The Manchu Conquest of China was sparked in April 1618 when Jurchen tribal leader Nurhaci from the Manchurian region issued a proclamation listing seven grievances against the reigning Ming dynasty. When the Ming leaders refused to pay tribute to Nurhaci and offer redress to his grievances, he declared himself the founder of the Qing dynasty, based on a line of Jurchen rulers who had dominated northeastern China several centuries earlier. For the better part of the next century, the Ming dynasty battled against Manchu incursions on its northeastern border, numerous internal peasant rebellions as well as floods, famines and economic unrest. By 1644, the Ming dynasty had been dramatically weakened and Jurchen leader Dorgon had managed to push the Ming from their capital at Beijing. Over the next four decades, the Manchus fought against Ming holdovers and rival claimants, consolidating their power and expanding their rule. By 1683, the Qing dynasty had firmly established their power, which would last until the Wuchang uprising of 1911.
Nurhaci’s Seven Grievances Top
1. The Ming killed the father and grandfather of Nurhaci for no reason;
2. The Ming favored Yehe and Hada while suppressing Jianzhiou;
3. Violating agreement of territories by both sides, the Ming forced Nurhaci to make up for the lives of the people who crossed and border and were killed by Nurhaci;
4. The Ming sent troops to defend Yehe against Jianzhou;
5. Backed by the Ming, Yehe broke its promise to Nurhaci and married its ‘elder daughter’ to Mongolia instead of Jurchen;
6. The Ming court forced Nurhaci to give up harvesting the reclaimed lands in Chaihe, Sancha and Faun;
7. East Liaoning government of the Ming appointed an official Shang Bozhi to perform garrison duty in Jianzhou; however, he abused his power and rode roughshod over the people.’
Manchu Propoaganda, c. 1620 Top
Source: Gertraude Roth “The Manchu-Chinese Relationship: 1618-1636” pp. 1-38 in From Ming to Ch’ing, Jonathon D. Spence and John E. Wills, Jr., eds. New York: Yale University Press, 1979.
“…the notion that the emperor is endowed by Heaven and receives Heaven’s approval or disapproval was adopted by the Manchus with the greatest zeal at the beginning of the period of conquest. During the year 1618 an overwhelming number of reports of such heavenly signs aided the Manchus and the Chinese both to gradually become used to the idea that a dynastic change was drawing near…Propaganda through oral or written statements or through exemplary behavior was designed to win the support of the Chinese and prepare them for Manchu rule…By offering a better life to the common people through the redistribution of land and wealth, and by promising to set up a just, capable, and corruption-free government not based on hereditary privileges but on the selection of the truly selfless, Nurhaci tried to convince the Chinese inside and outside the Manchu borders that he possessed the traditional qualities to be the founder of a new dynasty…After the annexation of Liaotung, the Manchu government issued a statement inviting the people of Liao-hsi, the area west of the Liaotung River, to move to Liaotung and to become free and equal landowners: ‘Do not think that the land and houses will not be yours, that they will belong to a master. All will equally be the khan’s subjects and will live and work in the fields on an equal basis.’ The khan sent messengers to all villages to tell the people that ‘instead of letting the rich accumulate their grain and have it rot away, or letting them pile up the goods for no use, one should nourish the begging poor.’
Speech of a Ming General, c. 1620 Top
Source: Albert Chan. The Glory and Fall of the Ming Dynasty. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1982: 345-346.
The Barbarians of the East [Manchus] have attempted to produce fire-arms for the past ten years. Time and again they have defeated our forces and have taken away fire-arms big and small to the number of fifty to sixty thousand and several million catties of gun powder. They use them for practice and when they invaded Liao-yang again these were employed to defeat our army. Their defeat in Ning-yuan was solely due to the fact that their forces were fewer. Although they suffered a heavy blow still they have great stores of fire-arms and gunpowder. That old scoundrel [Nurhaci] has under him twenty thousand trained soldiers. He pretends to send them out for fire-wood-cutting or hunting but his real plan is hidden even from his wife and children. What is the secret that he is keeping? Who can tell? Perhaps he is now training his forces and waiting for a favorable time to strike. If someone tells me that he has no fire-arms I will answer that he must be looking for them day and night. And to obtain them he will use bribery or force or fraud or theft. We must face him now before he becomes too strong…
Dorgon’s Decree to the People of Peking (Beijing), 1644 Top
Source: Frederic Wakeman Jr. The Fall of Imperial China. New York: The Free Press. 1975: 81.
In former days our realm wished to have good and harmonious relations with your Ming, [hoping] for perpetual peace. Since we repeatedly sent letters which were not answered, we invaded deep [into your country] four times, until your dynasty showed regret. How stubborn it was not to comply! Now [the Ming] has been extinguished by roving bandits, and its service [to heaven] is a thing of the past. Let us speak no more [of that]. The empire is not an individual’s private property. Whosoever possesses virtue, holds it. The army and the people are not an individual’s private property. Whosoever possesses virtue commands them. We now occupy [the empire]. On behalf of your dynasty we took revenge upon the enemies of your ruler-father. We burned our bridges behind us, and we have pledged not to return until every bandit is destroyed. In the counties, districts, and locales that we pass through, all those who are able to shave their heads and surrender, opening their gates to welcome us, will be given rank and reward, retaining their wealth and honor for generations. But if there are those who disobediently resist us when our great armies arrive, then the stones themselves will be set ablaze and all will be massacred. Scholars of resolve will reap the harvest of upright administration, meritorious fame and the opportunity to pursue a vocation [as our officials]. If there are those who lack faith in us, then how are they to serve the empire? Special edict.