Leningrad 1940, St. Petersburg 2010

7 May

Leningrad’s Past Comes Back to Haunt it
All too often we forget the hardship experienced by generations past, especially during certain wars, yet some people have a profound way of reflecting on times gone by, presenting their take on the world in a new light.

These haunting, hybrid images of past and present St Petersburg – formerly known as Leningrad – are the works of Sergei Larenkov. After studying old images of the city, Larenkov visited the same spots, capturing them on film. He then digitally superimposed the old image over new, producing these eerie and thought-provoking shots.

Like ghosts captured forever on film the scenes depict all too clearly a harshness that can result only from times of war. The 900-day Siege of Leningrad, also known as The Leningrad Blockade, lasted from September 9, 1941, to January 27, 1944 – just over 65 years ago – and was “one of the longest and most destructive sieges of major cities in modern history, and second most costly,” according to Wikipedia sources.

English Russia had a bit more to say:

“During nine hundred (!) days a few million people in the city of Leningrad suffered from cold and hunger, being deprived of almost all supplies of food and fuel. Many thousands died, those who survived remember this not very willingly. The situation with food was so heavy, no food was sold/distributed among people except a few grams (not even tens or hundred grams) of bread, and not each day, that people had to eat stuff that they would never eat in normal life, like making soups of leather boots (because leather is of animal origin) or boiling the wallpaper because the glue with which they were attached to walls contained a bit of organic stuff. Of course many occasions of cannibalism occurred.”

Although the blend of the two images seems natural, it’s hard not to ignore the colorful boundary of the present and focus totally on the black and white scene of the past. Each image demands the viewer to stop and contemplate what life must have been like in Leningrad during WWII. The difference between life now and then in these moving images is distinct, and deserves the attention of an undoubtedly more privileged audience.

The war was not yet over, but Leningrad had already started to recover from the tragic years of the Siege and all the damage it wrought on the city. Some of the city’s museums, such as the Cabin of Peter the Great for instance, reopened as early as 1944. By the time the victorious Soviet army marched back into the city, Leningrad looked fresh and clean, and the ruins of some of its most celebrated buildings had been covered with temporary cardboard walls, in an attempt to depicting their pre-war appearance. The whole city, the whole country, had dreamt of a revival and it did come.

Despite the enthusiasm of the people, a significant part of the national economy was ruined by the war and the population had to endure many more long months of harsh conditions and bleak prospects. Food rationing was a common feature throughout the 1940s and due to the destruction of 2.8 million sq. meters of city housing and the damage to a further 2.2 million sq. meters, housing became a major problem. Up until the 1960s most of the people Leningrad still lived in so-called “communal” (shared) apartments.

Against all the odds the city was transformed. Unlike many other cities Leningrad was not modernized, but restored to its pre-war Imperial glory. The palaces of Peterhof and Pushkin were almost completely destroyed during the siege and millions of roubles went into their meticulous restoration and reconstruction.

Some of the city’s suburban palaces, such as Aleksandrovsky Palace of Nicholas II in Pushkin, still await restoration. Leningrad’s museums reopened swiftly after the war, having undergone speedy restoration. But a carefully preserved blue Bombardment Warning sign, painted on the side of a building on Nevsky Prospekt, and the green mounds of the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery mass graves still remind us of the tragic past of the city.


Top Twenty Engineering Landmarks

4 Feb

Seeing is Believing

I tried to word this right, the title, for surely there are many Engineering feats, throughout history, the Roman walls in England, and the Greeks Acropolis, in Athens, and the legendary labyrinth, in Crete, and so on and so forth. But these are the ones I’ve seen, and feel are worthy to be called among the greatest of mankind. Some are ancient, some are contemporary, all are great, and until I see something better, this will remain written in stone in me, and I am not adding the space programs, or moon landing in this overview, or scenario. Man has accomplished a lot, with his blood and sweat,
Perhaps too much blood and sweat went into these feats, but then, that is part of the human race is it not, to be and seek challenges. So here we go:

1–The Panama Canal: The Panama Canal, one of the world’s most impressive achievements, with three locks, and a long canal 51-miles long is perhaps the Greatest Engineering Feat of Man kind. I visited the site three times, in 2006.

The city of Panama, an old city dates back to 1673 AD (and some structures to 1519 AD: I’ve seen them all, impressive); it was once burned down (the old city), I walked among its ruins, which is a UNESCO site now; or World Heritage Site.

What is the Panama Canal? It is a 51-mile waterway, linking the Atlantic with the Pacific oceans. That is it, in a nutshell. I saw large and small ships going through the canal. In the 1880s, France tried to build this waterway, fighting yellow fever and malaria, killing 22,000-people. There was a canal treaty in 1903, and in 1904 the Americans took over the building, and accomplished it in 1914 (it only took ten years to build). They purchased the rights for $40-million dollars from France, who had started the project but could not complete it, at which had $375-million dollars invested into the project; and then the USA invested $300-million. Mountains had to be split in two, creating a crack between them, and manmade lakes created. I saw pictures of the ongoing construction, it was breathtaking, the task.

2–The Great Wall of China: I walked on the Great Wall of China, in 1996, it was a haunting experience. Built between 250 BC and 1450 AD, it expands over mountain rangers and across unforeseeable terrain it is spellbinding to walk up and down its wall, knowing it kept the nomad tribes, or better put, the so called barbarians out (or was suppose to). It stretches two-thousand miles across China, and can be seen from outer space. An ancient engineering feet only surpassed (I believe) 500-years later when the Panama Canal was created. You could put six of the pyramids of Egypt into the construction of the Canal, and have leftover debris.

3–The Central Railroad of Peru (completed in 1907): The Central Railroad of Peru the most distinguished in the world (historically); an engineering feat of land and steal where it reached to heights of fifteen-thousand eight hundred and thirty feet (above sea level) to the city of Ticlio, then down to Bone City (La Oroya) and onto Huancavelica: One thousand miles of rail through mountains, across 41-bridges, around 13-zigzags, through 60-tunnels. It goes alongside the Mantaro Rio, in the Mantaro Valley of Peru (as you can see there were many technical engineering difficulties involved in its making). I have not been on this railroad, but I’ve seen the bridges, and the tunnels they carved and built for this accomplished, while traveling throughout the Andes of Peru, and the Mantaro Valley itself, and been to the Rio.

4–The Pan-American Highway: While in South America, I’ve been on this highway a dozen times, but while in Bogota, Columbia, I found it was a little different in that those folks who died on the highway, their loved ones planted trees for them, and you see these trees all about. What a kind gesture.

This was no little project, 29,800 miles of highway (the whole system); from beyond Fairbanks, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina in South America (with a 54-mile gap in the rainforest). It is the Americas supper highway, it is really too big, and too complex to put into a small paragraph like this, but let me say, it is a tourist haven; perhaps the best way to travel in the Americas besides the jet.

5–The Plateau of Giza: and its Pyramids and Sphinx (Egypt): When I was in Egypt, I took a tour of the Plateau, and of course the three pyramids, and went into the pyramid of Khafra, with its tunnels, and sections, and all. And got a front row tour of the Sphinx, which only a few people get, and very few, it has to be at midnight to get that special tour, and costly (perhaps as much as the trip to Egypt itself), but you get what you pay for, to touch it, and perhaps a little more). The Great Sphinx is north side of the court, in front are temples, ruins. When you see this combination, and all its linking connections, throughout the Plateau, and the connections with the heavens, astronomical associations, it is a gallery of Engineering on a grand scale.

6–The Siberian Railroad: I’ve only been on what one may call, a small section of it (Perhaps the European Section), for it goes from England to Brussels, Belgium, to Cologne, Germany, and on to Moscow, Russia, and then on to capitol of Mongolia (Ulan Bater), and to Beijing, China. Not sure who gets the credit for building it, perhaps those countries I just mentioned, it is, if anything, a United Nations Achievement, in that it crosses the boarder of so many countries. But the miles involved, for such a trip I just mentioned would take six-days on the train that in itself is an Engineering feat unsurpassed in a railroad.

7–The Alaskan Pipeline: On my way to Barrow, Alaska and during a flight while in Barrow, across its tundra, I saw pipeline, it is massive, and like a long unending snake. It bewilders me how one might have to go out and fix a link, oh well, the week in Barrow, in 1996, was a long week to say the least, and you see nothing in the Arctic but white, no trees, no anything, except, white bears, white this and that, and the pipeline, which looks white after a while also but is perhaps more silver looking. Back in 1968-’69, when I went to San Francisco, many folks were heading up there to work on oil projects, anticipating the pipeline, as if it was a gold rush. I remember quite well, Dan, a friend of mine, back then; his stepbrother’s father was heading up there, to work in oilfields.

The 800-mile-long Trans Alaska Pipeline, it started up in 1977, and pumped, successfully transporting over 15-billion barrels of oil since. It crosses three mountain ranges and over 800 rivers and streams; it cost $8-billion to build, and was mostly from privately funds. It took three-years, and two months to build between 1974-1977, I assume the planning stages were complicated, for they had to build seven airfields to accommodate the construction.

8–Borobudur (the Magnificence): A master piece of art, and engineering (assembly): temple, or shrine to Buddha, with 504 Buddha’s statues in sitting or standing positions around the shrine. It is wider than the Great Pyramid of Egypt, built on a mound. I went there in 1999, summer and it encircled me, until I got to its peak, Built in the 8th Century, AD. It has two-million blocks of volcanic rock, to the total building structure, the area is 14,165 square meters, with a width of 120 M. With a total weight of 3,500,000 tones. Only about 5000 visitors go there a year it is not one of your regular stops, to say the least, You have to fly into Yogyakarta, central, Java, to get there (from the Midwest, you go to Alaska to Japan, to Guam, to Bali, and a small plane can take you into the city. On the top of the shrine, is a giant Stupa; there is also a calm, about, and around the whole area.

See Dennis’ web site: http://dennissiluk.tripod.com

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CY O’Connor’s remarkable Goldfields pipeline in Western Australia is the only the third Australian project to be named as a world engineering landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineering.

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The Forth & Clyde Canal, and Union Canal in Glasgow are recognised as the world’s first man-made, sea-to-sea ship canal project. It took 22 years to complete.

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Built between 1893 and 1897, the Woodhead Dam, Table Mountain, was the first large masonry dam in South Africa.

