Reconciliation Day Public Holiday

All National Library reading rooms will be closed on Reconciliation Day, Monday 28 May.  Regular reading room hours will resume on Tuesday 29 May. See our holiday opening hours for more information.

A troubled century

Explore the Celestial Empire exhibition through the theme A troubled century.


By the early 19th century, the Qing dynasty was suffering from administrative inertia, inadequate tax revenues and natural disasters. Then came a series of military defeats at the hands of foreign nations, beginning with the First Opium War with Great Britain in 1841.

These setbacks forced the Qing court to make many concessions, including the opening of the so-called treaty ports. This led not only to an expansion in foreign trade but also to unprecedented levels of cultural exchange. Missionaries arrived in large numbers, bringing Western education, medicine and technology.

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