China’s states and cultures date back more than six millennia making the nation to be one of the world’s continuous and oldest civilizations. Before the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China had experienced great political instability and inability to maintain a government. The period between 1200 and 1900 was marked with rebellions and revolutions in China, with the rebels and revolutionaries who led the uprisings had different ideologies and reasons (Gernet, 1996). In this paper, the causes for revolutions and rebellions that were witnessed in China from 1200 to 1900 will be discussed.
The role of China peasants in shaping the nation’s modern history will be evaluated. China’s great historical transformations can be attributed to the people’s pattern of everyday life and the rebellions and revolutions in China were influenced by the various Chinese dynasties that existed over the years. To discuss the rebellions, uprisings, and revolutions witnessed in China between 1200 and 1900, the various dynasties that ruled China during this period will be discussed. The social unrest that resulted from the conflicts led to China’s failure to maintain a stable government.
Focus will be on reason for the social unrest during each rule. Discussion Failure of China to maintain a stable government and cause for rebellions, revolutions and uprisings between 1200 and 1900 During the 13th century, China was wealthy and advanced. It had big cities and great shipping industry. Despite this, China was experiencing numerous conflicts between the leaders of the various dynasties that existed then . In the early 13th century, the Western Xia which ruled China between 1038 and 1227 began to receive attacks from the Mongol Empire. The empire was later incorporated into the Mongolian administration in the late 1220s.
The Song dynasty ruled in China between 960- 1279AD,and was the first government in the world to issue paper money or bank notes . The Song government controlled many regions in the inner China, and a conflict between the Song dynasty and the Jin dynasty had the Song dynasty loose control over the northern China. This led to the establishment of the Southern Song (Li and Zheng, 2001). In efforts to repel the Jin government from the northern China region, the Southern Song dynasty was involved in developing revolutionary new military technology. The Mongols conquered the Jin dynasty in 1234 and took control over northern China (Kwanten, 1974).
The Mongol empire continued to be involved in revolutions. Between 1250 and 1270s, China witnessed sporadic warfare as Kublai Khan tried to take control of the regions ruled by the Song dynasty. Under the leadership of Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire managed to conquer the Song dynasty in 1279. This united China under the Yuan dynasty which took over leadership from 1271 to 1368(Cotterell, 2007). The Yuan dynasty was a continuation of Mongol Empire leadership in China and the Yuan dynasty rulers were referred to as the Emperor of China. The Mongol Empire remained united and strong.
The Chinese people during the last years of the Yuan dynasty experienced famine and suffering. The dynasty lasted for only one century (1271 to 1368), making it one of the most short lived dynasty in Chinese history. During the leadership of the Yuan dynasty, those who succeeded Kublai Khan lost influence on the other Mongol lands in Asia. Due to this, the Yuan emperors reign became short. Furthermore, the leadership was marked by rivalry and intrigues. Lack of Yuan emperors to involve the Chinese people in administration had them loose popularity with the people and the army.
This resulted to unrest and dissension in China. The country was ravaged by outlaws and the failure of Yuan armies to address the situation was a sign of the Yuan armies’ weakness. Unrest in China continued and in 1323, a coup against Emperor Yingzong and there was a civil war in 1329. The decline of the Yuan dynasty was promoted by the coming into power of warlords. In the 1340s, the Chinese people suffered from frequent floods, famine, and drought. The government lacked an effective policy to address the problems that the people were experiencing, a situation that triggered a rebellion in 1351.
The rebellion was known as the Red Turban Rebellion and it grew into a national turmoil. The Central government weakened rapidly. The ruler reacted to this by relying on the local warlords for military force, ceased to intervene in political struggles and lost interest in politics. This led to the collapse of the Mongol – led Yuan dynasty, and the establishment of the Ming dynasty. After the remnants of the Yuan dynasty retreated to Mongolia, it formed the Northern Yuan dynasty. The Ming and Yuan dynasties continued to attack each other until the Ming dynasty acquired victory in 1388 over the Northern Yuan.
