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Qianlong era used to be called a golden age of China. But now we Chinese people have a more objective view of this period, we know it was NOT a golden age of China, as one of a famous scholars 张宏杰 put it,

乾隆盛世是饥饿的盛世,光鲜的外表却掩盖不了内在的腐烂。乾隆时代给中华民族精神上造成的永久性创伤,远大于这一时的成就。乾隆王朝是中国历史上最缜密、最完善、最牢固也最残忍的专制统治,乾隆时代培养出来的民众只能做奴隶,自私、麻木、愚昧、冷漠、对公共事务毫不关心;乾隆制造了中国历史上最大规模的文字狱,彻底打断了士人的脊骨,从此清朝的知识分子再也没能站起来;乾隆时代的中国人是做稳了的奴隶,只许有胃肠,不许有头脑,因为只有这样,大清江山才能亿万斯年。乾隆之后的满清从此一蹶不振,正是乾隆亲手种下了日后百年耻辱的种子。

I am trying my best to translate those words,

The Qianlong Golden Age was a time of prosperity on the surface, but its bright exterior was unable to mask the internal decay. It was a time marked by hunger and struggle. The permanent spiritual trauma inflicted upon the Chinese nation during the Qianlong era far surpassed its temporary accomplishments. The Qianlong dynasty was the most meticulous and cruel autocratic rule in Chinese history. The people cultivated during the Qianlong era could only serve as his most loyal and obedient servants, selfish, numb, ignorant, apathetic, and utterly disinterested in public affairs. Qianlong orchestrated the largest literary inquisition in Chinese history, completely breaking the backbone of its people. From then on, the people of the Qing dynasty never stood up again. The Chinese people of the Qianlong era were well-trained slaves, allowed to have stomachs but not minds, for only in this way could the Qing dynasty last forever. After Qianlong, the Manchu Qing dynasty went into decline, it was Qianlong himself who sowed the seeds of a century-long humiliation to come.

Or using Lord Macartney's words in Macartney's Journal of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China,

Since the conquest of the North or the Manchurian Tatars, at least in the past 150 years, there has been no improvement, no advancement, but only backwardness; when we advance in the arts and sciences every day, they are actually becoming semi-barbarian.

Or Macartney's companion Sir John Barrow's comments in his book "Travel in China",

While they are by nature quiet, passive, and timid, the state of society and the abuse of the laws by which they are governed, have rendered them indifferent, unfeeling, and even cruel.

...

It is sufficiently evident, that the heavy hand of power has completely overcome and moulded to its own shape the physical character of the people, and that their moral sentiments and actions are swayed by the opinions, and almost under the entire dominion, of the government.

I was wondering is there any modern research/publication in English about Qianlong Emperor's brutal regime ?

BTW, I need to emphasize that I consider myself an expert of Qing dynasty and as a native Chinese, I am reading those words and the books with only admiration for them.

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  • Voting to close as we don't really do reference requests here and a Google Scholar search for "qianglong emperor" shows endless results.
    – Brian Z
    May 13 at 14:00
  • If folks here all agree to close it I will delete my question. Based on your comment I think I can safely draw the conclusion that you know little about this history. May 13 at 14:39
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    Personally I think "Has there been any work on this topic?" is different from "What are some good books about this topic?", and is theoretically more objectively answerable. I'd understand if other users don't feel that way though.
    – T.E.D.
    May 13 at 15:15
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    That many of China's problems in the 19th century have their roots in the 18th century is something like introductory level common sense? Have you read a bit through the wp article on Qianlong for a first idea? WP is usually not very good at providing context and the sources may not all be great, but it might be a start.
    – Jan
    May 13 at 18:51
  • @Jan I want to know if there any research/publication about the dark side of Qianlong era. I don't need general/introduction material. I have read enough Chinese material (at least I think ) and I would like know if there any English material. So I asked the question. May 14 at 8:12

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