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The Washington Monument remains the tallest stone masonry structure in the world.

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The Theodore Roosevelt Dam & Salt River Project in Phoenix was the first multipurpose (irrigation, river regulation, power generation and recreation) project in the United States.

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The White Pass & Yukon Railroad was the first cold region engineered construction in Alaska, built by American and Canadian engineers in only 27 months.

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The Panama Canal is the greatest sea-to-sea lock canal of all time. It remains a major artery in world trade.

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The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme consists of sixteen large dams, 145 km of tunnels, seven power stations, a pumping station, and 80 km of aqueducts. It is a world-class civil engineering project that provides vital electric power and irrigation water.

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The Thames Tunnel in London marked the beginning of a new era in tunneling practice.

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Dating from 100 BC, the Ifugao Rice Terrace in the Philippines is the oldest and most extensive use of terraces in the world.

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The Hwaseong Fortress of Suwon City is a unique ten-volume work that symbolises the cultural and technological renaissance under King Jeongjo.

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One of the best preserved Roman constructions, the Aqueduct at Segovia was constructed around 50AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan.

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The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (“Holy Wisdom”) is a major monument of Byzantine architecture.

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Put in service in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was conceived by Joseph Strauss and designed largely by Charles Ellis. It was the longest single span bridge (4,200 feet) in the world for a quarter century.

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The modern Suez Canal in Cairo is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping routes and continues to play a critical role in international trade. The Suez Canal is pictured here as seen from Earth Orbit.

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New York City’s Statue of Liberty was completed in 1886, and became the world’s symbol of the United States as the land of the free.

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The Sydney Harbour Bridge, with a span of 1,650 feet, is the widest long-span bridge in the world. The bridge required 52,000 tons of steel and more than 6,000,000 rivets to construct, in a job that lasted nine years.

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The Great Western Railway in Bristol was built between 1835 and 1841. Pictured here is a broad gauge Iron Duke Class locomotive, Hirondelle, built in 1848.

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Pictured here is construction of the Paris Eiffel Tower in 1878.

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The Machu Pichu infrastructure in Peru illustrates the advanced civil, hydraulic, and geotechnical engineering capabilities of the Inca people.

Mughal architecture

8 Dec

The Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Shah Jehan as a mausoleum for his wife, represents the pinnacle of Mughal Islamic architecture in India and is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world.

Another distinctive sub-style is the architecture of the Mughal Empire in India in the 16th century and a fusion of Persian and Hindu elements. The Mughal emperor Akbar constructed the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, located 26 miles west of Agra, in the late 1500s.

The most famous example of Mughal architecture is the Taj Mahal, the “teardrop on eternity,” completed in 1648 by the emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child. The extensive use of precious and semiprecious stones as inlay and the vast quantity of white marble required nearly bankrupted the empire. The Taj Mahal is completely symmetric other than the sarcophagus of Shah Jahan which is placed off center in the crypt room below the main floor. This symmetry extended to the building of an entire mirror mosque in red sandstone to complement the Mecca-facing mosque place to the west of the main structure. Another structure built that showed great depth of mughal influence was the Shalimar Gardens.

Fatimid architecture

7 Dec
Al-Hakim mosque (Cairo, 990-1013 AD) Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo (Egypt, 900’s AD) Gate of Al-Hakim mosque
In architecture, the Fatimids followed Tulunid techniques and used similar materials, but also developed those of their own. In Cairo, their first congregational mosque was al-Azhar Mosque (“the splendid”) founded along with the city (969–973), which, together with its adjacent institution of higher learning (al-Azhar University), became the spiritual center for Ismaili Shia. The Mosque of al-Hakim (r. 996–1013), an important example of Fatimid architecture and architectural decoration, played a critical role in Fatimid ceremonial and procession, which emphasized the religious and political role of the Fatimid caliph. Besides elaborate funerary monuments, other surviving Fatimid structures include the Mosque of al-Aqmar (1125) as well as the Northern fortifications‘ monumental gates for Cairo’s city walls commissioned by the powerful Fatimid emir and vizier Badr al-Jamali (r. 1073–1094).

Al-Hakim Mosque (990-1012) was renovated by Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (head of Dawoodi Bohra community) and Al-Jame-al-Aqmar built in 1125 in Cairo, Egypt features with its Fatimi philosophy and symbolism and bring its architecture vividly to life.

Fatimid gate of Cairo
Bad al-Futuh (1087 AD)

As soon as the Fatimid dynasty took over ruling Egypt, in 908 AD, the new rulers of Egypt needed to show how important and strong they were. One way of showing that was to build impressive new buildings like the Al-Azhar Mosque in their new capital, Cairo. The Fatimid rulers named it Al-Azhar Mosque after Fatima Al-Azhar, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, the woman the Fatimid dynasty is named after.

Al-Azhar mosque, like the mosques at Kairouan and Samarra, had a large open courtyard surrounded by rows of columns and a covered prayer hall with five more rows of columns in it.

After that, the Caliphs al-Aziz and his son al-Hakim built a mosque (990-1013 AD). This mosque follows generally the same pattern as the earlier mosque, with a big courtyard and a prayer hall with pointed arches. Three small domes emphasize which side the prayer hall is on. On the opposite side, there’s a big entrance gate. It may be entrance gates like this that gave European architects the idea for Romanesque doorways like that of the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen (1050 AD). Like the Romanesque and later Gothic doorways, the door of Al-Hakim Mosque is in three parts, although here only the middle part actually has a door in it.

The Fatimids also built a great wall around Cairo, with several impressive stone gates in it. These towers and gates, built in 1087 AD, are very similar to the castles that William the Conqueror built in Caen (his home in Normandy) about 1050 AD and in London after he had conquered England in 1066 AD.

Ottoman Turkish architecture

7 Dec

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul

The architecture of the Turkish Ottoman Empire forms a distinctive whole, especially the great mosques by and in the style of Sinan, like the mid-16th century Suleymaniye Mosque. For almost 500 years Byzantine architecture such as the church of Hagia Sofia served as models for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Shehzadeh Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.

The Ottomans achieved the highest level architecture in the Islamic lands hence or since. They mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces confined by seemingly weightless yet massive domes, and achieving perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as light and shadow. Islamic religious architecture which until then consisted of simple buildings with extensive decorations, was transformed by the Ottomans through a dynamic architectural vocabulary of vaults, domes, semidomes and columns. The mosque was transformed from being a cramped and dark chamber with arabesque-covered walls into a sanctuary of aesthetic and technical balance, refined elegance and a hint of heavenly transcendence.

Early architecture

When the Seljuk Turks first arrived in Iran, they encountered an architecture based on old traditions. Integrating this with elements from their own traditions, the Seljuks produced new types of structures, most notably the “medrasa.” The first medrasas (moslem theological schools) were constructed in the 11th century by the famous minister Nizamulmulk, during the time of Alp Arslan and Malik Shah. The most important ones are the three government medrasas in Nisabur, Tus and Baghdad and the Hargerd Medrese in Horasan. Another area in which the Seljuks contributed to architecture is that of tomb monument. These can be divided into two types: vaults and large dome-like mausoleums.

The Ribati-Serif and the Ribati Anasirvan are examples of surviving 12th century Seljuk caravansarays, which offered shelter for travellers. Seljuk buildings generally incorporate brick, while the inner and outer walls are decorated in a material made by mixing marble, powder, lime and plaster. In typical buildings of the Anatolian Seljuk period, the major construction material was wood, laid horizontally except along windows and doors where columns were considered more decorative.

Early Ottoman period

Traditional Turkish house in Ohrid in Macedonia

With the establishment of the Ottoman empire, The years 1300-1453 constitute the early or first Ottoman period, when Ottoman art was in search of new ideas. This period witnessed three types of mosques: tiered, single-domed and subline-angled mosques. The Haci Ozbek Mosque (1333) in Iznik, the first important center of Ottoman art, is the first example of an Ottoman single-domed mosque.

Bursa Period (1299-1437)
The domed architectural style evolved from Bursa and Edirne. The Holy Mosque in Bursa was the first Seljuk mosque to be converted into a domed one. Edirne was the last Ottoman capital before Istanbul, and it is here that we witness the final stages in the architectural development that culminated in the construction of the great mosques of Istanbul. The buildings constructed in Istanbul during the period between the capture of the city and the construction of the Istanbul Beyazit Mosque are also considered works of the early period. Among these are the Fatih Mosque (1470), Mahmutpaşa Mosque, the tiled palace and Topkapi Palace. The Ottomans integrated mosques into the community and added soup kitchens, theological schools, hospitals, Turkish baths and tombs.

Classical period (1437-1703)

Selimiye Mosque is considered to be the masterpiece of Sinan

During the classical period mosque plans changed to include inner and outer courtyards. The inner courtyard and the mosque were inseparable. The master architect of the classical period, Mimar Sinan, was born in 1492 in Kayseri and died in Istanbul in the year 1588. Sinan started a new era in world architecture, creating 334 buildings in various cities. Mimar Sinan’s first important work was the Şehzade Mosque completed in 1548. His second significant work was the Süleymaniye Mosque and the surrounding complex, built for Kanuni Sultan Süleyman. The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne was built during the years 1568-74, when Sinan was in his prime as an architect.The Rüstempaşa, Mihriman Sultan, Ibrahimpasa Mosques and the Şehzade, Kanuni Sultan Suleyman, Hurrem Sultan and Selim II mausoleums are among Sinan’s most renowned works.

Interior of Selimiye Mosque

Examples of Ottoman architecture of the classical period, aside from Turkey, can also be seen in the Balkans, Hungary, Egypt, Tunisia and Algiers, where mosques, bridges, fountains and schools were built.

