The Qing dynasty (post-1800)

Authored by: Nancy Park

Routledge Handbook of Imperial Chinese History

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138847286
eBook ISBN: 9781315726878
Adobe ISBN:


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For the first 40 years of Manchu rule, the rulers of the Qing dynasty prohibited coastal trade to decrease the likelihood of a seaborne attack by supporters of the vanquished Ming. In 1684, however, after having extinguished the last sparks of Ming loyalism, the Kangxi emperor (r. 1661–1772) authorized the opening of four cities in South China to direct maritime trade with Europe. For the next 75 years, trade was conducted freely at these ports. On the European side, trade was fueled by a voracious demand for Chinese tea, silks, and porcelain. On the Chinese side, population growth, wealth accumulation, and increasing specialization encouraged the steady expansion of maritime commerce. Although the government’s formal policy remained anti-commercial, in keeping with the traditional Confucian ideology deprecating trade, the mid-Qing rulers were open to pursuing commercial relations with other countries as long as there was no threat to China’s internal stability.

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