School Papers

Taiping ordered to cast out devils (Gray, 2002).


Taiping rebellion, one of the most
devastating rebellion in the history of China has directly contributed to the death
of 20 million to 30 million civilians and soldiers (Kerr, 2013), according to Lee (2005),
up to 130 million died in total when indirect causes (plague and famine) are
taken into considerations. This rebellion led by Hong Xiuquan had lasted for 15
years, from 1850 to 1864 (Gray, 2002). After the first opium
war in 1842, Qing government have to pay a great sum to compensate the loss of
the British. This resulted in a heavier tax rate which peasants greatly
suffered. Meanwhile, Hong claimed that he was adopted as the son of God, the
younger brother of Jesus and was ordered to cast out devils (Gray, 2002). Afterwards, he became
the leader of the God Worshiping Society, a religion that mixed Christianity
with Chinese traditions. This religious movement gained support of many locals and
an uprising outbreak in Jintian, Guang Xi in 1851. The movement was widely
spread and in 1853, Nanjing was under the control of the Taiping rebellion
force. The capital of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was established there and Hong
Xiuquan was regarded as the Taiping Heavenly King.


From ancient Roman civil war to recent Iraqi
civil war, civil wars occurred from time to time. Nevertheless, what made
Taiping rebellion distinctive is the number of death and it is regarded as a bloodshed
by scholars. The extensive period of war, the number of people involved and how
both camps have treated their enemy are the major reasons of the bloody revolution.

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Taiping rebellion was a civil war that lasted for 15
years (Gray, 2002), in which numerous people
suffered during this long period of time. During the civil war, millions were
killed and bloody battles across China was held. Many people live in a harsh environment
and they do not have abundant supply for their daily life.  The side effect of war: famine and plague
added to the bloodiness of the Taiping rebellion. According
to Frederic (1997: p.3), famine occurred everywhere rule by the Taiping
and he described Ningpo as the “City of the Dead” and the canals are “filled
with dead bodies and stagnant filth”. Not a lot of people could survive the
harsh condition during the time and a lot of people died. In 1864, the Qing
army besieged Nanjing. Suffering from shortage of food, Hong Xiuquan had no
choice but to eat weeds and he died due to food poisoning (Spence, 1996). This demonstrated
the terrible condition that people are experiencing, even emperor Hong could
not make it through shortage of food. The long period of civil war implied that
a great number of people died from battles. The mistreatment of the dead also
caused the emerge of plague. According to Peckham (2016: p.79), he quoted that Yu Yueh,
a scholar and Qing government officer said that ‘Yunnan was theown into a
confusion state by the Taiping rebellion, and this was followed by a plague epidemic’
and ‘human beings breathing the odour of putrefaction from the dead rats invariably
fell sick’. The terrible hygiene added to bloody battles cost million of lives.

Nevertheless, what is the main reason behind the lengthy civil war?


Firstly, the ideology of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
attracted a lot of peasants and Taiping rebellion power had developed as a sustainable
force, leading to an extensive period of war. The ideology of the Heavenly
Kingdom had brought hope to many peasants, which greatly influenced the number
of participants in this uprising, in the beginning of 1853, one million peasants
participated in the Taiping rebellion which is 50 times the original twenty
thousand rebellion force (Kerr, 2013). Many people held
the believe that rebellion was the way to a better life. Under the rule of
Qing, China was weak and the people were destitute due to the high tax rate,
the chaotic environment fostered the rebellion. Hong Xiuquan had taken this
opportunity to form the God Worshipping Society, which was the predecessor of
Taiping rebellion. The God Worshipping Society believe in Christianity and many
villagers started to join the society, in 1850 there are at least ten thousand
God worshipers (Gray, 2002). The support on
Taiping Rebellion could be clearly seen from the rapid succeed in the invasion
of Nanjing in 1853. After taking control of Nanjing, the Taiping Heavenly
Kingdom promulgated the Land system of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. This ideal
system aimed to provide land for everyone so that all of them could plant together,
to achieve this goal, land would be equally distributed among households
according to the size of household (Reddy &
Sarap, 2017).

Although the land system could not entirely implement due to war, it brought
the attention of many peasants, especially those suffered under the ruling of
Qing, this further increased the number of participants in Taiping rebellion
and thus a greater number of death after the wipe out of Taiping rebellion in
1864. Throughout the 15 years of war, Taiping rebellion’s belief in
Christianity had led to an elimination of Buddhism and Taoism in the area,
temples were destroyed and their believers were killed (Kerr, 2013). 600 cities in 17 provinces
were raided by the Taiping rebellion, the large area involved had scaled the ruthlessness
of Taiping rebellion. Hence, the lengthy wide spread civil war was doubtlessly a


Moreover, the late response of the Qing government
has led to the rapid expansion of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and thus it evolved
as an uncontrollable revolution. In 1840s a series of peasant revolt occurred in
China, yet the Qing government did not face the underpinning problem behind these
revolts (Kerr, 2013), which increased the
number of God worshippers. According to Gray (2002), Xianfeng Emperor was finally
alert that the increasing number of God worshipers in Guang Xi was a threat to
Qing government. Therefore, he ordered Lin Zexu to dealt with the situation.

However, Lin died on the way to Guang Dong. Later on, Qing assigned a new
governor to replace him, but he died few months later. This gave the Taiping
rebellion a short respite and they expanded rapidly during this period. The
delayed reaction of Qing led to the outbreak of the rebellion in various areas
and ultimately contributing to death of many.