Westernization period

A view from in of traditional Turkish houses-Lewis, John Frederick, 1805-1875, British painter

During the reign of Ahmed III (1703-1730) and under the impetus of his grand vizier Ibrahim Pasha, a period of peace ensued. Due to its relations with France, Ottoman architecture began to be influenced by the Baroque and Rococo styles that were popular in Europe. The Baroque style is noted as first being developed by Seljuk Turks. [1] [2]Examples of the creation of this art form can be witnessed in Divrigi hospital and mosque a UNESCO world heritage site, Sivas Cifteminare, Konya Ince Minare museum and many more. It is often called the Seljuk Baroque portal. From here it emerged again in Italy, and later grew in popularity among the Turks during the Ottoman era. Various visitors and envoys were sent to European cities, especially to Paris, to experince the contemporary European customs and life. The decorative elements of the European Baroque and Rococo influenced even the religious Ottoman architecture. On the other hand, Mellin, a French architect, was invited by a sister of Sultan Selim III to Istanbul and depicted the Bosphorus shores and the pleasure mansions (Yalı’s) placed next to the sea. During a thirty-year period known as the Tulip Period, all eyes were turned to the West, and instead of monumental and classical works, villas and pavilions were built around Istanbul. However, it was about this time when the construction on the Ishak Pasha Palace in Eastern Anatolia was going on, (1685-1784).

Tulip Period (1703-1757)

İstiklal Avenue of Istanbul

Beginning with this period, the upper class and the elites in the Ottoman empire started to use the open and public areas frequently. The traditional, introverted manner of the society began to change. Fountains and waterside residences such as Aynalıkavak Kasrı become popular. A water canal (other name is Cetvel-i Sim), a picnic area (Kağıthane) were established as recreational area. Although the tulip age ended with the Patrona Halil uprising, it became a model for attitudes of westernization. During the years 1720-1890, Ottoman architecture deviated from the principals of classical times. With Ahmed III’s death, Mahmud I took the throne (1730-1754). It was during this period that Baroque-style mosques were starting to be constructed.

Baroque Period (1757-1808)

Ortaköy mosque, Istanbul

Circular, wavy and curved lines are predominant in the structures of this period. Major examples are Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque, Zeynep Sultan Mosque, Laleli Mosque, Fatih Tomb, Laleli Cukurcesme Inn, Birgi Cakiraga Mansion, Aynali Kavak Summerplace, and Selimiye Barracks. Mimar Tahir is the important architect of the time.

Empire Period (1808-1876)

Çırağan Palace is an example of Empire period

Nusretiye Mosque, Ortaköy Mosque, Sultan Mahmut Tomb, Galata Lodge of Mevlevi Derviches, Dolmabahçe Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Sadullah Pasha Yalı, Kuleli Barracks are the important examples of this style developed parallel with the westernization process. Architects from the Balyan family were the leading ones of the time.

Late period (1876-1922)
Aksaray Valide Mosque, Sheikh Zafir Group of Buildings, Haydarpasha School of Medicine, Duyun-u Umumiye Building, Istanbul Title Deed Office, Large Postoffice Buildings, Laleli Harikzedegan Apartments are the important structures of this period when an eclectic style was dominant. R. D’Aronco, A. Vallaury are leading architects of the time.

Republic of Turkey (1923- )

Ankara with the Anıtkabir (Atatürk Mausoleum) in the foreground

In this period, Turkish architects looked into the religious and classical buildings of former times for inspiration in their attempts to construct a national architecture.Nationalism, developing strongly after the second Ottoman constitutional period, freed Ottoman architecture from the influence of western art, and thereby brought about a new style based on classical Ottoman architecture.

Levent business district of Istanbul

Following this development, the Ismet Paşa Girls’ Institute, the Ankara Faculty of Letters, the Saraçoglu district, the Grand Theater and the Istanbul Hilton paved the way for recognition of contemporary architecture. During this period, Sedat Hakkı Eldem built the Istanbul Science-Literature Faculty and Emim Onat designed Atatürk Mausoleum, in Ankara.

Timurid architecture

7 Dec

Registan Square, Samarkand is the ensemble of three madrasahs.

Timurid architecture is the pinnacle of Islamic art in Central Asia. Spectacular and stately edifices erected by Timur and his successors in Samarkand and Herat helped to disseminate the influence of the Ilkhanid school of art in India, thus giving rise to the celebrated Moghol school of architecture. Timurid architecture started with the sanctuary of Ahmed Yasawi in present-day Kazakhstan and culminated in Timur’s mausoleum Gur-e Amir in Samarkand. The style is largely derived from Persian architecture. Axial symmetry is a characteristic of all major Timurid structures, notably the Shah-e Zendah in Samarkand and the mosque of Gowhar Shad in Meshed. Double domes of various shapes abound, and the outsides are perfused with brilliant colors.

Persian / Iranian architecture

7 Dec
Architecture is one of the fields in which Iranians have had a lengthy involvement in history. The major building types of this architecture are the mosque and the palace. The architecture makes use of abundant symbolic geometry, using pure forms such as the circle and square. Plans are based on often symmetrical layouts featuring rectangular courtyards and halls.

The post-Islamic architecture of Iran draws ideas from its pre-Islamic predecessor, and has geometrical and repetiitve forms, as well as surfaces that are richly decorated with glazed tiles, carved stucco, patterned brickwork, floral motifs, and calligraphy.

Overall, the architecture of the Iranian lands throughout the ages can be categorized into the following classes or styles (“sabk”):

The “Elamite” style. Examples: Chogha zanbil, Sialk.
The “Parsi” style. Examples: Pasargad, Persepolis, Chogha zanbil, Sialk.
The “Parthian” style. Examples: Anahita Temple, Khorheh, Hatra.
The “Sassanid” style. Examples: the vault of Kasra in Ctesiphon, Bishapur, Palace of Ardashir in Ardeshir Khwarreh (Firouzabad).

The “Khorasani” style. Examples: Mosque of Nain, Tarikhaneh-ye Damghan [2], Congregation (Jame) mosque of Isfahan [3].
The “Razi” style. Examples: Tomb of Isma’il of Samanid [4], Gonbad-e Qabus, Kharaqan towers.
The “Azari” style. Examples: Soltaniyeh, Arg-i Alishah, Mosque of Varamin, Goharshad Mosque, Bibi Khanum mosque in Samarqand, Congregation mosque of Yazd.
The “Isfahani” style. Examples: Chehelsotoon, Agha Bozorg Mosque, Kashan, the Shah Mosque, and the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque.
Pre-Islamic Architecture of Persia (Iran)
See also: Sassanid architecture

It was not uncommon for ancient Iranian builders to make models such as this Adobe Ceramic maquette of a tower (dated 13th century BCE) in their work. Excavated at Chogha Zanbil, Iran.

By evidence, the history of architecture and urban planning in Iran (Persia) dates back some 10 thousand years ago. Persians were among the first to use mathematics, geometry, and astronomy in architecture. Teppe Sialk, an important ziggurat near Kashan, built 7000 years ago, represents one such prehistoric site in Persia whose inhabitants were the initiators of a simple and rudimentary housing technique.

Persian (Iranian) architecture left a profound influence on the architecture of old civilizations. Professor Arthur Pope wrote: “Architecture in Iran has at least 6,000 years of continuous history, examples of which can be seen from Syria to north India and Chinese borders, and from Caucasus to Zanzibar.”

Iran ranks among the top 10 nations with the most architectural ruins from antiquity and is recognized by UNESCO as being one of the cradles of civilization.

After 2500 years, the ruins of Persepolis still inspire visitors from far and near.

Each of the periods of Elamites, Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sassanids were creators of great architecture that over the ages has spread wide and far to other cultures being adopted. Although Iran has suffered its share of destruction, including Alexander The Great’s decision to burn Persepolis, there are sufficient remains to form a picture of its classical architecture.

The Achaemenids built on a grand scale. The artists and materials they used were brought in from practically all territories of what was then the largest state oin the world. Pasargadae set the standard: its city was laid out in an extensive park with bridges, gardens, colonnaded palaces and open column pavilions. Pasargadae along with Susa and Persepolis forcefully expressed the authority of The King of Kings, the staircases of the latter recording in relief sculpture the vast extent of the imperial frontier.

With the emergence of the Parthians and Sassanids there was an appearance of new forms. Parthian innovations fully flowered during the Sassanid period with massive barrel-vaulted chambers, solid masonry domes, and tall columns. This influence was to remain for years to come.

Arge Bam is a great example of Persian castles.

The roundness of the city of Baghdad in the Abbasid era for example, points to its Persian precedents such as Firouzabad in Fars.1 The two designers who were hired by al-Mansur to plan the city’s design were Naubakht, a former Persian Zoroastrian who also determined that the date of the foundation of the city would be astrologically auspicious, and Mashallah, a former Jew from Khorasan.2

The ruins of Persepolis, Ctesiphon, Jiroft, Sialk, Pasargadae, Firouzabad, Arg-é Bam, and thousands of other ruins documented in only what is today Iran may give us merely a distant glimpse of what contribution Persians made to the art of building.

Post-Islamic Architecture of Persia (Iran)

Koochehs provided relief from dust storms and intense sunlight. This was an efficient and ancient form of urban design in Persia. Photo is from Kashan, Iran (Persia).

Built during the Safavid period, an excellent example of Islamic Architecture in Persia (Iran). The fall of the Persian empire to invading Islamic forces ironically led to the creation of remarkable religious buildings in Iran. Arts such as calligraphy, stucco work, mirror work, and mosaic work, became closely tied with architecture in Iran in the new era. Archaeological excavations have provided sufficient documents in support of the impacts of Sasanian architecture on the architecture of the Islamic world.

Many experts believe the period of Persian architecture from the 15th through 17th Centuries to be the most brilliant of the post-Islamic era. Various structures such as mosques, mausoleums, bazaars, bridges, and different palaces have mainly survived from this period.

Ali Qapu palace, was the celebrated seat of The Safavid capital in Isfahan, Iran

Safavi Isfahan tried to achieve grandeur in scale (Isfahan’s Naghsh-i Jahan Square is the 6th largest square worldwide) knowledge about building tall buildings with vast inner spaces. However the quality of ornaments was decreased in comparison with those of the 14th cnd 15th centuries.

In the old Persian architecture, semi-circular and oval-shaped vaults were of great interest, leading Safavi architects to display their extraordinary skills in making massive domes. Domes can be seen frequently in the structurae of bazaars and mosques, particularly during the Safavi period in Isfahan. Iranian domes are distinguished for their height, proportion of elements, beauty of form, and roundness of the dome stem. The outer surfaces of the domes are mostly mosaic faced, and create a magical view.

According to D. Huff, a German archaeologist, the dome is the dominant element in Persian architecture. Professor Arthur U. Pope, who carried out extensive studies in ancient Persian and Islamic buildings, believed: “The supreme Iranian art, in the proper meaning of the word, has always been its architecture. The supremacy of architecture applies to both pre-and post-Islamic periods.”

