|Banli Junji Shiwu Chu|
|Literal meaning||Office for the Handling of Confidential Military Affairs|
The Grand Council or Junji Chu (Chinese :軍機處; Manchu: coohai nashūn i ba; literally, "Office of Military Secrets"), officially the Banli Junji Shiwu Chu (Chinese :辦理軍機事務處; "Office for the Handling of Confidential Military Affairs"), was an important policy-making body of China during the Qing dynasty. It was established in 1733 by the Yongzheng Emperor. The council was originally in charge of military affairs, but gradually attained a more important role and eventually attained the role of a privy council, eclipsing the Grand Secretariat in function and importance, which is why it has become known as the "Grand Council" in English.
Despite its important role in the government, the Grand Council remained an informal policy making body in the inner court and its members held other concurrent posts in the Qing civil service. Originally, most of the officials serving in the Grand Council were Manchus, but gradually Han Chinese officials were admitted into the ranks of the council. One of the earliest Han Chinese officials to serve in the council was Zhang Tingyu. The chancellery was housed in an insignificant building just west of the gate to Palace of Heavenly Purity in the Forbidden City.
In the early Qing dynasty, political power was held by the Council of Princes and High Officials (議政王大臣會議), which consisted of eight imperial princes who served as imperial advisers at the same time. It also included a few Manchu officials. Established in 1637, the council was responsible for deciding major policies of the Qing government. Decisions of the council had precedence over decisions of the Grant Secretariat, the imperial cabinet. Under rules set by Nurhaci, the Council even had the power to depose the Emperor. In 1643, the Shunzhi Emperor expanded the council's composition to Han Chinese officials, with its mandate expanded to all important decisions relating to the Qing Empire. The council's powers gradually waned after the establishment of the Southern Study and the Grand Council, and it was abolished in 1717.
The Southern Study (Chinese :南書房; pinyin :Nánshūfáng; Manchu: Julergi bithei boo) was an institution that held the highest policy-making power after its establishment in 1677. It was abolished in 1898. The Southern Study was built by the Kangxi Emperor in the southwestern corner of the Palace of Heavenly Purity. Members of the Hanlin Academy, selected based on literary merit, were posted to the Study so that the Emperor had easy access to them when he sought counsel or discussion. When posted to the Study, officials were known as "[having] access to the Southern Study" (南書房行走). Because of their proximity to the Emperor, official posted to the Study became highly influential to the Emperor. After the establishment of the Grand Council, the Southern Study remained an important institution but lost its policy advisory role. Officials regarded secondment to the Southern Study as an honourable recognition of their literary achievements. In Chinese, the term "access to the Southern Study" in modern usage indicates a person who, through channels other than formal government office, has significant influence over leaders of the government.
In 1729, the Yongzheng Emperor launched a military offensive against the Dzungar Khanate. Concerns were raised that the meeting location of the Grand Secretariat (outside the Gate of Supreme Harmony) did not ensure security for military secrets. The Junjichu was then established in the Inner Court of the Forbidden City. Trustworthy members of Cabinet staff were then seconded to work in the new Office.After defeating the Dzungars, the Yongzheng Emperor found that the streamlined operations of the Office of Military Secrets avoided problems with bureaucratic inefficiency. As a result, the Junjichu turned from a temporary institution into a "Grand Council" in 1732, quickly outstripping the powers of the Council of Advisor Princes, and the Southern Study, to become the chief policy-making body of the Qing Empire.
In 1735, the Yongzheng Emperor died and was succeeded by his son, the Qianlong Emperor. Shortly before his death, the Yongzheng Emperor established an interim council to assist his son.The Interim Council soon consolidated many of the "Inner Court" agencies of the Yongzheng era, and expanded its power. Three years later, in 1738, the Interim Council disbanded and the Grand Council was reconstituted.
During the Qianlong Emperor's reign, the Grand Council had many duties. Some of them included more mundane duties such as keeping track of paperwork and planning events, such as entertainments for the imperial court and transportation of the Emperor. Other duties were more tied to state administration, such as drafting edicts, and advising the Emperor on various policies and problems. Its proximity to the Emperor and inner court, secrecy and unofficial status allowed it to expand and sustained its central role in state administration, and also freed it from some of the constraints of many of the outer-court agencies.
