Yang Xiuqing

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Yang Xiuqing
East King of the Heavenly Kingdom
Reign 1851 - 1856
Born 1821
Died 1856 (aged 34)

Yang Xiuqing (simplified Chinese: 杨秀清; traditional Chinese: 楊秀清; pinyin: Yáng Xiùqīng; Wade–Giles: Yang Hsiu-Ch'ing) (died September 2/3, 1856), was an organizer and commander-in-chief of the Taiping Rebellion.

Early life[edit]

Yang Xiuqing's family were farmers from Xincun near Jintian, Guangxi, but he lost his parents at a young age.[1] According to imperial reports, Yang was a charcoal burner with some education who later organized a convey system used to protect merchandise that was being transported through the area from bandits.[2]

Society of God-Worshippers[edit]

In April 1848, while Feng Yunshan and Hong Xiuquan were in a neighboring province, Yang assumed a leadership role in the God-Worshipping Society.[3] Yang claimed to have been stricken deaf and mute only to have regained his hearing and speech at a meeting of the God Worshippers.[4] He began to claim that he could enter trances in which he would be possessed by the Holy Spirit, allowing God the Father to speak through him.[5] It does not appear that Yang truly believed that this was occurring, but that he instead acted as such in service of his own ambitions, as while speaking as God Feng necessarily possessed greater authority than even Hong Xiuquan.[6] Upon Hong and Feng's return in the summer of 1849, they investigated Yang's claims and recognized them as genuine.[7] From May to November 1850, Yang once again claimed to be deaf and mute.[8] Once he recovered, Yang alleged that God was angered that Hong Xiuquan was not being allowed to establish the kingdom of God on Earth and sought to punish mankind with disease.[9] According to this tale, only by suffering his illness was Yang able to redeem others.[10] In 1850, perhaps in service of his political ambitions, he began to claim that he could miraculously heal true believers.

Taiping Rebellion[edit]

He was an early participant in the rebellion and rose quickly to prominence; in 1851, when Hong Xiuquan took the title of Heavenly King for himself, he made Yang, in spite of having no military knowledge or experience, commander-in-chief of the army. Yang was further named "East King", in keeping with three other leaders of the rebellion who were given titles as "kings" of the four-quarters of the Heavenly Kingdom. In 1851, Yang announced a vision in which it was revealed that there were traitors in the highest levels of the movement, and two years later that words of the Eastern King, that is, Yang himself, were divine. He devised an extensive network of spies to root out the intrigues of loyalists in the kingdom. Shrewd, ruthless, and ambitious, Yang ultimately proved himself to be a brilliant strategist and organizer, as well as the administrative mastermind of the Taiping Movement.[11] By the 1850's, Yang had become the most powerful leader of the Taiping Rebellion.[12]

With this presumed divine guidance, Taiping troops captured the city of Nanjing (Nanking), which became the capital of the Heavenly Kingdom in 1853. Yang took control of the city. He disciplined the troops after an initial period of violence and slaughter by declaring that he would execute any officer who entered a private home. City residents were ordered to return to work. Men and women were required to live separately, and were prohibited from walking together or even speaking to each other (there continued to be male and female military units). As Hong, the Heavenly King, became less interested in politics and more interested in his harem, he named Yang as prime minister of the Heavenly Kingdom. Many of the basic laws and regulations were issued during this period of Yang's control.[13]

In August 1856, Yang defeated the government troops besieging Nanking. He first led them to divide their forces by forcing them to send relief forces to other cities, then sent all his own troops against them in a massed attack. Arrogance over victory, however, led to his downfall.[14] Yang clashed with Hong over the rebellion's policies and views toward Confucianism and iconoclasm; Yang believed that Confucian morality was essentially positive and that its basic tenets were compatible with the rebellion's interpretation of Christianity and that images of dragons were not sacrilegious. Hong, however, rejected this notion and believed that Confucianism ought to be eradicated, as it was the work of the devil.


Yang plotted to take the throne. First he demanded to be called Wansui (Ten Thousand Years), a title reserved for the emperor (Hong had assumed it in 1852). After giving outward agreement, Hong secretly summoned the North King Wei Changhui and the Wing King Shi Dakai, who both despised Yang. In the three months that followed Yang's murder on September 2, these two also killed Yang's family and 20,000 of his adherents. Within a few years, the fortunes of the Taiping Rebellion declined as the rebellion's leaders became involved in the ensuing conspiracies and intrigues.[15]


  1. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 35 (1966)
  2. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 35-36 (1966)
  3. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 36 (1966)
  4. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 36 (1966)
  5. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 36 (1966)
  6. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 36-37 (1966)
  7. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 37 (1966)
  8. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 38 (1966)
  9. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 39 (1966)
  10. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 39 (1966)
  11. ^ Franz H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History 35, 190 (1966)
  12. ^ Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 886-87.
  13. ^ Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 887.
  14. ^ Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 887.
  15. ^ Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 887.

Further references[edit]