Learn the Cause Behind the Fall of China's Qing Dynasty (2022)

When the last Chinese dynasty—the Qing dynasty—fell in 1911–1912, it marked the end of the nation's incredibly long imperial history. That history stretched back at least as far as 221 BCE when Qin Shi Huangdi first united China into a single empire. During much of that time, China was the single, undisputed superpower in East Asia, with neighboring lands such as Korea, Vietnam, and an often-reluctant Japan trailing in its cultural wake. After more than 2,000 years, though, Chinese imperial power under the last Chinese dynasty was about to collapse for good.

Key Takeaways: Collapse of the Qing

  • The Qing dynasty promoted itself as a conquering force, ruling China for 268 years before collapsing in 1911–1912. The elites' self-proclaimed position as outsiders contributed to their eventual demise.
  • A major contribution to the downfall of the last dynasty were external forces, in the form of new Western technologies, as well as a gross miscalculation on the part of the Qing as to the strength of European and Asian imperialistic ambitions.
  • A second major contributor was internal turmoil, expressed in a series of devastating rebellions beginning in 1794 with the White Lotus rebellion, and ending with the Boxer Rebellion of 1899–1901 and Wuchang Uprising of 1911–1912.

The ethnic Manchu rulers of China's Qing dynasty reigned over the Middle Kingdom beginning in 1644 CE, when they defeated the last of the Ming, up until 1912. What brought about the collapse of this once-mighty empire, ushering in the modern era in China?

(Video) Why did the Qing Dynasty Fall? History of China 1895-1918 Documentary 3/3

As you might expect, the collapse of China's Qing dynasty was a long and complex process. Qing rule gradually collapsed during the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, due to a complicated interplay between internal and external factors.

Murmurs of Dissent

The Qings were from Manchuria, and they established their dynasty as a conquering force of the Ming dynasty by non-Chinese outsiders, maintaining that identity and organization throughout their 268-year reign. In particular, the court marked itself off from its subjects in certain religious, linguistic, ritual, and social characteristics, always presenting themselves as outside conquerors.

Social uprisings against the Qing began with the White Lotus uprising in 1796–1820. The Qing had forbidden agriculture in the northern regions, which were left to the Mongol pastoralists, but the introduction of new world crops such as potato and maize opened the northern region plains farming. At the same time, technologies for treating contagious diseases such as smallpox, and the extensive use of fertilizers and irrigation techniques were also imported from the West.

White Lotus Rebellion

As a result of such technological improvements, the Chinese population exploded, increasing from just shy of 178 million in 1749 to almost 359 million in 1811; and by 1851, the population in Qing dynasty China was close to 432 million people. At first, farmers in regions adjacent to Mongolia worked for the Mongols, but eventually, the people in the overcrowded Hubei and Hunan provinces flowed out and into the region. Soon the new migrants began to outnumber the indigenous people, and conflict over local leadership grew and grew strong.

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The White Lotus rebellion began when large groups of Chinese rioted in 1794. Eventually, the rebellion was crushed by the Qing elites; but the White Lotus organization remained secret and intact, and advocated for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty.

Imperial Mistakes

Another major contributing factor to the downfall of the Qing dynasty was European imperialism and China's gross miscalculation of the power and ruthlessness of the British crown.

By the mid-19th century, the Qing dynasty had been in power for over a century, and the elites and many of their subjects felt they had a heavenly mandate to remain in power. One of the tools they used to stay in power was a very strict restriction on trade. The Qing believed that the way to avoid the errors of the White Lotus rebellion was to clamp down on foreign influence.

The British under Queen Victoria were a huge market for Chinese teas, but the Qing refused to engage in trade negotiations, rather demanding that Britain pay for the tea in gold and silver. Instead, Britain began a lucrative, illicit trade in opium, traded from British imperial India into Canton, far from Beijing. The Chinese authorities burned 20,000 bales of opium, and the British retaliated with a devastating invasion of mainland China, in two wars known as the Opium Wars of 1839–42 and 1856–60.

(Video) Why did the Qing Empire collapse?

Completely unprepared for such an onslaught, the Qing dynasty lost, and Britain imposed unequal treaties and took control of the Hong Kong region, along with millions of pounds of silver to compensate the British for the lost opium. This humiliation showed all of China's subjects, neighbors, and tributaries that the once-mighty China was now weak and vulnerable.

Deepening Weaknesses

With its weaknesses exposed, China began to lose power over its peripheral regions. France seized Southeast Asia, creating its colony of French Indochina. Japan stripped away Taiwan, took effective control of Korea (formerly a Chinese tributary) following the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895–96, and also imposed unequal trade demands in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.

