The Qianlong Emperor; 25 September 1711 – 7
February 1799) was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the fourth Qing
emperor to rule over China proper. The fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, he reigned officially
from 11 October 1735 to 8 February 1796.1 On 8 February, he abdicated in favor of his
son, the Jiaqing Emperor – a filial act in order not to reign longer than his grandfather,
the illustrious Kangxi Emperor. Despite his retirement, however, he retained ultimate
power until his death in 1799. Although his early years saw the continuation of an era
of prosperity in China, his final years saw troubles at home and abroad converge on the
Qing Empire. Early years
Hongli was adored both by his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor and his father, the Yongzheng
Emperor. Some historians argue that the main reason why Kangxi Emperor appointed Yongzheng
as his successor was because Qianlong was his favourite grandson. He felt that Hongli’s
mannerisms were very close to his own. As a teenager he was very capable in martial
arts, and possessed a high literary ability. After his father’s succession in 1722, Hongli
became the Prince Bao. Like many of his uncles, Hongli entered into a battle of succession
with his older half-brother Hongshi, who had the support of a large faction of court officials,
as well as Yinsi, Prince Lian. For many years the Yongzheng Emperor did not appoint anyone
to the position of Crown Prince, but many in court speculated his favoring of Hongli.
Hongli went on inspection trips to the south, and was known to be an able negotiator and
enforcer. He was also chosen as chief regent on occasions, when his father was away from
the capital. Accession to the throne
Even before Hongli’s succession was read out to the assembled court, it was widely known
who the new emperor would be. The young Hongli had been a favorite of his grandfather, Kangxi,
and his father alike; Yongzheng had entrusted a number of important ritual tasks to him
while Hongli was still a prince, and included him in important court discussions of military
strategy. Hoping to avoid repetition of the succession crisis that had tainted his own
accession to the throne, he had the name of his successor placed in a sealed box secured
behind the tablet over the throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The name in the box was
to be revealed to other members of the imperial family in the presence of all senior ministers
only upon the death of the Emperor. Yongzheng died suddenly in 1735, the will was taken
out and read out before the entire Qing Court, and Hongli became the 6th Manchu Emperor of
China. He took the era name of Qianlong, 乾 means heaven, 隆 means eminence, which means
“Lasting Eminence”. Frontier wars The Qianlong Emperor was a successful military
leader. Immediately after ascending the throne, he sent armies to suppress the Miao rebellion.
His later campaigns greatly expanded the territory controlled by the Qing dynasty. This was made
possible not only by Qing strength, but also by the disunity and declining strength of
the Inner Asian peoples. Under Qianlong, the Dzungar Khanate was incorporated into the
Qing dynasty’s rule and renamed Xinjiang, while to the West, Ili was conquered and garrisoned.
The incorporation of Xinjiang into the Qing empire resulted from the final defeat and
destruction of the Dzungars, a coalition of Western Mongol tribes. The Qianlong Emperor
then ordered the Zunghar Genocide. According to Qing scholar Wei Yuan, 40% of the 600,000
Zunghar people were killed by smallpox, 20% fled to Russia or Kazakh tribes, and 30% were
killed by the army, in what Clarke described as “the complete destruction of not only the
Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people.” Historian Peter Perdue has argued that the
decimation of the Dzungars was the result of an explicit policy of massacre launched
by the Qianlong emperor. Khalkha Mongol rebels under Prince Chingünjav
had plotted with the Dzungar leader Amursana and led a rebellion against the Qing at the
same time as the Dzungars. The Qing crushed the rebellion and executed Chingünjav and
his entire family. For the compilation of works on the Dzungar
campaign like Strategy for the pacification of the Dzungars, the Qing hired Zhao Yi and
Jiang Yongzhi at the Military Archives Office, in their capacity as members of the Hanlin.
Poems glorifying the Qing conquest and genocide of the Dzungar Mongols were written by Zhao.
Zhao Yi wrote the Yanpu zaji in “brush-notes” style, where military expenditures of the
Qianlong Emperor’s reign were recorded. The Qianlong Emperor was praised as being
the source of “eighteenth-century peace and prosperity” by Zhao Yi.
The Zunghar genocide has been compared to the Qing extermination of the Jinchuan Tibetan
people in 1776, which also occurred under Qianlong’s reign. When victorious troops returned
to Beijing, a celebratory hymn was sung in their honor. A Manchu version of the hymn
was recorded by the Jesuit Amoit and sent to Paris.
Throughout this period there were continued Mongol interventions in Tibet and a reciprocal
spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. After the Lhasa riot of 1750 he sent armies into
Tibet and firmly established the Dalai Lama as ruler, with a Qing resident and garrison
to preserve Qing presence. Further afield, military campaigns against Nepalese, and Gurkhas
forced these peoples to submit and send tribute. The Qianlong Emperor sought to conquer Burma
to the south, but the Sino–Burmese War ended in complete failure. He initially believed
that it would be an easy victory against a barbarian tribe, and sent only the Green Standard
Army based in Yunnan, which borders Burma. The Qing invasion came as the majority of
Burmese forces were deployed in their latest invasion of Siam. Nonetheless, battle-hardened
Burmese troops defeated the first two invasions of 1765–1766 and 1766–1767 at the border.
