Manchu ruler, the Kangxi emperor (r. 1661-1722), became well known
in both China and Europe for his Sixteen Moral Maxims in elegant liter-
ary Chinese, which were displayed prominently throughout the Qing
empire and later expounded upon through colloquial moral fables.
1. Encourage filial piety and brotherly submissiveness, that human rela-
tions may be deepened.
2. Strengthen kinship clans, that harmony may be manifest.
3. Harmonize local communities, that lawsuits may cease.
4. Attend diligently to agriculture and sericulture, that there may be suffi-
cient food and clothing.
5. Give place to frugality, that there may be sparing use of resources.
6. Dignify the schools, that scholarly habits may improve.
7. Condemn heresies, that orthodoxy may be exalted.
8. Expound on the law, that the foolish and wayward may be admonished.
9. Elucidate civility and humility, that manners and customs may be
10. Attend to your proper calling, that the determination of the people may
11. Instruct the children, that wrongdoing may be prevented.
12. Desist with frivolous lawsuits, that the good and conscientious may be
13. Forbid the harboring of fugitives, that sharing in their fate may be
14. Fully remit taxes, that pressure for payment may be avoided.
15. Unite community tithings, that brigands and bandits may be appre-
16. Resolve strife and quarrels, that the body and life may be esteemed.
The second great Manchu ruler, the Qianlong (r. 1736-1796) emperor,
was a household word in elite European families, and Enlightenment
philosophers in Europe wrote quite approvingly of the Qing's overall
secular approach to government.
During the nineteenth century, when the Qing slipped into serious
decline, Chinese patriots began blaming the Manchus for most of
China's woes. China would not have suffered as much from external
imperialism and internal upheaval, they imagined, if the Chinese them-
selves were running the dynasty. This, however, was smug conceit, and
events after the overthrow of the Manchus in 1911 showed that the
Chinese themselves were probably not any more up to facing the chal-
lenges of modernity than the Manchus had been. A thoroughgoing
political revolution, and not ethnic cleansing of the topmost levels of
government, was what finally made the difference for China.