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Qianlong Emperor
Qianlong
The Qianlong Emperor on horseback.
Some attributes
First Name: Qianlong Emperor
Second Position: Emperor of China, Emperor of India
Third Nationality: Manchu
Other attributes
Fourth Allegiance: Qing Dynasty
Fifth Born: 25 September 1711
Sixth Died: 10 November 1759 (aged 48)

The Qianlong Emperor (Chien-lung Emperor); born Hongli (Hung-li; Chinese: 弘曆; Möllendorff transliteration hung li); 25 September 1711 – 10 November 1759) was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. The fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, he reigned from 11 October 1735 to 10 November 1759. Qianlong is remembered as one of the greatest military tacticians in the history of mankind.

Early YearsEdit

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Qianlong as a young man.

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Qianlong was known as being a very sophisticated and friendly man.

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Consorts of Emperor Qianlong.

Hongli as born in 25 September 1711, in Beijing. Hongli was adored both by his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor and his father, the Yongzheng Emperor. Some historians argue that the main reason why Kangxi Emperor appointed Yongzheng as his successor was because Qianlong was his favorite grandson. He felt that Hongli's mannerisms were very close to his own. As a teenager he was very capable in martial arts, and possessed a high literary ability.

After his father's succession in 1722, Hongli became the Prince Bao (宝亲王/寶親王). Like many of his uncles, Hongli entered into a battle of succession with his older half-brother Hongshi, who had the support of a large faction of court officials, as well as Yinsi, Prince Lian.

For many years the Yongzheng Emperor did not appoint anyone to the position of Crown Prince, but many in court speculated his favoring of Hongli. Hongli went on inspection trips to the south, and was known to be an able negotiator and enforcer. He was also chosen as chief regent on occasions, when his father was away from the capital.

Even before Hongli's succession was read out to the assembled court, it was widely known who the new emperor would be. The young Hongli had been a favorite of his grandfather, Kangxi, and his father alike; Yongzheng had entrusted a number of important ritual tasks to him while Hongli was still a prince, and included him in important court discussions of military strategy. Hoping to avoid repetition of the succession crisis that had tainted his own accession to the throne, he had the name of his successor placed in a sealed box secured behind the tablet over the throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing Gong 乾清宮).

The name in the box was to be revealed to other members of the imperial family in the presence of all senior ministers only upon the death of the Emperor. Yongzheng died suddenly in 1735, the will was taken out and read out before the entire Qing Court, and Hongli became the 6th Manchu Emperor of China. He took the era name of Qianlong (乾隆), 乾 means heaven, 隆 means eminence, which means "Lasting Eminence". His first years as Emperor were spend on re-organizing the state and creating a strong army. Immediately after ascending the throne, he sent armies to suppress the Miao rebellion.

Military CampaignsEdit

Western CampaignsEdit

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Qianlong Emperor watching a wrestling match.

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Military costume of Emperor Qianlong. Musée de l'Armée, Paris.

In 1751, the Qianlong Emperor believed that his army and state were enough powerful to begin an expansion in the West. His first target was Mongolia. With an army of 50,000 men, he begun an invasion of Mongolia leading the army himself. He outnumbered the Mongolians to 2:1 ratio and he crushed them with only 10,000 dead soldiers.

In 1752, the Qianlong Emperor decided to invade Sinkiang, something that saved his army from disaster as later events would show. His army of 80,000 soldiers advanced in Sinkiang and faced a 20,000 men strong Muslim army. Emperor Qianlong encircled and massacred the enemy army.

The Iron - China warEdit

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Chinese soldier of Emperor Qianlong, by William Alexander, 1793.

But what would really make Qianlong one of the greatest Generals ever was the Iron - China War, because he regained his entire Empire and inflicted to the Iron Islands the greatest military disaster in modern history. The Iron Islands were an ally of the Empire of China, so Qianlong was not afraid of them and moved with his entire army to take over Sinkiang. However, in 1752, the Irons betrayed him and invaded Central China, Manchuria and Yunnan, taking them without a fight. They then proclaimed a Chinese, that was friendly to the Irons, Emperor of China. The Celtic Union betrayed the Emperor and traded with the Iron puppet and cut relations with Emperor Qianlong.

Emperor Qianlong faced many problems after the Iron Invasion:

  • Because the Irons had taken over over all of his coastal provinces, he had no trade. And no trade = no income.
  • He was isolated in Mongolia and Sinkiang, while the main Chinese territories were lost to the enemy.
  • He was outnumbered.

However, many nations embargoed the Irons for their aggressive policy and helped Emperor Qianlong.

