Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace
Banner used in the kingdom
Greatest extent (maroon) of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
|Capital||Tianjing (modern Nanjing)|
|Common languages||Hakka Chinese, Wu Chinese|
God Worshipping Society
|Government||Syncretic Christian-Shenic theocratic absolute monarchy|
|Taiping Heavenly King|
|Historical era||Qing dynasty|
|January 11 1851|
• Capture of Nanking
• Death of Hong Tianguifu
|November 18 1864|
|Today part of||China|
|Taiping Heavenly Kingdom|
|Traditional Chinese||太平天國[note 1][note 2]|
|Simplified Chinese||太平天国[note 1][note 2]|
|Literal meaning||Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace|
Greatly Peaceful Heavenly Kingdom
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, later shortened to Heavenly Kingdom or Heavenly Dynasty,[note 3] was an unrecognized oppositional state in China and Chinese Christian theocratic absolute monarchy from 1851 to 1864, supporting the overthrow of the Qing dynasty by Hong Xiuquan and his followers. The unsuccessful war it waged against the Qing is known as the Taiping Rebellion. Its capital was at Tianjing (present-day Nanjing).
A self-proclaimed younger brother of Jesus Christ and convert to Protestant Christianity, Hong Xiuquan led an army that controlled a significant part of southern China during the middle of the 19th century, eventually expanding to a size of nearly 30 million people. The rebel kingdom announced social reforms and the replacement of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religion by his form of Christianity, holding that he was the second son of God and the younger brother of Jesus. The Taiping areas were besieged by Qing forces throughout most of the rebellion. The Qing government defeated the rebellion with the eventual aid of French and British forces.
During the 19th century, the Qing dynasty experienced a series of famines, natural disasters, economic problems and defeats at the hands of foreign powers; these events have come to be collectively known as China's "century of humiliation". Farmers were heavily overtaxed, rents rose dramatically, and peasants started to desert their lands in droves. The Qing military had recently suffered a disastrous defeat in the First Opium War, while the Chinese economy was severely impacted by a trade imbalance caused by the large-scale and illicit importation of opium. Banditry became more common, and numerous secret societies and self-defense units formed, all of which led to an increase in small-scale warfare.
Protestant missionaries began working from Macao, Pazhou (known at the time as "Whampoa"), and Guangzhou ("Canton"). Their household staff and the printers they employed corrected and adapted the missionaries' message to reach the Chinese and they began to particularly frequent the prefectural and provincial examinations, where local scholars competed for the chance to rise to power in the imperial civil service. One of the native tracts, Liang's nine-part, 500-page tome called Good Words to Admonish the Age, found its way into the hands of Hong Xiuquan in the mid-1830s. Hong initially leafed through it without interest. After several failures during the examinations, however, Hong told friends and family of a dream in which he was greeted by a golden-haired, bearded man and a younger man whom he addressed as "Elder Brother". Hong worked another six years as a tutor before his brother convinced him that Liang's tract was worth examination. When he read the tract he saw his long-past dream in terms of Christian symbolism: he was the younger brother of Jesus and had met God the Father, Shangdi. He now felt it was his duty to restore the faith in the native han religion and overthrow the Qing dynasty. He was joined by Yang Xiuqing, a former charcoal and firewood salesman of Guangxi, who claimed to act as a voice of the Supreme Emperor.
Feng Yunshan formed the Society of God Worshippers (Chinese: 拜上帝會; pinyin: Bài Shàngdì Huì) in Guangxi after a missionary journey there in 1844 to spread Hong's ideas. In 1847, Hong became the leader of the secret society. The Taiping faith, inspired by missionary Christianity, says one historian, "developed into a dynamic new Chinese religion... Taiping Christianity". Hong presented this religion as a revival and a restoration of the ancient classical faith in Shangdi. The sect's power grew in the late 1840s, initially suppressing groups of bandits and pirates, but persecution by Qing authorities spurred the movement into a guerrilla rebellion and then into civil war.
The Taiping Rebellion began in 1850 in Guangxi. On January 11, 1851 (the 11th day of the 1st lunar month), incidentally Hong Xiuquan's birthday, Hong declared himself "Heavenly King" of a new dynasty, the "Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace". After minor clashes, the violence escalated into the Jintian Uprising in February 1851, in which a 10,000-strong rebel army routed and defeated a smaller Qing force. Feng Yushan was to be the strategist of the rebellion and the administrator of the kingdom during its early days, until his death in 1852.
