The Taiping Rebellion was a bloody civil war in China which took place in the 19th century being led by Hong Xiuquan against the Qing’s government. Xiuquan was a Christian convert who supposedly had a vision of God who asked him to wipe out the idols in the land. He claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus and part of his quest was to convert many to the Christian faith and establish a kingdom of peace. This paper will endeavor to discuss the causes, challenges and the outcome of the rebellion highlighting also its adverse effect to China as a whole.
Hoing Xiuquan was born in 1813 to a farming family in Guangdong province. Xiuquan had two sisters and also two elderly brothers. He joined school at the age of seven where he learnt Chinese characters through the act of memorization. His teacher was called Ting-jin who apparently had not even qualified in civil exams (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 12)
Xiuquan dropped from school at the age due to lack of funds but due to his diligence and eminent desire to study, his relatives assisted him to resume studies with a local master. Four degrees were available at that time but in all, very few managed to pass them. Xiuquan time came for the test, but like many he too failed the test.
He married after the first test and in1833, he went back to try the test but again, he also failed. He later on met a native evangelist, Liang Afah who gave him religious track which after having read them, he shelved for about ten year probably because most of the religious ideologies and terms were hard to understand (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 18).
In 1836, Xiuquan again attempted and again failed the tests but after these tests, he got a fever and no doctor could help him out and later on he fell into a comma. It was at this time that Xiuquan received his vision. In his vision, he saw a very large procession coming with music and banners, he was ushered into a palace and in the palace, an ancient surgeon Chin- Kwei removed his heart and after this, Xiuquan was allowed to appear before the lord of the palace who appeared as an old man venerable in years. He told him that all humanity is sustained by him but they continue to rebel against him and even use his gifts in worship for demon; he was then cautioned not to imitate them. The master of the palace also gave Xiuquan a sword with which to fight the demons. As Xiuquan left the palace, he was escorted by a middle aged man whom he later on referred to as Jesus who was a brother to him. When his vision ended, he woke shouting “tsan jan” (slay the demons) many villagers knew as the mad man. It took another forty days for his health to be restored henceforth he proceeded to convert millions that were deep into slavery (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 25)
One day, Li one of his relative found the books that Xiuquan had been given by the Christian missionary which he had shelved ten years ago. Li requested for permission to read them and in the long run, Li’s interest in these books prompted Xiuquan to revisit reading these books. This time round the content was not as hard to understand as the first time. However, what fascinated Xiuquan was the interrelation between these books and the vision he had.
Xiuquan understood the old man venerable in years to God and His escort to be Jesus and the demons were the idols which his fellow countrymen worshiped. He immediately confisticated the idols in the classroom and also encouraged his fellow student to the same. He then took a jar of water and baptized himself for purification and together with his family became converted (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 26). Ever since that time Xiuquan embarked on travelling to different lands preaching the gospel. He however, seemed to misinterpret the old testament assuming that God chosen race meant China and he therefore made two sword with inscription “demon exterminating swords” wanting to play the role of Joshua (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 27).
Preaching became a costly exercise but starvation and lack of money did not deter him. He travelled to many place doing missionary work and became very successful in converting people to Christianity. Many people perceived him to be immortal send to them to give them the new doctrine. People even began to listen to words of the missionary that had given Xiuquan the articles and many who had been hard hearted became converted many believe of the torments of hell.
The reasons why Taiping Rebellion took place
As Xiuquan continued to make progress selling his ideas of Christianity, he always had a secret idea in mind which he shared with nobody else other than Hung- Jin. Hung- Jin believed that God had separated all nations assigning boundaries to them and therefore failed to understand why the Manchus who had forcibly entered china and robbed them of their properties. At that time, the Manchu had in china and had secured for themselves the best estates and the principal positions in the military. The Manchus were descendants of Tungu Junchen people who founded the Jin dynasty which was founded by Jurchen. He formed a strong neutral army which occupied the North east territory. His army comprised of Chinese and Mongols. They conquered Beijing but also proceeded to take over the rest of China. The Manchu ruled China making use of Chinese countrymen especially those who had take part in the governance of the Ming dynasty. They relived the Chinese peasants from slavery and set very low taxes for them. It was also possible for any Chinese in any social background to attain the prestigious Qing official hierarchy through state examination which Xiuquan had kept on attempting to pass (“Chinese History – Qing Dynasty,” par. 1)
He therefore felt that he had the duty to secure Chinese boundaries and to teach nation to mind their own properties without robbing each other. These thoughts became later confirmed by a dream he had which propelled him to take the imitative to free his country. In the dream he saw a huge ball of fire on top of his head which he associated with the coming of the great king foretold to come after five hundred years by Mencius, he considered himself to be this great king (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 32). This is how his quest to deliver Chinese people and establish the land of peace begun.
