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Qing Governors and Their Provinces

The Evolution of Territorial Administration in China, 1644-1796

R. Kent Guy is professor of history at the University of Washington. He is the author of The Emperor’s Four Treasuries: Scholars and the State in the Late Qianlong Period and coeditor of Limits of the Rule of Law in China.

Publication Year: 2010

This comprehensive study of the shift to the province as an increasingly important element in management of the expanding Chinese empire concentrates on powerful provincial governors who extended the central government's influence into the most distant territories. Personnel records and biographies provide colorful details about the governors' lives, accomplishments, misfortunes, and feuds.

Published by: University of Washington Press

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 3-18

As the historian’s eye searches for the stuff of grand strategy, the dynamics of policy formation, or evidence of the unseen movement of social change, it usually passes over the routine records of personnel transition and official careers that mark the daily life of any empire. Yet buried in this documentary detritus are stories as rich as any found...

Part I

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1. The Burdens of History: Pre-Qing Territorial Government

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pp. 21-46

In China, as in most early modern empires, provinces as administrative units were created from the earlier military jurisdictions through which territories had been conquered and controlled. The situation in China was unique in that the military jurisdictions that gave rise to provinces had much longer and more daunting histories than did military jurisdictions...

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2. The Qing Creation of the Province

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pp. 47-78

Early Qing rulers were uniquely able to tinker with Chinese institutions and, in doing so, fashioned a viable instrument of civilian governance out of an institution that had been more of a problem than a solution in the Ming and earlier dynasties. The creation of this form of administration represented a milestone in Chinese imperial rule, and much of the work...

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3. The Conundrum of Competence

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pp. 79-110

Implicit in the territorial order that Qing rulers built in the seventeenth century was a commitment to assess the qualifications of those who served in lower offices and to determine, on some regular basis, who among them was most suitable for promotion to senior office. As territorial administration became more powerful and salient in the eighteenth century...

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4. The Power of the Unexpected

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pp. 111-145

Like all Chinese dynasties, the Qing maintained an elaborate image-making apparatus that employed the full range of rhetorical resources at its command —allusion, metaphor, and reference to historical precedent—in making its case, and its products have rightly been read as statements of the dynasty’s political intentions. Ironically, however, it was probably at the very times when the court set aside precedent...

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5. The Imperatives of Continuity

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pp. 146-179

Special appointments made at moments of crisis offer a vivid picture of the politics of discontinuity in Qing China, the moments when specific imperatives forced changes in the direction of policy and the character of leadership. But in the case of a long-lived institution like the Qing dynasty, continuity as well as discontinuity must be explained. Continuity posed its own imperatives...

Part II

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6. The Legacy of Military Occupation: The North and the Northwest

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pp. 183-230

One of the principal innovations of the Qing territorial order was the provision it made for shared responsibility—governors and lieutenant governors shared responsibility for the tasks of civil administration, and both shared military responsibilities with governors-general. This arrangement was not administratively tidy, but it was durable...

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7. Negotiated Orders: The Lower Yangzi Valley and the Southeastern Coast

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pp. 231-286

In recent years, it has become the fashion in works of Western social science to characterize a variety of moments and events as “sites of negotiation.” In most instances, this term is used metaphorically to describe events, series of events, or verbal formulations that appear to have resulted from a reconciliation of several sets of interests. In this chapter, the term “negotiation” is...

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8. Regions into Provinces: The Middle Yangzi and Lingnan

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pp. 287-325

In the classic conception of Qing provincial government, first articulated in an edict of 1665 and repeated, consciously or not, in textbook accounts and classrooms ever since, Chinese provinces were divided into contiguous pairs, and each pair was put under the control of a governor-general. Although in theory this was the model for all China, it existed only in four regions...

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9. Communications and Provincial Government in Southwest China

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pp. 326-351

Yunnan and Guizhou were the last provinces to be established in the Qing dynasty, nearly half a generation after the first provincial government was ordered in north China. When Qing armies reached the southwest in the mid- 1650s, they found a land of cloudy skies, steep mountains, and rapidly flowing but largely unnavigable rivers. Even at the height of the Qing, the most important administrative posts in the two southwestern provinces...

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pp. 352-363

The development of the territorial service in the Qing is a critical and largely untold story of the dynasty. What began as a rather hasty attempt to fill Ming dynasty territorial posts with men of at least minimal loyalty to the Qing eventually became a flexible and sophisticated system that served the dynasty’s needs for nearly three hundred years. The components included...


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pp. 365-369


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p. 370-370


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pp. 371-418

Chinese Glossary

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pp. 419-424


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pp. 425-440


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pp. 441-445

E-ISBN-13: 9780295801674
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295990194

Publication Year: 2010