|Nation Overview||Strategic Overview||CtW Information||History|
China is a civilization that is as old as history itself, with over 4,000 years of written history and culture that remains as vibrant as ever - even to this day, Chinese classics still remain a potent force wherever Chinese is widely spoken, while the altars of Chinese gods, heroes and saints are still laden with offerings and sacred flames, just as they always did in ages past - whereas the ancient gods of Egypt, Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia have all but disappeared.
Along with their contemporaries, the Egyptians and the Greeks, the Chinese took the first steps towards civilization to become one of the most powerful, prosperous and sophisticated nation in the ancient world. This was still while most of the rest of our world's contemporary great nations were still small tribal villages.China thought itself - and increasingly in this, our century, thinks itself - to be the "Middle Kingdom" (as reflected in what the Chinese call China itself: zhongguo), the land located at the centre of the civilised world. Throughout its long history, its presence has been felt not only by its neighbours but also as a source of trade and wonderment for its contemporaries in far-off Europe, inspiring many adventurous merchants and later armies to seek trade and conduct business with its vast economy - almost everyone in Europe has at some point in time and/or history traded with China. It was trading partner to Rome and India in ancient times, establishing what is known as the Silk Road and continued to prosper, even after the fall of Rome, and Europe languished in the Dark Ages, reaching what could arguably be its zenith thus far, in the 15th century. With Ming "treasure ships" dwarfing the warships of Renaissance-era European powers and containing naval technology that would not be repeated by the rest of the world for years to come, China established trade routes to as far away as Africa, and engaged in power diplomacy towards its neighbours.
The First Emperors ()Edit
According to Chinese mythology, the Chinese race was founded by a confederation of two tribes, the Hua and the Xia, by the banks of the Yellow River. Civilisation soon followed with the rise of the "Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors" (三皇五帝), godlike or ancestral figures (the border between god and ancestor is very blurred in Chinese religious tradition) who taught the Chinese the fundamental arts of agriculture, medicine, divination, etc. Of these, the most revered was Huang Di, the "Yellow Emperor" who was said to have first united the Chinese people and paved the way to nationhood under the Xia, China's very first imperial dynasty.
Since then, however, accounts of how the first Chinese state arose have changed, but the old myths are still held up as tantalising clues that Chinese civilisation has had a long process of development, and that it developed a fair degree of sophistication long before the beginnings of verifiable history. Various archaeological finds throughout China attest to this. It is thought that the Xia, being the progenitors of the Chinese race as we know it, also introduced the pictogrammic writing found later in the oracle bones used by the warrior-kings of the Shang which over the last century have been collected by archaeologists and museums across China. The pictograms on these bones continued to be used by succeeding generations and simplified and recombined over time, eventually evolving into the Chinese script that we recognise today — and to a certain extent also continue to be used in so-called "seal format" in some cases. If anything, this last innovation could well be the greatest contribution they ever made to China and mankind in general.
Yin and Yang, Chaos and OrderEdit
With the fall of the Xia and the rise of the Yin (or Shang) dynasty, the emergence of a China that was to dominate its neighbors for centuries began at this time. The territory of Shang was vastly smaller than that of the modern People's Republic of China, and while it wasn't precisely a kingdom or country, but a union of many clans and smaller kingdoms like its Xia predecessors (or the Zhou dynasty), were just the strongest clans at their ages, therefore they were chosen to be the leaders of their unions. Xia dynasty, and then past to Shang dynasty. but it laid down the foundations for a centralised state. The Shang made many advances in technology, producing metalwork that was superior to any other nation at the time, but it wasn't exactly a civilised paradise. Like many of the Bronze Age polities, the Shang were big on divine right and absolute power, and very much low on humanity by modern standards, dominated by a feudalistic society where the king and the nobles held sway with bronze over a society that was still very much Neolithic in character. Like many Mesoamerican cultures that would develop on the other side of the fearsome and mysterious Eastern Ocean (as the Chinese called the Pacific) Shang religion emphasised ancestor worship, ritual bloodletting and sacrifice — especially human sacrifice.
As mentioned before, the oracle bones retrieved from Shang sites reveal a telling picture of Shang society. It seemed that their leader were very religious (or superstitious) and relied on diviners to communicate with ancestors and presented animal or human offerings to plead for victories in battle or for rains to end drought. Such requests for otherworldly assistance have been preserved in pictographs carved into the oracle bones. Warfare too was a perennial concern for the king and the nobility, for the oracle bones reflect many questions on military matters such as "If we send 3,000 men into battle, will we win?"
