emperor Kangxi", Beijing Palace Museum. Treasures from the Forbidden City (Frankfurt a.M. 1985) 96. On the trip to the south of 1689 see also Friederike Ulrichs: JohanNieuhof's view of China. (1655-1657). The copperplate engravings in his book on China and their effect on the publisher Jacob van Meurs (Sinologica Coloniensia 21; Wiesbaden 2003), 46 f. [↩]
  5. Immanuel C. Y. Hsü: The Rise of Modern China (New York, 5th ed., 1995) 39. [↩]
  6. Ulrichs: Nieuhof's view, 46 f. And 48 note 153. See, for example, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The Qianlong Emperors 'Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Six: Entering Suzhou and the Grand Canal.” On the pictures of the two emperors' journeys to the south in general, see also Annette Kieser: Chinese art (Stuttgart 2010) 257. [↩]
  7. John King Fairbank: History of Modern China 1800-1985 (Munich 1989) 41. [↩]
DominionQing DynastyTravelRepresentation

In the middle of the 18th century, the Qianlong 乾隆 emperor had the garden located northwest of what was then Beijing, whose beginnings go back to the 13th century, significantly enlarged. In contrast to the "Old Summer Palace" (Yuanmingyuan 圓明園, ie "Garden of Perfect Clarity" [1]), the gardens were after the destruction in October 1860 (by a British-French expeditionary corps) in the decade between 1885 and 1895 - then under that too Yiheyuan 頤和園 (which is still in use today) - and then rebuilt again (after the events surrounding the “Boxer Rebellion” (1900) from 1902) and is known in the West as the “New Summer Palace” [2 ].

The so-called marble boat or marble ship (shifang 石舫). The catch (“Landboat”, “unmoored boat”) is - in addition to the bridge, openwork decorative wall, walkway, arbor, pavilion, garden shed and hall - one of the architectural elements in the design of traditional Chinese gardens. [3]

The marble boat originally built in the 18th century - actually Qingyanfang 清 晏 舫 (i.e. "clear and peaceful boat") consists of a stone base and wooden superstructures. In the course of the renewed restoration of the garden in the decade between 1885 and 1895, these were restored.

In his study of the foreign - especially British - presence in China, Robert Bickers said:

"It did not help at all that instead of extra officers or new and modern ships, the navy found itself paying for the construction of an exquisite marble pleasure boat, uselessly resplendent in Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace complex northwest of Beijing. It was at least safe there from torpedoes. "[4]


  1. Compare with Zhang Shuang: The Yuan Ming Yuan Ensemble. The Imperial Park of "Perfect Clarity" in Beijing. Time shift cards as an instrument for the preservation of garden monuments, Diss., TU Berlin, 2004. Full text: http://opus.kobv.de/tuberlin/volltexte/2004/468/pdf/zhang_shuang.pdf; MIT - Visualizing Cultures: The Garden of Perfect Brightness 1 - The Yuanmingyuan as Imperial Paradise 1700-1860) and "Yuanming Yuan, the Garden of Perfect Brightness", China Heritage Quarterly, No. 8, December 2006 [↩]
  2. The 297 hectare complex has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List (No. 880) since 1998. See "Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing" or Chinas-Weltkulturerbe.de: "Imperial Garden (Sommerpal [a] st Yiheyuan" [↩]
  3. See Patricia Buckley Ebrey (U. Washington): A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization: Gardens -> Design: Buildings [↩]
  4. Robert Bickers: The Scramble for China. Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (London: Allen Lane, 2011) 299, cf. ibid., Part of the picture after p. 336, no. 16: “Beautiful uselessness: the marble boat, Summer Palace, Beijing, c. 1919-20 "[↩]
ArchitectureGardenQing Dynasty

From the 17th century onwards, Lamaism or Tantric Buddhism played an essential role in consolidating the rule of the Manchurian Qing dynasty (1644-1911) - especially in the inner-Asian regions. [1] This also led to regular contacts with the respective Dalai Lama. [2] On the occasion of the visit of the fifth Dalai Lama in Beijing, the Tibetan-style White Pagoda was built in the Imperial Beihai Park in 1651, and after several earthquakes it was built in the old style again and again was rebuilt.

