Tongzhi Restoration

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The Tongzhi Restoration (simplified Chinese: 同治中兴; traditional Chinese: 同治中興; pinyin: Tóngzhì Zhōngxīng; Wade–Giles: T'ung-chih Chung-hsing; c. 1860–1874) was an attempt to arrest the dynastic decline of the Qing dynasty of China by restoring the traditional order. The harsh realities of the Opium War, the unequal treaties, and the mid-century mass uprisings of the Taiping Rebellion caused Qing courtiers and officials to recognize the need to strengthen China. The Tongzhi Restoration was named for the Tongzhi Emperor (r. 1861–1875), and was engineered by the young emperor's mother, the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908). The restoration, however, which applied "practical knowledge" while reaffirming the old mentality, was not a genuine program of modernization. Academics are divided as to whether the Tongzhi Restoration arrested the dynastic decline, or merely delayed its inevitable occurrence.

The Tongzhi Restoration was a direct result of the Self-Strengthening Movement led by the statesmen Zeng Guofan (who became viceroy) and Li Hongzhang to revitalize government and improve cultural and economic conditions in China. A number of reforms were implemented such as the development of the Zongli Yamen, an official foreign ministry to deal with international affairs, the restoration of regional armies and regional strongmen, modernization of railroads, factories, and arsenals, an increase of industrial and commercial productivity, and the institution of a period of peace that allowed China time to modernize and develop.

Mary C. Wright suggested that, "Not only a dynasty but also a civilization which appeared to have collapsed was revived to last for another sixty years by the extraordinary efforts of extraordinary men in the 1860s." On the other hand, John K. Fairbank wrote, "That the Qing managed to survive both domestic and international attacks is due largely to the policy and leadership changes known as the Qing Restoration."


  • Wright, Mary Clabaugh. The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T'ung-Chih Restoration, 1862 -1874. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957.

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