Although they are now thoroughly identified with China, the emperors of the Qing dynasty were not Chinese but descendants of the Jurchen, a group from the far north-east of China who had abandoned the term Jurchen, associated with historical submission to Chinese rule, and instead called themselves Manchu. Their leader then proclaimed himself emperor of the Qing (pure, clear) dynasty and in 1644 replaced the Ming dynasty as rulers of China.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the problem of identity, of the balance between ancestral heritage and Chinese culture, was gradually resolved.
In the early stages of Manchu rule, the emperors still encountered considerable loyalty to the Chinese Ming dynasty. The Aisin-Gioro clan, to which the Qing emperors belonged, had consolidated their power from the 1590s through the organization of the Eight Banners. The Banners, military groups named for their distinctive banners, also formed the basis of social organisations that had been in place before the Manchu conquest of China, where warriors" families were included in the groups and provided with educational opportunities and agricultural land.
As the Qing moved southwards, the Banners incorporated many Chinese (who eventually outnumbered the Manchus) into the Banners, providing for them and their families and thereby instilling loyalty. These were the troops that the Kangxi emperor led against three rebellious Chinese generals, finally crushing their revolt in 1681.
Much of the early part of the Kangxi Emperor's rule was spent in consolidating and extending his territory. The Qianlong Emperor also undertook major military expansion, north-east and north-west. Both emperors led extensive expeditions themselves. The Yongzheng Emperor by contrast centered his time on Beijing and is best known for his transformation of government
Imperial marks from the Qing dynasty are mostly written in either Kai shu (kaishu) (normal script) or Zhuan shu (zhuanshu) (archaic seal script). It is worth noticing that kaishu is writing and is therefore subject to the differences in penmanship and is therefore more difficult to fake, while zhuanshu technically is drawing and is therefore easier to emulate. Sometimes a third Song style occurs, but so far only examples of the 'normal' and the 'seal script' versions are shown below.
The 'seal script' is stylistically related to the interest in the archaic which not in this matter pre-dates the Yongzheng period, so I would personally feel uncertain about any seal script mark being older than the Yongzheng.
All genuine Imperial marks occurs in several versions and are written by a limited number of different hands. It is therefore felt that the individual handwriting of those entrusted with this work are possible to recognize. From around 1995 there seems to have been a rise in computer aided designs while no marks can be trusted anymore as the single feature on which to base any judgement of authenticity while overall style and quality should be the true criteria.
The Shunzhi Emperor's given name was Fulin. Born in March 15, 1638 he was the second emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty and the first Qing emperor to rule over China proper. Only six when he ascended the throne the Shunzhi reign lasted from 1644 to 1661.
The eighteen years of his reign brought great changes to China and its history.
Genuine Shunzhi period marks are rare if they indeed exist at all. To the left: Kaishu (normal script) style, to the right zhuanshu (archaic seal script), possibly not occuring on any porcelain before the Yongzheng period.
In the first year of Shun Zhi reign (1644), a peasant army led by Li Zicheng overthrew the Ming rule in Beijing, which was in turn betrayed by traitor Wu Sangui and the Qing Army defeated Li Zicheng and occupied Beijing. Shortly, Shun Zhi came to Beijing from Shenyang and made Beijing the capital.
The 5th of February in the 18th year (1661) of his reign Shun Zhi (possible) died in Yangxindian (the Hall for Cultivating Character) in the Forbidden City. In the summer of the second year of Kang Xi reign (1663), Shun Zhi's coffin was buried in Xiaoling. However, a rumor has it that he instead, heartbroken by his young wife's death, had left the forbidden city to become a Buddhist monk.
Xiaoling in located at Malanyu, northwest Zunhua, Hebei Province, 125 kilometers from Beijing and is the East burial complex of the Qing dynasty. Among the tombs are the Xiaoling of Emperor Shun Zhi, Jingling of Emperor Kangxi, Yuling of Emperor Qianlong, Dingling of Emperor Xianfeng, Huiling of Emperor Tongzhi and four tombs of empresses including Empress Dowager Cian and Empress Dowager Cixi.