The regional conflict now escalated to a major war that involved military maneuvers nationwide
in both countries. The third invasion led by the elite Manchu Bannermen nearly succeeded,
penetrating deep into central Burma within a few days’ march from the capital, Ava. But
the Bannermen of northern China could not cope with “unfamiliar tropical terrains and
lethal endemic diseases”, and were driven back with heavy losses. After the close-call,
King Hsinbyushin redeployed his armies from Siam to the Chinese front. The fourth and
largest invasion got bogged down at the frontier. With the Qing forces completely encircled,
a truce was reached between the field commanders of the two sides in December 1769. The Qing
kept a heavy military lineup in the border areas of Yunnan for about one decade in an
attempt to wage another war while imposing a ban on inter-border trade for two decades.
When Burma and China resumed a diplomatic relationship in 1790, the Qing unilaterally
viewed the act as Burmese submission, and claimed victory.
The circumstances in Vietnam were not successful either. In 1787 the last Le king Le Chieu
Thong fled Vietnam and formally requested that he be restored to his throne in Thanglong.
The Qianlong Emperor agreed and sent a large army into Vietnam to remove the Tay Son. The
capital, Thanglong, was conquered in 1788 but a few months later, the Chinese army was
defeated and the invasion turned into a debacle due to the surprise attack during Tết by
Nguyen Hue, the second and most capable of the three Tay Son brothers. The Chinese gave
formal protection to the Le emperor and his family, and would not intervene in Vietnam
for another 90 years. Despite setbacks in the south, overall the
Qianlong Emperor’s military expansion nearly doubled the area of the already vast empire,
and brought into the fold many non-Han-Chinese peoples—such as Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs,
Evenks and Mongols—who were potentially hostile. It was also a very expensive enterprise;
the funds in the Imperial Treasury were almost all put into military expeditions. Though
the wars were successful, they were not overwhelmingly so. The army declined noticeably and had a
difficult time facing some enemies: the Jin Chuan area took 2–3 years to conquer—at
first the Qing army were mauled, though Yue Zhongqi later took control of the situation.
The battle with the Dzungars was closely fought, and caused heavy losses on both sides.
At the end of the frontier wars, the army had started to weaken significantly. In addition
to a more lenient military system, warlords became satisfied with their lifestyles. Since
most of the warring had taken place, warlords no longer saw any reason to train their armies,
resulting in a rapid military decline by the end of Qianlong’s reign. This is the main
reason for the military’s failure against the White Lotus Sect, at the very end of Qianlong’s
years. Cultural achievements The Qianlong Emperor, like his predecessors,
took his cultural role seriously. First of all, he worked to preserve the Manchu heritage,
which he saw as the basis of the moral character of the Manchus and thus of the dynasty’s power.
He ordered the compilation of Manchu language genealogies, histories, and ritual handbooks
and in 1747 secretly ordered the compilation of the Shamanic Code, published later in the
Siku Quanshu. He further solidified the dynasty’s cultural and religious claims in Central Asia
by ordering a replica of The Potala Palace, the Tibetan temple, to be built on the grounds
of the imperial summer palace in Chengde. In order to present himself to Tibetans and
Mongols in Buddhist rather than in Confucian terms, he commissioned a thangka, or sacred
painting, depicting him as Manjusri, the Boddisatva of Wisdom.
The Qianlong Emperor was a major patron and important “preserver and restorer” of Confucian
culture. He had an insatiable appetite for collecting, and acquired much of China’s “great
private collections” by any means necessary, and “reintegrated their treasures into the
imperial collection.” Qianlong, more than any other Manchu emperor, lavished the imperial
collection with his attention and effort: The imperial collection had its origins in
the first century B.C., and had gone through many vicissitudes of fire, civil wars and
foreign invasions in the centuries that followed. But it was Qianlong who lavished the greatest
attention on it, certainly of any of the Manchu rulers…. One of the many roles played by
Qianlong, with his customary diligence, was that of the emperor as collector and curator.
…how carefully Qianlong followed the art market in rare paintings and antiquities,
using a team of cultural advisers, from elderly Chinese literati to newly fledged Manchu connoisseurs.
These men would help the emperor spot which great private collections might be coming
up for sale, either because the fortunes of some previously rich merchant family were
unraveling or because the precious objects acquired by Manchu or Chinese grandees during
the chaos of the conquest period were no longer valued by those families’ surviving heirs.
