What if the Qing Dynasty never existed?

Wuchang uprising: The end for China's last emperor


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China in the early 20th century is seething. The Qing dynasty, which has ruled since 1644, no longer has the vast empire under control. The powerful mafia-style triad secret societies, religious sects and ethnic minorities are troubling her. The dragon, the great power of Asia, has grown tired: technically backward, politically isolated and defenselessly exposed to the colonial greed of the West.

Europeans, Americans and the old archenemy Japan control large parts of industry, mining, shipping and the railways. Even Germany, otherwise not very successful as a colonial power, secured the Kiautschou area around the city of Tsingtau.

During the Boxer Rebellion of 1901 - named after a rebel group whose name can be translated as "fists of justice and harmony" - rebels tried in vain to shake off foreign influence. An international expeditionary force under German command brutally suppresses the uprising. The de facto reigning Empress Dowager Cixi signs the "Boxer Protocol" which many Chinese find humiliating. Among other things, China has to apologize and pay reparations.

Atonement visit to Germany

Prince Tschün II even has to travel to Germany as a representative of the Qing to apologize for the murder of a German diplomat. Even if the Chinese delegation succeeds in ensuring that he does not have to kneel in front of Wilhelm II on his expiatory visit on September 4, 1901 in the New Palace in Sanssouci Park in Potsdam - the reputation of the imperial family is gone. The Qing come from Manchuria; many Han Chinese reject the Manchu family as foreign rule anyway.



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Emperor Guangxu's attempts at reform policy come too late and cannot alleviate the tension between rulers and the emerging national bourgeoisie, which see themselves disadvantaged in favor of foreigners. The "hundred-day reform" fails. Instead, Cixi has new troops trained and a police office set up: this type of reform succeeds in curbing the countless uprisings that flare up again and again, hundreds of them per year in 1909 and 1910.

In 1911 the government sells building rights for railway lines to Guangzhou (Canton) to western investors. In April 1911 an armed uprising broke out there - despite six months of preparation, it was put down after a day and a night. 72 killed revolutionaries are buried in a communal grave in Huanghuagang ("Yellow Flower Hill") near Guangzhou: the "72 Martyrs of Huanghuagang". Sun Yat-Sen, one of the main leaders of the nationalist rebels, has to go into exile.

Wuchang uprising


Dowager Empress Cixi is the defining figure at the end of the Qing Dynasty. She is only one of about a dozen concubines (plus a number of concubines) of the emperor Xianfeng, but she gives birth to his only son and induces him to name him on his deathbed as his successor.

Cixi rules for the minor. In 1872, Emperor Tongzhi took over the affairs of state, but died in 1875. Cixi succeeded her underage nephew - and can as "Regent behind the curtain" rule until Emperor Guanxu comes of age.


As Emperor Guanxu In 1889 he took over the official business, Cixi temporarily withdrew from politics. But the moment the emperor introduces reforms, aristocratic circles who fear for their influence win over Cixi. With the help of the mighty Military Commander Yuan Shikai she puts Guanxu under house arrest and takes over the reign again.

One day before Cixi himself died in 1908, probably from influenza, Guanxu passed away. Whether Cixi had him killed to pave the way for her ideal successor, Pu Yi, has not been proven.

Pu Yi

Cixi sets the in 1908 shortly before her death two year old Pu Yi to the heir to the throne. His father Tschün II rules for him, while the boy is raised by private tutors.

Before the child emperor can come of age, he must abdicate. He keeps Right of residence in the Imperial Palace and a lavish Apanage, in 1917 even becomes emperor again for 13 days.

In 1934 the Japanese make him Emperor of their puppet state Manchuko. After the end of the Second World War, he was first in Soviet and then in Chinese custody. Mao Zedong pardoned him in 1959, he lived as a gardener and archivist.

Yuan Shikai

As the commander of the first "New Army" Yuan Shikai supports the widow Cixi against the reform-minded Emperor Guanxu. When he is supposed to put down the Wuchang uprising, he puts his troops at the service of the revolution against the promise that he will become president.

yuan forces Pu Yi to abdicate and becomes the first official President of the Republic of China. Yuan later overthrew the elected government and banned the Kuomintang Nationalist Party. In 1915 he made himself emperor, but even his officers resisted. Yuan died a few months after his resignation in 1916.

Sun Yat-Sen

Sun Yat-Sen is used in both Taiwan and the People's Republic as Founding father adored. The Christian studies medicine in Hong Kong and becomes a doctor. He was politicized by trips to the West.

After a unsuccessful uprising in 1895 he has to go into exile. He learns about the Wuchang uprising from a US newspaper. Before the first elections in China, he founds the National People's Party Kuomintang.

In 1913, Yuan drove him to asylum again. In 1917 he returned to China, which was divided in power struggles. After his death in 1925, the fire breaks out Civil war between the Kuomintang and communists, both of whom consider themselves his true heirs.

It is no coincidence that an uprising breaks out in Wuchang: this is where the "New Army" has one of its strongholds, a modern combat force founded in 1895 after the Chinese defeat against Japan. Wuchang on the Yangtze River in Hubei Province is the center of China's military industry. Many mostly young officers belong to organizations such as the Chinese Revolutionary League, the "Literature Society" Wen Xue She or the "Society for Common Progress" Gong Jin Hui. They have been preparing an armed rebellion since the summer of 1911.