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 Chinese tributary system in dealing with neighboring territories.
Nurhaci declared himself the "Bright Khan" of the Later Jin (lit. "gold") state in honor both of the 12th–13th century JurchenJin dynasty and of his Aisin Gioro clan (Aisin being Manchu for the Chinese 金 (jīn, "gold")). His son Hong Taiji renamed the dynasty Great Qing in 1636. There are competing explanations on the meaning of Qīng (lit. "clear" or "pure"). The name may have been selected in reaction to the name of the Ming dynasty (明), which consists of the Chinese characters for "sun" (日) and "moon" (月), both associated with the fire element of the Chinese zodiacal system. The character Qīng (清) is composed of "water" (氵) and "azure" (青), both associated with the water element. This association would justify the Qing conquest as defeat of fire by water. The water imagery of the new name may also have had Buddhist overtones of perspicacity and enlightenment and connections with the Bodhisattva Manjusri. The Manchu name daicing, which sounds like a phonetic rendering of Dà Qīng or Dai Ching, may in fact have been derived from a Mongolian word "ᠳᠠᠢᠢᠴᠢᠨ, дайчин" that means "warrior". Daicing gurun may therefore have meant "warrior state", a pun that was only intelligible to Manchu and Mongol people. In the later part of the dynasty, however, even the Manchus themselves had forgotten this possible meaning.
The chapter China (中國) in a Chinese, Manchu, and Mongolian languages (trilingual) textbook published during the Qing dynasty; the passage displayed above reads: "Our country China is located in East Asia ... For 5000 years, culture flourished (in the land of China) ... Since we are Chinese, how can we not love China."
After conquering "China proper", the Manchus identified their state as "China" (中國, Zhōngguó; "Middle Kingdom"), and referred to it as Dulimbai Gurun in Manchu (Dulimbai means "central" or "middle," gurun means "nation" or "state"). The emperors equated the lands of the Qing state (including present-day Northeast China, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas) as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi-ethnic state, and rejecting the idea that "China" only meant Han areas. The Qing emperors proclaimed that both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China". They used both "China" and "Qing" to refer to their state in official documents, international treaties (as the Qing was known internationally as "China" or the "Chinese Empire") and foreign affairs, and "Chinese language" (Manchu: ᡩᡠᠯᡳᠮᠪᠠᡳ ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ ᡳ ᠪᡝᡳᡨᡥᡝDulimbai gurun i bithe) included Chinese, Manchu, and Mongol languages, and "Chinese people" (中國之人 Zhōngguó zhī rén; Manchu: Dulimbai gurun i niyalma) referred to all subjects of the empire. In the Chinese-language versions of its treaties and its maps of the world, the Qing government used "Qing" and "China" interchangeably. The dynasty was sometimes referred to as the "Manchu dynasty" or "Pure dynasty" in foreign-language sources.