The negative effects of the Qing's policy of divide et impera were emphasized in Chinese historiography of the first half of the 20th century by Gu Jiegang 顧頡剛 (1893-1980):

“Because this strategy also included the suppression of regional upper classes. The Qing government would have submitted to the intellectual elite in the Chinese heartland by being forced to cooperate in the compilation of encyclopedias loyal to the state. A 'policy of dumbing down and bans' had been pursued against the Mongols and Tibetans, in that the imperially sponsored Lamaism caused the thoughts of the local intellectual elite and the hypertrophic monastic system had robbed the local population of their virility. "[3]

In the era of the Qianlong 乾隆 emperor (1711-1799, ruled 1735 / 36-1796) the increased importance of Lamaism manifested itself. In Beijing itself, the Yonghegong 雍和宮 ("Palace of Harmony and Peace") is considered the most important temple of Lamaism. The building complex, erected in 1694, was initially used as the residence of the then crown prince, later Yongzheng 雍正 emperor (1678-1735), and in 1744 it was converted into a Lama temple. [4]

Numerous Lama temples have also been built or expanded outside of Beijing. At the summer residence Bishu shanzhuang 避暑 山莊 near Chengde 承德 (formerly: deer 熱河; in older "western" reports in the spelling Jehol), about 250 km northeast of Beijing, numerous splendid temples were built - the area was therefore regarded as the "holy land" of Lamaism [5]

However, the Qianlong emperor was not satisfied with building temples. In order to be instructed in Tantric Buddhism, he maintained close contact with the Lama Lcang skya Rol pa’i rdo rje (Chankya Rölpai Dorje) (1717-1786), who had been at the top of the Lamaist hierarchy in Beijing since 1736 [6]. In 1780 Lobsang Palden Yeshe (the 6th Panchen Lama) traveled to Beijing on the occasion of the beginning of the 70th year of life (sui) of the Qianlong emperor, but died there of smallpox [7].

Qianlong saw himself as the reincarnation of Manjuśri (Chinese Wenshu 文殊), the Bodhisattva of wisdom. This view was also expressed in numerous scroll paintings (thangkas) made for imperial orders. [8th]

The Lamaistic hierarchy established in the areas ruled by the Qing - to which, among other things, the "living Buddhas" (huofo 活佛) belonged to known Hutuktus - remained largely intact until the end of the dynasty. [9]


[1] State Art Collections Dresden (ed.): Golden dragon - white eagle. Art in the Service of Power at the Imperial Court of China and the Saxon-Polish Court (1644-1795) (Munich 2008) 440 f. (“Qianlong”, Zhou Jingnan). [up]

[2] Cf. still William W. Rockhill: "The Dalai Lamas of Lhasa and their Relations with the Manchu Emperors of China, 1644-1908" T’oung Pao II. Series, Vol. 11 (1910) 1-104. [up]

[3] Sabine Dabringhaus:Territorial nationalism in China: historical-geographical thinking 1800-1949 (Cologne 2006) 148. [top]

[4] On the Lama Temple see Ferdinand Lessing, Gösta Montell: Yung-Ho-Kung, an Iconography of the Lamaist Cathedral in Beijing: With Notes on Lamaist Mythology and Cult (The Sino-Swedish Expedition Part VIII, Ethnography 1, Stockholm 1942). [up]

[5] Cf. Philippe Forêt: Mapping Chengde. The Qing Landscape Enterprise (Honolulu 2000) 27-53 (Chapter 2: Hamlet and Imperial Residence), especially 35 ff. [Top]

[6] Xiangyun Wang: "The Qing Court’s Tibet Connection: Lcang skya Rol pa’i rdo rje and the Qianlong Emperor", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 60 (2000) 125-163. [up]

[7] Cf. H. S. Brunnert, V. V. Hagelstrom: Present Day Political Organization of China. Revised by N. Th. Kolessoff. Translated from the Russian by A. Beltchenko and E. E. Moran (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1911) 472. [top]

[8] David M. Farquhar: "Emperor as Bodhisattva in the Governance of the Ch’ing Empire", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 38, 5-34 (1978). On the conception of the early Qing emperors as the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Wenshu see ibid., 6 and 8 f.

[9] See Brunnert / Hagelstrom: Present Day Political Organization of China, 470-477. [up]

Buddhism Qing Dynasty religion

Cultural history of China