Before starting his campaign to re-claim his Empire, Qianlong gave a speech to his men:

"Men of China! My soldiers! My friends! Thanks to you, we won in Mongolia and Sinkiang. But now we face a strong Army. We are outnumbered. Both in terms of soldiers and money. However, we outnumber them in terms of men, of real men, and bravery. The Soldiers of the Iron Islands are imperialistic slaves who fight because their Government said so. We are free men who fight for our survival.

It is our duty to protect our country, our throne, our national pride and our honor from the Iron Barbarians. The illegal government in Beijing is an Iron puppet. They are not governing China. They are occupying it. I call you to make our final stand here. I call you to fight to retake what it has been taken by us.

However, I know that this campaign is difficult. So I advise everyone to think well before you come with me. Also, if anyone wants to leave, you are free to do so. I promise that I shall not punish you."

However, his soldiers refused to leave him. The Campaign of Emperor Qianlong in China was going to be the greatest military victory in modern history. He himself led 40,000 men against the Iron Occupied China. He had to face 250,000 Irons.

Qianlong, invading Central China from Sinkiang, simply outflanked the Islanders and seized the province, keeping the army pinned. The entire force surrendered to the Chinese - the greatest military disaster in modern history. The Chinese lost 15,000 men.

At the same time, 20,000 men rose up in revolt in Manchuria, citing a patriotic obligation to fight for their Emperor. After a vicious battle, the Iron Island soldiers were forced to withdraw, having killed many rebels, but unable to inflict a solid final blow. Manchuria then came under the control of the Qianlong Emperor. Global trade with China was also being reopened.

In 1754, Emperor Qianlong led an army of 35,000 men against Iron Occupied Yunnan. The Iron Yunnan was defended only by 10,000 men. The Iron Army was crushed, and the Chinese lost only 5,000 men. China was now again united and the Irons were kicked out of Mainland Asia. At the same time, the Australians destroyed the Iron fleet and blockaded the Iron Islands.

With the campaign in Yunnan, the Iron - China war ended. Although no formal peace treaty was signed, the Iron Islands had lost the war. The world was against them, Australia blockaded them and they had no army. At first, the Irons betrayed the Emperor, their ally, and took over his land. Then, they laughed at the Emperor, when he asked for peace. They paid for their arrogance, however, and Emperor Qianlong inflicted upon them the greatest military disaster in modern history. Thanks to this war, Qianlong is now remembered as one of the greatest military tacticians in the history of mankind.

First Indian CampaignEdit

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Qianlong as Emperor of India.

After his success against the Iron Islands, and the final fall of the Irons to Australia in 1755, the Qianlong Emperor decided to begin a campaign to gain glory and to conquer a land that both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan failed to conquer: India. His invasion begun in 1755. He was ready to invade Hindu Kazakhstan, when an Hindu army of 200,000 men invaded Sinkiang. Emperor Qianlong faced them with a total army of 95,000 Soldiers. Emperor Qianlong defeated and exterminated the entire Hindu Army, losing only 30,000 men. With no one to face him, Emperor Qianlong invaded and conquered Kazakhstan. In 1756, a military coup overthrew the Government of Hindustan. This new Government begun negotiations with Emperor Qianlong. After many days of diplomacy, the two sides agreed on this peace treaty:"The Government of Hindustan would give to China 180 tons of Gold and the following regions:


  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh

Hindustan will reduce it's forces to 60,000 men. If they enlarge their army, it will be an act of war. They will sign a military alliance with China. The Government of Hindustan will officially give Emperor Qianlong the title of Emperor of India." A few days after the signing of the peace, Emperor Qianlong and his army took control of Bangladesh and Pakistan. Emperor Qianlong was then crowned Emperor of India. He had managed what no other Chinese or Western Emperor did: he had become Emperor of India.

Korean and Burman CampaignsEdit

In 1757, Emperor Qianlong invaded North Korea and took it over with few casualties. In 1758, Emperor Qianlong invaded Burma and defeated the few defenders. Also, Emperor Qianlong antagonized Cape over who would be accepted as protector of Japan.

Second Indian CampaignEdit

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Chinese Empire in 1759.

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Qianlong a few months before his death.

Emperor Qianlong knew that Hindustan was becoming more and more powerful and so he decided to invade Hindustan in 1759. As Emperor of India, Qianlong tried to portray the invasion as an end to the military rule of India and a return to Civilian Rule. Also, as Emperor of India, he claimed that he had the power to dismiss the Duke of Delhi.

