The Qianlong Emperor
Barbarian Ruler or Confucian Sage?
 
The Qing Conquest
The Manzhou from the first benefited in their political style from the fact that they had already become familiar in Manchuria with Chinese institutions. The offices in the main ministries at the capital were equally divided between Manzhou and Chinese, and the provinces were governed cooperatively by a Manzhou governor general and a Chinese governor.
The lower classes were not treated so well. Chinese men were compelled to wear the queue, or pigtail, and mixed marriages at all levels of society were forbidden. Manchuria was to be reserved as a special area sacred to Manzhou of pure blood, and Chinese were not allowed to settle there. During the early years of the new dynasty, Manzhou enclaves were set up in north China, where the farming was done by Chinese slaves, who could actually be bought and sold. But the experiment was soon seen by the Manzhou themselves to be unsuccessful....Although the new dynasty, named the Qing, was ruling in north China, it was some decades before the south came fully under its control. Wu Sangui was collaborating with the Qing, and incidentally drawing considerable funds from Beijing, but he was also pursuing his own ambitions. He drove the Ming supporters from one province to another and defeated a Ming prince in Burma in 1662....Finally Wu, with his base in the southwest, made a bid for complete independence in 1673 and was joined by two other Chinese generals in the south in the Revolt of the Three Feudatories. It took the Qing forces until 1681 to supprress this rebellion. Military resistance agains the Qing also came from the sea. In 1658-1659 a large maritime force attacked Nanjing in support of Ming loyalists in Yunnan province. The force was led by Zheng Chenggong (1624-1662) to whom one Ming pretender had given the title “Lord of the Imperial Surname”....The last phase of the conquest, however, was costly for the inhabitants of the seacoast, since they were forced to move ten miles inland and their coastal towns and villages were burned. The aim of the dynasty in this measure was, of course, to deny the rebels and pirates any support or supplies, but the antimaritime frame of mind exhibited here by the central authroties rendered them less fitted than ever to cope with the overseas rivals from the West who would soon harass them. 
[China: Its History and Culture, 140-1]
 

The Success of the Qing
The Chinese have traditionally drawn sharp distinctions between “ethnic” (a.k.a. Han) Chinese and nomadic “barbarians” (such as the Mongols and the Manchurians). However, the Qing Dynasty lasted more than 250 years (1644-1911), whereas the Yuan lasted less than 100 (1279-1368).
  • How did Qianlong help to win the approval of the Chinese majority and thereby legitimize this “foreign” dynasty?

[Qianlong and his ministers maintained] the Confucian tradition of political thought that idealized low taxes and minimal government, since whatever the ruler took was a diminution of a fixed store of goods available to the people. The ruler’s duties were to find and employ the most talented and unselfish ministers, to listen to them, and to set an example to ministers and people of virtuous conduct and moderate expenditure; to seek to increase revenues in order to “enrich the state and strengthen the military” was to be distracted from these fundamental duties and to go the route of Qin. The defeat of the Wang Anshi policies had been the last time that more dynamic and growth-oriented state policies had been seriously considered. [Mountain of Fame, 239]

In short, Qianlong (1736-1795)—as well as his predecessors, Kangxi (1662-1722) and Yong Zheng (1723-1736)—consciously adopted the role of the Confucian sage-ruler by patronizing traditional Confucian projects:
 
A brilliant ruler, a scholar, and an all-around personality...[Kang Xi] had a genuine love of scholarship and succeeded in attracting to his side some of the best Chinese literati of the time. A small group was attached to his personal study, and they and wider committees of scholars collaborated in works to which he wrote prefaces. Thus there appeared under Kang Xi’s patronage the great dictionary of some 40,000 characters, a collection devoted to calligraphy and painting, an extensive treatise of geography, and a complete edition of the works of Zhu Xi. The vast encyclopedia, Tu Shu Ji Cheng, begun in the seventeenth century, was published in 1728.
       In his capacity as moral leader of the nation, Kang Xi published in 1670 the Sacred Edict, an amplification of earlier imperial maxims of the fourteenth century, which exhorted the people to be filial and thrifty, to value scholarship and avoid unorthodoxy, and to respect the law and pay their taxes.
[China: Its History and Culture, 142-3]

