Portrait of a first-grade general

Celebrations of military values occur across Qing culture, from religion to theatre. In this portrait, the general wears a Manchu-style hat with two feathers. He is praised for his “ambition to subdue tigers and pacify dragons” (伏虎䧏龍之志).

Ref. Chinese Drawings 35

Illustrated Proper Conduct According to the Three Confucian Principles, c1570

As well as military conquest, the Qing used ‘soft power’ to shape its reputation. The empire promoted both the Chinese writing system and Confucian values across borders. This Korean-Chinese story is about a boy named Shou who proves his filial piety, a key Confucian idea of family loyalty, by confronting a tiger.

Ref. Chinese Crawford 462

This glossary is witness to the professional language study fostered by the Qing. Tibetan language was important for Qing emperors expanding into Tibet. They presented themselves as Tibetan-style bodhisattvas or saints.

Ref. Chinese Crawford 431

Illustrated Compendium on Maritime Security, by Zheng Ruoceng, 1624

While imperial Chinese expansion is mostly associated with overland routes, the seas also played a significant role. The flat-bottomed ‘sand ship’ (shachuan 沙船) was often used for inland grain transports but could equally serve as a warship, as this illustration shows.

Ref. Chinese Crawford 79

Record of What One Sees and Hears in the Western Regions, by Qishiyi, 1777

Written by a Manchu official at the western edge of the empire, this book describes people encountered across Asia and Europe. From the Russians to the Ottoman Turks, the author tells of his own experiences at the expanding Qing frontier.

Ref. Chinese Crawford 227