In 1928 some of the underground palaces were blown open by warlord Sun Dianying and looted, why the tombs have suffered severe damages.
The Kangxi Emperors name was Xuanye AIXIN-JUELUO or Hiowan Yei AISIN-GIORO, in Manchu. He was born May 4, 1654 as the son of the late Emperor Shunzhi, who died in his early twenties and his mother, the 14 year old Imperial Consort Tong, a concubine from the Tongiya clan (1640 - 1663). He was the second emperor of the Qing dynasty to rule over all of China. His reign lasted 61 years, from February 7, 1661 until his death December 20, 1722, making him the longest-reigning Emperor of China in history. The Kangxi era, that is counted as full Chinese years, lasted from February 18, 1662 to February 4, 1723.
The Kangxi Emperor succeeded the imperial throne at the age of seven, on February 17, 1661, twelve days after his father's death. Being too young to take power himself, the control over the empire was fulfilled by four guardians and his grandmother the Dowager Empress Xiao Zhuang, that the Shunzhi Emperor had appointed before his death to rule during Kangxi's minority. However, after a fierce power struggle one of them, Oboi, seized absolute power as a sole regent.
In the spring of 1662 the Kangxi rulers ordered a massive attempt to gain control over the largely Ming loyalist southern China under the leadership of Zheng Chenggong (also known as Koxinga), something that involved moving the entire population of the coastal regions of southern China, inland.
At age 15 the Kangxi emperor had Oboi arrested in 1669 and began to take control of the country himself. Of major concerns was the flood control of the Yellow River, the repairing of the Grand Canal and the Revolt of the Three Feudatories which broke out in 1673 in the south of China, and also the Chakhar Mongols rebellion in 1675.
In 1673 the Kangxi government mediated a truce in the long-running war in Vietnam, which had been going on for 45 years with nothing to show for it. The Chakhar Mongols was incorporated in the 'Eight Banners' Chinese Army. In the South the incorporation of the region went so far that in 1684 the Qing Dynasty annexed Taiwan, the last outpost of Koxinga. Soon afterwards, the displaced families were encouraged to move back towards the coast.
All these campaigns and many more took a great toll on the treasury. From Kangxi period's peak during the last decades of the 17th century the treasury shrunk to a tenth or less, by the end of his reign. Corrupt officials were also quite noticeable in the final years of Kangxi. The problem of dealing with this as well as the civil war in Tibet was left with some advices, to the future emperor.
Eventually, through the long years of Kangxi's reign factions and rivalries had formed at the court.
The Kangxi Emperor had 20 sons surviving into adulthood. Of these, his second son Yinreng was at age 2 named Crown Prince of the Great Qing Empire. After that his mother had died in childbed giving birth to him, he was brought up personally by the Kangxi Emperor to become the perfect heir to the Imperial throne.
Yinreng did not however prove co-operative. Rumor had it that he had cruel habits; to beat and kill his subordinates, he was alleged to have had sexual relations with one of Kangxi's concubines, something that was defined as incest and a capital offense, and to purchase young children from the Jiangsu region for his pleasure. The heir apparent Yinreng gradually fell into disfavor and in 1708, on the semi-annual hunting expedition at Rehe, the Kangxi Emperor charged Yinreng with immorality, sadism, sexual impropriety, usurping power and treason, after which he was deprived of his position as heir apparent and imprisoned. His condition worsened and the Emperor became eventually convinced that he was insane. In 1712 he was placed in perpetual confinement to die in prison in 1725, not long after that his younger brother, the 4th Imperial Prince Yinzhen, had ascended the throne to become the Yongzheng Emperor.
To this day, whom Kangxi actually chose as his successor is still a topic of debate amongst historians and is along with three other events, known as the Four greatest mysteries of the Qing Dynasty.
In addition to his military prowess the Kangxi Emperor was famous for his scholarly abilities and his patronage of the arts.
Left mark: Kaishu (normal script) style; Right zhuanshu (archaic seal script), as far as I have been able to confirm, not occurring on genuine Kangxi period pieces.
Sir Harry Garner has suggested that Kangxi marks could be divided into three chronological groups on the basis of their calligraphy.