This was followed by periods of both conflict and peaceful relations with border trade. Therefore during the early 13th century, Genghis Khan managed to unite the northern Asia nomadic tribes into a single and powerful Mongol confederation. The confederation grew into a huge empire, and both China and Tibet were under the control of the empire. The Tibetans had peacefully submitted to the Mongols between 1244 and 1247, while China came under the empire after the Mongols conquered the Jin dynasty and the Southern Song dynasty.
The Ming dynasty had put more emphasis on maritime exploration and economic expansion after overthrowing the Mongols. The Ming dynasty leadership remained in control over China until 1644 (Fairbank and Goldman, 2006). Zhu Yuanzhang was a rebel who led a rebellion against the Yuan rule. He believed and defended Confucianism and neo-Confucian conventions. During the Ming rule, China witnessed social stability and an orderly government. In addition, the Ming dynasty was the last dynasty in China to be ruled by Hans.
The Ming rule led to the construction of a large navy and a standing army that was estimated to be made up of one million troops. Under the Muslim eunuch admiral Zheng He, the maritime fleet in China during the 15th century surpassed other fleets that had existed before. Enormous construction projects were witnessed such as the restoration of the Great wall and the Great canal. During the first quarter of the 15th century, the Forbidden City was established in Beijing. The population of the people under the rule of the Ming dynasty was estimated to have been between 160 to 200 million.
It is during the reign of the Ming dynasty that a high point Chinese civilization was witnessed in China (Brook, 1998). Early signs of capitalism in China emerged during the Ming dynasty rule. Emperor Hongwu who ruled between 1368 and 1398 made efforts to create self-sufficient rural communities. Rebuilding China’s agricultural base was characterized by the strengthening of the militarized courier system and communication routes. Changes in social and political philosophy were witnessed. The Ming economy in the 16th century was stimulated by the maritime trade China had with the Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish.
This promoted China’s involvement in the new global trade referred to as the Columbian Exchange. Through the trade, food crop[s, goods, plants, and animals were exchanged. Massive amounts of silver were bought into China as a result of China’s trade with Europe and Japan. The silver was then replaced with copper and finally bank notes. Despite these developments, the government under the Ming rule failed when silver that entered China during the last decades of the Ming rule diminished. This undermined the state revenues, hence negatively affected the entire Ming economy.
This economic situation was made worse by the negative effects of sudden epidemics, natural calamities, and crop failure. The failure to have control and maintain a stable government in China at that time was undermined by the breakdown of authority. The people’s livelihoods which were marked with suffering allowed the Ming authority to be challenged by the rebel leaders such as Li Zicheng. He advocated for the abolishment of the grain taxes payment system and equal division of land. This won him the support of peasants. The Ming government just like the Yuan dynasty had its share of problems.
The Yuan dynasty government had been undermined by ethnic discrimination that was directed towards the Han Chinese. This stirred rebellion and resentment from the Chinese people. In addition, the Yuan dynasty received opposition due to its overtaxing in areas that had been hardly hit by inflation and abandoning the irrigation projects that led to massive flooding of the Yellow River. These factors impacted negatively on agriculture and the economy. This angered hundreds of thousands of Chinese peasants who reacted by rebelling and refusing to work on repairing the Yellow River dykes.
This also triggered rebellion in 1351 by Han Chinese resistance groups such as the Red Turbans. Between 1572 and 1620, the Ming economy faced some financial problems as a result of the Imjin War financial drain. The war which was in Korea was against the Japanese. Economic breakdown in China during the Ming rule acted as a setback to the development in China. During the last years of Ming dynasty rule, there was a sudden lack of silver in China which affected the value of the silver and made it difficult for the people in some provinces to pay taxes.
By 1643, peasants were experiencing an economic disaster as the value of silver and copper were adversely affected. This is because the peasants paid taxes in silver but conducted local trade and sold their crops using copper coins. In the early 17th century, famine, Little Ice Age, tax increases, decline in relief system, widespread military desertions, and natural disasters affected the economy. The government’s failed to manage flood control projects and irrigation. This led to the loss of lives which angered the peasants. The central government lacked adequate resources to address the problems that the people were facing.