In 1796, the Qianlong Emperor abdicated in favor of his son, the Jiaqing Emperor. Upon his father's death three years later, in 1799, the Jiaqing Emperor, along with purging his father's favorite, Heshen, who had served on the Grand Council since 1776, introduced numerous reforms to the Grand Council, including a reduction of the numbers of grand councilors, the introduction of administrative punishments for grand councilors, and the regulation of Grand Council clerk appointments by imperial audiences.
During the regencies of the empress dowagers Ci'an and Cixi, the Grand Council took on many of the decision-making duties, particularly as the two women were novices in affairs of state. Soon after the two women became regents for the Tongzhi Emperor in 1861, edicts went out detailing how state papers and affairs were to be dealt with, with many of the policies being decided by the Grand Council. Papers were to be first sent to the empress dowagers, who would refer them back to the Prince-Regent, Prince Gong, who oversaw the Grand Council. The Grand Council would then discuss the issue and seek the discretion of the empress dowagers and draft up orders accordingly, with edict drafts having to be approved by the empress dowagers. Such a configuration would lead Zeng Guofan to remark after an audience in 1869 that "the state of affairs hinged entirely on the Grand Councillors....whose power surpassed that of the imperial master." This configuration survived the regency for the Tongzhi Emperor and lasted into the regency of the Guangxu Emperor.
After the Guangxu Emperor formally took over the reins of power from his regent, Empress Dowager Cixi, both the Grand Council and the Emperor often sought the advice of the Empress Dowager, who was kept informed of state affairs. In fact, in 1894, with the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894, copies of memoranda from the Grand Council were sent both to the Guangxu Emperor and Empress Dowager Cixi,which was practiced until 1898, at which point the Empress Dowager resumed her "tutelage" of the Guangxu Emperor. From that time until the nearly simultaneous deaths of Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor a decade later, they jointly received the Grand Council at audiences.
With the deaths of Empress Dowager Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor in 1908, Puyi, Guangxu's nephew, succeeded to the throne. Eventually, in May 1911, Puyi's father, Prince Chun, who was Prince-Regent, abolished the Grand Council favoring an "Imperial Cabinet". Yikuang, the Prime Minister at the time, founded the first Imperial Cabinet in 1911. The Qing dynasty, despite this concession to those calling for reform, collapsed not long after.
The number of officials comprising the Council varied from time to time, from as few as three to as many as ten. Usually, the number of officials serving in the council was five, two Manchus, two Han Chinese and one Prince of the First Rank, who acted as the council's president. The most senior among them was called the Chief Councillor (Chinese :領班軍機大臣; pinyin :lǐngbān jūnjī dàchén), but this was simply a working designation and was not an official title.
Empress Dowager Cixi was a Chinese empress dowager and regent who was the de facto supreme ruler of China in the late Qing dynasty for 47 years, from 1861 until her death in 1908. Of the Manchu Yehe Nara clan, she was elected as a concubine of the Xianfeng Emperor in her adolescence and gave birth to a son, Zaichun, in 1856. After the Xianfeng Emperor's death in 1861, the young boy became the Tongzhi Emperor, and she became the Empress Dowager. Cixi ousted a group of regents appointed by the late emperor and assumed regency, which she shared with Empress Dowager Ci'an. Cixi then consolidated control over the dynasty when she installed her nephew as the Guangxu Emperor at the death of the Tongzhi Emperor in 1875, contrary to the traditional rules of succession of the Qing dynasty that had ruled China since 1644.
The Guangxu Emperor, personal name Zaitian, was the tenth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, without Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898. He initiated the Hundred Days' Reform, but was abruptly stopped when the empress dowager launched a coup in 1898, after which he became powerless and was held under house arrest until his death. His era name, "Guangxu", means "glorious succession".
The Yongzheng Emperor, born Yinzhen, was the fourth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the third Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigned from 1722 to 1735. A hard-working ruler, the Yongzheng Emperor's main goal was to create an effective government at minimal expense. Like his father, the Kangxi Emperor, the Yongzheng Emperor used military force to preserve the dynasty's position.
Empress Xiaozhenxian, of the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner Niohuru clan, was a posthumous name bestowed to the wife and empress consort of Yizhu, the Xianfeng Emperor. She was Empress consort of Qing from 1852 until her husband's death in 1861, after which she was honoured as Empress Dowager Ci'an.
Yixin, better known in English as Prince Kung or Gong, was an imperial prince of the Aisin Gioro clan and an important statesman of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty in China. He was a regent of the empire from 1861 to 1865 and wielded great influence at other times as well.
