The 23rd International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2010)

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CLP2010: CIPS-SIGHAN

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Qing dynasty

   The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing, was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled from 1644 to 1911. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The Qing multi-cultural empire lasted for almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for modern China. It was the fifth largest empire in world history. The dynasty was founded by the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria. In the late sixteenth century, Nurhaci, originally a Ming Jianzhou Guard vassal, began organizing "Banners", military-social units that included Manchu, Han, and Mongol elements. Nurhaci formed the Manchu clans into a unified entity and officially proclaimed the Later Jin in 1616. By 1636, his son Hong Taiji began driving Ming forces out of the Liaodong Peninsula and declared a new dynasty, the Qing.

The government initiated unprecedented fiscal and administrative reforms, including elections, a new legal code, and abolition of the examination system. Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionaries competed with constitutional monarchists such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao to transform the Qing Empire into a modern nation. After the deaths of Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor in 1908, the hardline Manchu court alienated reformers and local elites alike by obstructing social reform. The Wuchang Uprising on 11 October 1911, led to the Xinhai Revolution. General Yuan Shikai negotiated the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor, on 12 February 1912.

The Qing dynasty was founded not by Han Chinese, who constitute the majority of the Chinese population, but by a sedentary farming people known as the Jurchen, a Tungusic people who lived around the region now comprising the Chinese provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang. The Manchus are sometimes mistaken for a nomadic people, which they were not. What was to become the Manchu state was founded by Nurhaci, the chieftain of a minor Jurchen tribe Ц the Aisin Gioro Ц in Jianzhou in the early 17th century. Nurhaci may have spent time in a Chinese household in his youth, and became fluent in Chinese as well as Mongol, and read the Chinese novels Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin. Originally a vassal of the Ming emperors, Nurhaci embarked on an intertribal feud in 1582 that escalated into a campaign to unify the nearby tribes. By 1616, he had sufficiently consolidated Jianzhou so as to be able to proclaim himself Khan of the Great Jin in reference to the previous Jurchen dynasty.

Some other important contributions by Nurhaci include ordering the creation of a written Manchu script, based on Mongolian script, after the earlier Jurchen script was forgotten (it had been derived from Khitan and Chinese). Nurhaci also created the civil and military administrative system that eventually evolved into the Eight Banners, the defining element of Manchu identity and the foundation for transforming the loosely knitted Jurchen tribes into a nation.

This was followed by the creation of the first two Han Banners in 1637 (increasing to eight in 1642). Together these military reforms enabled Hong Taiji to resoundingly defeat Ming forces in a series of battles from 1640 to 1642 for the territories of Songshan and Jinzhou. This final victory resulted in the surrender of many of the Ming dynasty's most battle-hardened troops, the death of Yuan Chonghuan at the hands of the Chongzhen Emperor (who thought Yuan had betrayed him), and the complete and permanent withdrawal of the remaining Ming forces north of the Great Wall.

Meanwhile, Ming government officials fought against each other, against fiscal collapse, and against a series of peasant rebellions. They were unable to capitalise on the Manchu succession dispute and the presence of a minor as emperor. In April 1644, the capital, Beijing, was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a former minor Ming official, who established a short-lived Shun dynasty. The last Ming ruler, the Chongzhen Emperor, committed suicide when the city fell to the rebels, marking the official end of the dynasty.

To promote ethnic harmony, a 1648 decree allowed Han Chinese civilian men to marry Manchu women from the Banners with the permission of the Board of Revenue if they were registered daughters of officials or commoners, or with the permission of their banner company captain if they were unregistered commoners. Later in the dynasty the policies allowing intermarriage were done away with.

The early Manchu rulers established two foundations of legitimacy that help to explain the stability of their dynasty. The first was the bureaucratic institutions and the neo-Confucian culture that they adopted from earlier dynasties. Manchu rulers and Han Chinese scholar-official elites gradually came to terms with each other. The examination system offered a path for ethnic Han to become officials. Imperial patronage of Kangxi Dictionary demonstrated respect for Confucian learning, while the Sacred Edict of 1670 effectively extolled Confucian family values. His attempts to discourage Chinese women from foot binding, however, were unsuccessful.

Premier Yuan Shikai and his Beiyang commanders decided that going to war would be unreasonable and costly. Similarly, Sun Yat-sen wanted a republican constitutional reform, for the benefit of China's economy and populace. With permission from Empress Dowager Longyu, Yuan Shikai began negotiating with Sun Yat-sen, who decided that his goal had been achieved in forming a republic, and that therefore he could allow Yuan to step into the position of President of the Republic of China.

First, the Yongying system signaled the end of Manchu dominance in Qing military establishment. Although the Banners and Green Standard armies lingered on as a drain on resources, henceforth the Yongying corps became the Qing government's de facto first-line troops. Second, the Yongying corps were financed through provincial coffers and were led by regional commanders, weakening central government's grip on the whole country. Finally, the nature of Yongying command structure fostered nepotism and cronyism amongst its commanders, who laid the seeds of regional warlordism in the first half of the 20th century.


 

 
Temple of Heaven
Forbidden City
Summer Palace
Beijing National Stadium
Beijing National Aquatics Center
National Centre for the Performing Arts
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