The title was first used use during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).
During the Ming dynasty, the post of zongdu was originally an ad hoc appointment for military inspectors, especially along the northern border. As a temporary appointment, it had no fixed rank within the nine-rank system. It was during the Chenghua era, in 1469, that the Viceroy of Liangguang first became a regular appointment; subsequently the post gained civilian powers too, effectively uniting civil and military control in the provinces.
The Qing dynasty effectively inherited the late Ming system, wherein viceroys combined both military and civilian powers over one or more provinces. While the regularly-appointed Ming viceroys were concentrated on the northern border, against the military threat of the Mongols and Manchus, the Qing dynasty extended the system into China proper as well.
The regional viceroys during the Qing dynasty were:
Chinese historians often rank the Viceroy of Zhili as the most honorable and powerful, and the Viceroy of Liangjiang as the richest of the eight. Certain provinces were not governed by any regional viceroys. These included the provinces of Shanxi, Shandong and Henan.
Besides the regional viceroys, there were also special types of viceroys, such as Viceroy of Southern Rivers and Viceroy of Eastern Rivers, who were in charge of waterways.
The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled China proper from 1644 to 1912. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The Qing multi-cultural empire lasted for almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for modern China. It was the fifth largest empire in world history.
The dynasty was founded by the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria. In the late sixteenth century, Nurhaci, originally a Ming Jianzhou Guard vassal, began organizing "Banners", military-social units that included Manchu, Han, and Mongol elements. Nurhaci formed the Manchu clans into a unified entity. By 1636, his son Hong Taiji began driving Ming forces out of Liaodong and declared a new dynasty, the Qing. In 1644, peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng conquered the Ming capital, Beijing. Rather than serve them, Ming general Wu Sangui made an alliance with the Manchus and opened the Shanhai Pass to the Banner Armies led by the regent Prince Dorgon, who defeated the rebels and seized the capital. Resistance from the Southern Ming and the Revolt of the Three Feudatories led by Wu Sangui delayed the Qing conquest of China proper by nearly four decades. The conquest was only completed in 1683 under the Kangxi Emperor reign (1661–1722). The Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong Emperor from the 1750s to the 1790s extended Qing control into Inner Asia. The early Qing rulers maintained their Manchu customs, and while their title was Emperor, they used "Bogd khaan" when dealing with the Mongols and they were patrons of Tibetan Buddhism. They governed using Confucian styles and institutions of bureaucratic government and retained the imperial examinations to recruit Han Chinese to work under or in parallel with Manchus. They also adapted the ideals of the tributary system in dealing with neighboring territories.
During the Qianlong Emperor reign (1735–1796) the dynasty reached its apogee, but then began its initial decline in prosperity and imperial control. The population rose to some 400 millions, but taxes and government revenues were fixed at a low rate, virtually guaranteeing eventual fiscal crisis. Corruption set in, rebels tested government legitimacy, and ruling elites failed to change their mindsets in the face of changes in the world system. Following the Opium Wars, European powers imposed "unequal treaties", free trade, extraterritoriality and treaty ports under foreign control. The Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864) and the Dungan Revolt (1862–1877) in Central Asia led to the deaths of some 20 million people, most of them due to famines caused by war. In spite of these disasters, in the Tongzhi Restoration of the 1860s, Han Chinese elites rallied to the defense of the Confucian order and the Qing rulers. The initial gains in the Self-Strengthening Movement were destroyed in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895, in which the Qing lost its influence over Korea and the possession of Taiwan. New Armies were organized, but the ambitious Hundred Days' Reform of 1898 was turned back in a coup by the conservative Empress Dowager Cixi. When the Scramble for Concessions by foreign powers triggered the violently anti-foreign "Boxers", the foreign powers invaded China, Cixi declared war on them, leading to defeat and the flight of the Imperial Court to Xi'an.
