In history, Kangxi is viewed as the greatest consolidator of the Qing dynasty. The dynasty is seen as resultant from the fall of the Ming dynasty facilitated by the fall of the latter’s central capital, Beijing. Consequently, in 1644, five year old Shunzi Emperor was installed into power. Though the invading Manchus captured Beijing and adopted Chinese ways such as the Confucian ideology, it is Kangxi who can be credited with the completion of the conquest and the installation of a powerful central government. This was highly modified to end all dissent especially towards the former Ming dynasty.
There were a series of events that signify the theme of Ming dissent. First, in 1644 Beijing experienced an attack from a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a former minor Ming official who had turned into the leader of the peasant revolt. “By the late 1660s, however, as the Kangxi emperor was gaining his full power…he in righteous anger had sought the military assistance to drive Li Zicheng from the empire”(Mote, pp.846) Secondly, after the fall of the Ming dynasty, continued battles by former generals continued which posed a challenge to the Manchu rule. Under continous attacks especially on Beijing, the last of the Ming Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide after the city was conquered, marking the official end of the Ming dynasty. Finally, the last of Ming dissent was expressed in the short-lived Shun Dynasty.
It is therefore imperative to look at how Kangxi managed to end all dissent and conquer all challenges posed by the former Ming Dynasty. First, the Manchus resolved this by allying with former Ming dynasty generals such as Wu Sangui to seize all rebel and dissenting factions. Secondly, so as to establish a successful government and therefore tackle all challenges experienced by the late Ming, he worked for long hours in consultation with his councilors as to vital issues in the empire and read memorials so as to motivate the citizens and the soldiers during wartime so as to encourage loyalty such as in the Dzungar conflict. To combat and avoid any of his powers being usurped by the notorious scholar-bureaucrats, he devised an entire secret system of communication, the Place Memorial System. He transferred secret messages to key officials in the empire through locked boxes that only he and his trusted officials had access as on how to them. Hence, Kangxi’s genius on political matters was evident which surpasses the argument put forward by critics on the lack thereof. The emperor also formed a Grand Council that dealt with any outstanding, sudden militant occurrences. This vital Security Council was chaired by him and compiled of the most trusted Hans Chinese staff, who were bound to him, and excluded all mandarin civil servants remnant of the Ming dynasty who could have resulted in any leakage in top-secret affairs especially to the Ming Dynasty proponents. Kangxi was also a cunning leader. He managed to convince the Confucian intelligentsia into co-operating with his government. It is vital to note that the scholars had a deep reservation against Manchu rule. Therefore, he saw am avenue to combat this by encouraging them to sit for traditional civil service examinations so as to become mandarins who composed major lavish literary works such as the Kangxi Dictionary. The fact that Kangxi managed to stamp out all Ming dissent and went a step further to solve multiple challenges against his government can also be attributed to the fact that he was an effective military commander. A man steeped into Confucian learning, his reflections and memorials written and read at the war front such as the war against Dzungar Mongols, were essential in justifying this stand. Consequently, all hostilities ceased after the Manchu Conquest of the Ming Dynasty resulting in rapid population increase and increase government tax collection due to increased land cultivation. Finally, the government was able to make tax remissions and in 1712, freeze land tax and corvee completely which further led to citizen loyalty towards Kangxi.
Kangxi foreign policy and relationship with the neighbors forms a crucial theme. In his government’s relationship with Vietnam, in 1673, he helped to mediate in a ceasefire in the Trịnh–Nguyễn War. This had started in 1627 and had been ongoing for 45 years. The two [arties signed a peace treaty that lasted for 101 years till 1774. Secondly, in the 1650s, the Qing Empire under Kangxi engaged the Russian Empire along the length of the River Amur in a string of border conflicts. This was resolved when the Manchu won the war. Further invasions by the Russians occurred in the 1680’s in the Nothern frontier of the Qing Dynasty. After a number of battles, the two warring factions settled for the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689 resulting in the gain of the territory in the Amur region and a restoration of peace in the dynasty. Finally, the dynasty’s relationship with the Mongols was a volatile one. Chahar Mongols, led by Burni in 1675 started a revolt against the Qing Empire. This was successfully crushed within two months and the Chahars integrated as soldiers into the Manchu eight Banners.
There are several significant outcomes as to the wars fought by the emperor against and in support of her neighbors. Kangxi conquered various zones such as Outer Mongolia from the Dzungars. It is important to note that during the Kangxi Emperor rule, areas to the north of River Amur and parts of Outer Mongolia were added to the expanding empire. Further control was exerted on Tibet. The Kangxi emperor was concerned over the rising power of the Europeans in the southern states of Qing. In the Ming dynasty, these states had been crucial in geopolitics and economics especially trade. Therefore, so as to recover this, he ordered the close monitoring of the activities carried out by Catholic missionaries and foreign merchants and any possible threats to the empire.
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