An investigation into post-Islamic architecture in Persia reveals how architecture was in harmony with the people, their environment, and their Creator. Yet no strict rules were applied to govern Islamic architecture. The great mosques of Khorasan, Isfahan, and Tabriz each used local geometry, local materials, and local building methods to express in their own ways the order, harmony, and unity of Islamic architecture. When the major monuments of Islamic Persian architecture are examined, they reveal complex geometrical relationships, a studied hierarchy of form and ornament, and great depths of symbolic meaning.

Architecture of Bridges. Sassanid or Safavid, bridges have a Special place in Iranian architecture.

Architecture of Persian Gardens. Khalvat-i Karim-khani, in the gardens of the Golestan Palace.

Architecture of shrines and monuments. Shrine of Omar Khayam, Nishapur.

Craftsmanship in Architecture.  An excellent animation depicting the excellent details of the interiors: (click)

Architecture of Palaces. Pasargad and Persepolis.

Architecture of towers and tombs. A design of The Seljuki era. Qazvin

Architecture of Bazaars. Timcheh-e-Amin o Dowleh, Bazaar of Kashan.

Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque was built at the order of Shah Abbas over a period of 18 years by the artisan Mohammad Reza Isfahani.

UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites
The following is a list of World Heritage Sites designed or constructed by Iranians (Persians), or designed and constructed in the style of Iranian architecture:

Inside Iran:
Arg-é Bam Cultural Landscape, Kerman
Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan
Pasargadae, Fars
Persepolis, Fars
Tchogha Zanbil, Khuzestan
Takht-e Soleyman, West Azerbaijan
Dome of Soltaniyeh, Zanjan
Outside Iran:
Taj Mahal, India – designed by the Mughal Empire
Minaret of Jam, Afghanistan
Tomb of Humayun, India
Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi, Kazakhstan
Historic Centre of Bukhara
Historic Centre of Shahrisabz
Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures
Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Darband, Daghestan

Iranian architects

Tomb of Humayun, India. Many Iranian architects built edifices outside their homeland.

Taj Mahal is one of the greatest examples of Persian architecture outside of Iran.
See main article: List of historical Iranian architects.

Persian architects were a highly sought after stock in the old days, before the advent of Modern Architecture. Many, such as Ostad Isa Shirazi designed global landmarks such as The Taj Mahal, Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam, The Sultaniyeh Dome, or Tamerlane’s tomb in Samarkand.

A traditional pigeonhouse in Meybod, Yazd.


Islam Art and Architecture. Markus Hattstein, Peter Delius. 2000. p96. ISBN 3-8290-2558-0
Islamic Science and Engineering. Donald R. Hill. 1994. p10. ISBN 0-7486-0457-X
Sabk Shenasi Mi’mari Irani (Study of styles in Iranian architecture), M. Karim Pirnia. 2005. ISBN 964-96113-2-0
Sense of Unity. Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar. ISBN 1-871031-78-8

the Shah Mosque (Maydan-i-Shah) in Isfahan, Iran

One of the first civilizations that Islam came into contact with during and after its birth was that of Persia. The eastern banks of the Tigris and Euphrates was where the capital of the Persian empire lay during the 7th century. Hence the proximity often led early Islamic architects to not just borrow, but adopt the traditions and ways of the fallen Persian empire.

Islamic architecture borrows heavily from Persian architecture and in many ways can be called an extension and further evolution of Persian architecture (further mixed with Byzantine influences).

Many cities such as Baghdad, for example, were based on precedents such as Firouzabad in Persia. In fact, it is now known that the two designers who were hired by al-Mansur to plan the city’s design were Naubakht (نوبخت), a former Persian Zoroastrian, and Mashallah (ماشاء‌الله), a former Jew from Khorasan, Iran.


Moorish architecture

7 Dec
Moorish architecture is a term used to describe the Islamic architecture of North Africa and parts of Spain and Portugal where the Moors were dominant from 711-1492. The best surviving examples are La Mezquita in Cordoba and the Alhambra palace (mainly1338-1390), and also the Giralda in 1184.
the interior view of the Mezquita

Construction of the Great Mosque at Cordoba beginning in 785 AD marks the beginning of Islamic architecture in the Iberian peninsula and North Africa (see Moors). The mosque is noted for its striking interior arches. Moorish architecture reached its peak with the construction of the Alhambra, the magnificent palace/fortress of Granada, with its open and breezy interior spaces adorned in red, blue, and gold. The walls are decorated with stylize foliage motifs, Arabic inscriptions, and arabesque design work, with walls covered in glazed tile.

Even after the completion of the Reconquista, Islamic influence had a lasting impact on the architecture of Spain. In particular, medieval Spaniards used the Mudéjar style, an imitation of Islamic design. One of the best examples of the Moors’ lasting impact is the Alcázar of Seville.

Islamic Architecture

7 Dec

the interior of the Selimiye Mosque (Minar Sinan), Edirne.

Islamic architecture (Arabic عمارة إسلامية) has encompassed a wide range of both secular and religious architecture styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures within the sphere of Islamic culture.

The principle architectural types of Islamic architecture are; the Mosque, the Tomb, the Palace and the Fort. From these four types, the vocabularly of Islamic architecture is derived and used for buildings of lesser importance such as Public baths, Fountains and domestic architecture.[1]

In 630C.E. Muhammad’s army reconquered the city of Mecca from the Banu Quraish tribe. The holy sanctuary of Ka’ba was rebuilt and re-dedicated to Islam, the reconstruction being carried out before Muhammad’s death in 632C.E. by a shipwrecked Abyssinian carpenter in his native style. This sanctuary was amongst the first major works of Islamic architecture. The walls were decorated with paintings of Jesus, Mary, Abraham, prophets, angels and trees. Later doctrines of Islam dating from the eighth century and originating from the Hadith, forbade the use of such icons in architecture, specifically those of humans and animals.[1]

In the 7th century, Muslim armies invaded and conquered a huge expanse of land. Once the Muslims had taken control of a region, their first need was for somewhere to worship – a mosque. The simple layout provided elements that were to be incorporated into all mosques and the early Muslims put up simple buildings based on the model of the Prophet’s house or adapted existing buildings, such as churches for their own use.

Influences and styles

the Dome of the Rock is a key example of Islamic architecture

Arabic Calligraphy on large pishtaq of the Taj Mahal

A specifically recognisable Islamic architectural style developed soon after the time of the Prophet Muhammad, developing from Roman, Egyptian, Persian/Sassanid, and Byzantine models. An early example may be identified as early as 691 AD with the completion of the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) in Jerusalem. It featured interior vaulted spaces, a circular dome, and the use of stylized repeating decorative patterns (arabesque).

The Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq, completed in 847 AD, combined the hypostyle architecture of rows of columns supporting a flat base above which a huge spiraling minaret was constructed.

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul also influenced Islamic architecture. When the Ottomans captured the city from the Byzantines, they converted the basilica to a mosque (now a museum) and incorporated Byzantine architectural elements into their own work (e.g. domes). The Hagia Sophia also served as model for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.


Common interpretations of Islamic architecture include the following: The concept of Allah’s infinite power is evoked by designs with repeating themes which suggest infinity. Human and animal forms are rarely depicted in decorative art as Allah’s work is considered to be matchless. Foliage is a frequent motif but typically stylized or simplified for the same reason. Arabic Calligraphy is used to enhance the interior of a building by providing quotations from the Qur’an. Islamic architecture has been called the “architecture of the veil” because the beauty lies in the inner spaces (courtyards and rooms) which are not visible from the outside (street view). Furthermore, the use of grandiose forms such as large domes, towering minarets, and large courtyards are intended to convey power.

Architecture of mosques and buildings in Muslim countries


the interior of the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain.

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco. 210m high. A floor with room for 25,000 worshippers.

Many forms of Islamic architecture have evolved in different regions of the Islamic world. Notable Islamic architectural types include the early Abbasid buildings, T-type mosques, and the central-dome mosques of Anatolia. The oil-wealth of the 20th century drove a great deal of mosque construction using designs from leading non-Muslim modern architects and promoting the careers of important contemporary Muslim architects.

Arab-plan or hypostyle mosques are the earliest type of mosques, pioneered under the Umayyad Dynasty. These mosques are square or rectangular in plan with an enclosed courtyard and a covered prayer hall. Historically, because of the warm Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climates, the courtyard served to accommodate the large number of worshipers during Friday prayers. Most early hypostyle mosques have flat roofs on top of prayer halls, necessitating the use of numerous columns and supports. One of the most notable hypostyle mosques is the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain, as the building is supported by over 850 columns. Frequently, hypostyle mosques have outer arcades so that visitors can enjoy some shade. Arab-plan mosques were constructed mostly under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties; subsequently, however, the simplicity of the Arab plan limited the opportunities for further development, and as a result, these mosques gradually fell out of popularity.

The Ottomans introduced central dome mosques in the 15th century and have a large dome centered over the prayer hall. In addition to having one large dome at the center, there are often smaller domes that exist off-center over the prayer hall or throughout the rest of the mosque, where prayer is not performed. This style was heavily influenced by the Byzantine religious architecture with its use of large central domes.


the iwan entrance to the Taj Mahal in Agra

An iwan (Persian ايوان derived from Pahlavi word Bān meaning house) is defined as a vaulted hall or space, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open.

Iwans were a trademark of the Sassanid architecture of Persia, later finding their way into Islamic architecture. This transition reached its peak during the Seljuki era when iwans became established as a fundamental design unit in Islamic architecture. Typically, iwans open on to a central courtyard, and have been used in both public and residential architecture.

Iwan mosques are most notable for their domed chambers and iwans, which are vaulted spaces open out on one end. In iwan mosques, one or more iwans face a central courtyard that serves as the prayer hall. The style represents a borrowing from pre-Islamic Iranian architecture and has been used almost exclusively for mosques in Iran. Many iwan mosques are converted Zoroastrian fire temples where the courtyard was used to house the sacred fire. Today, iwan mosques are no longer built.


A simple Sahn, with a howz in the middle. Notice flanking domed arcade.

Almost every mosque and many houses and buildings in areas of the Muslim World contain a religious courtyard known as a sahn (Arabic صحن), which are surrounded on all sides by an arcade. Sahns usually feature a centrally positioned, symmetrical axis pool known as a howz, where ablutions are performed. Some sahns also contain drinking fountains.