By 1900, foreign powers including Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan had established "spheres of influence" along China's coastal areas. There the foreign powers essentially controlled trade and the military, although technically they remained part of Qing China. The balance of power had tipped decidedly away from the imperial court and toward the foreign powers.

The Boxer Rebellion

Within China, dissent grew, and the empire began to crumble from within. Ordinary Han Chinese felt little loyalty to the Qing rulers, who still presented themselves as conquering Manchus from the north. The calamitous Opium Wars seemed to prove that the alien ruling dynasty had lost the Mandate of Heaven and needed to be overthrown.

(Video) Why did the Qing Dynasty Fall?

In response, the Qing Empress Dowager Cixi clamped down hard on reformers. Rather than following the path of Japan's Meiji Restoration and modernizing the country, Cixi purged her court of modernizers.

When Chinese peasants raised a huge anti-foreigner movement in 1900, called the Boxer Rebellion, they initially opposed both the Qing ruling family and the European powers (plus Japan). Eventually, the Qing armies and the peasants united, but they were unable to defeat the foreign powers. This signaled the beginning of the end for the Qing dynasty.

The Last Days of the Last Dynasty

Strong rebel leaders began to have major impacts on the ability of the Qing to rule. In 1896, Yan Fu translated Herbert Spencer's treatises on social Darwinism. Others began to openly call for the overthrow of the existing regime and replace it with a constitutional rule. Sun Yat-Sen emerged as China's first "professional" revolutionary, having gained an international reputation by being abducted by Qing agents in the Chinese Embassy in London in 1896.

One Qing response was to suppress the word "revolution" by banning it from their world-history textbooks. The French Revolution was now the French "rebellion" or "chaos," but in fact, the existence of leased territories and foreign concessions provided plenty of fuel and varying degrees of safety for radical opponents.

(Video) Lecture Decline of the Qing Dynasty

The crippled Qing dynasty clung to power for another decade, behind the walls of the Forbidden City, but the Wuchang Uprising of 1911 put the final nail in the coffin when 18 provinces voted to secede from the Qing dynasty. The Last Emperor, 6-year-old Puyi, formally abdicated the throne on Feb. 12, 1912, ending not only the Qing dynasty but China's millennia-long imperial period.

Sun Yat-Sen was elected the first president of China, and the Republican era of China had begun.

Additional References

FAQs

What were the causes and effects of the fall of the Qing? ›

After more than a century of Western humiliation and harassment, the Qing dynasty collapsed in the early 1900s. Internal changes played a major role in the downfall of the Qing dynasty, including: corruption, peasant unrest, ruler incompetence, and population growth which led to food shortages and regular famine.

What happened during the fall of the Qing dynasty? ›

Fall of the Qing Dynasty

In 1911, the Nationalist Party of China held an uprising in Wuchang, helped by Qing soldiers, and 15 provinces declared their independence from the empire. Within weeks the Qing court agreed to the creation of a republic with its top general, Yuan Shikai, as president.

Why did the Qing dynasty fall quizlet? ›

The main internal causes of the fall of the Qing Dynasty were political corruption, peasant unrest, and governmental incompetence. Some external causes included pressure from Western powers and the developments in ships and guns.

What caused the Qin dynasty to fall? ›

End of the Qin Dynasty

In two years time, most of the empire had revolted against the new emperor, creating a constant atmosphere of rebellion and retaliation. Warlord Xiang Yu in quick succession defeated the Qin army in battle, executed the emperor, destroyed the capital and split up the empire into 18 states.

What happened after the fall of the Qing dynasty? ›

In October of 1911, a group of revolutionaries in southern China led a successful revolt against the Qing Dynasty, establishing in its place the Republic of China and ending the imperial system.

When did the Qing dynasty fall? ›

When their demands were not satisfied, they deserted the Qing Court, and the dynasty collapsed in 1912. Seen in its immediate aftermath, all the efforts at reform or self-strengthening had failed. Over the long haul, the late Qing had laid the foundation for modern China. There was no turning back.

What were the major factors that led to the weakening of the Qing dynasty? ›

Bad harvests, warfare, rebellions, overpopulation, economic disasters, and foreign imperialism contributed to the dynasty's collapse. A revolution erupted in October 1911. In 1912 the boy Emperor Xuantong (Hsüan-t'ung, commonly known as Henry Pu Yi) abdicated, or stepped down, from the throne.

