New Qing History

The New Qing History is a school of thought that gained prominence in the United States in the mid-1990s by offering a wide-ranging revision of history of the Manchu Qing dynasty.[1] Earlier historians had emphasized the power of Han Chinese to “sinicize” their conquerors, that is, to assimilate and make them Chinese in their thought and institutions. In the 1980s and early 1990s, American scholars began to learn Manchu and took advantage of newly opened Chinese- and Manchu-language archives. This research found that the Manchu rulers were savvy in manipulating their subjects and from the 1630s through at least the 18th century, emperors developed a sense of Manchu identity and used Central Asian models of rule as much as they did Confucian ones. According to some scholars, at the height of their power, the Qing regarded "China" as only a part, although a very important part, of a much wider empire that extended into the Inner Asian territories of Mongolia, Tibet, the Northeast (today sometimes called Manchuria) and Xinjiang, or Chinese (Eastern) Turkestan.[2]

Some scholars criticize this approach for exaggerating the Manchu character of the dynasty and some in China accuse the American historians in the group of imposing American concerns with race and identity or even of imperialist misunderstanding in order to weaken China. Still others in China agree that this scholarship has opened new vistas for the study of Qing history.[3]

This use of "New Qing History" as an approach is to be distinguished from the New Qing History, a multi-volume history of the Qing dynasty authorized by the Chinese State Council in 2003.[4]


Prominent scholars who have been associated with "New Qing History," including Evelyn Rawski, Mark Elliott, Pamela Kyle Crossley, Laura Hostetler, Philippe Forêt, and others, although they differ among themselves on important points, represent an "Inner Asian" and "Eurasian" turn which conceived the Manchu-centered Qing as fundamentally different from most earlier dynasties but as similar to the Ottoman, Mogul, and Romanov empires across the Eurasian landmass. The historians in this group argued that the Qing saw itself as a universal empire, a multi-national polity which included China as only one component, although the most central and economically important one. The New Qing historians date the founding of the empire from 1636, when the dynasty was proclaimed, rather than from 1644, the year in which the Qing took control of Beijing. These historians argued that “Manchu” identity was deliberately created only after the takeover of China and that the new racial identity was important but “fungible,” or easily exchanged for others. In the early reigns of the dynasty, the new rulers played the Confucian role of Son of Heaven but at the same time, and often behind the backs of their Han Chinese ministers, adopted other roles to rule other ethnic groups. The military expansion of frontiers, which Han Chinese ministers often opposed because it drained resources from China proper, showed that the Qing empire was not simply a victim of imperialism, but also practiced imperialism itself. Some of these historians followed Evelyn Rawski in using the “Early Modern” label for the Qing period, rather than “late imperial” on the grounds that the Manchus created a centralized empire that the Ming could not have created. [5]

History of New Qing History

The origins of the New Qing History lie in Inner Asian Studies. The Harvard scholar Joseph Fletcher studied the languages and culture of Central Asia. He was among those to discredit the idea that Manchu documents were nearly all translations from the Chinese and that the Manchu versions would add little to the record. He wrote in 1981 that “Qing scholars who want to do first-class work in the archives must, from now on, learn Manchu and routinely compare the Manchu and Chinese sources for their topics of research.” Beatrice Bartlett, a Yale historian who had studied Manchu with Fletcher, reported in an article titled “Books of Revelations,” that the archives in Taiwan and Beijing revealed many secrets which required knowledge of Manchu. The Grand Council of the Yongzheng emperor operated only in Manchu until the 1730s and many other important edicts and memorials did not have Chinese translations. Official use of the language, she argued, did not decline during the 19th century. She concluded that the archives of Manchu materials were more likely to be complete because they were less likely to have been raided, weeded, or lost.[6]

The New Qing History took on distinct form in the mid-1990s. In 1993, Crossley and Rawski summarized the arguments for using Manchu language materials, materials which they and others had explored in the newly opened archives in Beijing and were beginning to use in their publications.[7] Evelyn Rawski's presidential address titled "Re-envisioning the Qing: The Significance of the Qing Period in Chinese History" at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in 1996 particularly criticized the question of the "sinicization" of the Qing raised by Ping-ti Ho in his 1967 article "The Significance of the Ch’ing Period in Chinese History." Rawski’s thinking was based on a Manchu-centric concept of history, indicating that the reason the Qing dynasty rulers could successfully govern China for nearly 300 years was not the result of sinicization, that is, of adopting the characteristics of Han Chinese rule and culture, but the their focus on retaining the characteristics of Manchu culture. They used these characteristics to strengthen relations with other nationalities to build a multiracial empire that included Manchu, Han, Mongol, Tibetan, Uyghur and other nationalities.[8] To better govern this multiethnic empire, for instance, the Kangxi emperor located his summer residence in the Chengde Mountain Resort, which is north of the Great Wall. This became the historical core of city of Chengde, which the Qianlong emperor enlarged considerably, including a replica of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.[9]

