When people learn about Chinese History, it is confusing to understand that China’s last dynasty was not Chinese but was considered Manchurian.
The Manchus conquered China partly because the Ming Dynasty was in disarray, and the Manchurians’ military forces were superior in their military discipline, unity, and preparedness. The Ming Dynasty was dealing with a lot of infighting and a very disillusioned military.
The Ming Dynasty was very weak, and the Manchu forces in the north saw the weakened state of the Ming Dynasty and took the opportunity to conquer the Ming Dynasty.
The Manchurians Conquered the Mighty Ming
In 1644 fewer than a quarter-million Manchus conquered the Chinese empire and established the Qing Dynasty. Today in China, the Manchu or Mancharians are a minority ethnic group. If you’d like to learn more, you can read our blog about the difference between Manchu, Mongols, and Han Chinese People.
To the Ming Dynasty, the Manchurians were thought of as the barbarians at their gate. Yet this relatively small army could get through the gate and conquer and dissolve the Chinese Ming Dynasty.
About 120,000 Manchurians conquered the Ming Dynasty. The Manchus conquered China because they had the strength of discipline, unity, and military preparedness and had a brilliant military strategy.
Divide and Conquer
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Ming Dynasty was in trouble. They were facing threats from barbarians and all sides. There were many political infighting and rebellions throughout the country – the people and Ming leadership and military were not happy. The Ming Dynasty had low morale, and loyalty was slipping within their military. The Ming Dynasty was in a weakened state.
The Ming Dynasty was basically in chaos and a fragile power. The Manchus saw the advantage of the weakened state of the Ming Dynasty; they took this advantage to move from the north down to the south towards Beijing.
The Manchus reached out to the disillusioned Ming Generals; many of them joined with the Manchus. The fact that the Manchu could align themselves with the Ming military forces shows how weak the Ming military was.
The Manchus entered Beijing in June and almost immediately had control of Beijing (Peking). The Ming Dynasty was so weak that Manchus were able to cease control and power quickly.
Through a combination of military campaigns and diplomacy, the Manchu military could wipe out all the remains of Ming resistance to win support.
The Manchus did not stop in present-day Beijing, but they continued to conquer all of China. By 1673, they had conquered all of China, including bringing Xinjiang and Taiwan into the Chinese motherland.
Because Taiwan was part of China in 1673, this is also why today, almost all Chinese will still consider Taiwan to be part of China.
The Manchurian Qing Dynasty
What is even more amazing about the Qing dynasty is that you have a relatively small group of people who kept control over a large group of people for over 250 years. Compared to the Han Chinese, the Manchurian population was relatively small.
Han Chinese is what most Chinese people consider themselves to be in China. Today in China, about 1.4 billion people identify themselves as Han Chinese; this is most Chinese people.
Today the Manchurian population in China is relatively small. Manchu is considered an ethnic group within China, and very few people can still speak Manchurian.
The first Manchu emperor of the Qing Dynasty was mentally unstable. Adding to that was that they were remaining pockets of Ming resistance, especially in the south.
But this did not stop the Manchu military and the Qing dynasty from conquering and ruling all of China. The Qing Dynasty was able to remain in control of China for about 250 years.
Despite their small number, the Ming Dynasty survived and thrived in China, despite a rocky start.
The Han Chinese And The Qing Dynasty
Being controlled by the Manchurians was psychologically very difficult for many Han Chinese. It was tough for them to come to terms with the Ming Dynasty’s fall and accept the Qing dynasty. Essentially China was being ruled by a foreign power.
Today many Han Chinese may be more proud of the Ming Dynasty and even tell you that the success of the Qing Dynasty was because the Manchurians became China. In other words, in their eyes, the success of the Qing Dynasty was because the Manchurians became almost Han Chinese.
You may find that many Han Chinese may speak about the Manchurians in terms of being cruel, barbarians, or with other unfavorable terms because many Han Chinese see the fall of the Ming Dynasty as a blackspot of Chinese History.
The Manchurians never wanted to become Han Chinese. They put laws in place to try to separate the Manchurians from the Chinese. The Qing Dynasty wanted the Han Chinese to follow some of the Manchurian’s ways, such as how the Manchurian men cut all their hair except a small long pony tail.
In 1911, the Qing Dynasty fell, and the last emperor left the forbidden city. Because of this, the Manchus were often blamed for many of China’s problems, both social and political. Many Manchurians felt it was in their best interest to assimilate into Chinese society and pass themselves off as Han Chinese.
The Qing Dynasty and the Manchurians are not to blame for China’s problems. The truth is if the Ming Dynasty had been strong and had a unified and well-prepared trained military, the Manchus would have never been able to conquer China.
The Manchus saw the weakened condition of the Ming Dynasty and took the opportunity to conquer China and put themselves in power for over 250 years. The Manchus had a better military strategy so their small military force could dominate and control a nation as large as China.
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What Happened To The Manchu People In China?
After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu people continued to live in China. The Chinese government categorizes the Manchu people as a Chinese ethnic group. It is estimated that just over 10 million Manchu ethnic minorities live mainly in the Northeastern area of China.
What Is The Difference Between Manchu, Mongols, And Han Chinese People?
The Manchu people are traditionally from Northeastern China, and they traditionally speak a language called Manchurian. The Mongol people mainly live in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia in China. They speak the Mongolian language.
On the other hand, the Han Chinese are the major ethnic group in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. There are many dialects of Chinese spoken, but the significant dialects are Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.
You can learn more by reading What Is The Difference Between Manchu, Mongols, And Han Chinese People? by clicking here.