If a sahn is in a mosque, it is used for performing ablutions. If a sahn is in a traditional house or private courtyard, it is used for bathing, for aesthetics, or for both.

An element of Islamic art usually found decorating the walls of mosques and Muslim homes and buildings, the arabesque is an elaborate application of repeating geometric forms that often echo the forms of plants, shapes and sometimes animals (specifically birds). The choice of which geometric forms are to be used and how they are to be formatted is based upon the Islamic view of the world. To Muslims, these forms, taken together, constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world. To many in the Islamic world, they in fact symbolize the infinite, and therefore uncentralized, nature of the creation of the one God (Allah). Furthermore, the Islamic Arabesque artist conveys a definite spirituality without the iconography of Christian art. Arabesque is used in mosques and building around the Muslim world, and it is a way of decorating using beautiful, embellishing and repetitive Islamic art instead of using pictures of humans and animals (which is forbidden Haram in Islam).

Arabic calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (the Arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.

Instead of recalling something related to the reality of the spoken word, calligraphy for the Muslim is a visible expression of the highest art of all, the art of the spiritual world. Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the Muslims with the religion of Islam. The holy book of Islam, al-Qur’an, has played an important role in the development and evolution of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet. Proverbs and complete passages from the Qur’an are still active sources for Islamic calligraphy.

Elements of Islamic style
Islamic architecture may be identified with the following design elements, which were inherited from the first mosque built by Muhammad in Medina, as well as from other pre-Islamic features adapted from churches, temples and synagogues. Byzantine architecture had a great influence on early Islamic architecture with its characteristic round arches, vaults and domes.

Large courtyards often merged with a central prayer hall (originally a feature of the Masjid al-Nabawi).
Minarets or towers (these were originally used as torch-lit watchtowers, as seen in the Great Mosque of Damascus; hence the derivation of the word from the Arabic nur, meaning “light”).
Mihrab or niche on an inside wall indicating the direction to Mecca. This may have been derived from previous uses of niches for the setting of the torah scrolls in Jewish synagogues or the haikal of Coptic churches.
Domes and Cupolas.
Iwans to intermediate between different sections.
The use of geometric shapes and repetitive art (arabesque).
The use of decorative Islamic calligraphy instead of pictures which were haram (forbidden) in mosque architecture. Note that in secular architecture, pictures were indeed present.
The ablution of fountains (once used as a wudu area for Muslims).
The use of bright color.
Focus both on the interior space of a building and the exterior

Differences between Islamic architecture and Persian architecture
Like this of other nations that became part of the Islamic realm, Persian Architecture is not to be confused with Islamic Architecture and refers broadly to architectural styles across the Islamic world. Islamic architecture, therefore, does not directly include reference to Persian styles prior to the rise of Islam. Persian architecture, like other nations’, predates Islamic architecture and can be correctly understood as an important influence on overall Islamic architecture as well as a branch of Islamic architecture since the introduction of Islam in Persia. Islamic architecture can be classified according to chronology, geography, and building typology.

^ a b Copplestone, p.149
^ Cowen, Jill S.. “Muslims in China: The Mosque”, Saudi Aramco World, July/August 1985, pp. 30-35. Retrieved on 2006-04-08.
^ a b c d Hillenbrand, R. “Masdjid. I. In the central Islamic lands”. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Ed. P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
^ Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved on 2006-04-09.
^ a b Vocabulary of Islamic Architecture. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved on 2006-04-09.

Ettinghausen, Richard and Grabar, Oleg. (1987) The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650 – 1250, Penguin, USA
Pourjafar, M.Reza and Taghvaee, Ali A. (January-June 2006) Indo-Iranian Socio-Cultural Relations at Past, Present and Future Vol. 1 in -Web Journal on Cultural Patrimony (Fabio Maniscalco ed.)
Copplestone, Trewin. (ed). (1963). World architecture – An illustrated history. Hamlyn, London.
Hillenbrand, R. “Masdjid. I. In the central Islamic lands”. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Ed. P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
Creswell, K. A. C. (1958) A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture


Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

6 Dec
The Flying Clouds Tower in the Temple of Mount Tai in Wanrong (Xiedian Town), Yuncheng, Shanxi Province (Qing Dynasty)    
Architecture of Qing Dynasty (By Liu Chang)

The Qing dynasty established a giant and uniform empire of multiple nationalities. Based on the context of the gradually stable regime and economic development, the architectural culture of the Qing dynasty which integrated the great advantages of the past dynasties maintained both specification and freeness in the era.

Architectural culture of the Qing dynasty, which inherited that of the Ming dynasty, added rich aesthetic tastes of Manchus, Mongels and Tibetans to the traditional architectural culture of Han. Because there were various large-size construction projects in the Qing dynasty, the architecture undertakings thrived, and accordingly the specifications were strengthened. The literati’s gardens were designed with more literary ideas and more exquisite, and the official buildings had profound tastes. This was the aesthetic characteristics of architectural culture of the Qing dynasty.

Many existing examples showed that timberworks were still the major architectural structures in the Qing dynasty, and masonries were only for supplements and could not become mainstream; application of concrete, steel and glass were much later, which were looked as the newness from foreign countries and rarely used.1 The slow development of building materials, crafts and technologies in the Qing dynasty showed the stability and inertia of the social system made up of architectural workers.

Architectural genres in the Qing dynasty inherited the system of the Ming dynasty, and changed a lot to meet with the life demands in that era. Meanwhile, western architectures developed in China very slowly, only a branch stream of architectural culture in the Qing dynasty, though its momentum was relatively strong. Contracted with the world, architectural culture in the Qing dynasty had more obvious features that it correspondingly stressed the stability of typology and had not new genres with distinct features.

Special thanks to OpenCourseWare-
The Qing Dynasty (pinyin: Qing cháo; Wade-Giles: Ch’ing ch’ao; Manchu: daicing gurun), occasionally known as the Manchu Dynasty, was a dynasty founded by the Manchu clan Aisin Gioro, in what is today northeast China, expanded into China and the surrounding territories, establishing the Empire of the Great Qing (pinyin: dàqingguó). According to Chinese tradition, the Qing Dynasty was the last Imperial dynasty of China. Declared as the Later Jin Dynasty in 1616, it changed its name in 1636 to “Qing”, and became the ruler of all of China in 1644, completing the Manchu conquest.

During its reign, the Qing Dynasty consolidated its grip on China, integrated with Chinese culture, and saw the height of Imperial Chinese influence. However, its military power weakened during the 1800s, and faced with international pressure, massive rebellions and defeats in wars, the Qing Dynasty declined after the mid-19th century. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown following the Xinhai Revolution when Empress Dowager Longyu, faced with massive opposition, abdicated on behalf of the last emperor, Puyi, on February 12, 1912.

“Later Jin” is sometimes spelled “Later Jinn” to distinguish from another Later Jin Dynasty (936-946).

Formation of the Manchu state

Flag of Qing Dynasty, 1862-1890

The Dynasty was founded not by the Han Chinese who form the majority of the Chinese population, but the Manchus, today an ethnic minority in China. A nomadic people, the Manchus first rose to prominence in what is now northeastern China. The Manchu state was formed by Nurhaci in the early 17th century. Originally a vassal under the Ming Dynasty, he declared himself Emperor of the Later Jin in 1609. In the same year, he expanded the state’s economic and human resources as well as technology by enlisting the Han inhabitants of Manchuria. In 1625, Nurhaci established his capital at Shenyang (also Shenjing; Manchu: Mukden), but the following year, he suffered his first major military defeat to the Ming general Yuan Chonghuan. Nurhaci died the same year. One of his most important achievements was the creation of the Eight Banner system, under which all Manchus belonged to one of the eight “Banners”, which were civil as well as military units. The Banners are so-named because each was represented by a distinctive banner.

Nurhaci’s successor Huang Taiji continued to build on his father’s foundations, incorporating the first Han banners into his army. Huang Taiji also adopted many Ming political institutions into his Manchu state, but also provided for Manchu domination of those institutions through a quota system. When Ligden Khan, the last grand-Khan of the Mongols, died on his way to Tibet in 1634, his son Ejei surrendered to the Manchus and gave the great seal of the Yuan Emperor to Huang Taiji. In 1636, Huang Taiji renamed the state Qing, meaning pure, suggesting ambitions beyond Manchuria. The name Qing was chosen because the name of the Ming Dynasty  is composed of the characters for sun  and moon, which are associated with the fire element. The character Qing  is composed of the water  radical and the character for green, which are both associated with the water element. In a series of military campaigns, Huang Taiji won the submission of Inner Mongolia and Korea before proceeding to take control of the Heilongjiang region, situated around the Black Dragon River.

Claiming the Mandate of Heaven
Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng. The Ming Dynasty officially came to an end when the Chongzhen Emperor of China, the last Ming Emperor, committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree on Coal Hill overlooking the Forbidden City. After taking Beijing in April, 1644, Li Zicheng led an army of 600,000 strong to confront Wu Sangui, the general commanding Ming’s 100,000-strong garrison guarding Shanhaiguan. Shanhaiguan is the pivotal northeastern pass of the Great Wall of China located fifty miles northeast of Beijing and for years its defenses were what kept the Manchus outside of the capital. Wu, caught between two enemies, decided to cast his lot with the Manchus and made an alliance with Prince Dorgon, regent to the then six-year old Emperor Shunzhi, son of Emperor Huang Taiji who had died the year before.

Together, the two armies defeated Li Zicheng’s rebel forces in battle on May 27, 1644. The process took another seventeen years of battling Ming loyalists, pretenders and rebels. The last Ming pretender, Prince Gui, sought refuge in Burma, now modern Myanmar, but was turned over to a Qing expeditionary force headed by Wu Sangui who had him brought back to Yunnan province and executed in early 1662.

Kangxi and consolidation

The Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662 – 1722)
The Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662 – 1722) assumed the throne at age eight. During the early years of his reign, he was largely aided by his grandmother, the Grand Empress Dowager, Xiaozhuang.

The Manchus found controlling the “Mandate of Heaven” a daunting task. The vastness of China’s territory meant that there were only enough banner troops to garrison key cities forming the backbone of a defence network that relied heavily on surrendered Ming soldiers.