[Kang Xi’s successor] Yong Zheng was succeeded in turn by his son, the emperor known as Qian Long (1736-1795), who carried on the tradition of an autocratic but hard-working and morally concerned ruler. Qian Long’s interest in scholarship was as genuine as that of his grandfather, and under his patronage the vast collection known as the Four Treasuries [Siku quanshu] was completed in 1789. Seven sets of 36,000 volumes containing 3,450 entire works were completed under the four categories into which the Chinese were accustomed to divide their literature: classics (jing), history (shu), philosophy (zhe), and belles lettres (ji). The bibliographical catalog published in the collection listed no fewer than 10,230 works, including those which were reproduced in their entirety. One may assume that this enormous expenditure of effort served several purposes besides reflecting the personal literary interests of the emperor, for it enhanced the prestige of the Manzhou dynasty, employed a large number of Chinese scholars, and convinced the general body of literati that the foreign dynasty bore the genuine stamp of civilized gentlemen and thus was worthy of their support. This emphasis on scholarship was only one factor, but an important one, in the causes which contributed to the impressive stability of the empire under the three great emperors, Kang Xi, Yong Zheng, and Qian Long....All the cultural achievements of earlier dynasties were treasured under the Qing dynasty emperors and were either imitated or further developed. [China: Its History and Culture, 144]
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Contact with the West
Qianlongs Response
China and Europe had known of each other’s existence in a nebulous way for centuries. A thin line of commerce had extended between them along the Silk Road through Central Asia from Roman times. Marco Polo and other intrepid travelers had carried news in both directions. The Jesuits of the seventeenth century at the court of Beijing had broadened and deepened the currents of mutual recognition and respect. But it was not until the nineteenth century that the Western world began to make itself felt in China to any marked degree.
       To some extent the influence was mutual, but the effect of the West upon China was in the end much more devastating than any influence in the other direction. In the early nineteenth century the significance of the Western impact was not at all evident to the leaders of China, who thought that the barbarians could be contained and controlled by the time-honored methods that China had long employed. But the force of the impact was cumulative and different in kind as well as degree from the older, more limited interaction. The situation from the Chinese point of view gradually got altogether out of hand. [
China: Its History and Culture, 148]
 
The British East India Company
The British East India Company was founded in 1600 and granted a monopoly of East Indian trade by British government. By 1800 they were buying over 23 million pounds of tea at a cost of 3.6 million, not to mention what they spent on silk and porecelain.
  • What problem did this pose for the British in general and the British East India Company in particular?
  • How did they hope to resolve this problem?
 
Lord Macartney’s Commission to China
1793
Macartney: “Thus, then, have I seen ‘King Solomon in all his glory’. I use this expression, as the scene recalled perfectly to my memory a puppet show of that name which I recollect to have seen in my childhood, and which made so strong an impression on my mind that I then thought it a true representation of the highest pitch of human greatness and felicity.” [The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection, 100]

 
Portrait of King George III
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Qianlong’s Edict to King George III
1793
You, O King from afar, have yearned after the blessings of our civilization, and in your eagerness to come into touch with our converting influence have sent an Embassy across the sea bearing a memorial. I have already taken not [sic] of your respectful spirit of submission, have treated your mission with extreme favour and loaded it with gifts, besides issuing a mandate to you, O King, and honouring you with the bestowal of valuable presents. Thus has my indulgence been manifested....
  1. Your Ambassador requests facilities for ships of your nation to call at Ningpo, Chusan, Tientsin, and other places for purposes of trade....For the future, as in the past, I decree that your request is refused and that you shall be limited to Macao.
  2. The request that your merchants may establish a repository in the capital of my Empire for the storing and sale of your produce, in accordance with the precedent granted to Russia, is even more impracticable than the last....This request is also refused.
  3. Your request for a small island near Chusan, where your merchants may reside and goods be warehoused...is a flagrant violation of the usage of my Empire and cannot possibly be entertained.
  4. [With regard to your request] for a small site in the vicinity of Canton city, where your barbarian merchants may lodge or, alternatively, that there be no longer any restrictions over their movements at Macao...it is best that the regulations now in force should continue unchanged.
  5. Regarding your request for remission or reduction of duties on merchandise discharged by your British barbarian merchants at Macao and distributed throughout the interior, there is a regular tariff in force for barbarian merchant goods, which applies equally to all European nations....
  6. As to your request that your ships shall pay the duties leviable by tariff, there are regular rules in force at the Canton Custom house respecting the amounts payable, and since I have refused your request to be allowed to trade at other ports, this duty will naturally continue to be paid at Canton as hertofore.
  7. Regarding your nation’s worship of the Lord of Heaven...sage Emperors and wise rulers have bestowed on China a moral system and inculcated a code, which from time immemorial has been religiously observed by the myriads of my subjects....The distinction between Chinese and barbarian is most strict, and your Ambassador’s request that barbarians shall be given full liberty to disseminate their religion is utterly unreasonable.
It may be, O King, that the the above proposals have been wantonly made by your Ambassador on his own responsibility or peradventure you yourself are ignorant of our dynastic regulations and had no intention of transgressing them when you expressed these wild ideas and hopes. I have shown the greatest condescension to the tribute missions of all States which sincerely yearn after the blessings of civilization, so as to manifest my kindly indulgence. I have even gone out of my way to grant any requests which were in any way consistent with Chinese usage. Above all, upon you, who live in a remote and inaccessible region, far across the spaces of ocean, but who have shown your submissive loyalty by sending this tribute mission, I have heaped benefits far in excess of those accorded to other nations. But the demands presented by your Embassy are not only a contravention of dynastic tradition, but would be utterly unproductive of good result to yourself, besides being quite impracticable. [The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection, 106-9]
 
Swaying the wide world, I have but one aim in view, namely, to maintain a perfect governance and to fulfil the duties of the State; strange and costly objects do not interest me. If I have commanded that the tribute offerings sent by you, O King, are to be accepted, this was solely in consideration for the spirit which prompted you to dispatch them from afar. Our dynasty’s majestic virtue has penetrated unto every country under Heaven, and Kings of nations have offered their costly tribute by land and sea. As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures. [The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection, 105]
  • Was Qianlong’s response reasonable?
  • How do you think the British responded?
 

The Opium War (1839-1842)