Ch'ing China

The Manchus


   The Manchus were a stock of the Jurched tribe who lived in Manchuria. In the twelfth century, they founded a dynasty in Manchuria called the Chin ("Gold") dynasty; this dynasty was the first major threat to China as the Chin challenged the supremacy of the Southern Sung In the thirteenth century, the Chin dynasty was conquered by the Mongols and throughout the Yüan period, the Manchurians were under Mongol control. During the Ming period (1368-1644), however, the Manchus regained much of their independence when they were divided into three commanderies:Chien-chou, Hai-hsi, and Yeh-jen.

   The Jurched lived north of Korea and east of Liaotung, which was a Chinese province just north of Pyongyang, Korea. While the Jurched represent a separate, nomadic cultural tradition for most of their history, during the Ming they increasingly adopted Chinese culture, eating habits, and living habits. In the sixteenth century, Chinese crossing over from Liaotung taught the Jurcheds how to build forts and how to farm. The importation of technology and agriculture converted the Jurcheds from a largely nomadic culture to a sedentary one.

   The stage was set for the emergence of the Jurcheds as a major cultural force in Asia. The new Jurched tribes, having traversed several hundred years of development in a single century, awaited a single catalyst to erupt on the scene. That catalyst was Nurhaci (1559-1626), who led the Jurched on a series of conquests that would eventually position the Jurched, which his son, Abahai, renamed as "Manchu," to conquer the whole of China. Thus began the last imperial dynasty of China, the "Ch'ing" or "Pure" dynasty. It was to last over two hundred and fifty years; all during its life, however, it was bitterly resented as a foreign, occupying dynasty. The last imperial dynasty of China was not Chinese.

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The Establishment of the Ch'ing


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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 3-2-97