The Qing dynasty ruled China for nearly 270 years, lasting from 1644 until 1911; it was the last of China’s so-called conquest dynasties, the country being governed in this period by the Manchus, an ethnic group from beyond its frontiers. Ten emperors ruled in that period, as set out below.

List of Qing Emperors 1644-1911

  • Shunzhi Emperor 1644 –1661
  • Kangxi Emperor 1662 –1722
  • Yongzheng Emperor 1723 –1735
  • Qianlong Emperor 1736 –1795
  • Jiaqing Emperor 1796 –1820
  • Daoguang Emperor 1821–1850
  • Xianfeng Emperor 1851–1861
  • Tongzhi Emperor 1862–1874
  • Guangxu Emperor 1875–1908
  • Xuantong Emperor 1909–1911

The Qing rulers sought to demonstrate their achievements in the Chinese tradition while maintaining a separate ethnic identity; both efforts were crucial to the continuation of their rule. On occasion, the court took steps to ensure the Manchus kept up their martial skills and language, since these were seen as vital to being Manchu.

Court dress was particularly strict in differentiating social ranks and emphasising Manchu culture.  It was also during the Qing period that the wearing of a queue or pigtail for men, a fashion alien to the majority Han Chinese people, was introduced.

1. Have students conduct an internet research task at home investigating ritual and dress during the Qing period. They should be prepared to discuss these topics at the next lesson.

Popular imagination of Chinese architecture is dominated by the Great Wall, but Qing emperors expended resources on the architecture of many types of structures including palaces and temples.

Assign a Qing emperor to groups of students working in twos or threes. Students will investigate the emperor and their architect’s contribution to Qing architecture.

  • What did they build, modify or renovate?
  • Why?
  • Can evidence of this emperor’s initiatives still be found today?
  • What are the characteristics of Qing architecture?
  • Did this change over the period of the dynasty?
  • Why?
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