China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

By Peter C. Perdue | Go to book overview

4

Manchus, Mongols, and Russians
in Conflict, 1670–1690

IN the late seventeenth century, the vigorous young ruler of China, known as the Kangxi emperor, took decisive action to expand and strengthen his new empire. In an astonishingly short period of time, a mere thirty years from taking personal power, he decisively imposed his will on the regents— his own uncles, the generals ruling the southwest, Taiwanese aborigines, and, most impressively, the free nomadic military leaders of Mongolia. By 1700 it seemed that no one could resist the imperial command. None of these achievements was determined in advance, and victory was never certain. The emperor had to overcome substantial opposition from his closest advisers, and his troops battled incessantly against immense human and natural obstacles. Although the structure of the emerging Qing state, including its Central Asian elements, supported Kangxi's vigorous campaigns, we cannot ignore the sheer force of personal will that so strongly marked these critical years. Kangxi's dynamic intervention transformed the Qing from a promising but limited enterprise into an unprecedented project of expansion. The Mongol campaigns signaled most definitively this transformation of the Qing into a Central Eurasian empire with world significance.


Kangxi the Ruler

Aisin Gioro Xuanye (1654–1722) was the third son of Fulin, the Shunzhi emperor. His grandmother and the four Manchu regents selected him to be-

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