In 1853 the Taiping forces captured Nanjing, making it their capital and renaming it Tianjing ("Heavenly Capital"). Hong converted the office of the Viceroy of Liangjiang into his Palace of Heavenly King. Since Hong Xiuquan had been supposedly instructed in his dream to exterminate all "demons", which was what the Taipings considered the Manchus to be, thus they set out to kill and wipe out the entire Manchu population. When Nanjing was occupied, the Taipings went on a rampage killing, burning and hacking 40,000 Manchus to death in the city They first killed all the Manchu men, then forced the Manchu women outside the city and burnt them to death.
At its height, the Heavenly Kingdom controlled south China, centered on the fertile Yangtze River Valley. Control of the river meant that the Taiping could easily supply their capital. From there, the Taiping rebels sent armies west into the upper reaches of the Yangtze, and north to capture Beijing, the capital of the Qing dynasty. The attempt to take Beijing failed.
In 1853 Hong withdrew from active control of policies and administration, ruling exclusively by written proclamations often in religious language. Hong disagreed with Yang in certain matters of policy and became increasingly suspicious of Yang's ambitions, his extensive network of spies, and his declarations when "speaking as God". Yang and his family were put to death by Hong's followers in 1856, followed by the killing of troops loyal to Yang.
With their leader largely out of the picture, Taiping delegates tried to widen their popular support with the Chinese middle classes and forge alliances with European powers, but failed on both counts. The Europeans decided to stay neutral. Inside China, the rebellion faced resistance from the traditionalist middle class because of their hostility to Chinese customs and Confucian values. The land-owning upper class, unsettled by the Taiping rebels' peasant mannerisms and their policy of strict separation of the sexes, even for married couples, sided with the Qing forces and their Western allies.
In 1859 Hong Rengan, a cousin of Hong, joined the Taiping Rebellion in Nanjing, and was given considerable power by Hong. He developed an ambitious plan to expand the kingdom's boundaries. In 1860 the Taiping rebels were successful in taking Hangzhou and Suzhou to the east (See also: Second rout of the Army Group Jiangnan), but failed to take Shanghai, which marked the beginning of the decline of the Kingdom.
An attempt to take Shanghai in August 1860 was initially successful but finally repulsed by a force of Chinese troops and European officers under the command of Frederick Townsend Ward. This army would later become the "Ever Victorious Army", led by "Chinese" Gordon, and would be instrumental in the defeat of the Taiping rebels. Imperial forces were reorganized under the command of Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang, and the Qing government's reconquest began in earnest. By early 1864, Qing control in most areas was well established.
Hong declared that God would defend Nanjing, but in June 1864, with Qing forces approaching, he died of food poisoning as the result of eating wild vegetables as the city began to run out of food. He was sick for twenty days before the Qing forces could take the city. Only a few days after his death the Qing forces took the city. His body was buried and was later exhumed by Zeng to verify his death, and cremated. Hong's ashes were later blasted out of a cannon in order to ensure that his remains have no resting place as eternal punishment for the uprising.
Four months before the fall of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Hong Xiuquan abdicated in favour of Hong Tianguifu, his eldest son, who was 14 years old then. Hong Tianguifu was unable to do anything to restore the kingdom, so the kingdom was quickly destroyed when Nanjing fell in July 1864 to Qing forces after vicious fighting in the streets. Most of the so-called princes were executed by Qing officials in Jinling Town (金陵城), Nanjing.
Although the fall of Nanjing in 1864 marked the destruction of the Taiping regime, the fight was not yet over. There were still several thousands of Taiping rebel troops continuing the fight. It took seven years to finally put down all remnants of the Taiping Rebellion. In August 1871 the last Taiping rebel army, led by Shi Dakai's commander, Li Fuzhong (李福忠), was completely wiped out by the Qing forces in the border region of Hunan, Guizhou and Guangxi.
