Category: qing dynasty

That much embroidery probably hinders their freedom of movement…but it sure looks snazzy!

From the Qing Dynasty, circa 1700s

The imperial summer palace, or Yuanming Yuan, evolved over time into the main residence of the Qing emperors. Eight miles north of the Forbidden City, it was constructed throughout the 1700s and early 1800s, as emperors successively added gardens, water features, follies, and eventually European-style palaces.

Yuanming Yuan was burned from October 18th to October 21s of 1860, during the Opium Wars, by the Anglo-British Expeditionary Force. These photographs were taken on October 18th before the palace was burned.

The Jade Record or “Yuli” is an illustrated religious tract that circulated in various versions and editions in the 1800s in China. It describes the horrors of Diyu –  “earth prison,” or hell, based on a mix of Chinese Daoism and Buddhist tradition.

According to the Jade Record, bad people are sent through ten courts after they die. Each specializes in punishing a specific misdeed. Examples include having weak faith in the Buddha, gambling, drinking, stealing, drowning baby girls, and disbelieving in the Jade Record.

At the end of their journey through Diyu, souls forget their past life, in the goddess Meng’s “Tower of Forgetting.” They are then reincarnated in a new body. The new body depends on their old life. Bad people get bad bodies, good people get good bodies. Options include being an animal, an ill or ugly person, a poor person, and if they are lucky, a rich person.

This pair of ornaments and headdress were likely once worn by the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), the effective ruler of China during the later years of the Qing Dynasty. Click through the image gallery to see all three.

All three are exquisite. They who how Chinese decoration and symbolism were used to express rank. The myriad of pearls and gemstones mark that the wearer is one of the highest ranking women in Chinese society,  while the phoenixes emerging from the surface represent the empress dowager specifically. Put together, a Chinese person in the early 1900s would have known immediately who the wearer was, and how important they were.

Where do modern Chinese triads come from?

Qing Dynasty: 33 rare portrait photos of Chinese people in the 1860s.

Puyi, the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, working for the Beijing Botanical Garden, People’s Republic of China, 1961

via reddit

Between 1876 and 1879 a serious and large-scale drought occurred in China, leaving some 13 million people dead out of the total of 108 million. As the world was emerging from its last period of cooling known as “The Little Ice Age,” a drought in the Yellow River basin area began in earnest in 1876, worsening the following year with the almost total failure of rain. This was by far the worst drought to hit the region in the past 300 years, and definitely caused the largest number of casualties. Shanxi province was the most affected by the famine, with an estimated 5.5 million dead out of a total population of 15 million.

Previous droughts had been less devastating because a strong centralized state stored grains for such disasters, and redistributed the stored grain when harvests failed. But in the 1870s, the Qing Dynasty was weak thanks to rebellions and increased western imperialist incursions, the greatest of which were the Opium Wars with Great Britain. The Qing Dynasty had not been stockpiling grain for a disaster, and would not have been able to redistribute any stockpiled grain anyways. So 13 million died.

A fragile looking soldier of the Qing Dynasty’s Beiyang Army. 1912 autochrome photography

via reddit