Even so, the most enduring legacy of the Shang probably wasn't in bronze or religion, but in administration: the modern Chinese language, and a system of hierarchical government that would become a template for the millenia to come which would have brought with it a semblance of organisation and specialisation to what was otherwise very much a tribalistic society. With the oracle bones, we now know that the Shang had already developed all the principles of the modern writing system of Chinese: it is still possible, albeit with some understanding of the old script, for Chinese to read and understand the old inscriptions.
Eventually, this dynasty was overthrown by one of its tribal neighbours, called the Zhou. Nominally established in the 11th century BCE, the Zhou dynasty It lasted the longest of all dynasties, even if only formally so until 221BCE. According to the Shiji or the Records of the Grand Historian, the last king of Shang, Di Xin, was an intelligent and gifted man, yet given to decadence, drunkenness and lechery. Di Xin had a concubine named Daji with whom he was besotted with and tried to please, even at the expense of the state. This led the ruler of a neighbouring petty kingdom, Ji Fa of Zhou (now present-day Shaanxi) to war with the Shang and an immensely bloody victory at Muye where the Shang army was annihilated. Di Xin was forced to flee, and he committed suicide, leaving Daji to be executed by the victorious Zhou forces, whose king now enthroned himself as king Wu of Zhou.
What part of this is truth and what part of this is mere propaganda, we may never know, but Wu's reign sparked a revolution in the late Shang society which capitulated to him following Di Xin's death — for one, the chronicles of Shang and Zhou weren't compiled in any format that survived to this day until the Han era, well almost a thousand years after the rise of Zhou. But archaeological evidence thus far suggests some continuity from the Shang era well into that of the Zhou. Under the auspices of the new dynasty, the old ways of Shang were retained, yet there were new changes taking place. For one, ceramics, long disdained by the Shang as the mark of commoners, began to gain greater sociocultural importance. Equally, it was also the "Axial Age" of China, with the emergence of a genuine literary culture. The Yi Jing or "book of changes", a book on means of divination, is thought to have emerged with the early half of the Zhou era, or the so-called "Western Zhou" period. So great and influential is this period in China's development that the philosophies it spawned would dominate China and eastern Asia for centuries, and even the later Han, Tang and Sui dynasties felt it meet to emphasise their links to this formative period in Chinese history.
After Zhou assimilated the Shang polity, it started to expand its border, and acquired many new lands. It enfeoffed these new lands to the royals and military officers. To consolidate their rule, king Wu's clan chose to marry into the different noble families that had survived the fall of Shang, introducing thefeudalistic fengjian system in order to impose their control as well as to ingratiate themselves with the nobles. The new lands acquired by the Zhou became hundreds of kingdoms, including the seven largest kingdoms during Warring States period. Among those kingdoms, those who were most intimate with Zhou called themselves Zhuxia, viz "every (kingdom originated from) Xia", here "Zhu" meaning "every". What this meant was that the kingdoms in Zhou dynasty deemed themselves as part of a unified civilization descended from Xia. The term Zhuxia was always a cultural conception, since the Zhou clan actually had no direct blood relationship with the clans of the late Xia clan. The five Zhuxia countries (Yan, Zhao, Han, Qi, and Wei ) tended to shared the same language (but different dialects), and the same scripts (but more or less diversified from the 1,500-odd year old original) and deemed themselves as a unified civilization.
Effective at first, it however broke down as time went by and family relationships between the nobles and the king were eclipsed by that of the nobles to their own fiefdoms. When incursions from northern barbarians saw the Zhou court sacked by invaders in 771BCE, they contributeed to the gradual breakdown of the centralised Chinese state now experiencing a gradually intensifying competition between the nobles for more power and influence. Historians have named this period the "Spring Autumn Period" (770 B.C. to 476 B.C.) after a famous chronicle of the time, and the "Warring States Period" (475 B.C.. to 221 B.C.) when centrality of rule was all but lost.
At the peripheries of the Zhou domain proper were two larger kingdoms, Qin and Chu, remote from the central area of Zhou union and bordering barbarian lands. While the ruling class were descendants from Zhuxia civilization, their subjects not only conquered the barbarians, but also intermarried with them. Therefore the cultures of these two kingdoms were distinct from the larger five, although they still used the same scripts with the other kingdoms, since by then the Zhuxia Chinese script was the only one extant in East Asia.