In addition, three surrendered Ming generals were singled out for their contributions to the establishment of the Qing dynasty, ennobled as feudal princes, and given governorships over vast territories in Southern China. The chief of these was Wu Sangui, who was given the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou, while generals Shang Kexi and Geng Zhongming were given the Guangdong and Fujian provinces, respectively.

As the years went by, the three feudal lords and their territories inevitably became increasingly autonomous. Finally, in 1673, Shang Kexi petitioned Kangxi Emperor, stating his desire to retire to his hometown in Liaodong (??) province and nominating his son as his successor. The young emperor granted his retirement, but denied the heredity of his fief. In reaction, the two other generals decided to petition for their own retirements to test Kangxi’s resolve, thinking that he would not risk offending them. The move backfired as the young emperor called their bluff by accepting their requests and ordering all three fiefdoms to be reverted back to the crown.

Faced with the stripping of their powers, Wu Sangui felt he had no choice but to rise up in revolt. He was joined by Geng Zhongming and by Shang Kexi’s son Shang Zhixin. The ensuing rebellion lasted for eight years. At the peak of the rebels’ fortunes, they managed to extend their control as far north as the Yangtze River. Ultimately, though, the Qing government was able to put down the rebellion and exert control over all of southern China. The rebellion would be known in Chinese history as the Revolt of the Three Feudatories.

To consolidate the empire, Kangxi Emperor personally led China on a series of military campaigns against Tibet, the Dzungars, and later Russia. He arranged the marriage of his daughter to the Mongol Khan Gordhun to avoid a military conflict. Gordhun’s military campaign against the Qing failed, further strengthening the Empire. Taiwan was also conquered by Qing Empire forces in 1683 from Zheng Jing’s son, Zheng Ke-Shuang; the former (his grandfather Koxinga) had conquered it from the Dutch colonists. By the end of the 17th century, China was at the height of its most power since the early Ming Dynasty.

Kangxi Emperor also handled many Jesuit Missionaries that came to China hoping for mass conversions. Although they failed in their attempt, Kangxi peacefully kept the missionaries in Beijing.

The Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors

Pilgrim flask, porcelain with underglaze blue and iron-red decoration. Qing dynasty, Qianlong period in the 18th century.

The reigns of the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723 – 1735) and his son the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735 – 1796) marked the height of Qing’s power. During this period, the Qing Dynasty ruled over 13 million square kilometres of territory.

After the Kangxi Emperor’s death in the winter of 1722, his fourth son Prince Yong (???) succeeded him as the Yongzheng Emperor. Yongzheng remained a controversial character because of rumours about him usurping the throne, and in the late Kangxi years, he was involved in great political struggles with his brothers. Yongzheng was a hardworking administrator who ruled with an iron hand. His first big step towards a stronger regime came when he brought the State Examination System back to its original standards. In 1724, he cracked down on illegal exchange rates of coins, which was being manipulated by officials to fit their financial needs. Those who were found in violation of new laws on finances were removed from office, or in extreme cases, executed.

Yongzheng showed a great amount of trust in Han officials, and appointed many of his proteges to prestigious positions. Nian Gengyao was appointed to lead a military campaign in place of his brother Yinti in Qinghai. Nian’s arrogant actions, however, led to his downfall in 1726. Yongzheng’s reign saw consolidation of imperial power at its height in Chinese history. More territory was incorporated in the Northwest. A toughened stance was directed towards corrupt officials, and Yongzheng led the creation of a Grand Council, which grew to become the de facto Cabinet for the rest of the dynasty.

The Yongzheng Emperor died in 1735. This was followed by the succession of his son Prince Bao (???) as the Qianlong Emperor. Qianlong was known as an able general. Succeeding the throne at the age of 24, Qianlong personally led the military in campaigns near Xinjiang and Mongolia. Revolts and uprisings in Sichuan and parts of southern China were successfully put down.

Around forty years into Qianlong’s reign, the Qing government saw a return of rampant corruption. The official Heshen was arguably one of the most corrupt in the entire Qing Dynasty. He was eventually forced into committing suicide by Qianlong’s son, the Jiaqing Emperor (r. 1796 – 1820).

Rebellion, unrest and external pressure
A common view of 19th century China is that it was an era in which Qing control weakened and prosperity diminished. Indeed, China suffered massive social strife, economic stagnation, and explosive population growth which placed an increasing strain on the food supply. Historians offer various explanations for these events, but the basic idea is that Qing power was, over the course of the century, faced with internal problems and foreign pressure which were simply too much for the antiquated Chinese government, bureaucracy, and economy to deal with.

The Taiping Rebellion in the mid-nineteenth century was the first major instance of anti-Manchu sentiment threatening the stability of the Qing dynasty, a phenomenon that would only increase in the following years. However, the horrific number of casualties of this rebellion–as many as 30 million people–and the complete devastation of a huge area in the south of the country have to a large extent been overshadowed by another significant conflict. Although not nearly as bloody, the outside world and its ideas and technologies had a tremendous and ultimately revolutionary impact on an increasingly weak and uncertain Qing state.

One of the major issues affecting nineteenth-century China was the question of how to deal with other countries. Prior to the nineteenth-century, the Chinese empire was the hegemonic power in Asia. Under its imperial theory, the Chinese emperor had the rights to rule “all under heaven”. Depending on the period and dynasty, it either ruled territories directly or neighbors fell under its hierarchical tributary system. Historians often refer to the underlying concept of Chinese empire as “an empire with no boundary.” However, the eighteenth century saw the European empires gradually expand across the world, as European states developed stronger economies built on maritime trade. European colonies had been established in nearby India and on the islands that are now part of Indonesia, whilst the Russian Empire had annexed the areas north of China. During the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain attempted to forge an alliance with China, sending a fleet to Hong Kong with gifts for the Emperor, including examples of the latest European technologies and art. When the British delegation received a letter from Peking explaining that China was unimpressed with European achievements, and that George III was welcome to pay homage to the Chinese court, the deeply offended British government aborted all further attempts to reconcile relations with the Qing regime.

When the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, world trade rapidly increased, and as China’s vast population offered limitless markets for European goods, trade between Chinese and European merchants expanded during the early years of the nineteenth century. This increased trade, though, led to increasing hostility between European governments and the Qing regime.

In 1793, the Qing regime had officially stated that China had no use for European manufactured products. Subsequently, leading Chinese merchants only accepted bar silver as payment for their goods. The huge demand in Europe for Chinese goods such as silk, tea, and ceramics could only be met if European companies funnelled their limited supplies of silver into China. By the late 1830’s, the governments of Great Britain and France were deeply concerned about their stockpiles of precious metals and sought alternate trading schemes with China – the foremost of which was addicting China with opium. When the Qing regime tried to ban the opium trade in 1838, Great Britain declared war on China.

The First Opium War revealed the outdated state of the Chinese military. Although China’s army overwhelmingly outnumbered the British, their technology and tactics were hopelessly inadequate for a war against the world’s leading technological power. The Qing navy, composed entirely of wooden sailing junks, was no match for the steam-powered ironclad battleships of the Royal Navy. British soldiers, using modern rifles and artillery, easily outmanoeuvred and outgunned Qing forces in ground battles. The Qing surrender in 1842 marked a decisive, humiliating blow to China. The Treaty of Nanking, which demanded reparation payments, allowed unrestricted European access to Chinese ports, and ceded the island of Hong Kong to Great Britain. It revealed many inadequacies in the Qing government and provoked widespread rebellions against the regime.

The Western powers, largely unsatisfied with the Treaty of Nanking, only gave grudging support to the Qing government during the Taiping and Nian Rebellions. China’s income fell sharply during the wars as vast areas of farmland were destroyed, millions of lives lost, and countless armies raised and equipped to fight the rebels. In 1854, Great Britain tried to re-negotiate the Treaty of Nanking, inserting clauses allowing British commercial access to Chinese rivers and the creation of a permanent British embassy at Peking. This last clause outraged the Qing regime, who refused to sign, provoking another war with Britain. The Second Opium War ended in another crushing Chinese defeat, whilst the Treaty of Tianjin contained clauses deeply insulting to the Chinese, such as a demand that all official Chinese documents be written in English and a proviso granting British warships unlimited access to all navigable Chinese rivers.

The rule of Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi
In the late 19th century, a new leader emerged. The Empress Dowager Cixi, concubine to the Emperor Xianfeng (r. 1850-1861), the mother of child emperor Tongzhi, and Aunt of Guangxu successfully controlled the Qing government and was the de facto leader of China for 47 years. She staged a coup d’état to oust the regency led by Sushun appointed by the late Emperor. She was known for “ruling behind the curtain”.

By the 1860s, the Qing dynasty had put down the rebellions with the help of militia organized by the gentry. The Qing government then proceeded to deal with problem of modernization, which it attempted with the Self-Strengthening Movement. Several modernized armies were formed including the much renowned Beiyang Army; however the fleets of “Beiyang” were annihilated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), which produced calls for greater and more extensive reform. After the start of the 20th century, the Qing Dynasty was in a dilemma. It could proceed with reform and thereby alienate the conservative gentry or it could stall reform and thereby alienate the revolutionaries. The Qing Dynasty tried to follow a middle path, but proceeded to alienate everyone.

Ten years into the reign of Guangxu (r. 1875 – 1908), western pressure on China was so great that she forcefully gave up all sorts of power. In 1898 Guangxu attempted the Hundred Days’ Reform, in which new laws were put in place and some old rules were abolished. Newer, more progressive-minded thinkers like Kang Youwei were trusted and recognized conservative-minded people like Li Hongzhang were removed from high positions. But the ideals were stifled by Cixi and Guangxu was jailed in his own palace. Cixi, concentrated on centralizing her own power base. At the occasion of her 60th Birthday, she spent over 30 million taels of silver for the decorations & events, funds that were originally to improve the weaponry of the Beiyang Navy.

In 1901, following the murder of the German Ambassador, the Eight-Nation Alliance entered China as a united military force for the second time. Cixi reacted by declaring war on all eight nations, only to lose Beijing under their control within a short period of time. Along with the Guangxu Emperor, she fled to Xi’an. As a military compensation, the Alliance listed scores of demands on the Qing Government, including an initial hit list which had Cixi as No. 1. Li Hongzhang was sent to negotiate and the Alliance backed down from several of the demands.

