How Did Chinese Survive in 1900: Exploring Strategies and Stories

In the early 1900s, China experienced a tumultuous period characterized by political turmoil, foreign invasions, and intense social upheavals. As the Qing dynasty was on the brink of collapse, the Chinese people faced numerous challenges that threatened their survival. However, amidst adversity, they showcased remarkable resilience, resourcefulness, and perseverance. This article delves into the strategies and stories that shed light on how the Chinese not only managed to survive but also thrive during this critical era. From maintaining cultural traditions to forming community bonds, from adapting to new circumstances to embracing education, the Chinese people of 1900 navigated through uncertain times with remarkable grit and determination. By exploring their experiences and strategies, we can gain valuable insights into a chapter of history that shaped their collective identity and indomitable spirit.

What Was Life Like in China in the 1900s?

They saw China as a vast market for their goods, but also as a source of raw materials. This led to the establishment of foreign concessions in Chinese cities, where foreigners were allowed to live and conduct business under their own laws. These concessions became hubs of Western culture and influence, with Western-style buildings, shops, and schools springing up.

However, life for the average Chinese citizen was far from glamorous. Many suffered from poverty, famine, and disease. The Qing dynasty was in decline, and corruption and mismanagement were rampant. The government was unable to effectively govern the vast country or protect it’s citizens from foreign encroachment. Chinese society was heavily stratified, with little social mobility for the majority of the population.

Despite these challenges, the Chinese people showed remarkable resilience and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. They found ways to survive and even thrive in the changing landscape. Peasants resorted to subsistence farming and worked the land tirelessly to support their families. Many turned to trade and entrepreneurship, setting up small businesses and street stalls to make a living.

Education and knowledge became invaluable assets for those seeking upward mobility. Chinese intellectuals recognized the need to modernize and strengthen the country. They studied foreign languages, sciences, and technologies, bringing back new ideas and methods to implement in China. Some even traveled abroad to study and gain first-hand knowledge of Western societies and systems.

The Chinese also relied on their strong familial and community bonds to support one another. Mutual aid societies formed, providing assistance to those in need. Neighbors helped each other in times of crisis, sharing resources and knowledge. The Chinese culture of collectivism proved to be a powerful tool for survival.

Ultimately, the strategies and stories of how the Chinese survived in the 1900s reflect a determination to preserve their identity and reclaim their sovereignty. They navigated the complex social and political landscape, adapting and innovating as needed. While foreign dominance may have been prevalent, the Chinese people never lost sight of their own rich history and culture, using it as a foundation for resilience and resistance.

The Impact of Famine and Disease on the Lives of Chinese Citizens in the 1900s

  • Millions of Chinese citizens were severely affected by famine and disease in the 1900s.
  • The Great Famine that occurred between 1959 and 1961 resulted in the deaths of an estimated 15 to 45 million people.
  • This famine was primarily caused by the policies of the Great Leap Forward, a campaign initiated by Mao Zedong.
  • Government policies, such as the collectivization of agriculture and mass industrialization, led to a sharp decline in food production.
  • The lack of food and inadequate distribution systems resulted in widespread starvation and malnutrition.
  • Furthermore, diseases such as dysentery, malaria, and tuberculosis were rampant during this period due to poor living conditions and lack of access to healthcare.
  • Limited resources and the prioritization of industrial growth over basic necessities greatly contributed to the suffering of the Chinese population.
  • It’s estimated that tens of millions of Chinese citizens lost their lives during this period, leaving a devastating impact on families and communities across the country.
  • These historical events continue to shape the collective memory and societal discussions surrounding China’s past.
  • Efforts to address these issues and prevent similar catastrophes have been made in subsequent years, but the scars left by the impact of famine and disease in the 1900s remain significant.

During the 19th century, the Qing dynasty encountered significant challenges that threatened it’s stability and undermined it’s authority. These challenges ranged from internal pressures such as overpopulation, food scarcity, corruption within the government, and rebellions, to external threats posed by foreign imperialists. These multifaceted issues strained the Qing’s ability to govern effectively and ultimately contributed to it’s decline.

What Were the Major Challenges Faced by the Qing in the 19th Century?

In the 19th century, the Qing Dynasty faced a multitude of challenges that greatly undermined their authority and stability. One of the major obstacles was the rapidly increasing population. As the population grew, the strain on resources, particularly food, became increasingly burdensome. This led to frequent food shortages and famine, causing widespread suffering and discontent among the people.

