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Qing Isolationism: The neglect of foreign contact in the Mid-Qing Dynasty arising from the necessity of consolidating a newly conquered empire

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  1. Introduction
  2. Invasion of the Ming territories
  3. Instrumental practices of the Ming dynasty
  4. The Yung-cheng era
  5. The spoils of war
  6. The Qing hunt at Mulan
  7. The dynasty of the Qing state
  8. Conclusion
  9. Selected bibliography

The imperial bureaucracy of the Qing dynasty in China developed from the consequences of the Manchu coalition conquest of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Having conquered the Ming territories, the early Qing rulers faced the formidable task of governing the immense geographical and multi-ethnic regions of the empire; and the need to incorporate the subjugated populace beneath their authority. Comprised of Manchu, Mongol, and the Han ?conquest elite? (those nobles who assisted in the deposition of the rebel Li Zicheng and the destruction of the Ming), the fledgling Qing dynasty was demarcated by ethnic and cultural lines within its aristocracy and the majority Han subjects of China. Rawski, in proposing the Qing as a multi-ethnic as opposed to a Chinese or sinicized dynasty, states: ?The Qianlong emperor ruled a multi-ethnic state which applied different regulations to different peoples within its realm. Originally, in the seventeenth century, when the Manchus arose as a regional power in the northeast, the major boundary in Qing society was not ethnic but political. On the one hand were the Manchu, Mongol, and Han Chinese nobles and bannermen, the latter being persons who had intentionally joined the Manchu cause, generally before 1644. All of these individuals belonged to the conquest elite, wore banner clothing, and were subject to banner law. On the other side were the subjugated populace, predominantly Han Chinese, who were governed by laws based on Ming precedents [Rawksi, 16].? Qing reliance on the military authority projected by the banners provided not only the hard power required to govern the state, it also functioned as the basis of the soft power in the creation of the civil bureaucracy that served to extend the Emperor's hegemony from Beijing throughout the provinces. This essay will argue that the Qing isolated their empire from foreign contact during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in order to consolidate the internal rule of the Manchu conquest elite as the ruling force of a united empire: and empire for which, outside its borders, lived only uncivilized barbarians who were its natural inferiors.

[...] When Qianlong assumed the throne, the process of imperial ?tours of inspection? or xun shou to the provinces and the summer capitol at Chengde would be established as an extension of state government. The emperor would utilize the xun shou as a luxury and escape from the urban confines of Beijing, engaging, for instance, on hunts in Mulan or retiring to the summer palace of Chengde. While these recreational trips were not always identified as xun shou, they would eventually serve the formal capacity of maintaining the empire. Symons remarks, shou came to be viewed as a means to reinvigorate loyalty among the people and improve government. [...]


[...] This essay will argue that the Qing isolated their empire from foreign contact during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in order to consolidate the internal rule of the Manchu conquest elite as the ruling force of a united empire: and empire for which, outside its borders, lived only uncivilized barbarians who were its natural inferiors. When the Manchu invaded the Ming territories, ostensibly to rescue them from the rebel Li Zicheng, they were considered a or barbarian tribe in contrast to the civilized Han Chinese. [...]


[...] While impressive in its expediency, the banner-system and caste organization of the Qing dynasty was nonetheless a restrictive society based on a rigid hierarchy; and the actions of bureaucrats were quite often arbitrary and whimsical. For, despite the best efforts at designing an administrative machine, it works or fails depending on the quality of its parts: of its officials. Quite simply, in the Mid-Qing period, the Manchu had adopted the same trait which once demarcated them from the Ming; that is, the perspective that all those outside their borders were uncivilized barbarians, and there was no need to look or stray beyond the Empire's borders. [...]

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