China at that time was an extensive manufacturing country and in most cases it did not require cotton and its products from the west. The British merchants made their living through smuggling of opium into china which had banned importation of the product due to the adverse addiction and unethical effects the drug had. Opium imports also weakened china’s currency because all of Chinese export could not cover the enormous cost of opium imports in their country. To overt this situation, Lin Zexu, a governor in Guangzhou confisticated opium products and at the same time confronted the British merchants. Britain retaliated by helping its merchant something that led to a series of china’s defeat resulting to numerous treaties that ashamed the Qing’s government. These sequences of defeats provoked a lot of discontent against the Qing’s government something that may have helped the Taiping Rebels to gunner support from Chinese citizens. At the same time the Qing’s economic might was weak during the 19th century due to the extensive weakening of the copper coins. Corruption during this time was also eminent during this time and together with poverty, landlessness and unemployment, the Qing’s government was not popular especially with the middle and lower class. This oppression was part of what Taiping rebels were trying liberating themselves and their countrymen from.
Moreover, historians speculated that the rebel movement may have succeeded to recruit many of its followers due to the drought in 1840’s. At that time the movement provided food and took care of its followers something may have led many to join it as the only escape from the drought (Hines, “The Taiping Rebellion,” Par. 4)
Reasons for helping Qing
Taiping rebels tried to forge assistance from their Christian brothers in the west but the Europeans decided to stay neutral their main concern at that time was trade relations and they did not want to risk loosing either side as trading partners supposing that either side might win. Taiping rebels also attempted to forge support with the middle class but many had a problem with the anti Confucianism that advocated for their religious traditions (McGuigan, “What was the Taiping Rebellion,” par 4).
When the rebels invaded Guanxi and drove off Qing’s forces, government efforts to try and suppress these rebels bore not fruits so these prompted for the Qing’s government to seek external assistance to suppress the rebellion. When the rebels tried to capture Beijing, local governors and rich merchants hired western forces to assist in the resistance and they ended up forming the ever victorious army and this army eventually drove back the Taiping rebels and massacred their remnant in Nanjing. (“Chinese History – Qing Dynasty,” Par 4)
One would expect the western troops to support the Taiping rebels in their quest to wipe out idols in china the rich Christian background in the west. This was however not the case something which baffled the Taiping armies. One of the reasons is perhaps that Hong Xiuquan Christian beliefs may have been considered by many Christians in the west more of a cult that had gone out of the prescribed Christian doctrines. Hong lived in his palace having about two thousand women and as a king people had to kneel down and not look up failure to which they were executed (Penn, “Chinese history: The Taiping Rebellion,” par 1). So his doctrine advocated the existence of a second messiah in which case he called himself Jesus younger brother. Li Xiucheng being aware of this is recorded to have told them that Taiping Christian faith unlike that in western Christianity was still young requiring time to mature but both shared the same faith (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 63).
At the same time the main reason that may have led to the western forces opting to support the Qing’s government is because they considered the Taiping a threat to their opium trade and business investment since at that time western nations had hugely invested a lot of resources through the establishment of factories, banks and other manufacturing companies. China was an appropriate market for their product and it also provided cheap labor to their industries.
Taiping Rebellion (Structure – Organization History)
The Taiping were organized in such a way that each Taiping prince control about 100, 000 people and he also had an army. We had ministers of various state departments under the princes who were in control of numerous civil affairs (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par.53). From ministers, next in ranks were the army generals (keungshwae). The Taiping general was very disciplined mostly be because of the numerous rituals they undertook. Every army comprised of about 13125 soldiers and was divided into five positional divisions of about 1225 soldiers under the control of a general. These divisions comprised of three army brigades. The first was for that who had been in the army for over six years, the second brigade comprised of soldiers loyal to the army for about three to six years and finally, the last brigade was for soldiers that had been in the Taiping army for less than tree years. These divisions were further divided into positional regiments of about 525 soldiers under a colonel. Again this was regiment were broken down further into companies of about 104 men who were under the command of captain followed by four lieutenants (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par.54 &55).