Excessive taxation was another significant challenge faced by the Qing Dynasty. They relied heavily on taxation to sustain their vast empire, but the burden fell disproportionately on the lower classes, exacerbating their already dire living conditions. This unfair taxation policy fueled anger and resentment among the populace, further destabilizing the Qing rule.

Government corruption also plagued the Qing Dynasty during the 19th century. Officials at all levels, from local magistrates to high-ranking bureaucrats, engaged in rampant corruption, bribery, and embezzlement. This not only drained the states resources but also left the common people feeling exploited and betrayed by the very government meant to protect them.

The Qing Dynasty also faced internal rebellions that threatened their authority. The most notable among these were the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion. The Taiping Rebellion, led by Hong Xiuquan, sought to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and establish a new, egalitarian society. The Boxer Rebellion, on the other hand, was fueled by anti-imperialistic sentiments and aimed to rid China of foreign influence. Both rebellions posed a serious threat to the Qing regime and strained their resources and military capabilities.

In addition to domestic challenges, the Qing Dynasty faced the incursion of foreign imperialists during the 19th century. European powers, most notably Britain, France, Russia, and Germany, aggressively sought to expand their influence in China. The encroachment of foreign powers through unequal treaties, extraterritoriality, and forced trade concessions undermined Chinese sovereignty and further weakened the Qing Dynastys grip on power.

Despite the numerous challenges they faced, the Chinese people and the Qing Dynasty adopted various strategies to survive in the 1900s. The Qing Dynasty implemented reforms, such as the Self-Strengthening Movement, which aimed to modernize the military, infrastructure, and education systems. They also engaged in diplomatic efforts to navigate the intricate web of foreign imperialism and maintain a fragile balance of power.

Moreover, the Chinese people themselves displayed remarkable resilience and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Communities banded together to support one another during times of famine and poverty, sharing resources and relying on traditional methods of survival. The Chinese Diaspora, with millions of Chinese migrating to distant lands, played a role in spreading Chinese culture and sustaining economic ties beyond Chinas borders.

From population growth and food shortages to government corruption and foreign imperialists, these factors eroded the Qings authority and stability. However, through a combination of reform efforts, diplomatic maneuvering, and the resilience of the Chinese people, the dynasty managed to survive, albeit with diminished power and influence.

The Impact of the Taiping Rebellion on China: Analyze the Causes and Consequences of the Taiping Rebellion, and How It Affected Chinese Society, Politics, and the Qing Dynasty.

  • The Taiping Rebellion was a massive civil war in China that occurred from 1850 to 1864.
  • Causes of the Taiping Rebellion:
    • Socioeconomic discontent: Rising poverty, corruption, and unequal land distribution.
    • Religious fervor: Led by Hong Xiuquan, who believed he was the brother of Jesus Christ and called for social and religious reforms.
  • Consequences of the Taiping Rebellion:
    • Death and destruction: Estimated 20-30 million deaths and widespread destruction of cities and villages.
    • Weakening of the Qing Dynasty: The empire struggled to suppress the rebellion and lost control over large parts of China.
    • Political reforms: The Taiping Rebellion exposed the weaknesses of the Qing government and led to calls for modernization and reform.
    • Social and cultural changes: The rebellion challenged traditional Confucian values and promoted gender equality and communal living.
    • Foreign intervention: The rebellion coincided with the Second Opium War, with foreign powers taking advantage of China’s weakened state.
  • Overall, the Taiping Rebellion had a profound impact on Chinese society, politics, and the Qing Dynasty.

Source: The Manchu and the Qing dynasty – Alpha History

During the 19th century, China experienced a series of profound and traumatic events that led to what’s now known as the Century of Humiliation. This period is characterized by the country’s perceived losses in territory, control, and international standing. These injustices have deeply shaped China’s collective memory, fostering a desire to rectify the past and reclaim it’s rightful place on the global stage.

Why Is the 19th Century Considered China’s Century of Humiliation?

The 19th century is often referred to as Chinas century of humiliation because it marks a period of great adversity and challenges for the Chinese nation. During this time, China experienced significant battles, conflicts, and foreign invasions that left a profound impact on the countrys sovereignty and identity. These series of events have come to be seen as a collective national trauma that shaped Chinas history and continues to influence it’s approach to international relations today.