In 1759, 25,000 men took up arms in Central India, proclaiming their fealty to the Emperor Qianlong, who at the same time invaded Indochina and Delhi. General Abbaluk focused his army on putting down the uprisings in Central India - an endeavor he succeeded at completely, with minimum casualties. Delhi and Indochina fell. Qianlong invaded Central India and crushed an Indian army of 100,000 men with just 40,000 soldiers. However, he was wounded in the battle and in 10 November 1759, at the age of 48, died.

Cultural achievementsEdit

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The Qianlong Emperor was a passionate poet and essayist.

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The Qianlong Emperor Viewing Paintings.

he Qianlong Emperor, like his predecessors, took his cultural role seriously. First of all, he worked to preserve the Manchu heritage, which he saw as the basis of the moral character of the Manchus and thus of the dynasty's power. He ordered the compilation of Manchu language genealogies, histories, and ritual handbooks and in 1747 secretly ordered the compilation of the Shamanic Code, published later in the Siku Quanshu. He further solidified the dynasty's cultural and religious claims in Central Asia by ordering a replica of The Potala Palace, the Tibetan temple, to be built on the grounds of the imperial summer palace in Chengde. In order to present himself to Tibetans and Mongols in Buddhist rather than in Confucian terms, he commissioned a thangka, or sacred painting, depicting him as Manjusri, the Boddisatva of Wisdom.

The Qianlong Emperor was a major patron and important "preserver and restorer" of Confucian culture. He had an insatiable appetite for collecting, and acquired much of China's "great private collections" by any means necessary, and "reintegrated their treasures into the imperial collection." Qianlong, more than any other Manchu emperor, lavished the imperial collection with his attention and effort:

The imperial collection had its origins in the first century B.C., and had gone through many vicissitudes of fire, civil wars and foreign invasions in the centuries that followed. But it was Qianlong who lavished the greatest attention on it, certainly of any of the Manchu rulers.... One of the many roles played by Qianlong, with his customary diligence, was that of the emperor as collector and curator. ...how carefully Qianlong followed the art market in rare paintings and antiquities, using a team of cultural advisers, from elderly Chinese literati to newly fledged Manchu connoisseurs. These men would help the emperor spot which great private collections might be coming up for sale, either because the fortunes of some previously rich merchant family were unraveling or because the precious objects acquired by Manchu or Chinese grandees during the chaos of the conquest period were no longer valued by those families’ surviving heirs. Sometimes, too, Qianlong would pressure or even force wealthy courtiers into yielding up choice art objects: he did this by pointing out failings in their work, which might be excused if they made a certain “gift,” or, in a couple of celebrated cases, by persuading the current owners that only the secure walls of the forbidden City and its guardians could save some precious painting from theft or from fire.

His massive art collection became an intimate part of his life; he took landscape paintings with him on his travels in order to compare them with the actual landscapes, or to hang them in special rooms in palaces where he lodged, to inscribe them on every visit there. "He also regularly added poetic inscriptions to the paintings of the imperial collection, following the example of the emperors of the Song dynasty and the literati painters of the Ming. They were a mark of distinction for the work, and a visible sign of his rightful role as Emperor. Most particular to the Qianlong Emperor is another type of inscription, revealing a unique practice of dealing with works of art that he seems to have developed for himself. On certain fixed occasions over a long period he contemplated a number of paintings or works of calligraphy which possessed special meaning for him, inscribing each regularly with mostly private notes on the circumstances of enjoying them, using them almost as a diary."

"Most of the several thousand jade items in the imperial collection date from his reign. The Emperor was also particularly interested in collecting ancient bronzes, bronze mirrors and seals," in addition to pottery, ceramics and applied arts such as enameling, metal work and lacquer work, which flourished during his reign; a substantial part of his collection is in the Percival David Foundation in London. The Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum also have good collections of Qianlong period Art.

"The Qianlong Emperor was a passionate poet and essayist. In his collected writings, which were published in a tenfold series between 1749 and 1800, over 40,000 poems and 1,300 prose texts are listed, making him one of the most prolific writers of all time. There is a long tradition of poems of this sort in praise of particular objects ('yongwu shi), and the Qianlong Emperor used it in order to link his name both physically and intellectually with ancient artistic tradition."

One of Qianlong’s grandest projects was to "assemble a team of China’s finest scholars for the purpose of assembling, editing, and printing the largest collection ever made of Chinese philosophy, history, and literature." Known as The Four Treasuries project, or Siku Quanshu (四庫全書) it was published in 36,000 volumes, containing about 3450 complete works and employing as many as 15,000 copyists. It preserved numerous books, but was also intended as a way to ferret out and suppress political opponents, requiring the "careful examination of private libraries to assemble a list of around eleven thousand works from the past, of which about a third were chosen for publication. The works not included were either summarized or—in a good many cases—scheduled for destruction."