After agreeing to sign the Boxer Protocol, the government initiated unprecedented fiscal and administrative reforms, including elections, a new legal code, and abolition of the examination system. Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionaries competed with constitutional monarchists such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao to transform the Qing Empire into a modern nation. After the deaths of Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor in 1908, the hardline Manchu court alienated reformers and local elites alike by obstructing social reform. The Wuchang Uprising on 11 October 1911, led to the Xinhai Revolution. General Yuan Shikai negotiated the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor, on 12 February 1912.Viceroy of Huguang
The Viceroy of Huguang, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Hubei and Hunan Provinces and the Surrounding Areas; Overseeing Military Affairs, Food Production; Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional Viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The Viceroy of Huguang had jurisdiction over Hubei and Hunan provinces, which were previously a single province called "Huguang Province" in the Ming dynasty, hence the name "Huguang".Viceroy of Liangguang
The Viceroy of Liangguang or Viceroy of the Two Guangs, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General, Commander and Quartermaster, Supervisor of Waterways, and Inspector-General of the Two Expanses and Surrounding Areas, was one of eight regional Viceroys in China proper during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The two Guangs referred to Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. The areas under the Viceroy's jurisdiction included present-day Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, as well as Hainan Province.Viceroy of Liangjiang
The Viceroy of Liangjiang or Viceroy of the Two Jiangs, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of the Two Yangtze Provinces and Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs, Provisions and Funds, Manager of Waterways, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional Viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The Viceroy of Liangjiang had jurisdiction over Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces. Because Jiangsu and Anhui were previously part of a single province, Jiangnan ("south of the Yangtze"), they were thus known, along with Jiangxi ("west of the Yangtze"), as the two jiangs, hence the name "Liangjiang" ("two Jiangs").Viceroy of Min-Zhe
The Viceroy of Min-Zhe, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Taiwan, Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces and Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Manager of Waterways, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight Viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The "Zhe" refers to Zhejiang Province while "Min" is the abbreviation of Fujian Province. Taiwan was also under the Viceroy's control until after the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.Viceroy of Shaan-Gan
The Viceroy of Shaan-Gan, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces and the Surrounding Areas; Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Manager of Waterways, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The Viceroy of Shaan-Gan had jurisdiction over Shaanxi and Gansu provinces (hence the name "Shaan(xi)-Gan(su)"), as well as western Inner Mongolia.Viceroy of Sichuan
The Viceroy of Sichuan, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Sichuan Province and the Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. As its name suggests, the Viceroy of Sichuan had control over Sichuan (Szechuan) Province, as well as modern Chongqing Municipality, which was split off in 1997.Viceroy of Yun-Gui
The Viceroy of Yun-Gui, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces and the Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The Viceroy controlled Yunnan and Guizhou (Kweichow) provinces.Viceroy of Zhili
The Viceroy of Zhili, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of Zhili and Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Affairs and Food Production, Manager of Waterways, Director of Civil Affairs, was one of eight regional Viceroys in China proper during the Qing dynasty. The Viceroy of Zhili was an important post because the province of Zhili, which literally means "directly ruled", was the area surrounding the imperial capital, Beijing. The administrative centre was in Tianjin even though the provincial capital was in Baoding. The Viceroy's duties as well as responsibilities have never been defined entirely. Generally speaking, the Viceroy oversaw the military and civil affairs of Zhili, Shandong and Henan provinces. The Viceroy of Zhili was also highly influential in imperial court politics.Xiang Army
The Xiang Army or Hunan Army (Chinese: 湘軍; pinyin: Xiāng Jūn) was a standing army organized by Zeng Guofan from existing regional and village militia forces called tuanlian to contain the Taiping Rebellion in Qing China (1850 to 1864). The name is taken from the Hunan region where the Army was raised. The Army was financed through local nobles and gentry, as opposed to through the centralized Manchu-led Qing dynasty. The army was mostly disbanded by Zeng after the re-capture of the Taiping capital at Nanking.
Although it was raised specifically to address problems in Hunan, the Army formed the core of the new Qing military establishment, and as such, forever weakened the Manchu influence within the military. This devolution of centralized command is commonly pointed to as a major reason for the eventual downfall of the Qing and the emergence of regional warlordism in China during the first half of the twentieth century.
The Xiang Army was one of two armies known as the Hunan Army. Another Hunan Army, called the Chu Army, was created by former Xiang commander Zuo Zongtang to fight in the Dungan Revolt (1862–77). Remnants of the Xiang Army which also fought in the war were then called the "Old Hunan Army".