In response, Ping-ti Ho published "In Defense of Sinicization: A Rebuttal of Evelyn Rawski’s 'Re-envisioning the Qing'". He argued that the pattern of Chinese history was for a conquest dynasty to adopt Chinese ways of rule and culture, and attacked Rawski for Manchu-centrism.[10] The school we now know as the "New Qing History" developed after this debate.[11] In 2011, the historian Huang Pei published a monograph that developed the objections stated by Ho Ping-ti. [12]

There are differences among the scholars in this loose group. For example, Rawski’s Re-envisioning the Qing and Elliott’s The Manchu Way regard the Qing as a Manchu empire of which China is only one part. Nevertheless, Pamela Kyle Crossley sees the Qing empire not as a Manchu empire but as a "simultaneous" system in which the rulership is not subordinate to any single culture, not even Chinese. She criticized the "Manchu-centered" school for romanticism and a reliance upon disproved theories about "Altaic" language and history, though she seems to include herself in the Qing empire school, which she calls "Qing Studies".[13]

In 2015, the historian Richard J. Smith reported that an interpretive "middle ground" had emerged between the views of Rawski and Crossley on the one hand and Ho and Huang on the other. Smith himself had come to the conclusion that "the Qing empire" and "China" were not the same thing and that the Qing had to be placed not only in a Manchu context, but one that included Inner Asia in general and saw China in a global field. This less "sinocentric" view, Smith continued, which placed less emphasis on "sinicization", had won over most Western China scholars in spite of debates over "matters of degree."[14]

Responses to New Qing History

The arguments put forward in the New Qing History inspired debate on a number of specific points.

Dispute over the term "China"

The scholar Zhao Gang responded against the anti-sinicization model Qing revisionist historians, noting that they claimed that the Qing only used "China" (中國) to encompass only Han people (漢人) and "China proper", while pointing out that in fact that China proper and Han people were not synonymous with "China" in the Qing view according to Mark Elliott's own work.[15] Han dynasties used Zhongguo (中國) to only refer to Han areas while the Qing dynasty reinvented the definition of Zhongguo (中國) to refer to non-Han as well.[16] Zhao Gang cited Qing documents where the Qing used the Manchu language term Dulimbai Gurun (a direct translation of "中國", Zhongguo; "Middle Kingdom") in Manchu texts and Zhongguo in Chinese texts to refer to the entire Qing including Manchuria, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and Tibet as "China", in official documents, edicts, treaties,[17] in texts like the Treaty of Nerchinsk,[18] Convention of Kyakhta (1768),[19] a 1755 pronouncement by the Qianlong Emperor,[20] and a Manchu language memorial on the conquest of Dzungaria,[21][22][23][24] and Qianlong's arguments for the annexation of Xinjiang,[25] and in Qianlong's sinicization policies in parts of Xinjiang.[26]

Mark Elliott wrote that it was under the Qing that "China" transformed into a definition of referring to lands where the "state claimed sovereignty" rather than only the Central Plains area and its people by the end of the 18th century.[27]

Elena Barabantseva has also noted that the Manchu referred to all subjects of the Qing empire regardless of ethnicity as "Chinese" (中國之人), and used the term Zhongguo (中國) as a synonym for the entire Qing empire while using "Hanren" (漢人) to refer only to the core area of the empire, with the entire empire viewed as multiethnic.[28]

Joseph W. Esherick observes that while the Qing Emperors governed frontier non-Han areas in a different, separate system under the Lifan Yuan and kept them separate from Han areas and administration, it was the Manchu Qing Emperors who expanded the definition of Zhongguo (中國) and made it "flexible" by using that term to refer to the entire Empire.[29]

