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The Banner Affairs Policies since the Mid-Qing (1780-1911)
and speaking Manchu
livelihood of bannermen
gradual adoption of Han manners
separation of Manchu and Han
In the past, studies of Qing history generally discussed problems from the perspective of the Han people. The sinocentric bias of historiography was quite obvious. Under such circumstances, the Eight Banners, a topic concerning the “people of the banners”, did not attract much scholarly attention. The Qing rulers emphasized that “the Eight Banners are the foundation of the nation”, and granted the bannermen various privileges, turning them into a special group of the Qing dynasty. However, excessive protection led to a lack of crisis awareness among the members of the Eight Banners. Preoccupied with preserving a comfortable lifestyle, they failed to strive for progress, resulting in many problems. In order to solve these problems, the Manchu rulers adopted numerous policies and measures. Manchu language ability, martial skills, livelihood, and the gradual adoption of Han manners were those issues among the numerous banner affairs which received most attention from the Manchu rulers. Towards the end of the Qing dynasty, there emerged issues like the termination of the distinct status of bannermen and a reform of eight banners education. The Manchu rulers tried to solve these problems by adopting various banner policies, always with the general objective of protecting the bannermen and preserving the separation between them and the Han population. However, if we look at the results of the actual implementation of these policies, we find that the rulers, when they were no longer able to maintain the distinct status of all of the bannermen, decided to begin with the members at the periphery of the ruling class, and step by step revoked all of their privileges, eventually turning the bannermen into common people. But the Qing rulers never had the intention of equal social status of Manchu and Han. Even during the late Qing, when major reforms of banner affairs began and the separation of bannermen and Han was lifted, the real intention behind these measures was to defer Han reactions and stabilize Manchu rule. Only after the 1911 revolution, when the Manchu political order had collapsed, and their consciousness of ethnic superiority declined, the bannermen could really become common people.
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