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HOME > Exhibition > Permanent Exhibition > Acient Liaoning > The Yuan, Ming and Qing Periods
The Yuan, Ming and Qing Periods
The Yuan, Ming and Qing Periods (1234 CE – 1840 CE)


Establishing Provinces for Governance    Unification under the Mongol-Yuan

The Yuan dynasty was the first great unified empire in Chinese history established by the Mongol ethnic minority. By virtue of their unique enterprising spirit, the Mongols promoted the formation of the historical territory of China and the forging of the Chinese nation. Although the Liaoning region bore the wounds of heavy fighting, its agriculture, trade and handicraft economies all gradually recovered and developed under the pro-agricultural policies of the Yuan government, the administration of the Liaoyang Provincial Administration and through the diligent efforts of various ethnic groups. The expansion of the borders and the establishment of a system of stages accelerated inter-ethnic mingling and exchange, allowing the culture of the Liaoning region to develop in a uniquely impressive way. 

Liaoyang Provincial Administration 
The Yuan dynasty had a total of eleven provincial administrations (xingsheng) throughout China. The Liaoyang provincial administration, associated with Liaodong, was established and dissolved several times at the start of the Yuan, and was only firmly established in the twenty-fourth year of the Zhiyuan reign (1287 CE). The Liaoyang provincial administration consisted of seven districts, two dao and one prefecture, and included the three provinces of modern northeast China and a part of Inner Mongolia, as well as a vast area south of the Stanovoy Mountain Range. The establishment of relay stations extending in all directions closely connected the province to the central plains, thereby strengthening governmental, economic and military construction on the frontier. Liaoning remained an important agricultural production region during the Yuan dynasty, and the abundance of relay stations brought about a commercial flowering. The excavation of bronze and iron scales attests to the weights and measures system of the Yuan dynasty. During the Yuan period, porcelain played an important role in the region’s foreign trade. 


Multiculturalism

With the formation of a historically unprecedented political unification, and close relationships and exchange among peoples including the Mongols, Han, Jurchen, Koguryo, and Huihe, the culture of the Liaoning region flourished. The most outstanding artistic accomplishments of this period were its tomb murals. These reflected the culture and customs of this region. The rulers of the Yuan dynasty followed a policy of tolerance and open-mindedness toward all religions, and all sects flourished within Liaoning. Christianity and Islam began to be transmitted, while the influence of Buddhism steadily increased, and the Quanzhen school of Daoism developed rapidly in Western Liaoning. 



Hardships in Northeast China    The Spirit of the Ming Dynasty

With the establishment of the Ming dynasty, Liaoning ended over four hundred years of rule by nomadic, fishing and hunting peoples, and a unified government reasserted itself with the Han people at its center. The threat of the Mongol and Jurchen power beyond its borders, however, once again compelled a gradual shift of military power to the northeast during the Ming dynasty. As far as Liaoning was concerned, this was a period of both increasing trouble on the frontier and relative tranquility. The Ming government enacted policies such as ‘build up fortifications and open horse fairs.’ This turned Liaoning into a major barrier used by the central government to guard against the southern incursions of northern peoples, and a strategic center for the control of northeast Asia. Following over 200 years of construction and development, the Liaoning region offered political stability, economic development, flourishing religions and multiculturalism. This laid the foundation for the re-emergence of the Jurchens.

Key Frontier Stronghold
Situated to the northeast of Yanjing, and thanks to its strategic vantage over mountains and rivers, Liaoning became a key outpost for the central plains of China, ‘protecting against the Mongols to the north, and controlling the Jurchen to the east.’ It was the most important of the nine key frontier positions. The Ming government in Liaoning administered the area using the unified military-civil command post system, establishing the Liaodong Dusi (Army and Government Office) and the Nu’erhan Dusi, and using coercion to extend imperial control over both the Mongols and the various Jurchen clans outside the Great Wall. Following the migration of the Nu’erhan Dusi to inside of the Great Walland its dissolution, Liaodong gradually evolved into a political, economic and cultural center of northeast Asia. 

A Northeastern Thoroughfare
During the middle years of the Hongwu reign, the Ming government implemented a policy of ‘having soldiers serve as farmers,’ energetically building military stations and promoting the recovery and development of agriculture in Liaoning. After the construction of the Liaodong defensive system, a large number of border military personnel and officials gathered here. Their huge demand for goods stimulated the flourishing of industries, including metallurgy, porcelain-making and salt-making. Liaoning was the Ming government’s main site for trade with the Mongols, the Jurchens, and the Koreans. Markets for horses and timber were established at its edges, and many goods were exchanged. Betweeen Mt. Changbai and the Amur River , deserts, grasslands and midlandr, there is a dense land and sea transportation network and an influx of goods extending in all directions, making Liaoning the transportation hub of northeast Asia. 

Tolerance and Open-mindedness
The rulers of the Ming dynasty carried out a policy of religious tolerance. In the Liaoning region, many religions such as Buddhism, Daoism and Islam coexisted. Although the Buddhist and Daoist doctrines and clergy were not especially developed here, their impact on the people was substantial, and they constantly became more central to the people’s daily lives. Islam continued to develop on the foundation laid by its introduction during the Yuan dynasty, and the scale and scope of its transmission increased. With enthusiastic support both from government elites and ordinary believers, large and small temples spread throughout the Liaoning region. These were entrusted with officials’ prayers for stable borders and ordinary people’s aspirations for security and prosperity.  