Ironically, Qin and Chu developed into the strongest kingdoms in Warring States period, largely benefited from their remote locations from the central area occupied by "Zhu Xia" kingdoms, on one hand they easily conquered the barbarians and expanded their borders, the other hand the attacks from "Zhu Xia" kingdoms were always from one direction, they could easily defend and didn't need to worry about being sieged. Finally it was Qin unified the "Zhu Xia" civilization and found the geographic range of China.
The Warring states period was ended with its first Imperial Emperor, Chin Shi Huang. Chin Shi Huang, was able to unify the country for the first time and establish the Chin Dynasty in 221 B.C.. It is from this dynasty that China gets its western name.
With a turbulent and checquered history as China's, which alternates between decadent opulence of staggering proportions and seemingly irrevocable ruin and misery, it is unsurprising that the Chinese are often seen by non-Chinese contemporaries as every bit as innovative, industrious and entrepreneurial as they are jealous, scheming and insidiously amoral, given that you had to be tough in order to survive the lean years, whether in China or any other part of the world.
The Dragon Rises: Imperial RuleEditThe destruction and chaos that accompanied the Warring States Period that ended the Zhou era and the rise of a unified China for the first time under the banner of Qin (221–206 BCE) saw the transformation of kingly responsibility as more being a state affair than one of religious responsibility. It was possible that the devastation of China and the primacy of Legalism in Qin affairs had an effect on how Chinese saw themselves in real life and within the framework of metaphysics/religion. Unlike the previous Shang and Zhou dynasties, Qin established a centralised state and a fairly meritocratic civil service with officials appointed on the basis of merit rather than birth.
Even so, Qin as a dynasty was short-lived, and China remained politically unstable following reunification. It was marked by the harshness and brutality of its ruler in China's first attempt to connect the walls created by the warring states, and by the burning of Confucian books, and banishment of Confucian scholars. The measures of the Qin government could be meted out only with much bloodletting, which only increased hatred towards the rulers and by 209 BCE China was split into three kingdoms: Han and Chu, and the much smaller kingdom of Nanyue in present-day Guangdong. Victory would go to Han in 202 BCE, and its ruler, the warlord Liu Bang, would establish the Han dynasty.
Nevertheless, the forces of centralisation and unification which were unleashed by the Qin in its brief existence would go far in forming China as a single unified nation, and the institutions and administrative measures of Qin would be inherited by and perfected upon by the Han and other dynasties over subsequent centuries. The political successes of both Qin and Han are still commemorated to this day by the two names by which Chinese are known — although most Western nations use some derivative of "Qin" to refer to Chinese, the Chinese themselves still refer to themselves as "Han", demonstrating great admiration towards the Han dynasty (in some other nations however, such as Russia, the term "Khitai" or "Cathay" is used after one of the Turkic tribes which overran China in the Middle Ages).
While China's influence on its neighbours was great and its inventions and culture inspired others, China was also attacked by many barbarians from its north and west throughout its history. This led the Qin and successive dynasties to renovate the ancient city wall complexes of its defeated northern foes and integrate them into a massive defensive and communications system to deter further barbarian attacks from the north: the Great Wall.
In contrast, Han chose to forgo the wall, choosing instead to marry off distant relatives of the Emperor and minor nobility to the leaders of the Turkic tribes in a form of diplomatic marriage known as Heqin.
Northern Storm (600C–1250CE)Edit
"...on one river there were near 200 cities with marble bridges great in length and breadth, and everywhere adorned with columns. This country is worth seeking by the Latins, not only because great wealth may be obtained from it, gold and silver, all sorts of gems, and spices, which never reach us; but also on account of its learned men, philosophers, and expert astrologers, and by what skill and art so powerful and magnificent a province is governed, as well as how their wars are conducted." — Paolo Toscanelli, letter to Christopher Columbus (1474)
As in Dark Age Europe, the Chinese found themselves in conflicts with the many nomadic tribes who haunted the wastes bordering the northern borders of China during the Middle Ages. Power in China passed from the Han to the Xijin or "Western Jin" dynasty in 265 CE following the so-called "Three Kingdoms" period which saw the nation divided into three great warring states. However, at this point in time, the barbarians were increasing their pressure upon China and succession crises and civil wars resulted in the destruction of the Western Jin.
