In the last decades, new attention has been given to colonialism as a concept that can also be applied to non-Western empires. In particular, colonialism has been used to describe the diverse systems of conquest rule applied by the Manchu Qing dynasty (1636/1644–1912) in Inner Asia and South China.
This essay provides a conceptual history of how colonialism has been applied in the historiography of non-Western empires, using the Qing empire as a case study. Scholarly works in which Qing rule is conceptualized as colonial are read critically, in tandem with current under- standings of global and Qing history as well as of colonial and postcolonial theory and empire studies. Finally, this essay discusses whether the concept of colonialism can be used meaning- fully to analyze Qing rule and puts this discussion in relation to a general debate on the spatiality and temporality of colonialism studies and postcolonial theory.