Early period: bold
Middle period: freely written marks, rather loose
Late period: Precise, tight, rather small and less "free" than the other two groups. Occurs especially on small sized pieces of superb quality; for example the "peach bloom" pieces and the "month's cups".
The Kangxi marks seems not to have been copied during the 18th century. One possibly explanation could be that both Yongzheng and Qianlong seems to have been busy being concerned with their own image and quite possible saw their own porcelain designs as superior to those of previous periods.
In the early Kangxi period the six character Ming mark of Chenghua is seen and occasionally Jiajing, but towards the end of the reign the Kangxi six character kaishu mark is the one that is used.
All genuine Kangxi period marks should be of six characters. The only genuine four character "Kangxi Nian Zhi" marks is done within a double line square border and used exclusively for palace workshop decorated wares, the highest level of Imperial porcelain. All four character Kangxi marks without borders are from and around the Guangxu (1875-1908) period when four character kaishu marks were widely used.
Imperial Kangxi mark. Middle period: freely written marks, rather loose.
Imperial Kangxi mark. Late period: Precise, tight, rather small and less "free" than the other two groups.
Kangxi 1662-1722, "Da Qing Kangxi Nian Zhi" mark.
During the Kangxi period, the habit of adding reign marks on porcelain not commissioned by the emperor are known to have been addressed and forbidden by public edicts. It is likely that this is an example of one of these period but not Imperial marks that these regulations was aimed at quelling. It is also worth pondering of this mark is not written by the same person as the above, but just a little bit faster.
|Kangxi 1662-1722, Artemisia leaf mark, and of the period.
During the early Qing dynasty, up until the early 1680's conditions were unsettled in China and the existence of Imperial wares as well as the use of reign marks on porcelain was restricted in various ways. During this period a number of different marks came into use, as well as two empty rings which in a way could be considered a period marking if not Imperial.
|Kangxi 1662-1722, Lingzhi fungus mark, and of the period.
During the early Qing dynasty, up until the early 1680s conditions were unsettled in China and the making of Imperial wares as well as the use of reign marks on porcelain was restricted in various ways. During this period a number of other marks came into use, as well as the drawing of two empty rings on the bases which in a way could be considered a marking of the Kangxi period. Also this practice was copied during the latter part of the Qing dynasty.
The Yongzheng Emperor (December 13, 1678 - October 8, 1735) was 44 years old when he ascended the Dragon Throne in 1722 and died two months before his 58th birthday. He reigned for 13 years. During the latter part of the Yongzheng period the zhuanshu seal mark is introduced.
According to Manchu tradition, the Kangxi emperor was succeeded by his fourth son, the Yongzheng emperor (who ruled from 1723 to 1736). His imperial title, Yongzheng, means 'harmonious and correct', whilst his family name, Yinzhen, means "inheritance of luck". In some ways, his reign can be seen as a reaction against that of his father: where the Kangxi emperor was conciliatory, the Yongzheng emperor acted firmly against corruption, offering bonuses to demonstrably incorruptible officials and thereby greatly improving the flow of revenue. Capable of extremely hard work, he not only dealt with dozens of daily memorials (government reports) from all over the country, but he developed the system whereby "Palace Memorials" established by his father came directly to him, bypassing officials of the Outer Court and providing him with private information.
It is clear that there was considerable rivalry between the Kangxi emperor's twenty sons (he had had thirty-six but only twenty survived), since on his accession the Yongzheng emperor imprisoned a number of his brothers, and remained touchy about accusations that he had usurped the throne. In order to control imperial heirs, he insisted upon their all being taught in the school inside the Forbidden City and instructed in Confucian morals by the best Chinese teachers. He also instituted the practice of concealing the name of the designated heir in a box kept in the Qianqing hall, to be opened only after the emperor's death.
To the left: Kaishu (normal script) style mark, to the right zhuanshu (archaic seal script).