One of the key elements that contributed to the century of humiliation was the loss of territory. China saw numerous parts of it’s land being carved out by foreign powers, including the Opium Wars with Britain, the Sino-Japanese War, and the territorial concessions made to Russia and Germany. These territorial losses weren’t only physically detrimental but also symbolically represented a loss of national pride and sovereignty.

Furthermore, China lost control over it’s internal and external environment during this time. The influence of foreign powers grew, with Western imperialism and unequal treaties allowing foreign powers to exert substantial control over Chinas economic, political, and cultural affairs. This loss of control was deeply unsettling for the Chinese people, as it undermined their sense of autonomy and self-governance.

Additionally, China suffered a loss of international standing and dignity. As a once formidable empire, China found itself at the mercy of foreign powers, with it’s authority and prestige diminished on the global stage. These losses of international standing were deeply felt by the Chinese people, who yearned for a return to their former glory and sought to reclaim their rightful place in the world.

It fueled a strong sense of nationalism and the pursuit of national rejuvenation, leading to the rise of movements and figures like the Boxer Rebellion and Sun Yat-sen, who sought to restore Chinas strength and dignity.

In exploring the strategies and stories of how the Chinese survived during this challenging period, it’s essential to consider the resilience and resourcefulness of the Chinese people. Despite the numerous setbacks and hardships they faced, the Chinese population demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt and resist foreign domination. Through acts of defiance, guerrilla warfare, and cultural preservation, the Chinese people managed to maintain their identity and protect their interests in the face of adversity.

These injustices have left a lasting impact on Chinas collective memory and continue to shape it’s national identity and approach to global affairs.

During the Battle of Peking in 1900, a multinational coalition led by Britain successfully lifted the siege on foreign citizens in Beijing. Besides it’s immediate outcome, this historic event had far-reaching consequences, as it weakened the Qing dynasty and set the stage for the establishment of a new Republic.

What Happened in Beijing 1900?

In the year 1900, Beijing, the capital city of China, experienced a tumultuous event known as the Battle of Peking. This historical episode unfolded on the 14th and 15th of August when a formidable coalition of eight-nations, led by Britain, intervened to bring an end to the siege of foreign citizens residing within the walls of Peking. The consequences of these events would reverberate throughout China and spelled a significant setback for the Qing dynasty, which had ruled the country for centuries.

During the siege, foreign citizens in Peking faced immense danger and uncertainty as an anti-foreign sentiment surged through the city. The Eight-Nation Alliance, comprised of British, American, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Italian, and Austrian forces, joined together in a united front to rescue their trapped compatriots and quell the rising animosity. The Battle of Peking marked a turning point in the power dynamics of China.

The outcome of the Battle of Peking dealt a severe blow to the Qing dynasty, shattering their grip on power. The coalitions victory demonstrated the vulnerability and weakening of the ruling dynasty, further fueling discontent within the country. These events contributed to growing revolutionary sentiments, eventually leading to the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912.

Amidst the chaos, the Chinese people displayed remarkable resilience and survival strategies during this challenging period. Many sought refuge, both within the city and in surrounding areas, evading the violence and chaos consuming Beijing. Others rallied together, forming localized groups to protect their communities and support each other during this time of crisis. These collective efforts demonstrated the strength and determination of the Chinese people.

Survivors of the Battle of Peking in 1900 carried stories of bravery, sacrifice, and survival. These narratives shed light on the struggles faced by Chinese citizens amidst a rapidly changing socio-political landscape. The battles aftermath served as a catalyst for the transformation of China, pointing towards a more modern and progressive era.

Exploring the strategies and stories of how the Chinese survived during these events in 1900 unveils a complex tapestry of history, resilience, and cultural identity. These narratives provide insights into the struggles and triumphs of a nation in the face of foreign intervention, internal strife, and the subsequent transformation that shaped Chinas future.

The Causes of the Anti-Foreign Sentiment in Beijing in 1900

In 1900, Beijing experienced a surge of anti-foreign sentiment due to a combination of underlying factors. One of the primary causes was the resentment towards Western imperialism and the unequal treaties imposed on China by foreign powers. These unfair treaties led to economic exploitation, territorial loss, and humiliation for the Chinese people.

Another significant factor was the Boxer Rebellion, a violent uprising led by a secret society known as the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (Boxers). The Boxers targeted foreigners and Chinese Christians, blaming them for China’s social and economic problems. Their anti-foreign and anti-Christian sentiment fueled widespread hostility towards outsiders.