Sometimes, too, Qianlong would pressure or even force wealthy courtiers into yielding
up choice art objects: he did this by pointing out failings in their work, which might be
excused if they made a certain “gift,” or, in a couple of celebrated cases, by persuading
the current owners that only the secure walls of the forbidden City and its guardians could
save some precious painting from theft or from fire. His massive art collection became an intimate
part of his life; he took landscape paintings with him on his travels in order to compare
them with the actual landscapes, or to hang them in special rooms in palaces where he
lodged, to inscribe them on every visit there. “He also regularly added poetic inscriptions
to the paintings of the imperial collection, following the example of the emperors of the
Song dynasty and the literati painters of the Ming. They were a mark of distinction
for the work, and a visible sign of his rightful role as Emperor. Most particular to the Qianlong
Emperor is another type of inscription, revealing a unique practice of dealing with works of
art that he seems to have developed for himself. On certain fixed occasions over a long period
he contemplated a number of paintings or works of calligraphy which possessed special meaning
for him, inscribing each regularly with mostly private notes on the circumstances of enjoying
them, using them almost as a diary.” “Most of the several thousand jade items in
the imperial collection date from his reign. The Emperor was also particularly interested
in collecting ancient bronzes, bronze mirrors and seals,” in addition to pottery, ceramics
and applied arts such as enameling, metal work and lacquer work, which flourished during
his reign; a substantial part of his collection is in the Percival David Foundation in London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum also have good collections of Qianlong
period Art. “The Qianlong Emperor was a passionate poet
and essayist. In his collected writings, which were published in a tenfold series between
1749 and 1800, over 40,000 poems and 1,300 prose texts are listed, making him one of
the most prolific writers of all time. There is a long tradition of poems of this sort
in praise of particular objects, and the Qianlong Emperor used it in order to link his name
both physically and intellectually with ancient artistic tradition.”
One of Qianlong’s grandest projects was to “assemble a team of China’s finest scholars
for the purpose of assembling, editing, and printing the largest collection ever made
of Chinese philosophy, history, and literature.” Known as The Four Treasuries project, or Siku
Quanshu it was published in 36,000 volumes, containing about 3450 complete works and employing
as many as 15,000 copyists. It preserved numerous books, but was also intended as a way to ferret
out and suppress political opponents, requiring the “careful examination of private libraries
to assemble a list of around eleven thousand works from the past, of which about a third
were chosen for publication. The works not included were either summarized or—in a
good many cases—scheduled for destruction.” Burning of books and modification of texts Some 2,300 works were listed for total suppression
and another 350 for partial suppression. The aim was to destroy the writings that were
anti-Qing or rebellious, that insulted previous “barbarian” dynasties, or that dealt with
frontier or defense problems. The full editing of Siku Quanshu was completed in about ten
years; during these ten years, 3100 titles, about 150,000 copies of books were either
burnt or banned. Of those volumes that had been categorized into Siku Quanshu, many were
subjected to deletion and modification. Books published during the Ming dynasty suffered
the greatest damage. The authority would judge any single character
or any single sentence’s neutrality; if the authority had decided these words, or sentence
were derogatory or cynical towards the rulers, then persecution would begin. In Qianlong’s
time, there were 53 cases of literary inquisition, resulting in the victims being beheaded, or
corpses being mutilated, or victims being slowly sliced into pieces until death.
As part of the promotion of Kaozheng studies in the philological field, Qianlong decided
that the Chinese character transcriptions of names and words of the Khitan language
in the History of Liao, the Jurchen language in the History of Jin, and the Mongolian language
in the History of Yuan were not phonetically accurate and true to the original pronunciation.
The histories were in fact hastily compiled and suffered from inaccurate and inconsistent
phonetic transcriptions of the same names. He ordered the “Imperial Liao Jin Yuan Three
Histories National Language Explanation” project to “correct” the Chinese character transcriptions
by referring to the contemporaneous descendants of those languages. Qianlong identified the
Solon language with the Khitan, the Manchu language with the Jurchen, and the Mongolian
language with the Mongolian. Solon, Mongolian, and Manchu speakers were consulted with on
the “correct” pronunciations of the names and words and their Chinese transcriptions
were accordingly changed. However the Khitan language has now been found by modern linguists
to be a Mongolic language and is unrelated to the Solon language. The project was part
of the Siku Quanshu. Qianlong also promulgated a theory that the Daur people were descended
from a Khitan clan, changing the Khitan clan name 大賀 dàhè, found in the History of
Liao, to 達呼爾 dáhūěr. The Chinese transcription of the Manchu clan name Niohuru
鈕祜祿 was edited and inserted in place of the Jurchen clan name 女奚烈.
Literary works It is most likely that Qianlong used Chinese
to first write his “Ode to Mukden” and only afterwards issued a Manchu translation since
Chinese was his “literary language of choice”. Languages
Qianlong claimed to be able to speak Manchu, Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan, Chagatai and
Tangut. He commissioned projects such as new Manchu dictionaries, both monolingual and
multilingual like the Pentaglot. Among his directives were to eliminate directly borrowed
loanwords from Chinese and replace them with calque translations which were put into new
Manchu dictionaries. This showed in the titles of Manchu translations of Chinese works during
his reign which were direct translations contrasted with Manchu books translated during Kangxi’s
reign which were Manchu transliterations of the Chinese characters.
Qianlong commissioned the Yuding Xiyu Tongwen Zhi 欽定西域同文志 which was a thesaurus
of geographic names in Xinjiang in Oirat Mongol, Manchu, Chinese, Tibetan, and Turki.