The Yongzheng emperor nominated his fourth son, Hongli, meaning "Great Successor", as his heir and he ruled from 1736 to 1796 as the Qianlong or "eminent sovereign" emperor. He had been a great favorite of his grandfather, the Kangxi emperor, with whom he would go hunting as a boy. Some say that the Kangxi emperor chose Yongzheng as his successor so that he would eventually be succeeded by his grandson, although that would seem a rather risky prospect, as the Yongzheng emperor had ten sons (though only four survived into adulthood).
When Qianlong was on the throne China was flourishing, but as he left the throne it was beginning to decline. The long reign of the Qianlong emperor (who retired in 1796, three years before his death) may be considered the height of the Qing. Though his Ten Great Campaigns were not all as successful as he claimed, he brought much of Central Asia under Qing rule, vastly increasing the size of his empire. The costs of his campaigns were met by an increase in cultivated land, with new crops, such as maize and peanuts, being grown and with firm controls on revenue collection. Well versed in Chinese culture, the Qianlong emperor is supposed to have written essays and as many as 42,000 poems. He developed the imperial collection, commissioning paintings and artefacts from Chinese and foreign artists, as well as collecting ancient Chinese objects and ordering the cataloguing of palace paintings and calligraphy.
Like his grandfather Kangxi, the Qianlong emperor made five great tours of inspection of southern China, reversing the tradition of the Ming emperors who only left the Forbidden City to visit the imperial altars but did not venture outside Peking. His daily routine was described in detail by the Jesuit priest Fr Benoist. He rose at six, ate alone at eight (his meal taking about 15 minutes) and then read reports and memorials, discussing them with his ministers. He held an audience for newly appointed officials and had another brief solitary meal at two. Then he would read, write verse or paint and perhaps take some 'light refreshment' before bed. Unlike the Chinese, the Qianlong emperor took milk in his tea, with special herds of dairy cows providing the Manchu imperial family with milk. A menu for one of his meals in 1754 included a dish of fat chicken, boiled duck and bean curd, swallows nests and shredded smoked duck, smoked chicken, shredded stewed chicken, Chinese cabbage, salted duck and pork, bamboo-shoot steamed dumplings, rice cakes with honey and side dishes of pickled eggplant, pickled cabbage and cucumbers in soy sauce
In the 60th year of his reign (1796), the Qianlong Emperor enthroned his son and became overlord for four years. In the 4th year of the Jiaqing reign (1799) the Qianlong Emperor died at age 89.
During this period the archaic zhuanshu seal mark is by far the most common, largely ousting the regular kaishu script. It is thought that the few genuine kaishu marks dates to the two first years of the reign before the official seal mark of the Qianlong period becomes standardized by an official decree. Seal marks are often written in iron-red but under glaze blue or gilt can occur as well as incised, stamped or molded in relief.
On a small group of porcelain genuine marks in raised blue enamel can appear. Seal marks from the period can also be written in a cartouche or with the seal broken up, and on the base of stem-cups written in a horizontal row from right to left.
On later Qianlong copies the seal mark in red enamel is something of a favorite.
During this period most imperial wares are marked with the zhuanshu "archaic seal", a continuation of its popularity from the Qianlong period.
During this period most imperial wares are marked with the zhuanshu "archaic seal", a continuation of its popularity from the Qianlong period.
The Xianfeng was proclaimed in March 1850. The first year of his reign was 1851. Died in August 1861 during the eleventh year of his reign.
The Xianfeng (Universal Prosperity) Emperor, name was Yizhu AISIN GIORO. He was born in July 17, 1831 at the Imperial Summer Palace Complex, 8 kilometers northwest of the walls of Beijing as the fourth son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was the Imperial Concubine Quan, made Empress in 1834.
Chosen as the Crown Prince in the later years of the Daoguang reign, Yizhu had reputed ability in literature and administration which surpassed most of his brothers. At age 19 he succeeded the throne, in 1850, left with a crumbling dynasty facing challenges internally and also from Europeans.
In 1851 the The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Rebellion (1851-1864) began, spreading to several provinces with amazing speed. Xianfengs attempts to crush the rebellion was met with limited success.
In 1855 several Muslim rebellions began in the southwest.