25 provinces were mentioned in Taiping Heavenly Kingdom sources:
- Jiangnan Province (江南省) or Heavenly Capital Province (京省[note 1]) – present-day northern area of Jiangsu
- Anhui Province (安徽省) – present-day Anhui
- Jiangxi Province (江西省) – present-day Jiangxi
- Hubei Province (湖北省) – present-day Hubei
- Tianpu Province (浦省[note 1]) – present-day Pukou District, Nanjing
- Sufu Province (蘇褔省) – present-day southern area of Jiangsu
- Guifu Province (桂褔省) – not clear
- Zhejiang Heavenly Province (浙江省[note 1]) – present-day Zhejiang
- Hunan Province (湖南省) – present-day Hunan (de jure)
- Fujian Province (福建省) – present-day Fujian (de jure)
- Henan Province (河南省) – present-day Henan (de jure)
- Shandong Province (珊東省) – present-day Shandong (de jure)
- Shanxi Province (珊西省) – present-day Shanxi (de jure)
- Zuili Province (罪隸省, lit. "criminal ruled") or Qianshan Province (遷善省, lit. "promoting virtuous") – equal to Zhili; present-day Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin (de jure)
- Guangxi Province (廣西省) – present-day Guangxi (de jure)
- Guangdong Province (廣東省) – present-day Guangdong (de jure)
- Yunnan Province (芸南省) – present-day Yunnan (de jure)
- Sichuan Province (四川省) – present-day Sichuan (de jure)
- Guizhou Province (桂州省) – present-day Guizhou (de jure)
- Shaanxi Province (陝西省) – present-day Shaanxi (de jure)
- Gansu Province (甘肅省) – present-day Gansu (de jure)
- Fengtian Province (奉添省) – present-day Liaoning (de jure)
- Jilin Province (吉林省) – present-day Jilin (de jure)
- Wulongjiang Province (烏隆江省) – present-day Heilongjiang (de jure)
- Yili Province (伊犁省) – present-day Xinjiang (de jure)
Kings, princes and noble ranks
The Heavenly King was the highest position in the Heavenly Kingdom. The sole people to hold this position were Hong Xiuquan and his son Hong Tianguifu:
|Personal Name||Period of Reign||Era Names (and their according range of years)|
Ranked below the "King of Heaven" Hong Xiuquan, the territory was divided among provincial rulers called kings or princes; initially there were five – the Kings of the Four Cardinal Directions and the Flank King). Of the original rulers, the West King and South King were killed in combat in 1852. The East King was murdered by the North King during a coup in 1856, and the North King himself was subsequently killed. The Kings' names were:
- South King (南王), Feng Yunshan (died 1852)
- East King (東王), Yang Xiuqing (died 1856)
- West King (西王), Xiao Chaogui (died 1852)
- North King (北王), Wei Changhui (died 1856)
- Flank King (翼王), Shi Dakai (captured and executed by Qing forces in 1863)
The later leaders of the movement were 'Princes':
- Zhong Prince (忠王), Li Xiucheng (1823 – 1864, captured and executed by Qing forces)
- Ying Prince (英王), Chen Yucheng (1837 – 1862)
- Gan Prince (干王), Hong Rengan (1822 – 1864; cousin of Hong Xiuquan, executed)
- Jun Prince (遵王), Lai Wenkwok (1827 – 1868)
- Fu Prince (福王), Hong Renda (洪仁達; Hong Xiuquan's second-eldest brother; executed by Qing forces in 1864)
- Tian Gui (田貴; executed in 1864)
Other princes include:
- An Prince (安王), Hong Renfa (洪仁發), Hong Xiuquan's eldest brother
- Yong Prince (勇王), Hong Rengui (洪仁貴)
- Fu Prince (福王), Hong Renfu (洪仁富)
In the later years of the Taiping Rebellion, the territory was divided among many, for a time into the dozens, of provincial rulers called princes, depending on the whims of Hong.
Captured areas in Jiangsu were called “Sufu Province”.
- The subject of study for the examinations for officials changed from the Confucian classics to the Bible.
- Private property ownership was abolished and all land was held and distributed by the state.
- A solar calendar replaced the lunar calendar.
- Foot binding was banned. (The Hakka people had never followed this tradition, and consequently the Hakka women had always been able to work the fields.)
- Society was declared classless and the sexes were declared equal. At one point, for the first time in Chinese history civil service exams were held for women. Some sources[which?] record that Fu Shanxiang, an educated woman from Nanjing, passed them and became an official at the court of the Eastern King.
- Several women served as military officers and commanders under Taiping, Hong Xuanjiao (sister of Taiping leader), Su Sanniang and Qin Ersao are examples of women who acted actively as leaders during the Taiping Rebellion.
- The sexes were rigorously separated. There were separate army units consisting of women only; until 1855, not even married couples were allowed to live together or have sexual relations.
- The Qing-dictated queue hairstyle was abandoned in favor of wearing the hair long.
- Other new laws were promulgated including the prohibition of opium, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, polygamy (including concubinage), slavery, and prostitution. These all carried death penalties.