The failure of the Chinese government to effectively address these grievances and protect their citizens’ interests contributed to the growing anger. Corruption, weak governance, and military weakness undermined the government’s authority, making it difficult for them to control the anti-foreign sentiments.

It’s essential to note that while the anti-foreign sentiment was prevalent during this time, not all Chinese people supported or participated in the violence. Many Chinese individuals and communities actively sought strategies to survive and protect themselves amidst the chaotic and dangerous situation in Beijing in 1900.

During this tumultuous period, China’s sovereignty and autonomy were greatly undermined, leading to social, economic, and political instability. The Qing Dynasty‚Äôs rule became increasingly weakened as resentment and resistance grew among the Chinese people against foreign influence. It was in this atmosphere of discontent and unrest that China entered the 20th century, setting the stage for significant transformations and challenges to come.

How Was China Ruled in 1900?

During this period, China was forced to sign unequal treaties that granted foreign powers significant control over the countrys trade, economy, and territories. These treaties imposed heavy indemnities on China and allowed foreign nations to establish extraterritoriality, meaning that their citizens were exempt from Chinese laws and could be tried in their own consular courts. Additionally, Chinas resources and markets were exploited by foreign powers, leading to economic imbalances and the loss of sovereignty.

In the face of these challenges, the Chinese people had to find ways to survive and resist the foreign domination. One strategy was to preserve their cultural and national identity through various means. Chinese intellectuals and nationalist leaders emerged, advocating for modernization and reforms to strengthen Chinas position in the world. They promoted ideas of national unity, self-strengthening, and anti-imperialism, aiming to mobilize the Chinese population against foreign powers.

Another strategy employed by the Chinese was to engage in covert resistance against the foreign powers. Secret societies and rebel groups, such as the Boxers, emerged in response to the deteriorating conditions. These groups often targeted foreigners and Chinese Christians, viewing them as symbols of foreign influence. However, their movements were eventually suppressed by the combined forces of foreign troops and the Qing government.

Despite these challenges, the Chinese people also engaged in peaceful resistance. Some individuals and communities boycotted foreign goods, refusing to contribute to the enrichment of foreign powers. Others actively participated in independence movements, seeking to restore Chinas sovereignty and reclaim their own destiny. Moreover, the Chinese used education as a tool for empowerment, establishing modern schools and universities to cultivate a new generation of intellectuals who’d lead China towards progress.

In 1900, the Chinese people faced immense difficulties under foreign rule. However, they also demonstrated resilience, determination, and a will to survive. They utilized various strategies, ranging from cultural preservation to armed resistance and peaceful activism, in their quest to regain control over their country. These stories of survival and resistance continue to inspire and inform our understanding of Chinas history during this tumultuous period.

The Impact of the Unequal Treaties on China’s Sovereignty

  • The first unequal treaty imposed on China was the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842.
  • This treaty resulted from the First Opium War and forced China to cede Hong Kong to the British.
  • It also opened several ports for trade and granted extraterritorial rights to British citizens in China.
  • The Treaty of Tientsin, signed in 1858, further weakened China’s sovereignty.
  • It legalized the opium trade, allowed foreign envoys in Beijing, and permitted Christian missionaries to operate in China.
  • The most infamous of the unequal treaties was the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, after China’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War.
  • Under this treaty, China had to recognize Korea’s independence and cede Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands, and the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan.
  • The unequal treaties undermined China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and control over it’s economy.
  • They led to further foreign encroachments, concessions, and the carving up of China into spheres of influence.
  • This period of humiliation deepened nationalistic sentiments in China and contributed to the eventual downfall of the Qing dynasty.


In conclusion, the survival of the Chinese people in 1900 was a result of a multitude of strategies and stories that emphasized resilience, adaptability, and collective unity. The Chinese population displayed their resourcefulness by employing innovative survival tactics such as forming self-defense groups, seeking refuge in foreign legations, and creating underground networks. Their ability to navigate through political turmoil, economic challenges, and social upheaval was a testament to their determination and ingenuity. The stories of individuals who survived against all odds stand as a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience of the Chinese people during this turbulent period in history. By understanding and exploring these strategies and stories, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the indomitable spirit that allowed the Chinese people to overcome adversity and ultimately emerge stronger.

Scroll to Top