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Tongzhi Restoration

(1,611 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
When the Xianfeng Emperor died in Rehe on August 22, 1861, the empire seemed close to its demise because of the domestic revolution and of China's surrender to the foreign armies. Eight aristocratic Manchus, favorites of the emperor, formed a regency council for the emperor's only son, who succeeded to his father's throne at the age of five. Prince Gong, a brother of the deceased, helped the two empress dowagers Ci'an (the widow) and Cixi (the emperor's concubine and mother of the new ruler) to …

Opium Wars

(1,666 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
Following a request by Foreign Minister Palmerston, the British parliament dispatched a naval force with 4000 soldiers which arrived in Guangzhou in June 1840. Since the local authorities refused any compromise, this force went into action along the Chinese coast as far as the Dagu Forts on the mouth of the Bai River, which controlled access to Beijing. When it became known in London that the Chinese government was forced in August 1842 to sign a treaty in Nanjing, the Times gave this armed conflict the derisive name of "opium war". Opium had in fact offered the opportunity for this w…

Self-Strengthening Movement

(1,707 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
Ziqiang (self-strengthening) was a maxim under which the Qing government subsumed a number of measures between 1861 and 1894 (i. e. between the Second Opium War and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95). These measures aimed at countering the foreign predominance in China. One strategy of this policy was to adopt from foreign countries those methods and techniques which had the potential of remedying China's weakness. This led to a Western-type modernization of the country. At the time, anything that concerned the relations with foreign countries was referred to as yiwu ("barbarian matt…

Examination System

(1,476 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
During the imperial era, the examination system comprised a whole complex of competitions which served the selection of candidates for official posts. The examinations derived from the measures introduced by the Han Emperors for recruiting their imperial administration from outside the hereditary nobility. They constituted an effort at establishing an official Confucian education, combined with the provision of literary examinations, which were to provide qualification for titles and public offi…

Sino-French War of 1883-85

(1,100 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
When the Sino-French War took place, it was in a new situation of political pressure and, in particular, territorial annexation which had been carried out by the Foreign Powers from 1870 to 1880 at the expense of China and its tributary states from Burma to Korea, and from the Ryukyu Islands to the Yili area. For the first time since 1839, this development, which presaged a division of China into zones of influence, prompted China to take the initiative and use military force against imperialism when France attacked Tonkin. Vietnam was one of China's oldest tributary states. For two…

Boxer Uprising

(1,481 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
This grassroots movement for self-defense was created in rural Shandong between the spring of 1898 and that of 1899. It united followers of a martial arts form imbued with religious and magical ideas who were faithful to the Qing dynasty and devoted to the goal of "destroying the foreigners". Individual groups, each practicing their own form of Chinese boxing ( quan), had at first fought against bandits and then started to use organized force against Christian communities, many of which offered fringe groups protection if in exchange they converted to Ch…