Emperor Qianlong: Son of Heaven, Man of the World

Prentice Hall
Mark Elliott / Peter N. Stearns  
Total pages
April 2009
Related Titles


This new entry in the Longman Library of World Biography series offers an intimate and provocative account of the Manchu emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), one of the world’s great empire-builders, who helped build the foundation of the modern Chinese nation.


During the 64 years of Qianlong’s rule, China’s population more than doubled, its territory increased by one-third, its cities flourished, and its manufactures — tea, silk, porcelain — were principal items of international commerce. Based on original Chinese and Manchu-language sources, and drawing on the latest scholarship, this is the  biography of the man who, in presiding over imperial China’s last golden epoch, created the geographic and demographic framework of modern China.


This accessible account describes the personal struggles and public drama surrounding one of the major political figures of the early modern age, with special consideration given to the emperor’s efforts to rise above ethnic divisions and to encompass the political and religious traditions of Han Chinese, Mongols, Tibetans, Turks, and other peoples of his realm.


In addition to becoming familiar with one of the most remarkable figures in world history, readers will find that learning about Emperor Qianlong will add greatly to their appreciation of China’s place in the world of the eighteenth century and will deepen their understanding of China’s place in the world today.



  • The book contains extensive quotations from original Chinese and Manchu sources. No other textbook touching on the Qing period draws on both.
  • The text will help students understand the empire through the eyes of the Chinese and through the Manchu masters.
  • Each chapter consists of a larger thematic narrative supported by smaller episodes and anecdotes from the emperor’s personal life, making the book readable while also connecting the individual man with his empire’s history.
  • The book is ideal even for students who only have a general idea of Chinese history – information concerning geography and the pronunciation of names and places is carefully provided.

Table of Contents

Author’s Preface

List of Maps and Illustrations

Chapter 1. Emperor in the Making

Chapter 2. Qianlong Takes Charge

Chapter 3. Family, Ritual, and Dynastic Rule

Chapter 4. The Dilemma of Manchu Success

Chapter 5. The Peripatetic Sovereign

Chapter 6. Building the Empire

Chapter 7. Renaissance Man

Chapter 8. Qing China and the World

Chapter 9. Order and Decline in the Late Qianlong Era

Conclusion. Son of Heaven, Man of the World

Glossary/Pronunciation Key

Timeline of the Qianlong Era

Note on Sources



Mark C. Elliott is the Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History in the Department of East Asian Langauges and Civilizations at Harvard University. Professor Elliott's interest in East Asia began at Yale, where he earned his BA (History, 1981) and MA (East Asian Studies, 1983). After several years of study and archival research in Taiwan, the PRC, and Japan, he earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1993, specializing in the history of the last imperial dynasty, the Qing. A leading figure in what is sometimes called the 'New Qing History,' he is among the very few historians in the United States trained in the use of Manchu-language sources, upon which his first book, The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnicity in Late Imperial China (Stanford, 2001) is largely based. He is currently at work on a new book examining the connections between the Manchu empire and modern China.

Reader Review(s)

Wall Street Journal review - June 19, 2009