What major events happened in the Qing dynasty? ›

The Qing Dynasty Timeline
  • 1644: The capital of the Ming Dynasty falls after being attacked. ...
  • 1661: Kangxi becomes Emperor after Shunzhi dies. ...
  • 1793: China demands to be paid in silver, rather than in exchange for foreign goods. ...
  • 1839 - 1842: The Opium War occurs. ...
  • 1842: The Treaty of Nanking ends the Opium War.
1 May 2022

What were the two biggest problems facing China during the Qing Dynasty? ›

Qing China's Internal Crisis: Land Shortage, Famine, Rural Poverty | Asia for Educators | Columbia University. Even without the foreign onslaught, nineteenth century China faced enormous problems, many of them resulting from an escalating population.

Which four major events doomed the Qing Dynasty select all that apply? ›

the Great Floods of 1884. the Boxer Rebellion. the Manchu Rebellion. the Taiping Rebellion.

Why were the Chinese people unhappy with the Qing Dynasty by the early 1900s quizlet? ›

After an extended period of growth, the Qing dynasty began to suffer from corruption, peasant unrest, and incompetence. These weaknesses were made worse by rapid growth in the country's population. By 1900, there were 400 million people in China. Population growth created a serious food shortage.

Who overthrew the Qing dynasty? ›

Sun would resign in favor of Yuan Shikai, who would become President of the new national government, if Yuan could secure the abdication of the Qing emperor. The edict of abdication of the last Chinese emperor, the six-year-old Puyi, was promulgated on 12 February 1912.
...
1911 Revolution.
Xinhai Revolution 辛亥革命
~170,000~50,000 unknown
10 more rows

When did the Qin Dynasty begin and end? ›

Qin Dynasty (221–206 B.C.)

Why the Qin Dynasty is so important to the history of China? ›

At the end of the Warring States period (475–221 BCE), the state of Qin conquered all other states and established the Qin dynasty. (221–206 BCE). It was China's first unified state whose power was centralized instead of spread among different kingdoms in the north and south.

What is the meaning of Qing? ›

Definition of qing

: a Chinese chime consisting of one or more L-shaped pieces of stone that are hung from a frame and struck with a wooden mallet. — called also ch'ing.

What is the Qing dynasty best known for? ›

The multiethnic Qing empire lasted for almost three centuries and assembled the territorial base for modern China. It was the largest imperial dynasty in the history of China and in 1790 the fourth-largest empire in world history in terms of territorial size.

What ended the Chinese dynasties? ›

End of dynastic rule

Dynastic rule in China collapsed in AD 1912 when the Republic of China superseded the Qing dynasty following the success of the Xinhai Revolution.

Why was the Qing government so hated? ›

Peasants hated the Qing gov- ernment because of corruption. The resulting Taiping Rebellion against this government led to an estimated 20 million to 30 million deaths. However, the Qing government survived. In addition, the Chinese were divided over the need to adopt Western ways.

What internal problems threatened the Qing Dynasty? ›

The Qing Dynasty was threatened internally by famines and revolts due to overpopulation and corruption. Many of the rural people were poor and did not have food security or opportunities to change their living conditions.

What were the sequence of conflicts and their consequences that weakened Qing China? ›

The Qing rulers were originated from Manchuria. There were many major events during the reign i.e. Opium Wars in 1839 and 1856, Taiping Rebellion in 1850, and Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The Manchu Government got weakened within next 40 years by various rebellions. In 1911, the Manchu rule was ended.

Which factors contributed to the decline of the Qing empire in the eighteenth century? ›

  • DECLINE OF THE QING DYNASTY IN THE 18TH CENTURY. ...
  • Opium Wars Period in China. ...
  • Opium Wars. ...
  • "Unequal Treaties" After the Opium War. ...
  • Uprisings in Turkestan (Xinjiang) ...
  • Taiping Rebellion. ...
  • Muslim Wars. ...
  • Revolt of Yakub Beg and General Tso.

Was the Qing dynasty successful? ›

The long-lived Qing dynasty ruled over a massive multi-ethnic empire as it experienced a period of economic prosperity in the eighteenth century.

What was unique about the Qing dynasty? ›

The Qing Empire (1644–1912) was the most populous empire ever, and China's last empire. It was ruled by invaders, prospered for the first 120 years, and ended in record-breaking wars and natural disasters.

Who ruled the Qing dynasty? ›

The 268-year duration of the Qing dynasty was dominated by the rule of two monarchs: the Kangxi Emperor, who reigned from 1662 to 1722, and his grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, who reigned from 1736 to 1796.

When did the Qing dynasty fall? ›

When their demands were not satisfied, they deserted the Qing Court, and the dynasty collapsed in 1912. Seen in its immediate aftermath, all the efforts at reform or self-strengthening had failed. Over the long haul, the late Qing had laid the foundation for modern China. There was no turning back.

