Emperor K'ang-Hsi (reigned 1661–1722) consolidated the Manchu regime by suppressing rebellions (1673–81) and defeating the Mongols and Tibetans. In 1689 the Ch'ing signed the Treaty of Nerchinsk with Russia, demarcating the northern extent of the Manchurian boundary at the Argun River. When Jesuit missionaries appeared, K'ang-Hsi issued (1692) an edict of toleration and employed some of them as astronomers and artists in the palace. But the Roman Catholic Church's decision not to allow the Chinese converts to worship Confucius and their ancestors led to the expulsion of the missionaries in the early 18th cent.
Under Emperor Ch'ien-lung (reigned 1735–96), China attained its greatest territorial expansion: Outer Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, and Turkistan were included in the empire. The economy and commerce greatly expanded. Handicraft industries, such as porcelain manufacture, prospered. Painting, especially the "literati painting" (wen-jen-hua), by which artists tried to express personal feelings, flourished. The Beijing Opera was patronized by Manchu aristocrats. The Manchus, however, maintained an autocratic cultural policy of suppressing subversive writings. Many Chinese authors were jailed, exiled, or killed for criticizing the regime or commenting on current affairs. Study of the ancient classics thrived, and numerous works were compiled and cataloged.
The early Ch'ing's foreign trade policy was affected by considerations of national security. As China's economic growth attracted the attention of European maritime powers, the dynasty tried to limit contacts between foreigners and potential rebels. An imperial edict in 1759 allowed maritime trade only at the port of Guangzhou.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.