Qing Dynasty Achievements

Qing Dynasty in 1911

The Qing dynasty was the last dynasty to rule Imperial China, governed by the Manchus that hailed from a northeastern part of the empire called Manchuria. The beginnings of the period were marked by prosperity that fostered advancements in the arts and successful conquests. The Qing had numerous accomplishments, from their territorial feats to their refinement of cultural staples. 

The Height of Imperial China’s Expansion

The Qing empire was the largest from 1750 to 1790 under the reign of Qianlong emperor, the 5th emperor of the Qing dynasty. His ten military campaigns brought victories, expanding China into inner Asia and reaching land beyond China proper. He defeated the Vietnamese, Uyghurs, and Mongols. Hainan, Taiwan, and Tibet were under the Qing’s control. At the end of the 17th century, they had also conquered the area that would become present-day Mongolia. This was followed by the province of Xinjiang, which was taken in battles that raged on from 1755 to 1758. 

At its peak, it was the fourth most expansive empire in history, with more than 5 million square miles of land. The estimates for its population were around 450 million. 

The Pinnacle of Printing Production

Printing was invented during the Tang dynasty, while the Song developed the movable type of printing, but it was during the Qing dynasty the process progressed as it was more fine-tuned for mass production. Private printing shops were abundant, circulating various texts and literature. Not only were these shops popular in the capital but also in other cities and towns, speaking to the rise of printed materials. 

Woodblock color printing also became more accessible, carrying a multitude of colors. Lunar New Year posters became more intricate and colorful. Both new literary pieces and Ancient Chinese Classics were printed by the thousands, going beyond the heights of printing in all the previous dynasties. This cultural shift contributed to the proliferation of literary texts during the period.

The Creation of the Kangxi Dictionary

Kangxi emperor, the third emperor of the Qing dynasty, observed that readers could derive several meanings from a written piece due to the different interpretations of some Chinese characters. To provide clarity for his multilingual subjects, the emperor commissioned the creation of a dictionary of all the Chinese characters to establish an authority on the meanings of each Chinese character. The compilation was completed in 1716, and it displayed over 47,000 characters divided into 214 radicals. It is referred to as the Kangxi Dictionary or the Kangxi Zidian. Additionally, the rhyme dictionary called the Peiwen Yunfu was released in 1711. 

Localized Tax System 

Yongzheng emperor succeeded the famous Kangxi emperor in 1722; his short reign continued his father’s Golden Age. One of his most lauded initiatives was the establishment of a localized tax system. Instead of focusing funds on the central government, each locality received its allotment for projects and infrastructures such as roads and emergency funds for calamities. Whereas the Ming-based tax system funded the imperial court first and the counties second, Yongzheng prioritized the development of each community which allowed cities and towns alike to grow economically. 

Several Imperial Literary Collections

Extensive encyclopedias were compiled in the Qing dynasty. These included the largest collection of poetry and prose commissioned by the Qianlong emperor in 1782, the Siku Quanshu. With over 10,680 titles and 3,593 summaries, it exceeded the Ming dynasty equivalent created by the Yongle emperor. 

Kangxi emperor also commanded his subjects to gather numerous drawings and written pieces to create the “Complete Collection of Illustrations and Writings from the Earliest to Current Times.” It was also referred to as the Imperial Encyclopedia. This was finished during the reign of his successor.

A Great Classical Novel: A Dream in Red Mansions

The Han Chinese writer Cao Xueqin wrote and released the novel A Dream in Red Mansions or The Story of the Stone, one of Chinese literature’s Four Great Classical Novels. With over 400 characters, this fictional piece was one of the most highly regarded, albeit complex, compositions of its time. It was a reflection of Chinese social structure, culture, and society by depicting the philosophies, religions, cuisine, literature, medicine, opera, and music of life during the Qing dynasty. The linguistic nuances of the novel have made it challenging to completely translate into other languages. 

The Peak of Porcelain Making 

The Kangxi rule marked the production of the most highly regarded porcelain in Imperial China. He restored Ming factories and had them return to creating porcelain pieces. Jingdezhen kilns from the previous dynasty were further developed, then responsible for high-quality products with an addition of two colors: red and green. Five-color designs grew in popularity, depicting floral and nature themes. Unique designs include court scenes, garden scenes, deities, and exotic animals. These were often exported to the West. At present, wares from Kangxi’s period bearing imperial characters are highly sought after. The artistry that went into its creation ended with exquisitely decorated, flawless porcelain. 

The use of fencai enamel started in Kangxi’s rule but became prominent during the time of Yongzheng, allowing for a softer color to add dimension to the more elaborate designs with opaque backgrounds. New glaze colors for monochromatic wares were also produced. Technology and technique in making porcelain continued to be honed during the reigns of Yongzheng and Qianlong. They encouraged the improvement of ceramics with the development of polychrome along with blue and white wares. 

Top Schools Were Founded

One of the top universities in the world was founded in the Qing dynasty. This was the Imperial University of Peking; it was built at the command of the Guangxu emperor during his rule from 1875 to 1908. The emperor’s Hundred Days’ Reform aimed to revitalize the social system and urged to cultivate intellectual progress by providing conducive learning environments for the youth. 

The Tsinghua College was established in the latter part of the Qing dynasty while the political landscape was unstable due to the populace’s resentment towards the encroaching foreign powers. It was built for the education of students who would study in the United States, becoming a university in 1928. In 2022, Tsinghua University garnered 16th place in Times Higher Education World University Rankings.