Tibetan Buddhism The Qianlong Emperor’s faith in Tibetan Buddhism
had been questioned in recent times because Qianlong indicated that he supported the Yellow
Church just to “maintain peace among the Mongols” since the Mongols were followers of the Dalai
Lama and Panchen Lama of the Yellow Church, and Qianlong had this explanation placed in
the Beijing Tibetan Buddhist Yonghe Gong temple on a stele entitled “Lama Shuo” in 1792, and
he also said it was “merely in pursuance of Our policy of extending Our affection to the
weak.” which led him to patronize the Yellow Church.
This explanation of only supporting the “Yellow Hats” Tibetan Buddhists for practical reasons
was used to deflect Han criticism of this policy by Qianlong, who had the “Lama Shuo”
stele engraved in Tibetan, Mongol, Manchu and Chinese, which said: “By patronizing the
Yellow Church we maintain peace among the Mongols. This being an important task we cannot
but protect this. we do not show any bias, nor do we wish to adulate the Tibetan priests
as Yuan dynasty.” Qianlong turned the Palace of Harmony into
a Tibetan Buddhist temple for Mongols in 1744 and had an edict inscribed on a stele to commemorate
it in Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, and Manchu, with most likely Qianlong having first wrote
the Chinese version before the Manchu. The Khalkha nobles’ power was deliberately
undermined by Qianlong when he appointed the Tibetan Ishi-damba-nima of the Lithang royal
family of the eastern Tibetans as the 3rd reincarnated Jebtsundamba instead of the Khalkha
Mongol which they wanted to be appointed. The decision was first protested against by
the Outer Mongol Khalkha nobles and then the Khalkhas sought to have him placed at a distance
from them at Dolonnor, but Qianlong snubbed both of their requests, sending the message
that he was putting an end to Outer Mongolian autonomy.
Palaces Qianlong was an aggressive builder. In the
hills northwest of Beijing, he expanded the villa known as the “Garden of Perfect Brightness”
that had been built by his father. He eventually added two new villas, the “Garden of Eternal
Spring” and the “Elegant Spring Garden.” In time, the Old Summer Palace would encompass
860 acres, five times larger than the Forbidden City. In honor of the sixtieth birthday of
his mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing, Qianlong ordered a lake at the “Garden of Clear Ripples”
dredged, named it Lake Kunming, and renovated a villa on the eastern shore of the lake.
He also expanded the imperial palace at Rehe, beyond the Great Wall. Rehe eventually became
effectively a third capital and it was at Rehe that Qianlong held court with various
Mongol nobles. Qianlong also spent time at the Mulan hunting grounds north of Rehe.
European styles For the Old Summer Palace, Qianlong commissioned
the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione for the construction of the Xiyanglou, or the
Western-style mansion, to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objects. He also
commissioned the French Jesuit Michel Benoist, to design a series of timed waterworks and
fountains complete with underground machinery and pipes, for the amusement of the Imperial
family. The French Jesuit Jean Denis Attiret also became a painter of the Emperor. Jean-Damascène
Sallusti was also a court painter. He co-designed, with Castiglione and Ignatius Sichelbart,
the Battle Copper Prints. Other architecture
During his reign the Emin Minaret was built in Turpan to commemorate Emin Khoja, a Uyghur
leader from Turfan who submitted to the Qing as a vassal in order to obtain Qing help to
fight the Zunghars. Ming dynasty Imperial descendants
In 1725 the Yongzheng Emperor bestowed the hereditary title of Marquis on a descendant
of the Ming dynasty Imperial family, Zhu Zhiliang, who received a salary from the Qing government
and whose duty was to perform rituals at the Ming tombs, and was also inducted the Chinese
Plain White Banner in the Eight Banners. Later the Qianlong Emperor bestowed the title Marquis
of Extended Grace posthumously on Zhu Zhuliang in 1750, and the title passed on through twelve
generations of Ming descendants until the end of the Qing dynasty.
Banner System Qianlong instituted a policy of Manchufying
the Eight Banner system, which was the basic military and social organization of the dynasty.
In the early Qing, Nurhaci and Hong Taiji categorized Manchu and Han ethnic identity
within the Eight Banners based on culture, lifestyle, and language, not ancestry or genealogy.
Han Bannermen were an important part of the Banner System. Qianlong changed this definition
to one of descent, and demobilized many Han Bannermen and urged Manchu Bannermen to protect
their cultural heritage, language, and martial skills. Qianlong redefined the identity of
Han Bannermen by saying that they were to be regarded as of having the same culture
and being of the same ancestral extraction as Han civilians
Qianlong’s view of the Han Bannermen also differed from that of his grandfather Kangxi
in deciding that loyalty in itself was most important quality. Qianlong sponsored biographies
which depicted Chinese Bannermen who defected from the Ming to the Qing as traitors and
glorifing Ming loyalists. Some of Qianlong’s inclusions and omissions on the list of traitors
were political in nature, such as including Li Yongfang out of his dislike for his descendant
Li Shiyao and excluding Ma Mingpei out of concern for his son Ma Xiongzhen’s image.