Western forces, led by France, after inciting a few battles on the coast near Tianjin, attempted "negotiation" with the Qing Government. Under the influence of the Concubine Yi (later the Ci Xi Dowager Empress) Xianfeng believed in Chinese superiority and would not agree to any western demands.
In October 18, 1860, the Imperial Summer Palaces of Qingyi Yuan and Yuanming Yuan was looted and burnt by the Western forces.
Emperor Xianfeng and his Imperial entourage fled to the northern traveling palace in Jehol. While becoming more physically ill, Xianfeng's ability to govern deteriorated, while two competing ideologies in court formed two distinct factions, one under the rich Manchu Sushun, Princes Yi and Zheng; and one under the Concubine Yi, supported by Gen. Ronglu and Yehenala Bannermen.
In August 22, On the 11th year of his reign (1861) at age 30 Yizhu died at the the imperial Summer Resort in Chengde, Hebei Province, (Jehol Travelling Palace), 230 km northeast of Beijing. One day before his death the Xianfeng emperor had summoned a group to his bedside, giving them an Imperial Edict to rule during his only surviving son, Prince Zaizhun minority, at that time barely 6 years old.
By tradition, after the death of an Emperor, the body is to be accompanied to the Capital by the regents. Concubine Yi however traveled to Beijing ahead of time, staging a coup that would make her the acting ruler of China for the next 47 years, under the title of Empress Dowager Cixi.
During Xianfeng's reign the Qing government was on the verge of collapse. In the 4th year of the Tongzhi reign (1865), Xianfeng was buried in Dingling.
The Tongzhi (To Rule Together a State of Order) Emperor, born Zaichun AISIN GIORO in April 27, 1856, became emperor at the age of five as the only surviving son of the Xianfeng Emperor and the Noble Consort Yi (Empress Dowager Cixi). He was the ninth emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, and the eight Qing emperor to rule over China. During his period in practice his mother, the Empress Dowager Cixi, wielded the real power, ruling sitting behind a curtain in the audience hall. Under his reign some attempts to political reforms was made, which are know as the Tongzhi Restoration.
In January 12, 1875, the Tongzhi Emperor died at age 19 of small pox without a son. It has been rumored that his cause of death was actually syphilis "due to his excessive and bizarre sexual appetite and alleged affairs with prostitutes outside of the palace".
|Empress Dowager Cixi|
|Empress Dowager Cixi
After the death of Xianfeng in 1861, Zaichun, Nalashi's six-year-old son, succeeded to the throne under the reign title of Tongzhi (1862-1874) so Nalashi was promoted to Empress Dowager with her honorary title Cixi.
In the 11th year of the Xianfeng reign (1861) she worked hand in glove with her brother-in-law Yixin, launched a coup d'etat, wiped out her political enemies and commenced directing state affairs from behind a screen. Thus, she became an unofficial empress during reigns by Tongzhi and Guangxu during 48 years.
Cixi died in 1908. Three years after she died, the Qing Dynasty came to its end with the Revolution of 1911. Cixi's tomb was exquisitely constructed in a unique style. It ranks as the best for building details among the tombs of the Qing Dynasty. Railings around Long'en Palace are replete with carved motifs of roaring waves, floating clouds, dragons and phoenixes symbolizing auspicious omens. The stone steps in front of the palace are carved with three dimensional phoenixes and dragons flanking the pearl. Carved on walls are intricate designs marking happiness, prosperity, and longevity. On the arch beams and ceilings are gilded golden paintings such as a golden dragon coiled around all exposed pillars. These kinds of designs are not seen in other mausoleum palaces. The tomb was plundered in 1928.
The time when the Empress Dowager Cixi ruled China has among us at the Gotheborg.com site been named the Kangxi revival period since there was an obvious vogue for Kangxi style porcelain at this time.
Not only blue and white pieces and enamelled porcelain in famille verte enamels were produced but also replicas in monochrome enamels such as Sang-de-Boef or Ox-blood. The good part with these early copies is that they are pretty easy to recognize since they were not really trying to produce perfect fakes, but appears to have more wanted to continue to make pieces in the Kangxi period style and tradition.
