The Qing dynasty conquest of the Ming Dynasty
Episode #4 of the course “Biggest wars in history”
Date: 1618 – 1683
Estimated casualties: 25,000,000
Rebellion is a common theme in the largest wars in history. The Ming Dynasty claimed the Mandate of Heaven in 1368, which meant that the “heavens” favored them and wanted them to rule. Zhu Yuanzhang was a key leader for the Ming Dynasty, which had ruled for almost 300 years and was prosperous because of free trade and industry. However, internal conflict and outside forces like natural disasters severely weakened the dynasty by the time the Qing rose to attack.
The Qing Dynasty developed from the Manchu people, a combination of Mongols and Jurchens who lived just north of the Great Wall. Although the two peoples fought at first, the Jurchens eventually absorbed the Mongols into their tribes. They intermarried with Mongol ruling families and used Mongol generals in their armies. In this way, the two peoples became joined into a much larger force. They then began to attack the Ming cities, also installing Ming generals into their armies. They used the generals to help rule the regions that they conquered, curbing the unrest within the conquered cities. The generals began to develop loyalty to the Qing court, and the Qings in turn gained more modernized war methods by using Ming resources.
Rebel armies continued to chip away at the Ming cities, with Beijing as the last major battle. As the rebel armies reached the Great Wall, however, their attack became much easier than anticipated. A Ming general who was assigned to protect and guard the wall, Wu Sangui, sided with the rebels and literally opened the gate door to allow them into the city. The rebel forces took Beijing in 1644, marking the beginning of the Qing Dynasty.
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