Qing government and society

Qing China in 1892
The Qing were very clever in stabilizing the government. The most important administrative body of the Qing dynasty was the Trung Council which was a body composed of the emperor and high officials. The Qing dynasty was characterized by a system of dual appointments by which each position in the central government had a Manchu and a Han assigned to it. During the Qianlong Emperor’s reign, for example, members of his family were distinguished by garments with a large circular emblem on the back, whereas a Han could only hope to wear clothing with a square emblem; this meant effectively that any guard in the court could immediately distinguish family members from the back view alone.

With respect to Mongolia, Tibet, and Eastern Turkestan, like other dynasties before it the Qing maintained imperial control, with the emperor acting as Mongol khan, patron of Tibetan Buddhism and protector of Muslims. However, Qing policy changed with the establishment of Xinjiang province in 1884. In response to British and Russian military action in Xinjiang and Tibet, the Qing sent Army units which performed remarkably well against British units.

The abdication of the Qing emperor inevitably led to the controversy about the status of territories in Tibet and Mongolia. It was and remains the position of Mongols and Tibetan nationalists, that because they owed allegiance to the Qing monarch, that with the abdication of the Qing, they owed no allegiance to the new Chinese state. This position was rejected by the Republic of China and subsequent People’s Republic of China which based their claims on the fact that these areas were integral parts of Chinese dynasties even before the Qing. Regardless of Hans, Manchus, Mongols, or other ethnic groups, they all established Sino-centric based dynasties, and claimed their legitimacy and history as part of imperial China over the last two thousands years. The Western powers accepted the latter theory, partly in order to prevent a scramble for China.


Qing Dynasty vases, in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon
he Qing Dynasty inherited many important institutions from the preceding Ming dynasty. The formal structure of the Qing government centred around the Emperor as the absolute ruler, who presided over six ministries (or boards), each headed by two presidents (Ch: Shàngshu, ??; Ma: Aliha amban) and assisted by four vice presidents (Ch: Shìláng, ??; Ma: Ashan i amban). In contrast to the Ming system, however, Qing ethnic policy dictated that appointments were split between Manchu noblemen and Han officials who had passed the highest levels of the state examinations. The Grand Secretariat (Ch: Nèigé ??; Ma: Dorgi yamun), which had been an important policy making body during Ming, lost its importance during Qing and evolved into an imperial chancery. The institutions which had been inherited from the Ming dynasty formed the core of the Qing “outer court”, which handled routine matters and was located in the southern part of the Forbidden City.

In order not to let the routine administration take over the running of the empire, the Manchu Qing emperors made sure that all important matters were decided in the “Inner Court,” which was dominated by the imperial family and Manchu nobility and which was located in the northern part of the Forbidden City. A central part of the inner court was the Grand Council, a body initially in charge of military and intelligence matters, but which later assumed the role of supervising all government departments. Ministers posted to the Grand Council served as the emperor’s privy council and they were collectively known as privy councillors.[1]

The six ministries and their respective areas of responsibilities were as follows:

Board of Civil Appointments (Ch: Lìbù, ??; Ma: Hafan i jurgan) – The personnel administration of all civil officials – including evaluation, promotion, and dismissal. It was also in charge of the ‘honours list’.

Board of Finance (Ch: Hùbù, ??; Ma: Boigon i jurgan) – The literal translation of the Chinese word ‘hù'(?)is ‘household’. For much of the Qing Dynasty’s history, the government’s main source of revenue came from taxation on landownership supplemented by official monopolies on essential household items such as salt and tea. Thus, in the predominantly agrarian Qing dynasty, the ‘household’ was the basis of imperial finance. The department was charged with revenue collection and the financial management of the government.

Board of Rites (Ch: Libù, ??; Ma: Dorolon i jurgan) – This was responsible for all matters concerning protocol at court, which included not just the periodic worshipping of ancestors and various gods by the Emperor — in his capacity as the “Son of Heaven” (Tianzi, ??), to ensure the smooth running of the empire — but also looking after the welfare of visiting ambassadors from tributary nations. The Chinese concept of courtesy (li, ?), as taught by Confucius, was considered an integral part of education. An intellect was said to “know of books and courtesy (rites)” (“????”). Thus, the ministry’s other function was to oversee the nationwide civil examination system for entrance to the bureaucracy. Because democracy was unknown to pre-Republican China, neo-Confucian philosophy saw state sponsored exams as the way to legitimize a regime by allowing the intelligentsia participation in an otherwise autocratic and unelected system.

A stamp in Qing DynastyBoard of War (Ch: Bingbù, ; Ma: Coohai jurgan) – Unlike its Ming Dynasty predecessor, which had full control over all military matters, the Qing Dynasty Board of War had very limited powers. First, the Eight Banners were under the direct control of the Emperor and hereditary Manchu and Mongolian princes, leaving the ministry only with authority over the Green Standard Armies. Furthermore, the ministry’s functions were purely administrative – campaigns and troop movements were monitored and directed by the Emperor, first through the Manchu ruling council, and later through the Grand Council.

Board of Punishments (Ch: Xíngbù, ??; Ma: Beidere jurgan) – The Board of Punishments handled all legal matters, including the supervision of various law courts and prisons. The Qing legal framework was relatively weak compared to modern day legal systems, as there was no separation of executive and legislative branches of government. The legal system could be inconsistent, and, at times, arbitrary, because the emperor ruled by decree and had final say on all judicial outcomes. Emperors could (and did) overturn judgements of lower courts from time to time. Fairness of treatment was also an issue under the apartheid system practised by the Manchu government over the Han Chinese majority. To counter these inadequacies and keep the population in line, the Qing maintained a very harsh penal code towards the Han populace, but it was no more severe than previous Chinese dynasties.

Board of Works (Ch: Gongbù, ??; Ma: Weilere jurgan) – The Board of Works handled all governmental building projects, including palaces, temples and the repairs of waterways and flood canals. It was also in charge of minting coinage.

In addition to the six boards, there was a Court of Colonial Affairs unique to the Qing government. This institution was established to supervise the administration of Tibet and the Mongolian lands. As the empire expanded, it took over administrative responsibility of all minority ethnic groups living in and around the empire, including early contacts with Russia–then seen as a tribute nation. The office had the status of a full ministry and was headed by officials of equal rank. However, appointees were at first restricted only to candidates of Manchurian and Mongolian ethnicity.

Even though the Board of Rites and the Court of Colonial Affairs performed some duties of a foreign office, they fell short of developing into a professional foreign service. This stemmed from the traditional imperial world view of seeing China as the centre of the world and viewing all foreigners as uncivilized barbarians unworthy of equal diplomatic status. It was not until 1861–a year after losing the Second Opium War to the Anglo-French coalition–that the Qing government bowed to foreign pressure and created a proper foreign affairs office known by as the Zongli Yamen. The office was originally intended to be temporary and was staffed by officials seconded from the Grand Council. However, as dealings with foreigners became increasingly complicated and frequent, the office grew in size and importance, aided by revenue from customs duties which came under its direct jurisdiction.


Beginnings and early development
The development of Qing military system can be divided into two broad periods separated by the Taiping rebellion (1850 – 1864). Early Qing military was rooted in the Manchu banners first developed by Nurhachi as a way to organize Manchurian society beyond petty clan affiliations. There were eight banners in all, differentiated by colours. The banners in their order of precedence were as follows: Yellow, Bordered Yellow (ie yellow banner with red border), White, Red, Bordered White, Bordered Red, Blue, & Bordered Blue. The Yellow, Bordered Yellow, and White banners were collectively known as the ‘Upper Three Banners'(???) and were under the direct command of the Emperor. Only Manchus belonging to the Upper Three Banners, and selected Han Chinese who had passed the highest level of military exams were qualified to serve as the Emperor’s personal bodyguards. The remaining banners were known as ‘The Lower Five Banners’ (???) and were commanded by hereditary Manchurian princes descended from Nurhachi’s immediate family, known informally as the ‘Iron Cap Princes’ (????). Together they formed the ruling council of the Manchu nation as well as high command of the army. In 1730, the Yongzheng Emperor established the Grand Council (Ch: Junjichù ???; Ma: Cooha nashun i ba) at first to direct day to day military operations, but gradually Junjichu took over other military and administrative duties and served to centralize authority to the crown. However, the Iron Cap Princes continued to exercise considerable influence over the political and military affairs of Qing government well into the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.

As Qing power expanded north of the Great Wall in the last years of the Ming dynasty, the banner system was expanded by Nurhachi’s son and successor Hong Taiji to include mirrored Mongolian and Han Banners. As they gained control of territories formerly under Ming rule, the relatively small Banner armies were further augmented by the Green Standard Army (???) which eventually outnumbered banner troops three to one. The Green Standard Army so-named after the colour of their battle standards was made up of those ethnic Han troops previously under Ming command who had surrendered to the Qing. They were led by a mix of Banner and Green Standard officers. The Banners and Green Standard troops were standing armies, paid for by central government. In addition, regional governors from provincial down to village level maintained their own irregular local militias for police duties and disaster relief. These militias were usually granted small annual stipends from regional coffers for part-time service obligations. They received very limited military drill if at all and were not considered combat troops.

Peace and stagnation

There were three different military groups, including the tuanlian, gentry, and the government army. During the social disorder in the 1840-60s Canton empowered the local gentry. When the regular defence system failed to beat away the strong foreign armies and rebels after the Opium War, the Qing government had to approve the gentry control of local militia (tuanlian). The establishment of tuanlian eventually shifted the local balance of power in favour of the gentry for the first time. The recruitment of militia during the Taiping years placed new judicial and fiscal power in the hands of the local gentry. Moreover, after the rebels were repressed, it was difficult to get the local notables to give up the power in their hands, especially since the government was too weak to take it back at that time.

