History in the Making

Document Type



The question of identity has been one of the biggest questions addressed to humanity. Whether in terms of a country, a group or an individual, the exact definition is almost as difficult to answer as to what constitutes a group. The Manchus, an ethnic group in China, also faced this dilemma. It was an issue that lasted throughout their entire time as rulers of the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911) and thereafter. Though the guidelines and group characteristics changed throughout that period one aspect remained clear: they did not sinicize with the Chinese Culture. At the beginning of their rule, the Manchus implemented changes that would transform the appearance of China, bringing it closer to the identity that the world recognizes today. In the course of examining three time periods, 1644, 1911, and the 1930’s, this paper looks at the significant events of the period, the changing aspects, and the Manchus and the Qing Imperial Court’s relations with their greater Han Chinese subjects. The Manchus were considered, at least to its newly conquered subjects, to be the foreign (or more commonly used) “alien” force. Outnumbered, the Manchus had every opportunity to assimilate, classifying themselves as “Chinese” rather than the standard “Banner” or Manchu. However, as this paper will exhibit through the very definition of who the Manchus were, and the events that surrounded them, as well as their poor relations with their nonbanner subjects, the Manchus remained separated from the Han Chinese, continuously classifying themselves as Manchu until their official recognition in 1949.

Included in

Asian History Commons