The Niohuru were a prominent Manchu clan during the Qing dynasty. The clan had inhabited the Changbai Mountains since as early as the Liao dynasty. The clan was well known during the Qing dynasty for producing a variety of consorts of all ranks for emperors, several of whom went on to become mothers to reigning emperors. Prominent people who belonged or trace heritage to the Niohuru clan including famed Manchu warrior Eidu, his son the high official Ebilun, the Empress Dowager Ci'an, the infamous corrupt official Heshen, and the contemporary concert pianist Lang Lang.
Yixuan, formally known as Prince Chun, was an imperial prince of the Aisin Gioro clan and a statesman of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty in China. He was the father of the Guangxu Emperor, and the paternal grandfather of Puyi through his fifth son Zaifeng.
Zaifeng, formally known by his title Prince Chun, was a Manchu prince and regent of the late Qing dynasty. He was a son of Yixuan, the seventh son of the Daoguang Emperor, and the father of Puyi, the Last Emperor. He served as Prince-Regent from 1908 to 1911 during the reign of his son until the Qing dynasty was overthrown by the Xinhai Revolution in 1911.
Yikuang, formally known as Prince Qing, was a Manchu noble and politician of the Qing dynasty. He served as the first Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet, an office created in May 1911 to replace the Grand Council.
Jingfen, of the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner Yehe Nara clan, was the wife and empress consort of Zaitian, the Guangxu Emperor. She was Empress consort of Qing from 1889 until her husband's death in 1908, after which she was honoured as Empress Dowager Longyu. She was posthumously honoured with the title Empress Xiaodingjing.
Imperial Noble Consort Keshun, of the Manchu Bordered Red Banner Tatara clan, was a consort of the Guangxu Emperor. She was five years his junior. She was known as to foreigners as the Pearl Concubine. Legend has it that she was drowned in a well on the orders of Empress Dowager Cixi.
Ronglu, courtesy name Zhonghua, was a Manchu political and military leader of the late Qing dynasty. He was born in the Guwalgiya clan, which was under the Plain White Banner of the Manchu Eight Banners. Deeply favoured by Empress Dowager Cixi, he served in a number of important civil and military positions in the Qing government, including the Zongli Yamen, Grand Council, Grand Secretary, Viceroy of Zhili, Beiyang Trade Minister, Secretary of Defence, Nine Gates Infantry Commander, and Wuwei Corps Commander. He was also the maternal grandfather of Puyi, the last Emperor of China and the Qing dynasty.
Weng Tonghe, courtesy name Shuping (叔平), was a Chinese Confucian scholar and imperial tutor who lived in the Qing dynasty. In 1856, he obtained the position of zhuangyuan in the imperial examination and was subsequently admitted to the prestigious Hanlin Academy.
The Eastern Qing tombs are an imperial mausoleum complex of the Qing dynasty located in Zunhua, 125 kilometres (78 mi) northeast of Beijing. They are the largest, most complete, and best preserved extant mausoleum complex in China. Altogether, five emperors, 15 empresses, 136 imperial concubines, three princes, and two princesses of the Qing dynasty are buried here. Surrounded by Changrui Mountain, Jinxing Mountain, Huanghua Mountain, and Yingfei Daoyang Mountain, the tomb complex stretches over a total area of 80 square kilometres (31 sq mi).
The Hall of Mental Cultivation is a building in the inner courtyard of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.
Zaiyi, better known by his title Prince Duan, was a Manchu prince and statesman of the late Qing dynasty. He is best known as one of the leaders of the Boxer Rebellion of 1899–1901.
Sigh of His Highness is a Chinese historical television series based on the life of Prince Gong, an influential Manchu prince and statesman of the late Qing dynasty. The series was directed by Li Wenlong and starred Chen Baoguo as Prince Gong. It was first broadcast on Sichuan TV in China in 2006.
The Deliberative Council of Princes and Ministers, also known as the Council of Princes and High Officials and Assembly of Princes and High Officials, or simply as the Deliberative Council, was an advisory body for the emperors of the early Qing dynasty (1636–1912). Derived from informal deliberative groups created by Nurhaci (1559–1626) in the 1610s and early 1620s, the Council was formally established by his son and successor Hong Taiji (1592–1643) in 1626 and expanded in 1637. Staffed mainly by Manchu dignitaries, this aristocratic institution served as the chief source of advice on military matters for Hong Taiji and the Shunzhi and Kangxi emperors. It was particularly powerful during the regencies of Dorgon (1643–1650) and Oboi (1661–1669), who used it to enhance their personal influence.