Other points

Scholars have disagreed on whether, or the degree to which, the Manchu rulers used new forms of imperial ritual to display new forms of empire or continued rituals from the Ming, showing that they saw themselves as heirs of a Han Chinese empire. Roger Des Forges' review of David M. Robinson's Martial Spectacles of the Ming Court criticized scholars of conquest dynasties and New Qing History and disagreed with the idea that the "Royal hunt" was a differing factor between Han Chinese and conquest dynasties. He noted that the martial themed Ming dynasty Grand Review was copied by the Qing, in disagreement with those who sought to present it as a Qing feature. He praised Robinson in differing from scholars who selected certain Ming and Qing Emperors to contrast their difference and for not conflating Han with "Chinese" and for not translating the term "Zhongguo".[30]

“New Qing History," according to Tristan G. Brown writing in 2011, had not explored the example of Islam and Muslims to test their argument that the early Qing emperors aspired to be universal monarchs. Brown finds that an inscription by the Qianlong emperor showed that he wanted to incorporate both Xinjiang and Islam into his empire and that this inscription, along with the "inventive structural duality of Chinese-Islamic architecture with Central Asian Turkish-Islamic architectural forms" makes the "most compelling case" that New Qing History is also applicable to Chinese Islam.[31]

Responses in China

In the journal Chinese Social Sciences Today, an official publication of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li Zhiting, a scholar working on the National Qing Dynasty Compilation Committee, charged that “'New Qing History' is academically absurd, and politically does damage to the unity of China. ..." He sought to "expose its mask of pseudo-academic scholarship, eliminating the deleterious effect it has had on scholarship in China”. Li went on to charge that the “whole range of views [New Qing History scholars] express are cliches and stereotypes, little more than dusted off versions in a scholarly tone of the Western imperialism and Japanese imperialism of the 19th century”. American scholars such as Evelyn Rawski, Pamela Crossly, Mark Elliott, and James Milward, Li continued, “view the history of China from an imperialist standpoint, with imperialist points of view and imperialist eyes, regarding “traditional” China as an “empire,” regarding the Qing dynasty as “Qing dynasty imperialism.” [32]

Major works

See also


  1. Grace Yen Shen, Unearthing the Nation: Modern Geology and Nationalism in Republican China, (University of California Press, 2014), 200 note4.
  2. Waley-Cohen (2004), p. 194-197.
  3. Ding (2009), p. .
  4. Mao, Liping; Zhao, Ma (2012). ""Writing History in the Digital Age": The New Qing History Project and the Digitization of Qing Archives". History Compass. 10 (5): 367–374. doi:10.1111/j.1478-0542.2012.00841.x.
  5. Rowe (2009), p. 4-10.
  6. Both quoted in Roth Li, Gertrude (2010), Manchu: A Textbook for Reading Documents, National Foreign Language Resource Center p. 11
  7. CrossleyRawski (1993).
  8. Rawski (1996).
  9. Forêt (2000)
  10. Ho (1998).
  11. Pamela Kyle Crossley, Beyond the culture: my comments on New Qing history
  12. Huang (2011).
  13. “A Reserved View of the New Qing History”
  14. Smith (2015), p. ix-xi.
  15. Zhao 2006, p. 4.
  16. Zhao 2006, p. 4.
  17. Zhao 2006, pp. 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14.
  18. Zhao (2006), pp. 8 and 12.
  19. Zhao 2006, p. 14.
  20. Zhao 2006, p. 4.
  21. Zhao 2006, p. 12.
  22. Dunnell 2004, p. 77.
  23. Dunnell 2004, p. 83.
  24. Elliott 2001, p. 503.
  25. Zhao 2006, pp. 11-12.
  26. Zhao 2006, p. 18, 19, 25.
  27. Elliot 2000, p. 638.
  28. Barabantseva 2010, p. 20.
  29. Esherick 2006, p. 232.
  30. Roger des Forges, (Review) Journal of Chinese Studies No. 60 – (January 2015) pp. 302-303.
  31. Brown, Tristan G. (July 2011), "Towards an Understanding of Qianlong's Conception of Islam: A Study of the Dedication Inscriptions of the Fragrant Concubine's Mosque in the Imperial Capital" (PDF), Journal of Chinese Studies, 53: 138, 145
  32. Li, Zhiting 李治亭 (April 20, 2015). "Scholars Criticize 'New Qing History': An Example of 'New Imperialist' History". Chinese Social Sciences Today. translated in "A righteous view of history", China Media Project, April 2015

References and further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/14/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.