Why did the Qing dynasty decline and ultimately collapse and what role did the Western powers play in this process? ›

Bad harvests, warfare, rebellions, overpopulation, economic disasters, and foreign imperialism contributed to the dynasty's collapse. A revolution erupted in October 1911. In 1912 the boy Emperor Xuantong (Hsüan-t'ung, commonly known as Henry Pu Yi) abdicated, or stepped down, from the throne.

What were the sequence of conflicts and their consequences that weakened Qing China? ›

The Qing rulers were originated from Manchuria. There were many major events during the reign i.e. Opium Wars in 1839 and 1856, Taiping Rebellion in 1850, and Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The Manchu Government got weakened within next 40 years by various rebellions. In 1911, the Manchu rule was ended.

What major events happened in the Qing dynasty? ›

The Qing Dynasty Timeline
  • 1644: The capital of the Ming Dynasty falls after being attacked. ...
  • 1661: Kangxi becomes Emperor after Shunzhi dies. ...
  • 1793: China demands to be paid in silver, rather than in exchange for foreign goods. ...
  • 1839 - 1842: The Opium War occurs. ...
  • 1842: The Treaty of Nanking ends the Opium War.
1 May 2022

What is the Qing dynasty best known for? ›

The multiethnic Qing empire lasted for almost three centuries and assembled the territorial base for modern China. It was the largest imperial dynasty in the history of China and in 1790 the fourth-largest empire in world history in terms of territorial size.

What ended the Chinese dynasties? ›

End of dynastic rule

Dynastic rule in China collapsed in AD 1912 when the Republic of China superseded the Qing dynasty following the success of the Xinhai Revolution.

Who overthrew the Qing dynasty? ›

Sun would resign in favor of Yuan Shikai, who would become President of the new national government, if Yuan could secure the abdication of the Qing emperor. The edict of abdication of the last Chinese emperor, the six-year-old Puyi, was promulgated on 12 February 1912.
...
1911 Revolution.
Xinhai Revolution 辛亥革命
~170,000~50,000 unknown
10 more rows

What internal problems threatened the Qing dynasty? ›

The Qing Dynasty was threatened internally by famines and revolts due to overpopulation and corruption. Many of the rural people were poor and did not have food security or opportunities to change their living conditions.

What impact did the Qing dynasty have on China? ›

Under the Qing dynasty the territory of the Chinese empire expanded greatly, and the population grew from some 150 million to 450 million. Many of the non-Chinese minorities within the empire were Sinicized, and an integrated national economy was established.

Why was the Qing government so hated? ›

Peasants hated the Qing gov- ernment because of corruption. The resulting Taiping Rebellion against this government led to an estimated 20 million to 30 million deaths. However, the Qing government survived. In addition, the Chinese were divided over the need to adopt Western ways.

What conditions during the Qing dynasty gave rise to the Taiping Rebellion? ›

what conditions during the Qing Dynasty gave rise to the Taiping Rebellion? The Christian missionaries that came into China greatly influenced Hong Xiuquan. He had a dream where wealth was in abundance and poverty was obsolete thus causing hong's revolt.

How was China affected by imperialism? ›

Negative effects include: -Pollution, overpopulation, and abuse of workers: China began to industrialize when Britain gained control. Because of all the machinery used in this time period, the air in China became polluted and still is today.

How did the Taiping Rebellion and other internal problems weaken the Qing dynasty? ›

Q: How did the Taiping Rebellion and other internal problems weaken the Qing dynasty? Years of turmoil, power given to regional leaders, weakened the Qing dynasty and made China vulnerable to European encroachment.

What is the meaning of Qing? ›

Definition of qing

: a Chinese chime consisting of one or more L-shaped pieces of stone that are hung from a frame and struck with a wooden mallet. — called also ch'ing.

Was the Qing dynasty successful? ›

The long-lived Qing dynasty ruled over a massive multi-ethnic empire as it experienced a period of economic prosperity in the eighteenth century.

What was unique about the Qing dynasty? ›

The Qing Empire (1644–1912) was the most populous empire ever, and China's last empire. It was ruled by invaders, prospered for the first 120 years, and ended in record-breaking wars and natural disasters.

Videos

1. How did the Chinese Qing Empire Collapse? [Complete History Documentary]
(House of History)
2. Fall of the Qing Dynasty
(Kim Dramer)
3. The Qing Dynasty in the Global Colonial History; China and Environment History
(John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University)
4. Was China's "Century of Humiliation" Inevitable? History of China 1839-1895 Documentary 2/3
(Jabzy)
5. EMPEROR JIAQING DOCUMENTARY - DECLINE OF THE QING DYNASTY
(History of China)
6. Downfall of the Superpower China Ming and Qing Dynasty l HISTORY OF CHINA
(Christopher Coonce-Ewing)

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