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Taiping Rebellion

Taiping Rebellion, 1850–64, revolt against the Ch'ing (Manchu) dynasty of China. It was led by Hung Hsiu-ch'üan, a visionary from Guangdong who evolved a political creed and messianic religious ideology influenced by elements of Protestant Christianity. His object was to found a new dynasty, the Taiping [great peace]. Strong discontent with the corrupt and decaying Chinese government brought him many adherents, especially among the poorer classes, and the movement spread with great violence through the E Chang (Yangtze) valley. The rebels captured Nanjing in 1853 and made it their capital. The Western powers, particularly the British, who at first sympathized with the movement, soon realized that the Ch'ing dynasty might collapse and with it foreign trade. They offered military help and led the Ever-Victorious Army, which protected Shanghai from the Taipings. The Taipings, weakened by strategic blunders and internal dissension, were finally defeated by new provincial armies led by Tseng Kuo-fan and Li Hung-chang. Some 20 million people died in the uprising, which was filled with acts of barbarism on both sides.

See J. M. Callery and M. Yvan, History of the Insurrection in China (tr. 1853, repr. 1969); W. J. Hail, Tseng Kuo-fan and the Taiping Rebellion (1927, repr. 1964); E. P. Boardman, Christian Influence upon the Ideology of the Taiping Rebellion, 1851–1864 (1952); F. H. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion (3 vol., 1966–71); S. R. Platt, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom (2012).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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