Chinese Culture 1800-1900
It goes without question from 1800-1900 China was experiencing a decline, which had not been seen for quite some time. Problems such as overpopulation started to take its toll on the once-known elite nation, sending them into famine, lower standard of living, extreme mistreatment of females, especially at young ages and an unfit government that allowed chaos to unfold. Conflict arose in China, but was it due to internal affairs of the Chinese people and government, wanting to maintain its superiority over the West, or were outside forces to blame for the extreme change in culture?Both of these aspects united to form seemingly the perfect storm that sent Chinese culture into a downward spiral for excess of 60 years.
At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, peace was brought to a majority of China and allowed population to grow rapidly, and was estimated to be at about 300 million by the beginning of the nineteenth century. In a mere 50 years, China’s population increased by approximately 100 million. A 33 percent increase in just 50 years. Such increases had harsh impacts regarding the agricultural front.Food became a prized commodity as China’s overpopulation led to a famine, which the nation had never experienced during a stable and productive agricultural period. Every mountainous and hilly area was terraced and double-cropped in effort to produce a sufficient quantity of nourishment for everyone, but to no avail. As an effect, people began dying of starvation and malnutrition. Jobs were few and far between for the crowded work industry, leaving people unemployed and virtually worthless in the government’s eyes.This problem was not helped in any sense, when the British finally found the one item the Chinese would buy was opium. A drug which was once used for medicinal purposes was now being used in a recreational manner. Use of the drug created addictions among many people, having to feed their addictions by selling their children to receive the drug. Outraged, the emperor banned the production and importation of opium in 1800 and in 1813 banned the smoking of opium. British and American smugglers were still bringing the drug onto Chinese soil, selling it for large profits.Emperor Daoguang debated on how to deal with the crisis and entertained the idea of legalizing the sale of opium and taxing it, which would help money in the government and possibly make it too expensive for anyone to afford. Some of his officials disagreed and wanted the drug to be completely wiped out. Lin Zexu was given the job to fight the drug problem and get to the main source of where the drug was coming from. Zexu arrested many en route to finding the drug was being smuggled by British citizens.He sent 500 laborers in to destroy the supply, which was enough for the British to begin warring with the Chinese (The Opium War). The British took their navy and obliterated the Chinese in what is known as The Opium Warm. Following the destruction of the Chinese navy, for being far too old, the British made them sign the Treaty of Nanjing, which allowed five new ports to be opened for trade, gave British money for destruction of opium and demanded Hong Kong. Nearly a decade after, Britain felt China was not holding out its side of the treaty and teamed with France to attack the coast of China, once again.The attack was based around the desire for more trade ports to be opened. Again, the Chinese endured an onslaught, and an additional ten ports are opened, more money was paid and the Europeans could travel wherever they desired on Chinese land, while abiding by European law (The Opium War). Less than a decade after The Opium War, the Chinese were faced with unprecedented rebellions the world had never seen. The Taiping Rebellion lasted an astonishing 13 years and claimed the lives of approximately 30 million people and was driven by an unorthodox religion.Hong Xiuquan claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ and began preaching to people around the nation to get them to follow his beliefs. After sweeping through parts of the country and destroying many temples and lives in the process, the idea of equalization was starting to be taught, although it never worked. The Taiping Rebellion was followed by the Nian and Muslim Rebellions, which weren’t as significant (Qing Dynasty). Self-strengthening was an idea brought about to help the Chinese get themselves out of such a rough time and back to the elite power they once were.Conflict again arose during the discussions, as the government could not agree upon a certain route to take in planning the idea. Empress Dowager Cixi was given power due to the death of the emperor, which left a 4-year-old for the throne. She was able to manipulate people in her court to do what she wanted and when she wanted. Cixi was conservative and allowed outsiders walk all over the Chinese, and again were demolished by the French. The Chinese were in a time where they were desperate to catch up with the rest of the western world.Reformations covered a vast amount of areas but mainly focused on the depleted militaristic aspect of China. Unfortunately China would not be able to make the next step and reach the level of France or Britain, having only weapons that were second-best. China missed its chance to make the leap needed to catch up with the rest of the vastly changing world. Outside pressures from France, Britain and Russia forced China into a corner, having to back down due to an unequal army and navy.Although, China was pressured from others, it created its own problems as well, with a government that could decide on nothing good for the people. Most of the conflicts were brought upon themselves, but the extra pressure from the West made China feel the hardship more than if it were only internal affairs which had brought the nation to struggle.Works Cited “Qing Dynasty. ” www. mnsu. edu. Minnesota State University, Dec. 2003. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. . “The Opium War. ” www. harvard. edu. Harvard University, 19 June 2002. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. .