The identification and interchangeability between “Manchu” and “Banner people” began
in the 17th century. Banner people were differentiated from civilians and the term Bannermen was
becoming identical with “Manchu” in the general perception. Qianlong referred to all Bannermen
as Manchu, and Qing laws did not say “Manchu” but “Bannermen”.
Chinese political identity and frontier policy Qianlong and the Qing Emperors since Shunzhi
had identified China and the Qing as the same, and in treaties and diplomatic papers the
Qing called itself “China”. The Qianlong Emperor rejected earlier ideas that only Han could
be subjects of China and only Han land could be considered as part of China, instead he
redefined China as multiethnic, saying in 1755 that “There exists a view of China, according
to which non-Han people cannot become China’s subjects and their land cannot be integrated
into the territory of China. This does not represent our dynasty’s understanding of China,
but is instead that of the earlier Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties.” The term “our China”
was used to stress China’s association with themselves by the Qing Emperors, with it being
used in Kangxi in 1712, used again in 1729, and used by Qianlong in 1750. China and Qing
were noticeably and increasingly equated with each other during Qianlong’s reign, with Qianlong
and the Qing government writing poems and documents using both Zhongguo- the Chinese
name for China Dulimbai Gurun- the Manchu name for China. Compared to the rule of previous
Qing Emperors like Yongzheng and Kangxi, the use of China to refer to the Qing increased
under Qianlong, when scholars examined documents on Sino-Russian relations. Other expressions
which referred to the Qing like “our dynasty” were equated and used interchangeably by Qianlong
with China when he referred to the Qing-Korean border regarding a military outpost in two
edicts. The Manchu Qianlong Emperor rejected the views of Han officials who said Xinjiang
was not part of China and that he should not conquer it, putting forth the view that China
was multiethnic and did not just refer to Han. Qianlong disregarded the Confucian scholars
who criticized his conquest of Xinjiang. Han migration to Xinjiang was permitted by the
Manchu Qianlong Emperor, who also gave Chinese names to cities to replace their Mongol names,
instituting civil service exams in the area, and implementing the county and prefecture
Chinese style administrative system, and promoting Han migration to Xinjiang to solidify Qing
control was supported by numerous Manchu officials under Qianlong. A proposal was written in
The Imperial Gazetteer of the Western Regions to use state-funded schools to promote Confucianism
among Muslims in Xinjiang by Fuheng and his team of Manchu officials and the Qianlong
Emperor. Confucian names were given to towns and cities in Xinjiang by the Qianlong Emperor,
like “Dihua” for Urumqi in 1760 and Changji, Fengqing, Fukang, Huifu, and Suilai for other
cities in Xinjiang, Qianlong also implemented Chinese style prefectures, departments, and
counties in a portion of the region. The French Jesuit Michael Benoist redrew a map of China
to give to the Qianlong Emperor in 1756 to include Xinjiang after the Qing defeated and
conquered the Zunghars and took over the area, the map had previously not included Xinjiang
since Benoist used pre-Zunghar conquest sources for the original map. Included as part of
China in the map were Qinghai, Tibet, Mongolia, and Manchuria.
The Qing Qianlong Emperor compared his achievements with that of the Han and Tang ventures into
Central Asia. Qianlong’s conquest of Xinjiang was driven by his mindfulness of the examples
set by the Han and Tang Qing scholars who wrote the official Imperial Qing gazetteer
for Xinjiang made frequent references to the Han and Tang era names of the region. The
Qing conqueror of Xinjiang, Zhao Hui, is ranked for his achievements with the Tang dynasty
General Gao Xianzhi and the Han dynasty Generals Ban Chao and Li Guangli. Both aspects pf the
Han and Tang models for ruling Xinjiang were adopted by the Qing and the Qing system also
superficially resembled that of nomadic powers like the Qara Khitay, but in reality the Qing
system was different from that of the nomads, both in terms of territory conquered geographically
and their centralized administrative system, resembling a western stye system of rule.
The Qing portrayed their conquest of Xinjiang in officials works as a continuation and restoration
of the Han and Tang accomplishments in the region, mentioning the previous achievements
of those dynasties. The Qing justified their conquest by claiming that the Han and Tang
era borders were being restored, and identifying the Han and Tang’s grandeur and authority
with the Qing. Many Manchu and Mongol Qing writers who wrote about Xinjiang did so in
the Chinese language, from a culturally Chinese point of view. Han and Tang era stories about
Xinjiang were recounted and ancient Chinese places names were reused and circulated. Han
and Tang era records and accounts of Xinjiang were the only writings on the region available
to Qing era Chinese in the 18th century and needed to be replaced with updated accounts
by the literati. Han settlement
Han Chinese farmers were resettled from north China by the Qing to the area along the Liao
River in order to restore the land to cultivation. Wasteland was reclaimed by Han Chinese squatters
in addition to other Han who rented land from Manchu landlords. Despite officially prohibiting
Han Chinese settlement on the Manchu and Mongol lands, by the 18th century the Qing decided
to settle Han refugees from northern China who were suffering from famine, floods, and
drought into Manchuria and Inner Mongolia so that Han Chinese farmed 500,000 hectares
in Manchuria and tens of thousands of hectares in Inner Mongolia by the 1780s. Qianlong allowed
Han Chinese peasants suffering from drought to move into Manchuria despite him issuing
edicts in favor of banning them from 1740-1776. Chinese tenant farmers rented or even claimed
title to land from the “imperial estates” and Manchu Bannerlands in the area. Besides
moving into the Liao area in southern Manchuria, the path linking Jinzhou, Fengtian, Tieling,
Changchun, Hulun, and Ningguta was settled by Han Chinese during Qianlong Emperor’s rule,
and Han Chinese were the majority in urban areas of Manchuria by 1800. To increase the
Imperial Treasury’s revenue, the Qing sold formerly Manchu only lands along the Sungari
to Han Chinese at the beginning of the Daoguang Emperor’s reign, and Han Chinese filled up
most of Manchuria’s towns by the 1840s according to Abbe Huc.