Reverence for Confucian Teachings
Following the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, traditional Confucian culture as represented by Neo-Confucianism was highly regarded and formed the cultural core of the Liaoning region. With the establishment of Confucian schools, community schools, academies, medical schools and schools for the study of the Book of Changes (I-Ching), Liaoning produced and attracted a group of very culturally sophisticated scholars who produced a great number of learned works describing the characteristics of the region. While a great many people were sent into exile beyond the borders, the new culture also went with them, inducing the local people to turn away from reverence for martial prowess in favor of scholarly attainment. With more than 200 years of development, the cultural gap between Liaoning and the central plains of China gradually shrank, producing an environment of grace and gentry.


Auspicious Omens   The Ancestral Homeland of the Qing Emperors

In eastern Liaoning during the final years of the Ming dynasty, the Jurchens of Jianzhou grew ever stronger, setting the stage for the end of the Ming and the start of the Qing dynasty. After more than fifty years of war, starting in a corner of Liaoning and pushing deep into the west, the outstanding Jurchen leader Nurhaci and his heir Hong Taiji laid the foundation for the great Qing dynasty, which was to endure for three centuries. During the reigns of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, the Qing government suppressed the Southern Ming, pacified the Three Feudatories, incorporated Taiwan into the empire, established Xinjiang, and successfully resisted the incursions of czarist Russia. Thus commenced the final flowering of two thousand years of feudal society: the halcyon days of Kangxi and Qianlong. As the birthplace of the Qing dynasty, Liaoning’s government, economy and culture developed comprehensively during this period, with the region’s wealth and population far exceeding those of earlier times. Kangxi, Qianlong and other emperors made numerous eastern tours to worship their ancestors. At this time, the city of Shenyang was also renovated and expanded several times, making it grander and more magnificent, displaying the flourishing of China’s second capital and the splendour of the imperial dynasty. 

The Rise of the Manchu
The Jurchen people, who had lived near Mt. Changbai and the Amur River for generations, endured nearly 400 years of obscurity before rising once again. On the banks of the Suzi River outside Fushun pass, during the first year of the Tianming reign (1616 CE), Nurhaci ascended to the throne and founded the Jin dynasty, known to history as the ‘Later Jin.’ His son, Hong Taiji, inherited the throne and changed the name of his people to ‘Manchu.’ He renamed the dynasty ‘Qing,’ and carried out rigorous reforms that put the Manchu on the path to greatness. During the first year of the Shunzhi reign (1644), the Manchu entered midland, establishing a unified empire of unprecedented size. As the site of the founding of the Qing dynasty, Liaoning rose in status. It gradually changed from a regional administrative center into the second-most important government center in the entire country. 

The economy of Mukden
The Qing government placed great importance on agricultural production, urging the people to take up farming and encouraging the Han people to bring into cultivation lands outsideShanhai pass. Under the impetus of the ‘Order to Recruit Cultivators,’ a great many immigrants began farming in the barren lands outside Shanhai pass, laying a foundation for the rapid development of the economy of Liaoning. The increase in population and the large-scale construction of imperial gardens, the arrival of craftsmen from inside and outside of Shanhai pass and the introduction of some Western technologies stimulated the growth of the Liaoning handicrafts industry and a flowering of commerce. A busy Main Street sprung up between the Bell and Drum Towers of Shenyang, with row upon row of businesses, bustling crowds of people, and a vast array of goods. By virtue of its special position and convenient transportation, Liaoning gradually became a northeast Asian commercial center. 

Promoting Religion to Maintain Governance
With the intention of maintaining its regime, the Qing government provided considerable support to all religions. Many religions coexisted in the Liaoning region. In order to ‘lovingly cultivate’ the Mongolian tribes, with a policy of ‘creating stability by unifying the minds of those within and without,’ the Qing dynasty especially valued the Lamaist beliefs of the Mongolians. During the Qing era, Liaoning saw vigorous construction of numerous Tibetan Buddhist temples and pagodas, making it an Eastern center for Tibetan Buddhism. The Qing dynasty used religious belief to construct an invisible Great Wall, fundamentally changing the opposition among the hunting and fishing peoples, the nomadic people, and the agrarian nationalities. 


Manchu Style, Chinese Charm
The rulers of the Qing dynasty actively drew upon Han culture. Before crossing into China, Nurhaci and Hong Taiji constructed Confucian temples and worshiped Confucius in places such Hetu Ala and Shenyang. As they studied the Confucian classics and sought proper means of governance, they also intended to eliminate the cultural divide between the Manchu and Han. Furthermore, the creation of the old and new Manchu scripts and the appearance of Manchu translation and writings profoundly stimulated cultural exchange between the Manchu and Han, laying a cultural foundation for the Qing to rule the entire country. During the Kangxi and Qianlong reigns, the arrival of many exiled literati in Liaoning brought about a wave of border and frontier poetry, regional gazetteers, and travel diaries. Under the influence of the culture of the central plains, the Manchu and Han civilizations influenced each other, constantly increasing the blending of nationalities.


The Qing Emperors’ Eastern Tours
The emperors of the Qing dynasty placed great importance on their ancestral homeland. During the more than 200 years following their incursion into Chinese territory, four Qing emperors made ten visits to Shenyang in the east. Each time a Qing emperor made a tour of the east, they would make formal visits to the imperial tombs and look reverently upon the ruins of the ancient palaces to show their filial devotion. They would also hold celebratory events, giving banquets and bestowing awards. They also had to experience the local customs and culture, patrol the frontiers, and pacify the Mongolian tribes. The Qing emperors’ eastern tours stabilized national defense and promoted the development of the government, economy and culture of Liaoning.







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