By the fourth century, China was once more divided into several warring states — the so-called Sixteen Kingdoms, with the northern kingdoms dominated by rulers of Turkic extraction, and the southern polities ruled by an ethnic Han nobility. One such "northern" or "barbarian" state, the "Northern" Wei, for a while briefly unified the entire northern half of China, but eventually disintegrated into several smaller petty kingdoms. It was only until the late 6th century that China would be unified under a native Han dynasty, the Sui. Like the Qin dynasty of old, the Sui were harsh and cruel authoritarians, but made two contributions to mediaeval China. They reasserted the ideal of a unified China, and also excavated the Grand Canal, or (Da Yunhe). Although it would help China in the long run, the cost in riches and lives was so high, that the Sui were eventually usurped by the Tang dynasty (618 to 907).Tang saw the resurgence of Confucian ideals after centuries of realpolitik and civil war which characterised the period between the Wei and the Sui dynasties, and the introduction of Buddhism into China by way of India. This period is considered the high point in Chinese cultural development when printing spread literature and art to vast numbers of the population. The success of the Tang can be seen from how far Tang influence spread. China was one of the most globalised areas in the world (apart from Byzantium in the Middle East and Andalus in Europe). There were Tang commanderies in present-day North Korea and Central Asia; Manchuria was brought under the sway of the emperor at Chang'an; Vietnam too was subjugated for a while. It was this time that Chinese culture developed via multicultural cross-pollination. Turkic and Middle Eastern influences would be absorbed into Chinese culture and customs, even as Chinese goods such as the blue porcelain favoured by African and Muslim rulers flowed west and south. However, through steady decline in military power the dynasty ended with fragmentation of the empire for the next half century until the Song dynasty reunited the country in 960. The Song dynasty saw Chinese culture and scholastic schools of thought spread into Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. The Chinese empire had reached a new golden era, even if however the Song had to compete with other powers such as the Jin to the north (ancestors to the Manchus) and the Xixia to the west.
Darkness and Light (1300–1650CE)EditHowever, by the middle of the 13th century, the Mongols ruled China after their campaigns across Asia and Europe establishing the Yuan dynasty in 1279 under Kublai Khan. Despite having brought many new innovations and cultural innovations (such as the development of secular drama) and opening China further to the outside world,
Mongol rule was a traumatic period for China. Over the years of the Mongol conquest of China (which involved taking the many disunited factions of China one by one), it was estimated that almost 21 million Chinese died to either illness, starvation or violence. It was events like these (and the occupation by the Manchu Qing four centuries later) that shaped the animosity and suspicion that many Chinese nationals have concerning the intentions of foreigners who live beyond their borders.
Foreign rule was ended in 1368 by Zhu Yuanzhang, a Buddhist monk who, previously having stylised himself Prince of Wu, took Khanbaliq (now called Beijing), and established the Ming Dynasty, taking on the title of Emperor Hongwu. The new dynasty would see China create the greatest navy of its day, sailing as far as distant Africa. As a result of the expense of the expeditions as well as from rival factions within the government which saw more importance in defending China from constant harassment from Northern barbarians and foreign influence (in particular, the Portuguese and the Dutch), the voyages however were suddenly stopped, and the fleet disbanded after 1433. This saw China eventually abandoning its naval superiority and turning ever inwards, and into isolationist stasis, until dynastic rule finally collapsed under the weight of its own inertia.
When Emperor Yingzong ascended to the throne in 1436, the Ming Dynasty began its decline, mainly due to the monopoly of eunuchs. Corruption was rife, with officials levying heavy taxes on peasants, triggering countless uprisings. At the same time, the Ming Dynasty faced the danger of attacks from external forces. During the reign of Emperor Jiajing (circa 1521), Chancellor Zhang Juzheng was appointed to carry out a comprehensive reform in politics, the economy and military. For some time, things changed for the better but, before long, a eunuch named Wei Zhongxian seized and abused his power, which accelerated the Ming's decline.
The end came in the 17th century during a flurry of peasant uprisings that reached Beijing, forcing the Shunzi emperor to commit suicide. Meanwhile, unable to restore order and short on manpower, a Ming official opened the gates of the Great Wall to a host of barbarians, the Manchu, to help quell revolts in the empire. By 1644, however, all was lost — the Manchus seized Beijing, and eventually began absorbing the politically disunited parts of China together under their rule.
Mandarins versus Merchants: Chinese Trade and Migration ()Edit
Unsurprisingly, troubles at home caused by the migrations of nomads caused the Chinese to begin migrating overseas, and as a result the Chinese had always been involved in trade - the hallmark occupation of most migrants since Han times almost two thousand years ago despite the Imperial government's attitude towards commerce which wavered between apathy and proscription. If Confucian thought ruled out the idea that trade had any place in society, why did so many Chinese take up mercantile activities?
