Prior to the 1800's, and before foreign influence, China was a powerful country, and had been ruled by many different dynasties starting with the Hsia dynasty in the second millenium B.C. to the Ching dynasty ending in 1911. (A Short History of China, pp. 12, 166.) Although dynasties had changed and several dynasties had been foreign, the Manchus (Ching dynasty) were the last foreign people to rule over China. The Manchus kept their own language and ethnic identity but maintained political order and military organization and thus insinuated themselves into China and gained the cooperation of the elite, the traditional educated gentry, who were the leading families in the communities and provided officials to the bureaucracy. In the eighteenth century the Manchus and Chinese, along with many foreigners, saw China as the world's greatest civilization, representing the highest possible attainment of humanity. China seemed to have lasting peace, a high standard of living, institutional stability, art and literature. (Imperial China,4-5.) China was considered a beautiful vast country, its people hard-working and sober, its land fertile and blessed with many lakes, rivers and canals, but so populous and crowded that most of the
China's treatment by foreign nations at that time affected its foreign policy in the decades that followed. The Boxers wanted all foreigners killed, but the Dowager Empress, though upset with much of the treatment by foreigners secretly did not want them all killed because she knew that would not solve the problems. Isolated legations (like embassies) of foreigners wanted to leave China. The Manchus did allow the representative to compromise by kissing the hand of the emperor, which was the behavior expected before the English ruler. As the opium trade increased, more and more Chinese became addicted and the balance of trade shifted---more silver was going out than goods being exported. In the 1830s more than 30,000 chests of opium (each about 150 lb. By the terms of the Treaty of Tientsin (1858) the Chinese opened new ports to trading and allowed foreigners with passports to travel in the interior. The British and French again defeated China in a second opium war in 1856. The Boxers focussed particularly on Christian missionaries, who they thought were destroying traditional Chinese culture, getting involved in politics and were becoming greedy and corrupt. ) The Taiping Rebellion (from 1850 to approximately 1864), turning into civil war, was based on the distorted and hallucinagenic beliefs of a Christian-converted Chinese (Hung Hsiu-chuan) who believed a type of heavenly kingdom could be established on earth. Although they had been expelled from Chinese mainland ports, the Portuguese eventually became the first to trade with China, from a base on the off-shore island of Macao.