Rising in ranks in the Taiping army was done only on merit which was not the case for Qing’s army. Many soldiers in Qing’s army were addict of opium, therefore, many soldier bribed their way up the ladder creating a lot of in efficiency in the commanding wing. This however, later changed and commanding officers were now being appointed in terms of qualifications (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71,” par. 56).
Where and how The Rebellion ended
The Taiping rebellion took place in Guanxi province in the year in 1851 whereby more than ten thousands rebel troops invade the town driving off Qing’s troop out of the town of Jintia. This town was immediately declared the capital of what they called the kingdom of the heavenly peace with Hong Xiuquan becoming the absolute ruler. Qing’s armies later tried to recapture the town but they were strongly repulsed by the rebels (McGuigan, “What was the Taiping Rebellion,” par 4).
Taiping Wang settled in this region until the time they felt that they had become powerful enough to advance further. They advanced to Hunan and besieged it with over 120 000 troops but they were unable to capture it (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71” par 18). As they advanced, they never held any of the cities they captured. They took Yochow and its armory and as they advanced, they threatened to kill the monks found in their temple and at the same time destroyed their idle and gave the loot the poor (“TaipingRebellion.com 1850-71” par 18).
When the rebels tried to capture Beijing, local governors and rich merchants hired western forces to assist in the resistance and they ended up driving off the rebels who later utterly suppressed after the death of their leader. The Taiping success at the beginning of the war could be attributed to so many factors one of which was the kind of support they had at first from their fellow countrymen. However, due to the immense devastating effects of the war to the people and the strict Taiping rules such as the complete separation of the sexes, the initial support diminished with time and people begun to shift their support to the Qing’s government.
There was leadership wrangles at the top of Taiping army. Yang, the former charcoal burner who had raised the ranks to on of Hong’s top general had planned to assassinate him. Wei the northern territory leader was ordered to assassinate yang, Wei was also assassinated when it was considered that he had become too powerful (Dowling, “The Taiping Rebellion,” par. 4).
Westerners support for the Qing’s army and the reorganization of the Qing’s army strengthened the might of the ever victorious army against the Taiping Wang. Presence of foreigners boosted the supply of ammunition for the Qing’s army but the final blow to the Taiping army was the death of their leader who eventually died of food poisoning.
Effects on Chinese History
The Taiping Rebellion is one of the bloodiest civil war in the world history with over 30 million lives being lost. Taiping Rebellion greatly influenced the spread of Christianity into china and the aim was to completely wipe out idols in China and to establish a heavenly kingdom of peace. Taiping Rebellion impacted greatly in ending china’s isolationism image. Earlier on china had so much been rooted to the old traditions of their fore father following the Confucian system. Taiping Rebellion was based Marjory on Xiuquan vision which he based with Christian values. Christianity which was part of the western culture began therefore to take root in China. Many people sided with the foreigners and Qing against the Taiping forces Marjory because the Taiping ideologies advocated for complete separation of the sexes even those of married couples and also due to their strict stand on abolishing feet binding (Franz, “Taiping Rebellion,” par. 3).
This rebellion led to the relinquishing of power from the Manchus that held prestigious offices in the military to Chinese war lords that were chosen on merit. This happened when the Taiping rebels were attacking Beijing and the Qing’s army had failed to properly resist them and therefore had to organize an army greater in might to resist the rebels by. Eventually the war generated a lot of anti-Manchu sentiments which resulted to the fall of the Qing’s dynasty and to the restoration of the Chinese nation (Penn, “Chinese history: The Taiping Rebellion,” par 1). This rebellion also made many to question the government’s ability to protect them. While the rebellion was on course, many lives were lost and property leaving many Chinese people in anguish. It also weakened china’s foreign policy and created the impression that china was weak and could not manage itself properly (Seiler, “The destruction of the Chinese culture,” par 6)
In conclusion, one can say that Hong Xiuquan and his efforts to wipe out idolatry and establish a kingdom of peace governed by Christian principle partly succeeded though from the discussion it appears that he himself may have eventually ended up walking contrary to his faith like the murders of his generals, at the same time the war caused loss of many lives and devastation of peoples property something that ended up working against his course and made many to opt for their original traditional religious practices. However, the Taiping rebellion instilled the much needed spirit of patriotism that set off the course for the Chinese people to liberate themselves from the grip of foreign rule.
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