Later years In his later years, Qianlong was spoiled with
power and glory, becoming disillusioned and complacent in his reign, placing his trust
in corrupt officials like Yu Minzhong, and later Heshen.
As Heshen was the highest ranked minister and most favoured by Qianlong at the time,
the day-to-day governance of the country was left in his hands, while Qianlong himself
indulged in the arts, luxuries and literature. When Heshen was executed it was found that
his personal fortune exceeded that of the country’s depleted treasury, amount to 900,000,000
taels of silver, the total of 12 years of Treasury surplus of Manchu Qing court.
Qianlong began his reign with about 33,950,000 taels of silver in Treasury surplus. At the
peak of Qianlong’s reign, around 1775, even with further tax cuts, the treasury surplus
still reached 73,900,000 taels, a record unmatched by his predecessors, Kangxi or Yongzheng both
of whom had implemented remarkable tax cut policies.
However, due to numerous factors such as long term embezzlement and corruption by officials,
frequent expeditions South, huge palace constructions, many war and rebellion campaigns as well as
his own extravagant lifestyle, all of these cost the treasury a total of 150,200,000 silver
taels. This, coupled with his senior age and the lack of political reforms, ushered the
beginning of the gradual decline and eventual demise of the Qing dynasty and empire, casting
a shadow over his glorious and brilliant political life.
Macartney Embassy During the mid-eighteenth century, Qianlong
began to face pressures from the West to increase foreign trade. The proposed cultural exchange
between the British Empire at the time and the Qing Empire collapsed due to many factors.
Firstly, there was a lack of any precedent interaction with overseas foreign kingdoms
apart from neighbouring tributory states to guide Qianlong towards a more informed response.
Furthermore, competing worldviews that were incompatible between China and Britain, the
former holding entrenched beliefs that China was the “central kingdom”, and the latter’s
push for rapid liberalization of trade relations, worsened ties.
George Macartney was sent by King George III as ambassador extraordinary to firstly congratulate
the Emperor on reaching his 80th year and more importantly seek a range of trade concessions.
He was granted an audience with the Qianlong Emperor on two separate days, the second of
which coincided with the Emperor’s 82nd birthday. There is continued discussion about the nature
of the audience, and what level of ceremonials were performed. Demands from the Qing Court
that the British Trade ambassadors kneel and perform the kowtow were strongly resisted
by Macartney, and debate continues as to what exactly occurred, differing opinions recorded
by Qing courtiers and British delegates. A description of the Emperor is provided in
the account of one of the visiting Englishmen, Aeneas Anderson: The Emperor is about five feet ten inches
in height, and of a slender but elegant form; his complexion is comparatively fair, though
his eyes are dark; his nose is rather aquiline, and the whole of his countenance presents
a perfect regularity of feature, which, by no means, announce the great age he is said
to have attained; his person is attracting, and his deportment accompanies by an affability,
which, without lessening the dignity of the prince, evinces the amiable character of the
man. His dress consisted of a loose robe of yellow silk, a cap of black velvet with a
red ball on the top, and adorned with a peacock’s feather, which is the peculiar distinction
of mandarins of the first class. He wore silk boots embroidered with gold, and a sash of
blue girded his waist. It is uncertain whether Anderson actually
saw the Emperor, or repeated another’s sighting, as he was not involved in the ceremonies.
Macartney expressed conclusions in his memoirs which were widely disseminated: The Empire of China is an old, crazy, first-rate
Man of War, which a fortunate succession of able and vigilant officers have contrived
to keep afloat for these hundred and fifty years past, and to overawe their neighbours
merely by her bulk and appearance. But whenever an insufficient man happens to have the command
on deck, adieu to the discipline and safety of the ship. She may, perhaps, not sink outright;
she may drift some time as a wreck, and will then be dashed to pieces on the shore; but
she can never be rebuilt on the old bottom. Titsingh Embassy
A Dutch embassy arrived to the Qianlong court in 1795, and would turn out to be the last
occasion in which any European appeared before the Chinese Court within the context of traditional
Chinese imperial foreign relations. Representing Dutch and Dutch East India Company
interests, Isaac Titsingh traveled to Beijing in 1794–95 for celebrations of the sixtieth
anniversary of the Qianlong Emperor’s reign. The Titsingh delegation also included the
Dutch-American Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest, whose detailed description of
this embassy to the Chinese court was soon after published in the U.S. and Europe. Titsingh’s
French translator, Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de Guignes published his own account of the
Titsingh mission in 1808. Voyage a Pékin, Manille et l’Ile de France provided an alternate
perspective and a useful counterpoint to other reports which were then circulating. Titsingh
himself died before he could publish his version of events.