Banner Armies were divided along ethnic lines, namely Manchurian and Mongolian. Although there existed a third branch of Han bannermen made up of those who had joined the Manchus before the establishment of the Qing dynasty, Han bannermen were never regarded by the government as equal to the other two branches due to their late addition to the Manchu cause as well as their Han Chinese ancestry. The nature of their service – mainly as infantry, artillery and sappers, was also seen as alien to the Manchurian nomadic traditions of fighting as cavalry. After the conquest the military roles played by Han Bannermen were quickly subsumed by the Green Standard Army. The Han Banners ceased to exist altogether after Emperor Yongzheng’s Banner registration reforms aimed at cutting down imperial expenditures. The socio-military origins of the Banner system meant that population within each branch and their sub-divisions were hereditary and rigid. Only under special circumstances sanctioned by imperial edict were social movements between banners permitted. In contrast, the Green Standard Army was originally intended to be a professional force. However during protracted period of peace in China from the 18th to mid 19th century, recruits from farming communities dwindled, due partly to Neo-Confucianism’s negative stance on military careers. In order to maintain strengths, the Green Standard Army began to internalize, and gradually became hereditary in practice.

After defeating the remnants of the Ming forces, the Manchu Banner Army of approximately 200,000 strong at the time was evenly divided; half was designated the Forbidden Eight Banner Army (???? Jìnlu Baqí)and was stationed in Beijing. It served both as the capital’s garrison and Qing government’s main strike force. The remainder of the Banner troops was distributed to guard key cities in China. These were known as the Territorial Eight Banner Army (???? Zhùfáng Baqí). The Manchu rulers, keenly aware of their own minority status, reinforced a strict policy of racial segregation between the Manchus and Mongols from Han for fear of their being assimilated by Han. This policy applied directly to the Banner garrisons, most of which occupied a separate walled zone within the cities they were stationed at. In cities where there were limitation of space such as in Qingzhou (??), a new fortified town would be purposely erected to house the Banner garrison and their families. Beijing being the imperial seat, the Regent Dorgon had the entire Chinese population forcibly relocated to the southern suburbs later known as the “Outer Citadel” (?? wàichéng). The northern walled city called “Inner Citadel” (?? nèichéng) was portioned out to the remaining Manchu eight Banners, each responsibled for guarding a section of the Inner Citadel surrounding the Forbidden City palace complex (??? Zijìnchéng).

The policy of posting Banner troops as territorial garrison was not to protect but to inspire awe in the subjugated populace at the expense of their expertise as cavalry. As a result, after a century of peace and lack of field training the Manchurian Banner troops had deteriorated greatly in their combat worthiness. Secondly, before the conquest the Manchu banner was a ‘citizen’ army, and its members were Manchu farmers and herders obligated to provide military service to the state at times of war. The Qing government’s decision to turn the banner troops into a professional force whose every welfare and need was met by state coffers brought wealth, and with it corruption, to the rank and file of the Manchu Banners and hastened its decline as a fighting force. This was mirrored by a similar decline in the Green Standard Army. During peace time, soldiering became merely a source of supplementary income. Soldiers and commanders alike neglected training in pursuit of their own economic gains. Corruption was rampant as regional unit commanders submitted pay and supply requisitions based on exaggerated head counts to the quartermaster department and pocketed the difference. When the Taiping rebellion broke out in 1850s the Qing Court found out belatedly that the Banner and Green Standards troops could neither put down internal rebellions nor keep foreign invaders at bay.

Transition and modernization

General Zeng Guofan

Early during the Taiping rebellion, Qing forces suffered a series of disastrous defeats culminating in the loss of the regional capital city of Nanjing (??) in 1853. The rebels massacred the entire Manchu garrison and their families in the city and made it their capital. Shortly thereafter a Taiping expeditionary force penetrated as far north as the suburbs of Tianjin (??) in what was considered Imperial heartlands. In desperation the court ordered a Chinese mandarin Zeng Guofan (???) to organize regional and village militias (Tuányong ?? and Xiangyong ??) into a standing army to contain the rebellion. Zen’s strategy was to rely on local gentries to raise a new type of military organization from those provinces that the Taiping rebels directly threatened. This new force became known as the Xiang Army (??), named after Hunan region where it was raised. Xiang Army was a hybrid of local militia and a standing army. It was given professional training, but was paid for by regional coffers and funds its commanders–mostly Chinese gentries–could muster. Xiang Army and its successor the “Huai” Army (??) created by Zen’s colleague and ‘pupil’ Li Hongzhang (???)were collectively called Yongying (??).

Prior to forming and commanding the Xian Army, Zen had no military experience. Being a classically educated Mandarin his blueprint for the formation of the Xian Army was copied from a historical source–the Ming Dynasty General Qi JiGuan (???) who because of the weakness of the regular Ming troops had decided to form his own ‘private’ army to repel raiding Japanese pirates in the mid 16th century. Qi’s doctrine relied heavily on Neo-Confucian ideas of binding the troops’ loyalty to their immediate superiors and also to the regions which they were raised. This initially gave the troops a certain esprit de corps. However, it must be pointed out that Qi’s Army was an ad hoc solution for a specific problem–combating pirates, as was Zen’s original intend for the Xiang Army–to eradicate the Taiping rebels. However, circumstances saw that the Yongying system became a permanent institution within the Qing military, which in the long run created problems of its own for the beleaguered central government.

Firstly, Yongying system signalled the end of Manchu dominance in Qing military establishment. Although the Banners and Green Standard armies lingered on as parasites depleting resources much needed by the rest of Qing administration, henceforth the Yongying corps were Qing government’s de facto first-line troops. Secondly the Yongying corps were financed through provincial coffers and were led by regional commanders. This devolution of power weakened the central government’s grip on the whole country, and was further aggravated by foreign powers vying to carve up autonomous colonial territories in different parts of the Empire. However despite its negative effects the measure was deemed necessary at the time as tax revenue from provinces occupied and threatened by rebels had ceased to reach the by then perpetually cash-strapped central government. Finally, the nature of Yongying command structure fostered nepotism and cronyism amongst its commanders whom as they ascended up the bureaucratic ranks laid the seeds to Qing’s eventual demise and the outbreak of regional “warlordism” in China during the first half of the twentieth century.

By late 19th century, China was fast descending into a semi-colonial state. Even the most conservative elements in the Qing court could no longer ignore China’s military weakness in contrast to the foreign “barbarians” literally beating down its gates. In 1860, during the Second Opium War the capital Beijing was captured and the (Old) Summer Palace sacked by a relatively small Anglo-French coalition force numbering 25,000. Although the Chinese pride themselves as the inventor of gunpower, and firearms had been in continual use in Chinese warfare since as far back as the Sung Dynasty, the advent of modern weaponry resulting from the European Industrial Revolution, such as the grooved rifle barrel (1855), Maxim gun (1885), and steam driven battleships (1890s) had rendered China’s traditionally trained and equipped army and navy obsolete. The Qing dynasty had attempted to modernize during the Self-Strengthening Movement, but these efforts were in the view of most historians of the early and mid twentieth century, piecemeal and yielding little in lasting results. Various reasons for the apparent failure of late-Qing modernization have advanced including the lack of funds, lack of political will, and unwillingness to depart from traditional. These reasons remain disputed with some historians of the late 20th century and early 21st century questioning whether in fact the Qing did fail to modernize and emphasizing accomplishments of the late-Qing and the general difficulty that nations have had in economic development. Wakeman, Fredric. China in Disintegration.

Losing the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 – 1895 was a watershed for the Qing government. Japan, a country long regarded by the Chinese as little more than an upstart nation of pirates, had convincingly beaten its larger neighbour and in the process annihilated the Qing government’s pride and joy–it’s modernized Beiyang Fleet then deemed to be the strongest naval force in Asia. In doing so, Japan became the first Asian country to join the previously exclusively western ranks of colonial powers. The defeat was a rude awakening to the Qing court especially when set in the context that it occurred a mere three decades after the Meiji reforms set a feudal Japan on course to emulate the Western nations in their economic and technological achievements. Finally, in December 1894, the Qing government took some concrete steps to reform military institutions and to re-train selected units in westernized drills, tactics and weaponry. These units were collectively called the New Army (????). The most successful of which was the Beiyang Army (???) under the overall supervision and control of an ex-Huai Army commander, the Han Chinese general Yuan Shikai (???), who exploited his position to eventually become Republic president, dictator and finally abortive emperor of China.

Fall of the dynasty

Yuan Shikai was an adept politician and general

By the early 20th century, mass civil disorder had begun and continuously grown. Ci Xi and the Guangxu emperor both died in 1908, leaving a relatively powerless and unstable central authority. Puyi, the eldest son of Zaifeng, Prince Chun, was appointed successor at age two, leaving Zaifeng with the regency. This was followed by the dismissal of General Yuan Shikai from his former positions of power. In mid 1911 Zaifeng created the “Imperial Family Cabinet”, a ruling council of the Imperial Government almost entirely consisting of Aisin Gioro relatives. This brought a wide range of negative opinion from senior officials like Zhang Zhidong.

The Wuchang Uprising succeeded on October 10, 1911, and was followed by a proclamation of a separate central government, the Republic of China, in Nanjing with Sun Yat-sen as its provisional head. Numerous provinces began “separating” from Qing control. Seeing a desperate situation unfold, the Qing government brought an unwilling Yuan Shikai back to military power, taking control of his Beiyang Army, with the initial goal of crushing the revolutionaries. After taking the position of Prime Minister  and creating his own cabinet, Yuan went as far as to ask for the removal of Zaifeng from the regency. This removal later proceeded with directions from Empress Dowager Longyu.

With Zaifeng gone, Yuan Shi-kai and his Beiyang commanders effectively dominated Qing politics. He reasoned that going to war would be unreasonable and costly, especially when noting that the Qing Government had a goal for constitutional monarchy. Similarly, Sun Yat-sen’s government wanted a Republican constitutional reform, both aiming for the benefit of China’s economy and populace. With permission from Empress Dowager Longyu, Yuan began negotiating with Sun Yat-sen, who decided that his goal had been achieved in forming a republic, and that therefore he could allow Yuan to step into the position of President of the Republic. In 1912, after rounds of negotiations, Longyu issued the Imperial Edict bringing about the abdication of the child emperor Puyi.

The collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912 brought an end to over 2000 years of imperial China and began an extended period of instability, not just at the national level but in many areas of peoples’ lives. Obvious political and economic backwardness combined with widespread criticism of Chinese culture led to questioning and doubt about the future. China’s turbulent history since the overthrow of the Qing may be understood at least in part as an attempt to understand and recover significant aspects of historic Chinese culture and integrate them with influential new ideas that have emerged within the last century. The Qing dynasty is the source of much of this magnificent culture, but its perceived humiliations also provide much from which to learn.