Burning of books and modification of textsEdit

Some 2,300 works were listed for total suppression and another 350 for partial suppression. The aim was to destroy the writings that were anti-Qing or rebellious, that insulted previous "barbarian" dynasties, or that dealt with frontier or defense problems. The full editing of Siku Quanshu was completed in about ten years; during these ten years, 3100 titles (or works), about 150,000 copies of books were either burnt or banned. Of those volumes that had been categorized into Siku Quanshu, many were subjected to deletion and modification. Books published during the Ming dynasty suffered the greatest damage.

The authority would judge any single character or any single sentence's neutrality; if the authority had decided these words, or sentence were derogatory or cynical towards the rulers, then persecution would begin. In Qianlong's time, there were 53 cases of literary inquisition, resulting in the victims being beheaded, or corpses being mutilated, or victims being slowly sliced into pieces until death (Lingchi).

PalacesEdit

Qianlong was an aggressive builder. In the hills northwest of Beijing, he expanded the villa known as the "Garden of Perfect Brightness" (Yuanmingyuan) that had been built by his father. He eventually added two new villas, the "Garden of Eternal Spring" and the "Elegant Spring Garden." In time, the Old Summer Palace would encompass 860 acres, five times larger than the Forbidden City. In honor of the sixtieth birthday of his mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing, Qianlong ordered a lake at the "Garden of Clear Ripples" dredged, named it Lake Kunming, and renovated a villa on the eastern shore of the lake.

He also expanded the imperial palace at Rehe, beyond the Great Wall. Rehe eventually became effectively a third capital and it was at Rehe that Qianlong held court with various Mongol nobles. Qianlong also spent time at the Mulan hunting grounds north of Rehe.

For the Old Summer Palace, Qianlong commissioned the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione for the construction of the Xiyanglou (西洋樓), or the Western-style mansion, to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objects. He also commissioned the French Jesuit Michel Benoist, to design a series of timed waterworks and fountains complete with underground machinery and pipes, for the amusement of the Imperial family. The French Jesuit Jean Denis Attiret also became a painter of the Emperor. Jean-Damascène Sallusti was also a court painter. He co-designed, with Castiglione and Ignatius Sichelbart, the Battle Copper Prints. During his reign the Emin Minaret was built in Turpan to commemorate his father.

LegacyEdit

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Portrait of the Jiaqing Emperor in his study.

Although Qianlong had not managed to complete his conquest of the Qing Empire, he had left behind a huge Empire. His military campaigns rank him as one of the greatest Generals in military history, along with Caesar and Napoleon. Qianlong had faced and crushed, in his military campaigns from 1751 to 1759, a total of 605,000 men and the civilian and military casualties of his campaigns cost 1,500,000 deaths, 300,000 of them being Qing casualties.

However, after Qianlong's death and the end of the Qing military campaigns, the army had started to weaken significantly. In addition to a more lenient military system, warlords became satisfied with their lifestyles. Since most of the warring had taken place, warlords no longer saw any reason to train their armies, resulting in a rapid military decline.

Qianlong began his reign with about 33,950,000 taels of silver in Treasury surplus. At the peak of Qianlong's reign, around 1757, even with further tax cuts, the treasury surplus still reached 73,900,000 taels, a record unmatched by his predecessors, Kangxi or Yongzheng both of whom had implemented remarkable tax cut policies.

However, due to numerous factors such as long term embezzlement and corruption by officials like Heshen, frequent foreign expeditions, huge palace constructions, as well as his own extravagant lifestyle, all of these cost the treasury a total of 150,200,000 silver taels.

After Qianlong's death in 10 November 1759, during the Indian Campaign, Prince Jia acceded to the throne and proclaimed the era name of Jiaqing (Chinese: 嘉慶; Manchu: ᠰᠠᡳᠴᡠᠩᡤᠠ ᡶᡝᠩᡧᡝᠨ saicungga fengšen). The Jiaqing Emperor took control of the government, placed his own people in important positions, made peace with the Indian Government, according to which India would become a Qing Vassal State, and prosecuted Heshen, a favorite official of Qianlong. Heshen was charged with corruption and abuse of power. He was stripped of his titles and properties, and ordered to commit suicide. Heshen's daughter-in-law, Princess He Xiao, a sister of the new Emperor, was spared from punishment and given a few properties from Heshen's estates.

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