In contrast to Macartney, Isaac Titsingh, the Dutch and VOC emissary in 1795 did not
refuse to kowtow. In the year following Mccartney’s rebuff, Titsingh and his colleagues were much
feted by the Chinese because of what was construed as seemly compliance with conventional court
In October 1795, Qianlong officially announced that in the spring of the following year he
would voluntarily abdicate his throne and pass the crown to his son. It was said that
Qianlong had made a promise during the year of his ascension not to rule longer than his
grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, who had reigned for 61 years.
Qianlong anticipated moving out of the Hall of Mental Cultivation in the Forbidden City.
The Hall had been conventionally dedicated for the exclusive use of the reigning sovereign,
and in 1771 the emperor ordered the beginning of construction on what was ostensibly intended
as his retirement residence in another part of the Forbidden City: a lavish, two-acre
walled retreat called the Ningshou gong, or “Palace of Tranquil Longevity”, today more
commonly known as the Qianlong Garden. The complex, completed in 1776, is currently undergoing
a ten-year restoration led by the Palace Museum in Beijing and the World Monuments Fund. The
first of the restored apartments, Qianlong’s Juanqinzhai, or “Studio of Exhaustion From
Diligent Service,” began an exhibition tour of the United States in 2010.
Qianlong resigned the throne at the age of 85, in the 60th year of his reign, to his
son, the Jiaqing emperor in 1795. For the next four years, he held the title “Retired
Emperor,” though he continued to hold on to power and the Jiaqing Emperor ruled only in
name. He never moved into his retirement suites in the Qianlong Garden. He died in 1799.
Legends A legend, popularized in fiction, is that
Qianlong was the son of Chen Yuanlong of Haining. In his choice of heir to the throne, the Kangxi
Emperor required not only that the heir be able to govern the Empire well but that the
heir’s son be of no less calibre, thus ensuring the Manchu’s everlasting reign over the country.
The Yongzheng Emperor’s own son was a weakling and he surreptitiously arranged for his daughter
to be swapped for Chen Yuanlong’s son, who became the apple of Kangxi’s eye. Thus, Yongzheng
got to succeed the throne, and his “son”, Hongli, subsequently became the Qianlong Emperor.
Later, Qianlong went to the southern part of the country four times, he stayed in Chen’s
house in Haining, leaving behind his calligraphy and also frequently issued imperial decrees
making and maintaining Haining as a tax-free state.
However there are major problems with this story. First, Yongzheng’s eldest surviving
son Hongshi was only 7 when Hongli was born, far too young to make the drastic choice of
replacing a child of royal birth with an outsider. Second, Yongzheng had three other princes
who survived to adulthood and had the potential to ascend the throne. Indeed, since Hongshi
was the son forced to commit suicide, it would have been far more logical for him to be the
adopted son, if any of them were. Stories about Qianlong’s six visits to the
Jiangnan area disguised as a commoner have been a popular topic for many generations.
In total, he has visited Jiangnan eight times, as opposed to the Kangxi Emperor’s six inspections.
Family Father: Yongzheng Emperor
Mother: Empress Xiaoshengxian Spouses
Empresses: Empress Xiaoxianchun
Ulanara, the Step Empress Empress Xiaoyichun Imperial Noble Consorts:
Imperial Noble Consort Huixian（慧贤皇贵妃） Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui（纯惠皇贵妃）
Imperial Noble Consort Qinggong（庆恭皇贵妃） Imperial Noble Consort Zhemin, from the Fuca
clan. Imperial Noble Consort Shujia, from the Jingiya
clan. Noble Consorts:
Noble Consort Wan（婉贵妃） Noble Consort Ying
Noble Consort Xin Noble Consort Yu, from the Keliyete clan.
Noble Consort Xun Consorts:
Consort Jin, from the Fuca clan. Consort Rong（香妃，容妃）
Consort Shu Consort Dun Imperial Concubines:
Imperial Concubine Yi, from the Huang clan. Imperial Concubine Xun, from the Huoshuote
clan. Imperial Concubine Gong, from the Lin clan.
Imperial Concubine Yi, from the Bo clan. Imperial Concubine Shen, from the Bai’ergesi
clan. Imperial Concubine Cheng, from the Niuhuru
clan. Noble Ladies:
Noble Lady Shun Lady Silin-Gioro
Lady Bo Noble Lady Rui, from the Suochuoluo clan.