Hong Rengan's proposed reforms
In 1859 the Gan Prince Hong Rengan, with the approval of his cousin the Heavenly King, advocated several new policies, including:
- Promoting the adoption of railways by granting patents for the introduction of locomotives; 21 railways were planned for each of the 21 provinces.
- Promoting the adoption of steamships for commerce and defence.
- Establishment of currency-issuing private banks.
- Granting of 10-year patents for introduction of new inventions, 5-year for minor items.
- Establishment of a National Postal Service.
- Promoting mineral exploration by granting control and twenty percent of the revenue to the discoverers of deposits.
- Introduction of governmental investigative officers.
- Introduction of independent impartial state media officers for reporting and disseminating news.
- Institution of district treasuries and paymasters to manage finances.
While the Taiping rebels did not have the support of Western governments, they were relatively modernized in terms of weapons. An ever growing number of Western weapons dealers and blackmarketeers sold Western weapons such as modern muskets, rifles, and cannons to the rebels. As early as 1853, Taiping Tianguo soldiers had been using guns and ammunition sold by Westerners. Rifles and gunpowder were smuggled into China by English and American traders as "snuff and umbrellas". They were partially equipped with surplus equipment sold by various Western companies and military units' stores, both small arms and artillery. One shipment of weaponry from an American dealer in April 1862 already "well known for their dealings with rebels" was listed as 2,783 (percussion cap) muskets, 66 carbines, 4 rifles, and 895 field artillery guns, as well as carrying passports signed by the Loyal King. Almost two months later, a ship was stopped with 48 cases of muskets, and another ship with 5000 muskets. Mercenaries from the West also joined the Taiping forces, though most were motivated by opportunities for plunder during the rebellion rather than joining for ideological reasons. The Taiping forces constructed iron foundries where they were making heavy cannons, described by Westerners as vastly superior to Qing cannons. Just before his execution, Taiping Loyal King Li Xiucheng advised his enemies that war with the Western powers was coming and the Qing must buy the best Western cannons and gun carriages, and have the best Chinese craftsmen learn to build exact copies, teaching other craftsmen as well.
Initially, the followers of Hong Xiuquan were called God Worshippers. Hong's faith was inspired by visions he reported in which the Shangdi, the Supreme Emperor, greeted him in Heaven. Hong had earlier been in contact with Protestant missionaries and read the Bible. Officially, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom endorsed Hong Xiuquan's own syncretism between Christianity and Shenism, although there were also adherents of Buddhism, Chinese folk religion and other religious traditions native to China. The libraries of the Buddhist monasteries were destroyed, almost completely in the case of the Yangtze Delta area. Temples of Daoism, Confucianism, and other traditional beliefs were often converted to churches, schools or hospitals or defaced.
The Heavenly Kingdom maintained the concept of the Imperial Chinese tributary system in mandating all of the "ten thousand nations in the world" to submit and make the annual tribute missions to the Heavenly Court. The Heavenly King proclaimed that he intended to establish a new dynasty of China.
In its first year, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom minted coins that were 23 mm to 26 mm in diameter, weighing around 4.1 g. The kingdom's name was inscribed on the obverse and "Holy Treasure" (Chinese: 聖寶) on the reverse; the kingdom also issued paper notes.
Impact on Hakkas
With the collapse of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the Qing dynasty launched waves of massacres against the Hakkas, killing up to 30,000 each day during the height of the massacres. Similar purges were taken while defeating the Red Turban Rebellion (1854–1856). In Guangdong, Governor Ye Mingchen oversaw the execution of 70,000 people in Guangzhou, eventually one million people would be killed throughout Guangdong. Another major impact was the bloody Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (1855 and 1867), which would cause the deaths of a million people. The Cantonese opera was purged clean.
- uses the traditional printed form of 天 with a longer upper stroke. This is similar to the Japanese ten 天, but Unicode does not offer support as separate character, instead only displaying the Japanese version when Chinese functionality is disabled.
- Note that the uncommon variant character 囯 is used, as opposed to the more common 國 (and later, 国). The Taiping used wáng (王, "king") in the center of their character, as opposed to the traditional Chinese huò (或, "or", used as a phonetic marker) or the later simplified Chinese yù (玉, "jade").
- Taiping Heavenly Kingdom later shortened to Heavenly Kingdom (天囯) or Heavenly Dynasty (天朝). Other official names of this kingdom were: Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Heaven's True Will (真天命太平天囯), and Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of the Heavenly Father, Heavenly Brother & Heavenly King (天父天兄天王太平天囯).