The collapse of the Ming dynasty led to the establishment of the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty was the last dynasty in China and the second to be taken over by foreigners after the Yuan dynasty. This dynasty existed between 1644 and 1912. Before the conquest, the Manchu who established the Qing dynasty had made some Ming generals and government officials their strategic advisors. Furthermore, the Manchu had managed to recruit a large number of Mongol troops. In the 1640s, the large number of Chinese peasants who were unable to pay taxes and were starving formed huge bands of rebels.
There were huge peasants’ revolts against the Ming dynasty even as the Qing dynasty through the Manchu armies expanded into southern China. Any local resistance to the Qing dynasty expansion was crushed with violence by the Manchu armies. The Manchu government made efforts to establish peaceful relations with the neighboring powers. Even during the Qing dynasty, the government was trying to survive the long peasant rebellions that continued in China. The Manchu continued to fight Ming rebels, pretenders, and loyalists after conquering the Ming dynasty. Emperor Shunzhi centralized power at the expense of other Manchu princes.
One argument that is offered to show the Chinese resistance to the Manchu was haircutting which Chinese people resisted. The Manchu enforcement of haircutting order angered the people, which led to death of hundreds of thousands of people before all people complied. To counter the opposition from the Chinese people, the Manchu developed several methods of ensuring they maintained control over the people. One way through which the Manchu did this was through the Queue order. This order was meant to force the different ethnic groups of people into their submission.
Many Chinese were killed and intermarriage between the Han Chinese and Manchu people prohibited. The resistance of the Han Chinese against this order had massive killings of Han Chinese people all over the country. The opposition was silenced through the literary Inquisition. Examples of a revolt and a rebellion witnessed in China during the Qing rule was the Revolt of Three Feudatories and the rebellion led by the Chakhar Mongols in 1673 and 1675 respectively. The rebels were crushed by Kangxi Emperor. Between 1662 and 1722, Kangxi Emperor became the longest reigning Chinese emperor.
During his rule, China witnessed a period of economic, military, and social development. Emperor Yongzheng ruled after Emperor Kangxi death. Emperor Yongzheng ruled between 1723 and 1735 and succeeded by his son Emperor Qianglong. It is during this time that the height of Qing’s power reached its peak in China. The Qing dynasty had control over a territory that measured around 13 million square kilometers. Yongzheng Emperor was an effective leader who cracked down on illegal coins exchange and punished corrupt officials. Emperor Qianglong calmed down revolts and uprisings in Sichuan.
However, corruption was experienced in the government by 1775 and the Qing rule in 1796 dynasty experienced rebellion from the White Lotus Society which continued until 1804. The rebellion managed to invade the Manchu military (Elliot, 2001). The 19th century was marked with unrest, rebellion and external pressure. During this period, the Qing control became weak and prosperity diminished. China suffered economic stagnation, shortage of food supply, massive social strife, and explosive population growth. The Qing government now faced internal problems and resistance from the people who accused it of bureaucracy.
The first anti-Manchu rebellion that threatened the Qing dynasty stability was the Taiping rebellion which occurred in the mid 19th century. There was increased social unrest and famine, and in 1851, an uprising led by Hong Xiuquan occurred in Guizhou province. He then claimed himself King of the Heavenly Kingdom. Banning of slavery, arranged marriages, concubinage and opium smoking was done. Between 1850 and 1864 with the assistance of French and British, the Manchu entered into a conflict with the Taiping Rebellion forces (Jonathan, 1997).
This had an estimated 20 to 30 million people killed. The Miao people and Muslims led revolts in China against the Qing dynasty. For instance, the Dungan revolt which occurred between 1862 and 1877 and the Panthay rebellion of between 1856 and 1873. China witnessed the influence of western nations in the region during this period. The Chinese products were highly demanded in Europe and the first and second Opium wars had the Chinese military defeated by western nations such as France and Britain. The Qing dynasty tried to calm down rebellion through the military forces but collapsed in 1911.