Now that turned out quite difficult. Many processes and traditions were never written down and had been lost and forgotten. Sources for paste and glaze had changed. While the blue and white porcelains turned out pretty good, the red ox-blood monochromes got a too thick glaze that ran and often needed to be ground off of the foot rim. For other style replicas there were other problems making them distinguishable.
Another aspect is, that there was indeed a great interest in the West, in particular among American collectors, for antique Chinese porcelain at this time. Prices at auctions were soaring. So, there was a ready market for antiques, even newly made ones. I don't think this was among the main reasons why the Kangxi period was revived as a whole, but it was a part of the picture why so many grand pieces was made.
The reign of the Guangxu (Glorious Succession) Emperor lasted from 1875 to 1908. His name was Zaitian AISIN-GIORO. He was born August 14, 1871 and ascended the throne in 1875 at the age of four as the tenth emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. He was adopted by the Empress Dowager Cixi as her son.
Until age nineteen, in 1894, the Guangxu Emperor was "aided" in his rule by the Empress Dowager Cixi. Four years later, in 1898 at age 23, he initiated the Hundred Days' Reform in an attempt to modernize China which was abruptly stopped same year by Cixi, after which he was put under house arrest until his death in November 14, 1908. The cause of his death remains a mystery until this day.
He was succeeded by Empress Dowager Cixi's hand picked heir, his nephew Puyi, who became the Xuantong Emperor.
|Guangxu 1875-1908, mark in regular, kaishu, script. Accepted by Christie's as genuine in 2013. Demonstrates clearly a feature that is often called hollow or fractured, line. Notice the marks slightly elongated - high and narrow - shape with more space between each pair of character.|
Puyi (Wade-Giles P'u-I), also called Henry Puyi, reign name Xuantong, was the last emperor (1908-1911/12) of the Qing (Manchu) dynasty (1644-1911/12) in China and pro forma emperor of the Japanese-controlled state of Manchukuo (Chinese: Manzhouguo) from 1934 to 1945. He was born Feb. 7, 1906, Beijing, China. His father was the second Prince Chun, brother of the Emperor Guangxu and nephew of the Empress Dowager Cixi, who had been the de facto governor of China for many years; her son Guangxu being mostly isolated from all governmental and family affairs. Puyi died October 17, 1967, Beijing.
In 1909 Puyi succeeded to the Manchu throne at the age of three, when his uncle, the Guangxu emperor, died on Nov. 14, 1908 and reigned under a regency for three years.
In 1911 the Qing dynasty was overthrown and China declared to be a republic. When the republicans occupied Peking they required the abdication of Puyi but guaranteed his title, safety, income, etc., in the Articles of Favorable Treatment which was accomplished on February 12, 1912. Thus the Republic of China despite many competing warlord armies came into being, with the recent Imperial general Yuan Shikai, becoming President.
Puyi continued to live in the palace in Beijing and chose 'Henry' as a given name. From this, he became known as Henry Puyi in the West. After a coup in November 5, 1924 by General Feng Yuxiang Puyi was made a regular citizen of the Republic of China and the same day expelling him from the Forbidden City.
Thus, Puyi was ruling emperor until February 12, 1912 (and also briefly between July 1 and July 12, 1917), and non-ruling emperor between February 12, 1912 and November 5, 1924. In 1924 he left Beijing to reside in the Japanese concession at Tianjin. In March 9, 1932-1934 Puyi was put in place as the leader of the Japanese-controlled Manchukuo in Manchuria (China's Northeast) under the reign name Datong and in 1934 to 1945 made 'emperor' of the same region under the reign title of Kangde.
His autobiography, From Emperor to Citizen, was published in English in 1964-65, and he was the subject of the movie The Last Emperor (1987).
|Xuantong 1909-1912, kaishu mark in regular script. Accepted by Sotheby's as genuine in 2013. Demonstrates clearly a feature that is often called hollow or fractured, line. The decoration of the piece, iron red bats among clouds is in a distinctly different style as compared to similarly decorated pieces of the previous reign.|
|Hongxian (Yuan Shikai) 1915-16|
|Hongxian (Yuan Shikai) 1915-16