Chinese Revolution timeline: to 1911

This Chinese Revolution timeline lists significant events and developments up to and including 1911. This timeline has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest an event for inclusion in this timeline please contact Alpha History.

The Qing dynasty begins in Manchuria. Manchu influence spreads to Korea and China throughout the rest of the 1600s.

The British East India Company establishes a trading post in Guangzhou.

The first British envoy to Beijing, Lord Macartney, is appointed.

The first Protestant Christian missionary, Robert Morrison from the London Missionary Society, arrives in China.

The first recorded conversion of Chinese people to Christianity. The number of Christian converts in China grows steadily through the 1800s.

The First Opium War with Britain. The war ends with a comprehensive Chinese defeat and a treaty that permits an increased British trading and military presence.

The Taiping Rebellion. A Westernised Christian-based group in south-eastern China, calling itself the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, engages in a long civil war with the Qing rulers. This leads to some perceptions that the Qing dynasty was losing its Mandate of Heaven.

The Second Opium War with Britain and France. Another defeat for the Qing results in a treaty forcing the legalisation of opium and Christianity. This humiliating defeat gives rise to the Self Strengthening Movement, an attempt to industrialise China and increase her capacity for self-defence.

November 12th: Sun Yixian is born to an affluent middle class family in Guangdong province.

June 12th: The death of the Tongzhi Emperor. The infant Guangxu Emperor ascends to the throne, aged three. He is adopted by Dowager Empress Cixi, who becomes his regent.

1885-95: This decade marks the third and weakest phase of the Self-Strengthening movement. Qing conservatives block or undermine proposed reforms and programs and prevent significant political change.

October 31st: Jiang Jieshi is born in Zhejiang province.

December 26th: Mao Zedong is born to a peasant family in Hunan province.

August 1st
: The outbreak of the first Sino-Japanese War, caused by disputes over territorial control of Korea.
November 24th: Sun Yixian forms the Revive China Society in Hawaii. Its membership consists of Chinese nationalist expatriates and exiles.

April 17th: The first Sino-Japanese War ends after seven months, the outcome a humiliating defeat for China which is forced to cede control of Korea and Taiwan.
October 26th: Sun Yixian leads an anti-Qing uprising in Guangzhou. It is quickly defeated and Sun is forced into exile in Japan.

November 1st: A ground of anti-foreign bandits storm a German precinct in Juye, Shandong province and kill two German missionaries. This incident is a forerunner to violence by the Boxers in subsequent years.

: Kang Youwei holds meetings with mandarins of the imperial court and proposes social and political reforms.
March 5th: Zhou Enlai is born in Jiangsu province.
June 11th
: The Guangxu Emperor issues his first reform edict, marking the beginning of the Hundred Days of Reform.
September 21st: Conservatives, soldiers and Empress Dowager Cixi collaborate to remove the Guangxu Emperor from power.
September 28th: Six liberal reformists are beheaded. Kang Youwei manages to escape to Japan.
October: A group of Boxers attack a Christian temple in Liyuantun, Shandong. They are later dispersed by Qing troops.

March: The Fists of Righteous Harmony movement, or Boxers, begin significant anti-foreign activity against Germans in Shandong province, attacking a church.
September 6th: Seeking entry into Chinese commerce, the United States proposes the Qing rulers adopt an ‘open door’ trade policy.

January 11th: Dowager Empress Cixi issues edicts expressing support for Boxers, drawing protests from foreign governments.
April: Fearing a massacre of foreigners in China, Western navies begin increasing their presence off the Chinese coast.
June 13th: Boxer forces reach Beijing. The Boxers and sections of the Qing Imperial Army begin attacking foreign legations in Tianjin and Beijing.
June 16th: After convening a meeting with advisors, Dowager Empress Cixi decides to support the Boxer movement.
June 20th: The German ambassador Baron von Ketteler is murdered.
June 21th: Against the advice of prominent ministers, Dowager Empress Cixi declares war on all foreigners in China, however local governors and military commanders refuse to follow her directives.
July 9th: The Taiyuan Massacre. The pro-Boxer governor of Shanxi offers 45 Christians, mostly Western foreigners, safe passage to Taiyuan. They are subsequently murdered.
August: Foreign troops relieve the besieged legations in Beijing and occupy the city.
August 15th: Cixi flees the Forbidden City in disguise. The Imperial Court takes refuge in Xi’an.
October 22nd: Almost five years to the day after the failed Guangzhou uprising, Sun Yixian launches another republican uprising in Huizhou, Guangdong province. This also fails.

September 7th: The Boxer Protocol is signed by the Eight-Nation Alliance and three other nations. It imposes severe restrictions and reparations on the Qing government.

January: Dowager Empress Cixi and the Imperial Court return to Beijing.

: The Qing court decides to send two missions abroad to study foreign political systems, suggesting that it is considering political and constitutional reform.
August 20th: In Japan, Sun Yixian and others form the Tongmenghui or ‘Chinese Revolutionary Alliance’.
September: Imperial examinations are abolished, part of the late-Qing reforms.

September: Under pressure from the provinces, the Qing government agrees to consider constitutional reform.

August 27th
: The Qinding Xianfa Dagang (‘Outline of the Imperial Constitution’) is passed, a belated attempt to create a constitutional monarchy in China.
November 14th: The death of the Guangxu Emperor, probably from arsenic poisoning. The dying Cixi anoints the infant Puyi as the new emperor.
November 15th: The death of Empress Dowager Cixi.

May: The Qing government unveils its first ‘constitutional cabinet’. It is dominated by Manchu and royalty, which disappoints reformists.
May 9th: The Qing government orders that locally funded railways be nationalised and transferred to foreign banks. This was done to fund reparations imposed by the Boxer Protocol.
August: The nationalisation of the railways gives rise to various Railways Recovery movements. Thousands of nationalists, students and local investors rally in defiance of the Qing government.
October 10th: The Wuchang Uprising or ‘Double Tenth Uprising’ breaks out among soldiers in Hubei, sparking other localised revolts. Over the next six weeks, more provinces declare their independence from the Qing regime.
November 1st: The Qing rulers summon Yuan Shikai from retirement and appoint him prime minister. Three days later they pass the ‘Nineteen Articles’, ending autocratic imperial rule.
December 25th: Sun Yixian returns from exile to China.
December 29th: Provincial delegates elect Sun Yixian as provisional president of the newly formed Republic of China.

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