Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Daoguang Emperor Min Ning -- A Stingy Monarch and Beginning of Modern Chinese History

Min Ning (1782 -- 1850), also respected as Qing Xuan Zong or Daoguang Emperor, was another monarch with great centralized power, but also stayed inside of a constrained frame, which made lots of his efforts useless.

Extremely Frugal Daoguang Emperor Who Cared Civilians

Min Ning was a brave and talented prince who was highly appreciated by his father and grandfather.


He ascended to the throne after his father the Emperor Yong Yan’s sudden death, and started dealing with continued corruption and endless uprisings just like his father. 


Daoguang Emperor was quite famous for his frugalness, even being stingy sometimes.


For instance, he didn’t use fancy and expensive furnitures, and usually asked his servants to buy dinner outside of his palace, only because the food in the civilians' market was cheaper.


He wore patched clothes, and asked his imperial concubines to learn to make patches for him, so that he didn’t need to spend money asking others to do so.


Officials and concubines were commanded to be frugal as well; therefore, his women barely worn make-up nor fancy clothes. They were basically vegetarian and only ate well on big holidays or important events. 

But Daoguang Emperor did care about his people and was quite generous when natural disasters happened, though many money that he sent to victims ended up in corrupted officials'’ pockets.


Other money that he saved had spent on defeating endless rebels. 

Lose First Opium War and Begin of Modern Chinese History 

At that time, though the Qing Empire banned international trade on the civilians' level, the export of Qing still surpassed the import.


Then, the Britain started smuggling opium into Qing and achieved magnificent benefits.


Daoguang Emperor sent officer Lin destroyed large numbers of opium, which then caused the First Opium War, also named the First Anglo-Chinese War.


Finally, the Qing Empire’s closed gate was opened by Britain using advanced weapons.


This was the start of the Modern Chinese history. 


When his grandfather Qian Long Emperor was having luxurious lifestyle and implementing large scale Literary Inquisitions, which killed large numbers of well educated and creative intellectuals, and burnt down many brilliant books in the history of China, Britain started the First Industrial Revolution already.


From that time on, the Qing Empire started to lag behind the western world. 


Min Ning’s father’s conservative and reparative policies made Qing lost the last chance to catch up.


Consequently, when this war started, British and Qing’s soldiers’ weapons were different, like they were from different eras.


Obviously, Daoguang Emperor and his soldiers didn’t know that this was a war between an advanced industrial society and a far lagged behind agricultural empire. 


How Daoguang Emperor Dealt with the Lost War and Dignity

However, despite Qing’s soldiers and civilians fought bravely with British invaders, Qing Empire ended up signing the unequal Treaty of Nanking after losing in a series of battles.


This was the beginning of losing land and sovereignty, because later, Qing also signed unequal treaties with American, France and other western countries. 


Daoguang Emperor was widely criticized for his incapable commanding skills and pendulous policies in this war, which caused signing of a series of shameful treaties in the history of China.


Since this was an unfair war involved unequally developed parties, it was hard to quantify exactly how much responsibility that Daoguang Emperor should take, or whether the ending would be different if another great monarch was in charge. 


However, what made him a lame emperor was that after a series of failures and unequal treaties, Daoguang Emperor did nothing to change the situation, or at least make some efforts to catch up a little bit.


This extremely stingy and kind emperor witnessed his empire being invaded and defeated, but he let it keep rotting and left it to his heir to worry about.