This ended imperial leadership that had existed in China for 2000 years. The Xinhai revolution which ended the Qing rule began with the Wuchang uprising in 1911, after which Emperor Puyi abdicated. The Taiping rebellion and the influence of the western nations in wars with China such as the Opium wars contributed to the collapse of Qing rule. The Republic of China government came into power after the end of the Qing rule. The Role of China’s peasants in shaping China’s modern history In China, peasants played a very important role in shaping the modern China’s history.
The peasants did this by participating in uprisings, rebellions, and revolutions against the poor governance that they experienced from the rulers. These rulers were installed after the establishment of the various dynasties that were in control of China between 12200-1900. Some of the revolutionaries and rebels in China during this period were peasants or were greatly committed to fighting for the rights of the peasants. These rebels and revolutionaries were opposed to the oppressive and corrupt leadership of the emperors in China.
In the 13th century, the peasants experienced problems as a result of poor leadership. During the Western Xia dynasty rule, the government was corrupt, a situation that led to economic difficulties in China. This impacted negatively on the peasants and triggered a coup in 1206 which resulted to the installation of Xianhzong as the dynasty’s emperor. The Mongol expansion in Asia resulted to the re-establishment of the silk road which promoted trade between China and other nations. The Mongol-led Yuan dynasty did not solve the peasants problems. Instead, the peasants faced worse problems during the Yuan rule.
Excessive spending and trade restrictions impacted negatively on the economy. In addition, it is during the Yuan rule that the construction of palaces and canals was witnessed. This required the peasants to leave their homes in order to build the canals and the palaces. The peasants were also required to pay more in taxes to support the construction. The Chinese people were not offered government positions, and this made it easy for the Yuan rule to ignore the problems that were faced by the Chinese peasants. The peasants suffered from frequent floods, drought, and famine (Li and Zheng, 2001).
The failure of the government to address these problems and the weakening of the Yuan dynasty military forces led to the participation of peasants in uprisings and rebellions that aimed at resisting and corrupt poor leadership (Paludan, 1998). The Chinese people failed to acknowledge Yuan as a legitimate dynasty, and instead considered the dynasty to be an occupying army. The institutionalized ethnic discrimination of the Hans Chinese triggered unrest in China and the Yellow River change in course fueled the peasant’s rebellion against the Mongol rulers.
An example of a rebel leader who was a peasant before he became a monk is Chu Yuang-Chang. He believed in justice and good leadership. The Red Turban Rebellion which contributed to the collapse of the Yuan rule was supported by the peasants. The collapse of Yuan dynasty and the establishment of the Ming dynasty. The Ming dynasty tried to promote social stability and orderly government in China. The Chinese peasants contributed to the revival of the agricultural production which led to vast agricultural surplus, which promoted economic development as a result of trade in agricultural products.
However, the peasants continued to experience problems during the Ming rule. The diminished flow of sliver into China led to economic crisis . In addition, the peasants experienced the little ice Age, sudden epidemics, floods and famine due to crop failure. This led to the opposition of Ming rule by the peasants and the collapse of the Ming rule ushered in the Qing dynasty which was led by the Manchus. The Manchu barred the Chinese people from occupying the top government positions. In addition, there was always an underlying tension between the Manchu and the Chinese about the culture (Laird, 2006).
The dual appointment system in governance ensured the Han loyalty to the Qing rule. This continued to trigger resistance from the peasants. The Taiping rebellion on between 1850 and 1864 was led by rebels who believed in social reforms and fought against the corrupt feudal system of the Qing. The Qing rule continued until 1911 when it collapsed. Conclusion China throughout history has failed to have a stable government. Since the 13th century, the country has experienced social unrest as a result of uprisings, revolutions, and rebellions.
The uprisings, rebellions, and revolutions aimed at resisting poor leadership that was for 2000 years led by several dynasties. Some of the dynasties that were in control of China between 1200 and 1900 included the Western Xia,Yuan,Ming,and Qing dynasties. These dynasties were established as a result of conflicts that China experienced as rebels and revolutionaries sought to extend their territory and gain power. The social unrest in China reduced with the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949.