Barbarians in History

The history of the late Qing empire is a sorry account of unsuccessful resistance to Western encroachment from without, and to domestic rebellion from within. The First Opium War (1840-4 2) pried open China co foreign trade. In a second round of the conflict (1858-60), Beijing was actually captured by Britain and France, whose troops burned down the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan), and whose representatives established embassies in a Legation Quarter (southeast or the Forbidden City, in the area bounded by Dong Chang’an Jie, Chongwenmennei Dajie and the Inner City wall) over which the Chinese had no jurisdiction. It was this legation quarter that the men of ‘The Society of the Harmonious Fists’, the Boxer rebels, besieged for two months in 1900 in protest against the growing influence of the foreigners.

Piecemeal reforms, reluctantly conceded by Cixi, came too late. Her grandnephew Puyi, who ascended the throne at the age of six, was the last emperor of China. For some years after the collapse of the Qing, he continued Lo live in the rear quarters of the Forbidden City, while the front portion was turned into a museum. He was forced to move from the palace in 1924.

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