The Taiping Rebellion

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  • Recap of last lecture
  • EXTRATERRITORIALITY: Criminals were tried according to laws of their own country
  • Weakens the sovereignty of the Qing
  • Most-Favored Nation clause: any agreement between the Qing & the British are extended to all nations


The Socio-Economic Context

  • Population Problems
  • Population doubles to 300 million over the 18th - 19th Century
  • By mid 19th Century -> 450 million
  • Causes were peace, prosperity
  • Food production rose dramatically
  • This brought more people into service in Agriculture


  • New lands settled and cultivated by this population boon
  • Drive for new land becomes a push for de-forestation
  • Which de-settles the soil and causes erosion, flooding, mudslides
  • Population boon continues, poor become semi-enslaved to wealthy patrons
  • Frontiers become settings for great unrest

Government Problems

  • Increase in political competition among government posts
  • Government posts did not increase along with population
  • Government also began selling some positions
  • Men with highest-level degrees were not necessarily going to earn high level positions
  • Illegal positions such as "tax farmers" also emerged

Taiping Rebellion

  • Originates in 1840's in Gounzhi province
  • A frontier state, with lots of
  • Conflict between "original" (punti ren) settlers and "guest" (Hakka) settlers

Hakka/Punti Ren

  • Punti Ren claimed the best land in valleys
  • Hakka thus forced to claimed less fertile land in the highlands
  • This sets up great conflict between the two factions

Hong Xiuquan (1812 -

  • A Hakka birth from neighboring province
  • Literate
  • Tried repeatedly to take Civil Service exam
  • Fails twice at 14 / 23
  • Then meets a missionary
  • Hands him a religious text "Good Thoughts to Rule the Present Age" written by Liang Afa
  • Text discusses Christian God (Jehovah) at length, glossing over Christ and discussing need to cleanse population of sin
  • Not clear when Hong reads this
  • Has a physical/nervous breakdown
  • Dreams that he ascends to Heaven and is given a sword by a golden-bearded man
  • Told by this man to exterminate the demons in China
  • Meets his elder brother (Christ?)
  • Later becomes enraged, and begins to espouse modified Christianity
  • Fighting "Demons" means fighting Buddhist, Daoist, and local idols and dieties
  • Encourages his followers to worship the "one true god"
  • Travels around with early convert: "Feng Yunshan"
  • Installs Christianity in Hakka families using Hakka families connections
  • Organized into systems of lodges
  • Chinese officials begin to investigate and grow critical of "god-worshipping" society
  • "Army of God" about 20,000 gathered to a small town
  • Denounced the Qing Dynasty as "demons"
  • Government troops sent but defeated
  • January 1851 -> "Army of God" wins

Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace

  • Proclaimed by the "God-Worshippers" as their independent kingdom as autonomous
  • Mission becomes to overthrow the Qing
  • The demons -> are the Manchus who are now the Qing, but are not Chinese
  • Came up with new land distribution system to be established after their expected victory
  • Society would be divided into units of 25 families with local surplus held between them
  • Hakka women had historically enjoyed great freedom as those who worked in the fields, and did not have foot-binding
  • The Taiping thus were made semi-autonomous in this society
  • Women could be soldiers
  • Gender division occurred -> men & women divided into dormitories
  • Publishing activities -> published bibles

The Taiping Advance

  • With their discipline and organization, they manage to march UP to Nanjing
  • Capturing the City
  • 1853 -> Delcares Nanjing as the Taiping capital
  • Hong now shares power with many different (supposedly subordinate) kings


  • The government slowly loses power and ability
  • Unravels in power dynamic squabbles
  • Ppl other than Hong claim to "see" God in Visions
  • Yang Xiuqing -> claims visions
  • Claims to be a re-incarnation of Holy Ghost
  • Hong has a King kill Yang
  • Does so, but also kills 20,000 (!!!) of his followers
  • This makes Hong fear this King, so he has the king killed too
  • Massive purges continue, undermining unity of the "God-followers"
  • Also had a hard time selling their religious views to new conquests
  • Women were threatened by the unbinding of their feet and suggestion that they should be sent into the field

Zeng Guofan

Aftermath of Taiping Rebellion

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