Noble Lady Duo, from the Borjigit clan. Noble Lady Wu
Noble Lady Jin Noble Lady Xin
Noble Lady Fu First Class Female Attendants:
First Class Female Attendant Bai First Class Female Attendant Kui
First Class Female Attendant Ning First Class Female Attendant Ping
First Class Female Attendant Na Sons
Daughters The personal names of the Qianlong Emperor’s
daughters are not known. The Qianlong Emperor adopted a niece, Heshuo
Princess Hewan. She was the daughter of the Qianlong Emperor’s younger half-brother Hongzhou
and Hongzhou’s primary spouse Lady Ujaku. Ancestry
See also Jean Joseph Marie Amiot
Giuseppe Castiglione Manwen Laodang
Canton System Xi Yang Lou
Long Corridor Putuo Zongcheng Temple
Qianlong Dynasty Notes
^1 The Qianlong era name, however, started only on 12 February 1736, the first day of
that lunar year. 8 February 1796 was the last day of the lunar year known in Chinese as
the 60th year of Qianlong. References
Citations Works consulted Berger, Patricia Ann. Empire of Emptiness:
Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824825632.
Retrieved 10 March 2014. Clarke, Michael Edmund. “In the Eye of Power:
China and Xinjiang from the Qing Conquest to the ‘New Great Game’ for Central Asia 1759–2004”.
Griffith University, Brisbane: Doctoral thesis, Dept. of International Business & Asian Studies.
Crossley, Pamela Kyle. A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology.
University of California Press. ISBN 0520928849. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
Crossley, Pamela Kyle. Kagan, Kimberly, ed. The Imperial Moment. Paul Bushkovitch, Nicholas
Canny, Pamela Kyle Crossley, Arthur Eckstein, Frank Ninkovich, Loren J. Samons. Harvard
University Press. ISBN 0674054091. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
Dunnell, Ruth W.; Elliott, Mark C.; Foret, Philippe; Millward, James A. New Qing Imperial
History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde. Routledge. ISBN 1134362226.
Retrieved 10 March 2014. Elliott, Mark C.. The Manchu Way: The Eight
Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804746842.
Retrieved 10 March 2014. Hammond, Kenneth James; Stapleton, Kristin
Eileen, eds.. The Human Tradition in Modern China. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 074255466X.
Retrieved 10 March 2014. Liu, Tao Tao; Faure, David. Unity and Diversity:
Local Cultures and Identities in China. Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 9622094023. Retrieved
10 March 2014. Lopez, Donald S.. Prisoners of Shangri-La:
Tibetan Buddhism and the West. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226493113. Retrieved
10 March 2014. Millward, James A.. Beyond the Pass: Economy,
Ethnicity, and Empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759-1864. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804729336.
Retrieved 10 March 2014. Millward, James A.. Eurasian Crossroads: A
History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231139241. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
Naquin, Susan. Peking: Temples and City Life, 1400-1900. University of California Press.
ISBN 0520923456. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Newby, L. J.. The Empire And the Khanate:
A Political History of Qing Relations With Khoqand C.1760-1860. Volume 16 of Brill’s
Inner Asian Library. BRILL. ISBN 9004145508. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
Rawski, Evelyn S.. The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions. University
of California Press. ISBN 052092679X. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
Reardon-Anderson, James. “Land Use and Society in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia during the
Qing Dynasty”. Environmental History 5: 503–530. JSTOR 3985584.
Scharping, Thomas. “Minorities, Majorities and National Expansion: The History and Politics
of Population Development in Manchuria 1610-1993”. Cologne China Studies Online – Working Papers
on Chinese Politics, Economy and Society. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
Zhao, Gang. “Reinventing China Imperial Qing Ideology and the Rise of Modern Chinese National
Identity in the Early Twentieth Century” 32. Sage Publications. doi:10.1177/0097700405282349.
JSTOR 20062627. Archived from the original on 2014-03-25. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
Further reading Chang, Michael. A court on horseback: imperial
touring & the construction of Qing rule, 1680–1785. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center.
Crossley, Pamela. A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology. 10-ISBN
0-520-23424-3; 13-ISBN 978-0-520-23424-6. Elliott, Mark C. Emperor Qianlong: Son of
Heaven, Man of the World.. ISBN 9780321084446. Ho Chuimei, Bennet Bronson. Splendors of China’s
Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong.. ISBN 1858942039.
Kahn, Harold L. Monarchy in the Emperor’s Eyes: Image and Reality in the Ch’ien-Lung
Reign.. ISBN 0674582306. Kuhn, Philip A. Soulstealers: The Chinese
Sorcery Scare of 1768.. ISBN 0674821513. James A. Millward, Ruth W. Dunnell, Mark C.
Elliot and Philippe Foret. ed., New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire
at Qing Chengde.. ISBN 0415320062. Nancy Berliner, “The Emperor’s Private Paradise:
Treasures from the Forbidden City” ISBN 978-0-87577-221-8. Works by the Qianlong Emperor
Ch’ien Lung. The conquest of the Miao-tse, an imperial poem … entitled A choral song
of harmony for the first part of the Spring [tr.] by S. Weston, from the Chinese. Translated
by Stephen Weston. LONDON: Printed & Sold by C. & R. Baldwin, New Bridge Street, Black
Friars. Retrieved 24 April 2014.