One motivation behind this was that since Chinese practised necrolatry — the veneration of their deceased forbears — they often felt a responsibility to live up to the family name or contribute back more than was taken, and so sought out material success and social advancement, wherever it could be found. To not do so, especially if one was poor, was seen as an unfillial act — loyalty towards family was and has always been seen as far more important than loyalty to the edicts of scholars who believed either in self-sufficency or the evil of foreign trade, or even loyalty to God or His representative the Son of Heaven, the Emperor himself!
The first migrations of the Chinese began way back during the Qin era, when the Chinese began moving south from the Yellow River Basin into what is now present-day southern China and Vietnam. Apart from escaping wars and starvation, the refugees also had good reason to colonise the land: it was rich land, capable of supporting many harvests and wasn't as harsh as the Central Plains during winter, and furthermore the hills and jungles were rich with game, precious woods and resins as well as gold. Although meagre at first, this trickle of migrants eventually intensified especially during the post-Han period when the chaos in northern China forced more and more people to seek sanctuary in the south, intensifying the settlement of Southern China and its eventual sinicisation.
The next wave of migration to take place was the overseas migration of the Chinese out of China itself, which became all the more intense especially during the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279CE), with Chinese enclaves appearing throughout Southeast Asia. This overseas migration eventually intensified, with more intense senttlement in Nanyang (as the Chinese called Southeast Asia) during the era of overseas colonial empires, or east towards America (which the Cantonese called "Kum San", or "the Gold Mountains"). These journeys however didn't always bring back the profits sought and were certainly fraught with peril. Some perished in pogroms such as in the Philippines, or were exploited as in Cuba. Others nevertheless survived, and some even prospered beyond all reckoning, especially in less-developed areas such as Southeast Asia.
Of all the goods that China produced and traded, two have always fascinated the world outside of China: tea and fine ceramics. The fine porcelain sold by the Chinese to the Muslims in the Middle East and Africa also found admirers in the West — alchemists and maverick scientists in Europe strove for years to produce porcelain or "chinaware" as it was known. Equally of interest was Chinese-styled furniture and furnishing which found homes in upper-class families throughout Europe, and which kick-started a drive towards imitation of Chinese-styled artifacts. The Brighton pavillion in England is a faint echo of this former craze. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, another commodity was also making itself known to the world — tea. First introduced to Portuguese traders throughout Asia, tea eventually became another commodity prized all over the world. For many years, however, these resources were all strictly controlled by the Imperial government, because of two reasons — to monopolise the profits thereof, and also in some cases they were highly strategic: Imperial China often traded tea with Tibet in exchange for horses, which were of crucial importance for its armies.
Despite the threat of capital punishment by the Qing authorities (intent on starving out any prospect of rebellion) Chinese migration to the colonial empires and the mother nations of the Americans, French, Spanish, British, Dutch and Portuguese throughout Southeast Asia, the Americas and beyond reachesd its peak with the heyday of Western colonialism in the 19th century. The seeds of Chinese independence were not laid down merely in China alone, but in the streets of Chinese enclaves throughout Hawai'i, Penang, Singapore, and California.
The Manchus in China (1640–1700CE)Edit
Long before the Manchu had entered China, they however had been hard at work on their own projects. Initially disunited, the Manchu were unified under the Aisin Gioro clan, led by Nurhaci, by 1616, into a single sinicised monarchy which soon centred itself around China's Liaodong province. Now the khan of the Manchus, Nurhaci subsequently did not stop with the Manchu alone, but began to plot for conquest. Although he did not conquer China, Nurhaci successfully created an organisational system, called the "eight-banner system", which attempted to integrate the tribal warriors of Manchu society into a highly centralised and disciplined fighting force. It was this army with which Nurhaci's youngest son, Hong Taiji, marched through the Great Wall and assumed de facto control of China, stylising himself as Shunzhi of Qing. Shunzhi was infamous for introducing the "Queue Order" which forced all subjects of the empire, on pain of death, to adopt the Manchu queue in lieu of the topknots favoured by Chinese ever since time immemorial. Despite seeming inocuous enough in modern eyes, hundreds of thousands were killed in an effort to secure compliance with this order.
