The Qing Dynasty was the second foreign dynasty to rule all China; the first being the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). Unlike the Mongols, the Manchu, who took the name “qing” meaning pure or clear, served as patrons of Chinese culture employing Chinese scholar-officials in high government positions.
They succeeded the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which over time had become unable to effectively rule the country. The first one hundred and fifty years of the Qing Dynasty witnessed great strides in China’s development. China’s social order in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the envy of the civilized world to the point that China was viewed as a truly enlightened country, which, in part, inspired the artistic movement known as chinoiserie.
By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, with the increasing industrialization of Europe and the need for ever new markets for manufactured goods, the earlier attitude toward China altered completely. The Chinese were increasingly regarded by the Europeans as backward looking and in need of guidance from the now “more advanced” West. This resulted in a series of Sino-European wars beginning in the 1830s and continuing to the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 and the ultimate collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.