The Zongli Yamen (traditional Chinese :總理衙門; simplified Chinese :总理衙门; pinyin :Zǒnglǐ Yámén; Wade–Giles :Tsung3-li3 Ya2-men2), short for Office for the General Management of Affairs Concerning the Various Countries (总理各国事务衙门), also known as Prime Minister's Office, Office of General Management, was the government body in charge of foreign policy in imperial China during the late Qing dynasty. It was established by Prince Gong on 11 March 1861 after the Convention of Beijing. It was abolished by the Qing government in 1901 and replaced with a Foreign Office of ministry rank.
The former site of the Zongli Yamen is now located in Dongtangzi Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing. Nearly all the buildings are preserved in good condition.
Zongli Yamen is a traditional abbreviation of the official name (總理各國事務衙門; 总理各国事務衙门; Zǒnglǐ Gèguó Shìwù Yámén), literally meaning "Office in Charge of Affairs Concerning All Nations”.The corresponding name in Manchu, the other official language of the Qing Empire, was Geren gurun i baita be uherileme icihiyara yamun. ( ) A common misconception is that the Zongli Yamen's name means the "Premier's Office". This arose because the term zongli (总理) is now used in Chinese to refer to the Premier or Prime Minister of a country. In fact, the name Zongli Yamen is an abbreviation of its full name, which makes it the bona fide office of foreign affairs. In contemporary English sources, it was also called the "Board of Ministers for Foreign Affairs"
Prior to the creation of the Zongli Yamen, Qing foreign relations were conducted by several different agencies, such as the Ministry of Rites and the Lifan Yuan. The Zongli Yamen was the first significant institutional innovation in the central Beijing bureaucracy that the Qing government had made since the Yongzheng Emperor created the nucleus of the Grand Council in 1729. The Zongli Yamen was supervised by a controlling board of five senior officials (initially all Manchus), among whom Prince Gong was the de facto leader. In their discussions on establishing the new agency, Qing officials reiterated that it was only to be a temporary institution, maintained until the current foreign and domestic crisis had passed. The Zongli Yamen had a relatively low formal status in the Qing administrative hierarchy and its members served concurrently in other government agencies, which further weakened its position. Furthermore, the Zongli Yamen was not the sole policy making body in foreign affairs, a prerogative which still rested in the hands of the emperor. While the Zongli Yamen remained an important body for a few decades after its foundation, its influence was soon overshadowed by influential officials such as Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang. Nevertheless, it became the means of communication between the Qing government and the foreign ministers to China in Beijing's legation quarter.
The successor to the Bureau of Translators, the Tongwen Guan was set up by the Qing dynasty for translating western languages and subordinated to the Zongli Yamen instead of the Hanlin.
In 1873, the Zongli Yamen got into a quarrel with the foreign ministers to China over the protocol that was to be followed at their audience with the Tongzhi Emperor, as the foreign ministers not surprisingly refused to perform the ritual kowtow to the emperor, with an impasse eventually being solved thanks in part to the Japanese ambassador to China, Soejima Taneomi. Similar protocol would be followed in 1891 with the ministers' audience with the Guangxu Emperor.
Following the Boxer rebellion, the Qing government was forced to change its foreign service. According to Article XII in the Boxer Protocol 1901, the Zongli Yamen was replaced with a Foreign Office, known at the time as the Waiwubu (外務部; Wàiwùbù; 'External Affairs Department'), which ranked above the other six boards in the government; "as the course of subsequent events made clear, the Waiwubu was as ineffective in the establishment of good relations between China and the outside world as the Zongli Yamen had been."
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.
Hešeri, is a clan of Manchu nobility with Jianzhou Jurchens roots, originally hailing from the area which is now the modern Chinese provinces of Jilin and Liaoning. It was once one of the most important and powerful noble families in the early Qing dynasty in China, second only to the royal House of Aisin Gioro, to whom they were closely related by marriage. The power of the family reached its zenith in the period of Duke Hešeri Sonin and his third son Lord Hešeri Songgotu. Although its influence declined following Songgotu's death, clan Hešeri continued to be the hereditary nobility and play a role in Chinese politics until the demise of the Qing dynasty in early 1912.
A yamen was the administrative office or residence of a local bureaucrat or mandarin in imperial China. A yamen can also be any governmental office or body headed by a mandarin, at any level of government: the offices of one of the Six Ministries is a yamen, but so is a prefectural magistracy. The term has been widely used in China for centuries, but appeared in English during the Qing dynasty.
The Boxer Protocol was signed on September 7, 1901, between the Qing Empire of China and the Eight-Nation Alliance that had provided military forces ; after China's defeat in the intervention to put down the Boxer Rebellion. It is often regarded as one of the Unequal Treaties.
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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.
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