To be fair, however, it is to be noted that the Qing did contribute something back to the people under their rule. They managed to keep the Russians and Mongols out of China well until the end of their reign, and it was also under Shunzhi's successor that the Kangxi dictionary emerged, so named after the emperor in whose reign it was first published. Equally, as with other previous dynasties, art and culture were resusticated so long as the Aisin Gioro clan could continue providing gifted and talented individuals to fill in the Emperor's shoes. Yongzheng, who succeeded Kangxi in 1722, attempted to crete a government that was financially efficient — an ideal not fully taken up by the west until almost 150 years later. China was also a favourite destination for American traders, who came to dominate the market in China, for several reasons: apart from being fairly stable, China was not fully dominated by the western powers of Europe (towards which the Americans were perpetually suspicious of), and American traders were mostly sole individuals unrepresented by any government, making the Chinese more trusting of them.
In the meanwhile, there rose another Chinese ruler: an official's son named Zheng Chenggong. Realising that Formosa (then controlled by the Dutch) would make a suitable base to challenge Qing hegemony, Zheng mustered his forces and, after having made appeals to the Goddess of the Sea, successfully took the Dutch settlement of Fort Provintia (now present-day Anping in Tainan city) in 1662; the Dutch who surrendered were allowed to leave peacefully for Batavia and Zheng created the state of Tungning. His son, named Jing, attempted to reconcile with the Qing, but the Manchus flatly refused and attempted isolate Tungning by evacuating the Chinese coast; this backfired however and resulted in waves of migrants from mainland China to the island, a process which was further abetted by Zheng Jing.
Despite the seeming benevolence of Chinese rule, the Tungning regime however was fairly harsh and oppressive — in an attempt to consolidate influence, Christian and aboriginal culture was stamped out, and many temples and Chinese schools were built while Western ones were forced to close, while the indigenous tribes of the island fell into de facto slavery under the Chinese. The plantation of sugar — an exotic crop becoming increasingly significant in the global market — and so to this day Taiwan hosts some confectionary products of high quality. Even so, this could not prevent the downfall of Tungning — Zheng Jing's death would result in a political struggle which the Qing played to their benefit, and Taiwan was annexed after the Tungning fleet was swept aside at Penghu in 1683.
Although the last bastion of Chinese independence had fallen, that did not mean that the Chinese as a race or culture were extinct, as it shall then be seen.
Downfall of the EmpireEdit
Once the Manchu emperors began to become lazy and dissolute, Imperial China's collapse was guaranteed. A series of political crises, local uprisings and incursions by foreign imperialist powers thrust into the modern world, battered and bruised. By the mid-19th century, China not only had corruption issues, but even a drug addiction issue too: this was due to the extensive use of opium. Prior to the opium trade, all the world's silver bullion tended to gravitate towards China (because the Chinese had no interest in European manufactured goods, but were interested in prized commodities such as rare medicines and precious metals); now China was bleeding silver and was facing a drug addiction problem that few truly knew how to manage. A most competent bureaucrat in southern China by the name of Lin tried to combat the opium trade, his efficiency at the task resulted in the First Opium War in 1839, severely weakening the Manchu regime when it could not afford to be so. Neither the navy nor the army could stop the British, and so the Manchu were forced to "rent out" Hong Kong to the British until 1999.
Blood Red Horizon (1911–21st century CE)Edit
- (The revolution hasn't succeeded yet — our comrades still need to strive for the future.)
— Sun Yat-Sen, 1st president of the Republic of China
This however could not stop a Second Opium War with the European powers in which the Yiheyuan Summer Palace, one of China's first Western-style buildings, was completely razed to the ground; equally damaging was that once more Britain asserted itself and annexed Kowloon in Hong Kong, and China was forced to cede Vietnam to France and part of the Amur region to Russia. A war with Japan, now sporting a mechanised navy and infantry armed with rifles, left China shorn of Formosa in 1895. As if to add more insult to injury, anti-foreigner sentiment in China reached boiling point by 1900, culminating in the Yihe uprising or the Boxer Rebellion, which resulted in mass pogroms against westerners and other foreigners in China and elicited massive retaliation by eight powers: France, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, Italy, Austria and the United States. Once more, history repeated itself, and Chinese coastal cities were effectively ceded over to the victorious foreign devils from the West. Half-hearted attempts by the Manchu aristocracy to modernise China were insufficient to hold back the onslaught and only served to incense the more conservative factions in Chinese society. Financially and morally bankrupt, the Qing regime collapsed in a series of revolts and battles throughout China that began on October 1911 and ended with the abdication of the last emperor - now little more than a puppet - in early 1912.
Now, after 267 years of foreign rule, China was finally free — but further torment in the form of further foreign domination, political disunity, social upheaval and war awaited the newly reborn nation.