How much did European colonizers know about China, and why didn't Europeans go further inland?

Dec 2015
341
NYC
Mainly 18-20th century China (during the Ming and Qing dynasties). How much did Western Europeans know about the Chinese heartland/hinterland?

As far as I know, most interactions and battles Western European colonizers had with the Chinese dynasties were mainly sea trade or naval battles along Chinas Eastern coast. Europeans never engaged in land battle with the Chinese (maybe except the boxer rebellion, but they only went as far as Beijing and never deeper into somewhere like Xi'an, and also, aside from losses that Chinese had, particularly with the British (they won against naval battles with the Portuguese and Dutch though) at sea, they won against Europeans on land). And also, trading with China was mainly along the eastern coasts and along the Yangtze. Even Europeans set their spheres of influence mainly on coastal areas and along the Yangtze (as far as I know, no spheres of influence around the Huang He). Why didn't Europeans set their spheres of influence further into the Chinese heartland? How much did European know of inner China and how much European influence reached further into China?
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,147
Canary Islands-Spain
In the period 1895-1898, European powers split China in spheres of influence. They didn't restrict their trade posts to the coast, but entered deeply into the country



By 1900, Europeans had a perfect knowledge of Chinese geography, its demography and economic resources. There had been extensive trade and missionary activities for more than a century. As far back as 1801, the British had this kind of map

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/1801_Cary_Map_of_China_and_Korea_-_Geographicus_-_China-cary-1801.jpg
 
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Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,147
Canary Islands-Spain
Also it is important to remember the events of the Second Opium War

In 1860, an Anglo-French force landed in Tianjin and proceed toward Beijing. The Qing army faced the Europeans in open battle, and this resulted in the total defeat of the Imperial army in a face to face encounter. In a very famous event, the invaders seized Beijing and destroyed Emperor's summer palaces when he fled the area
 
Dec 2015
341
NYC
In the period 1895-1898, European powers split China in spheres of influence. They didn't restrict their trade posts to the coast, but entered deeply into the country



By 1900, Europeans had a perfect knowledge of Chinese geography, its demography and economic resources. There had been extensive trade and missionary activities for more than a century. As far back as 1801, the British had this kind of map

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/1801_Cary_Map_of_China_and_Korea_-_Geographicus_-_China-cary-1801.jpg
hmm, I did mention that the British did set up ports in the interior, but mainly along the Yangtze (the sphere of influence they had on Tibet was mainly the extreme southern part). They also set up ports in the Southeastern coastal parts. The Russians also had a sphere of influence in Manchuria (though not in Xinjiang despite the map showing as such. Russians and the Qing did get into border skirmishes around the Northwest border of China, but there was never a sphere of influence around that area) as well and the French had some in the far south (they did lose to the Chinese in a land battle, such as the Battle of Bang Bo), but those are about as far inland as the Europeans went. They never went deep into the Chinese heartland (by which I mean the area in and around the lower Yellow River in what is now Henan and Shaanxi) or as deep as Qinghai, Gansu.

Also, all the missionary work was restricted to the Eastern areas, but never reached inland:


The areas shown in black show that missionaries never went into these areas.
 
Dec 2015
341
NYC
Also it is important to remember the events of the Second Opium War

In 1860, an Anglo-French force landed in Tianjin and proceed toward Beijing. The Qing army faced the Europeans in open battle, and this resulted in the total defeat of the Imperial army in a face to face encounter. In a very famous event, the invaders seized Beijing and destroyed Emperor's summer palaces when he fled the area
I did mention this when I mentioned the Boxer Rebellion, but that's about as far inland as they went (and Tianjian is not far from the coast). They never went deeper into the heartland and failed to pursue the Empress when she fled to Xi'an.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,147
Canary Islands-Spain
I did mention this when I mentioned the Boxer Rebellion, but that's about as far inland as they went (and Tianjian is not far from the coast). They never went deeper into the heartland and failed to pursue the Empress when she fled to Xi'an.
No you didn't, you refered the Boxer rebellion which was a different conflict

Also you failed to notice the Europeans beat the Imperial army in open battle, on land. So your hypothesis is wrong: the cause of Europeans didn't go mucho inland during wars with China was not tactical, but strategical

Don't think missionaries just visited this eastern areas. Catholic missionaries visited the northern and western regions since the 17th century
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,498
They defeated the Chinese Army in the 19th century. It might not have been so easy in the 17th century. There were much easier pickings for the colonial powers.

The Portuguese governed Macau for 400+ years, officially paying tribute to the Emperor. The British acquired Hong Kong on a 99 year lease. It was probably easier to take small coastal areas than take on a huge army and then try to govern a huge territory.
 
Dec 2015
341
NYC
No you didn't, you refered the Boxer rebellion which was a different conflict
I did actually (" boxer rebellion, but they only went as far as Beijing and never deeper into somewhere like Xi'an "). The Anglo-French forces landing in Tianjian was technically part of the boxer rebellion

Also you failed to notice the Europeans beat the Imperial army in open battle, on land. So your hypothesis is wrong: the cause of Europeans didn't go mucho inland during wars with China was not tactical, but strategical
It was an alliance of eight nations that defeated the Qing army during the boxer rebellion, but only at a time when there was an uprising and when the Qing was severely crippled and its military in shambles. But on land, the Qing did win a couple of land battles with both the French (near the border of Vietnam) and the Russians (near the border of Xinjiang). And the alliance never bothered pursuing the Empress Cixi when she and the imperial court fled to Xi'an

Don't think missionaries just visited this eastern areas. Catholic missionaries visited the northern and western regions since the 17th century
The main missionary activities were in major cities around the eastern coastal cities and in cities in and around the Yangtze, and conversions were mainly taking place in those areas. Aside from helping disaster struck places around the lower Yellow River, there were hardly any missionary activities or conversions around those areas and virtually none as far as Qinghai and Xinjiang.
 
Dec 2015
341
NYC
They defeated the Chinese Army in the 19th century. It might not have been so easy in the 17th century. There were much easier pickings for the colonial powers.

The Portuguese governed Macau for 400+ years, officially paying tribute to the Emperor. The British acquired Hong Kong on a 99 year lease. It was probably easier to take small coastal areas than take on a huge army and then try to govern a huge territory.
It was easier for European colonizers to just tell the Emperor what to do, but even that didn't work and led to more rebellions.
 
Dec 2015
341
NYC
They defeated the Chinese Army in the 19th century. It might not have been so easy in the 17th century. There were much easier pickings for the colonial powers.

The Portuguese governed Macau for 400+ years, officially paying tribute to the Emperor. The British acquired Hong Kong on a 99 year lease. It was probably easier to take small coastal areas than take on a huge army and then try to govern a huge territory.
Also wanted to add.

Indeed. During the Ming dynasty, they won many naval battles with the portuguese and Dutch and and a couple of land battles with the Russians near the borders of Xinjiang and Manchuria.

But by the Qing dynasty, aside from a couple of wins on land (though many they lost), they lost a lot of naval battles with the British and French.

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