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The Impact of the Taiping Rebellion in China

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Taiping Rebellion in China

Taiping Revolution was a thorough political and spiritual disturbance that probably was the most important event in China during the 19th century. The rebellion was a massive Civil War in Southern China from 1850 to 1864. It was a millenarian movement against the ruling Manchu Qing dynasty. The rebellion ravaged 17 provinces and took an estimated twenty million lives. It also irrevocably altered the Qing dynasty. This research paper analyzes into details the causes of the rebellion, the events that took place during the rebellion and the effects of the rebellion to China as a nation.

Taiping Rebellion commenced under the influence of Hong Xiuquan who lived from 1814 to 1864. The leader of the revolution was greatly influenced by the Christian teachings, and he was said to have had a lot of visions from God. Xiuquan had the belief that he was the son of God and a younger brother of Jesus, who was sent to reform China. Hong’s friend took advantage of his friend’s ideas and organized a religious group that worshipped God in China. Hong decided to join the religious group among the impoverished peasants of Guangxi in 1847. Three years later, after joining the religious group, Hong led the rebellion that happened to be a deadly conflict in history (Michael, 1966).

The established Taiping Heavenly Kingdom by Hong had its capital in Nanjing. The kingdom’s army controlled most of the southern parts of China and had to rule over more than 30 million people. The rebellion was based on the agenda of social reforms among the people, equality in the society and the replacement of other religions such as Buddhism and the Chinese folk religion with Christianity. Social changes were to allow for property sharing and equality for women who were at that time regarded as a minority group in the society.

Taiping Beliefs

Those who participated in the Taiping Rebellion took their beliefs from different sources. Their beliefs reflected ancient Confucianism and others were also from the traditional writings that described activities and systems in the history of China that were never practiced. The rebellion also extracted some beliefs from the western countries. The blend of ideas from different origins made the resistance to operate under very strong influence since they introduced ideas that were never discussed before. Because of their new invention of ideas, the Taipings promised their followers a completely new system. They had an innovative program that was very wide ranging. The program touched on the reasons for rebellion such as social reforms, the notions of property sharing, and equal position for women. The rebellion also had strategies to help fight the abuse of opium, tobacco, and alcohol that were dragging behind China due to health implications. Above all, calendar reform and literary reform alongside a new political military organization in the society were other strategies that the rebellion had put in place. The reforms were based on the Christian origins that were followed by the members of the group (Foster, 1951).

China was so huge and the government had difficult time controlling its dominions that stretched out. Given the rise in the number of uprisings in the nineteenth century, they posed a challenge to the state that was also weakened by demographic challenges and foreign encroachment. During the rebellion, politics, social interactions of the society as well as economic life were all interrupted.

Yang Xiuqing, who was the Taiping minister of state, attempted to take over much of Taiping’s power, a situation that led to Yang and a lot of his followers being slain. Hong commanded the murder of Changhui, the general who had slain Yang since he started being arrogant. The murder of the first general led to fear among other generals including Shi Dakar, who even abandoned Hong for fear of his life. Shi Dakar took with him many of Hong’s followers. An attempt by the Taipings to regain their strength in 1860 by taking Shanghai was stopped by the western trained army that proved to be ever victorious during any war. The army was commanded by the American adventurer Fredrick Townsend Ward and later by the British officer Charles George. Hong began ailing and he refused all the pleas to flee. He decided to commit suicide in June 1864 even before he could install his 15 year old son as the Tianwang. Periodic resistance went on in other parts of China until 1868 (Ch’en, Michael and Chang, 1966).

Taiping religious group placed little attention to New Testament ideas of compassion, forgiveness, and redemption. The Taipang Christians rather emphasized the wrathful Old Testament God who demanded worship and obedience. Evil deeds such as prostitution, adultery, and slavery were prohibited as in the Old Testament Bible. The rebellion had a well organized army with strict rules governing soldiers who were on duty. Rewards were given to the soldiers who were loyal to the rebellion. At one point during the rebellion, approximately 100,000 Taipang followers preferred death to capture.

Confucianism greatly influenced the Taipang religion even though much of their borrowing from their traditional religions may have been subconscious. Propaganda and essay writing in the rebellion depended as much on Confucianism as on Christianity. The Chinese could therefore easily accept God as a father figure since ancestor worship had been a common practice to them for many years (Edkins, 2013).

The Taipings’ style was to collect an army and incite the population to rebellion. They were successful for the first time when they captured Hupeh, after being held in the city of Yungan by the emperor’s militia. Taiping rebellion even attempted in the same campaign to seize Kwangsi and Hunan by they were never successful. The initial achievement was balanced by several defeats by the practical forces at sea, where the emperor was well equipped with better material sources. Initially, the goal of the Taipings was to take Nanking, and to spread their rule through the whole of China. The rebellion experienced a lot of challenges such as changing of leaders and being severely factionalized. The kings of Taiping rebellion were selected on the basis of purity and devotion to Christianity. For instance, Yang Hsiu-Ch’ing managed to become the Eastern King and later the head of the entire region. He was initially a charcoal seller but due to his devotion and purity, he became the King of the entire kingdom. Initially, the response of the Manchus to the Taiping rebellion was comparatively straightforward. The heads of Hung Hsiu-Chuan and Ch’en-Huan hung over a Peking gateway until they decomposed. That was one of the major lessons to the rebellion, though there were many more aftershocks. The Manchu government could not withstand the headache that was brought in by Taiping rebellion.

Effects of the Rebellion

Although the rebellion ended up as a technical failure, it changed the way in which the Chinese governed operated. The rebellion led to devastation and loss of lives, rendering a once fertile area into a desert for the next hundreds of years. The government was greatly shaken by the withdrawal of the land tax since the land was no more productive for years. It had to rely on the maritime customs taken in by non-Chinese port operators and the sale of offices in administration. The government had to operate with a lot of organization so as to maximize the limited money that came from limited sources.

The fall of Ch’ing dynasty in the 1900’s lead to foreign influence in China which improved the economy of the country in every respect. Merchants and traders who had been part of the late Manchu dynasty came to China in large numbers, a situation that led to Japan being the dominant power in the country. China was modernized starting from the North and Northeast China as it spread to other parts of the country (Evans, 1999).

China was brought very close to the rest of the world by every revolution that was inspired by the Taiping rebellion. The rebellion shared most of the ideas that the globally famous freedom fighters had used to bring change. The rebellion, therefore changed the face of China as slavery and the sale of women was outlawed. The fight against activities like prostitution and arranged marriages changed China to a society where freedom exists.

The Taiping rebellion played an important role in ending China’s Isolationist outlook. Many rebellions that followed after the Taiping rebellion shared the emotions and ideas that came from the Taiping vision. The arrival of strange, new things away from the old ancestral ways made China a society that is composed of a wide range of views.

In conclusion, The Taiping rebellion was a religious movement combined with an anti-Manchu Chinese nationalism. The leaders of the rebellion were motivated to solve the issues of property sharing, equality in China, and the abuse of tobacco and alcohol. The Taiping army attempted to conquer North China but failed, though their fight for change really brought change in China afterwards.

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