Furthermore, the foreign power was also a determinant
factor in the Taiping rebellion, their influences in China contributed to the
civil war. After the first opium war against Britain in 1842, Qing is weak and they
had to increase the tax rate to compensate their loss in opium war. Meanwhile, Hong
Kong Island was ceded to Britain which increased the number of missionaries in
Canton area. Hong Xiuquan was influenced by Christianity and led to the
development of Taiping rebellion. At the same time, the weakened Qing
government did not have enough power in Southern China to stop the rebellion,
the outbreak of Taiping rebellion was devastating. The second opium war between
Britain, France and China from 1856 to 1860 had diverted the force against
Taiping rebellion. The war had given Taping rebellion a short breathing and
they could have the chance to launch a series of invasions. This further
lengthened the seesaw battle and resulted in more casualties. In July 1860, the
Taiping rebellion took Songjiang and moved towards Shanghai, this threatened the
trade between China and foreign countries. Therefore, the foreign army defended
Shanghai and caused great casualties to the Taiping Rebellion (Gray, 2002). In October, Convention
of Beijing, an unequal treaty was signed by the Qing government with foreign
countries including Britain France, United States as well as Russia to bring to
a halt to the second opium war. The legalization of opium in China under the
treaty would generate huge amount of profit for the British, benefiting foreign
countries. On the other hand, the Taiping Rebellion do not agree with the terms
suggested by the foreign ambassadors, this shifted Britain and other countries’
stance from neutral to supporting the Qing government (Gregory,

According to Gregory (1959), British diplomat, Sir Frederick Bruce visit to
China had contributed to the military support is provided to the Qing
government and Britain’s influence in Taiping rebellion. With stronger and more
devastating military power, Taiping rebellion was suppressed, yet, greater
casualties were inevitable. Foreign intervention had caused significant impact
to the civil war, leading to greater number of death with more powerful weapons.


Internal dissension occurred during the uprising had
weakened the power of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and it resulted in deadly wars
among Kings in the Heavenly Kingdom. The Tianjing Incident occurred in 1856 had
caused the death of some key leaders. According to Gray (2002), Hong Xiuquan paid
no attention to affairs and the power fell into the hands of Yang Xiuqing and
Yang even accused that Hong should be beaten due to abusing his wives. Hong
eventually figure out Yang’s ambition and recalled other kings to suppress
Yang. Wei Chaogui, the North King, murdered Yang and started to turn to the
supporters of Yang. Six thousand supporters and over twenty thousand Taiping
rebellion supporters were killed in three months (Zhang, 2011). Later on, Wei turned
to assassin the Flank King, Shi Dakai, Shi fled but his family were all killed.

Meanwhile, Wei was executed by Hong’s guard when he attempted to overthrow
Hong. The series of internal conflicts had caused numerous death of Taiping
rebellion army and family members of influential leaders in Taiping Heavenly
Kingdom. This conflict deepened the contradiction among the kings. Hong started
to disbelieve Shi and he was demanded to leave the capital Nanjing. Shi were
forced to continue the revolt against the Qing with his remaining two hundred
thousand soldiers (Lee, 2005). According to Lee (2005),
Shi continued the battle in a broad area including JiangXi, Hebai, Henan, Guizhou,
Guangxi, Yunnan and Sichuan. The wide spread battlefield had caused great affect.

Finally, Shi’s army were all killed, from two hundred thousand soldiers to none,
that was a blow out to Taiping rebellion and example demonstrated how bloody
the revolt eventually turned out.


Civilians and Taiping rebellion army were
slaughtered by the Qing government, causing a great number of causalities. Zeng
Guofan was the leader of the Xiang army against the Taiping rebellion, who
allowed the massacre of civilians in cities. On 4th September 1861, sixteen
thousand Taiping rebellion army surrendered in Anqing, yet, they were all
killed by the Xiang army (Zhang, 2011). This was supported
by Zhao (2013) who was an apparitor of
Zeng Guofan, in his diary he wrote that more than ten thousand were killed and
a total of thirty thousands of civilians and Taiping rebellion army were put to
death in the battle of Anqing. These slaughtering occurred at every city that
the Xiang army reclaimed. After Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was defeated in
Nanjing, civilians were slaughtered by the Xiang army and belongings were
stolen by them.  According to the diary
of Zhao (2013), he described the situation
as a chaos, where dead bodies could be found everywhere, children were being
slaughtered, elderly were mostly injured. Zeng Guofan reported to the Tongzhi
Emperor that the Xiang army had wiped out the city by killing more than a
hundred thousand people in three days (Zhang, 2011). According to Zhang
(2011), before the fall of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the population in Nanjing
were one million; however, the population were less than fifty thousand after
ten years. This clearly demonstrated the tremendous destruction by the Qing
government. The scale of slaughtering surrendered army and civilians were extraordinary,
it contributed significantly to the number of death in Taiping rebellion and
thus leading to an era of bloodshed.


Casualties could not be avoided during wars and uprisings,
yet, what made Taiping rebellion stands out, was the devastating impact on
China. The population in China had increased steadily from 177 million in 1749
to 432 million in 1851. However, with the outbreak Taiping rebellion, millions were
killed and the population of China was not recovered until mid-twentieth century (Columbia University, 2009). Taiping rebellion
was a bloodshed that costed lives of many due to the long period of civil war,
foreign intervention, internal dissension and series of slaughtering. Further investigation
on the long term impact of Taiping rebellions could be added to explain the
broad influence of Taiping rebellion as it had introduced a new nature of revolt
in China and inspired future leaders in China. As suggested by Gray (2002), “Hong
Xiuquan inspired Mao Zedong and Zeng Guofan inspired Chiang Kaishek “. Taiping
rebellion is deep-rooted in Chinese history, which greatly influenced future
generations, leading to bloody events. The impact of Taiping rebellion is an
area that worth discussing.




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