- "중국 난징(남경) 매화산, 우화대, 첨원, maehwa, meihua, Nanjing, China".
- Spence, Jonathan D. (1996). "22". God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393285863.
Hong Xiuquan ordered his troops and followers to drop the name Taiping, and instead to use the one word “Heavenly,” to pay proper homage to God the Father. As Li later phrases his unease: The Heavenly King always used heavenly words to admonish people. We, his officials, did not dare to challenge him, but let him give what names he wanted. Calling them “Heavenly Dynasty, Heavenly Army, Heavenly Officials, Heavenly People, Heavenly Commanders, Heavenly Soldiers and Royal Troops”
- Michael, Franz H.; Chang, Chung-li (1966), The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents, I: History, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Publications on Asia pg- 35
- Chesneaux, Jean. Peasant Revolts in China, 1840–1949. Translated by C. A. Curwen. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973. pp. 23–24
- Spence (1990), p. 171.
- "Feng Yunshan (Chinese rebel leader) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- "Taiping Rebellion (Chinese history) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- Reilly (2004), p. 4.
- Little, Daniel Marx and the Taipings (2009)
- China: A New History, John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman. Harvard, 2006.
- Spence (1996)
- Matthew White (2011). Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History. W. W. Norton. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-393-08192-3.
- Reilly (2004), p. 139.
- Spence 1996, p. 243
- 王新龙 (2013). 大清王朝4. 青苹果数据中心.
- Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 190–91 (1966)
- Pamela Kyle Crossley, The Wobbling Pivot: China Since 1800 105 (2010)
- Spence 1996, p. 25
- Spence 1996, p. 234
- Teng, Ssu-yü; Fairbank, John King (1979). China's Response to the West: A Documentary survey 1839–1923. Harvard University Press. pp. 57–59. ISBN 0674120256.
- Spence, Jonathan D. (1996). God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 237–238, 300, 311. ISBN 0393285863.
- Spence, Jonathan D. (1996). "22". God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393285863.
- Gao, James Z. (2009). Historical Dictionary of Modern China (1800–1949). Scarecrow Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0810863088.
- Tarocco, Francesca (2007), The Cultural Practices of Modern Chinese Buddhism: Attuning the Dharma, London: Routledge, p. 48, ISBN 978-1136754395.
- Platt, Stephen R. (2012). Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0307271730.
- Spence, Jonathan D. (1996). "14". God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393285863.
Our Sovereign, the T’ien Wang [Heavenly King], is the true Sovereign of Taiping of the ten thousand nations in the world. Therefore all nations under heaven ought to revere Heaven and follow the Sovereign, knowing on whom they depend. We are especially afraid that you do not understand the nature of Heaven, and believe that there are distinctions between this and that nation, not knowing the indivisibility of the true doctrine. Therefore we send this special mandatory dispatch. If you can revere Heaven and recognize the Sovereign, then our Heavenly Court, regarding all under heaven as one family and uniting all nations as one body, will certainly remember your faithful purpose and permit you, year after year, to bring tribute and come to court annually so that you may become ministers and people of the Heavenly Kingdom, forever basking in the grace and favor of the Heavenly Dynasty, peacefully residing in your own lands, and quietly enjoying great glory. This is what we, the great ministers, sincerely wish. You must tremblingly obey; do not circumvent these instructions
- Spence, Jonathan D. (1996). God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 116. ISBN 0393285863.
- "Money of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace". The Currency Collector. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- The Hakka Odyssey & their Taiwan homeland p. 120, Clyde Kiang (1992)[ISBN missing]
- Ning, Qian (29 July 2012). Chinese students encounter America. p. 206. ISBN 9780295803548.
- Hsu, Madeline Y. (2000). Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration Between the United States and South China, 1882–1943. p. 26. ISBN 9780804746878.
- Mark Anthony Chang, Hakka–Punti Clan Wars, Guangdong, China, 1855–1867 Geni
- Works cited
For a fuller selection, please see the section Taiping Rebellion: Further reading
- Platt, Stephen R. (2012). Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780307271730. Narrative history, with emphasis on the military aspects.
- Kuhn, Philip A. (1970), "The Taiping Rebellion", in Fairbank, John K. (ed.), Cambridge History of China, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, pp. 264–350.
- Michael, Franz H. (1966). The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295739592.
- 撕下历史的 “面膜” – 读潘旭澜教授《太平杂说》 (in Chinese)