The Taiping rebellion was one of the bloodiest wars which were fought between 1851- 1864 in China. It is estimated that over 11 million noncombatants and famine victims were directly affected. The rebellion was fought using small arms.
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The essay discusses what the Taiping rebellion was. It also explains the causes of the rebellion and explores the parties which were engaged in the rebellion. Further, the essay explains the outcomes that resulted after the war. And finally, the paper infers.
The Taiping rebellion
The Taiping rebellion was characterized by massive uprisings that took place in present-day China. It was called “the Rebellion of Great Peace”.The Rebellion took place in mid 19th century. The rebellion occurred during the reign of the Qing government (Reilly 35). The Rebellion was synonymously waged to fix a “new” country i.e. the “Heavenly Kingdom” of “Humble Peace”, in Southern China. It was spearheaded by Hong Xiauquan an army officer. Hong was a Christian convert who had received education benefits from the western missionaries (Reilly 39). He founded Nanjing, as a capital city for his “heavenly kingdom”.
Hong’s background was characterized by poverty and so this influenced him to grow up determined as a revolutionary to change his life and the society as a whole. He was apt in grasping religious teaching and thus his acquaintance with religious missionaries enabled him to read and understand the bible prompting him to convert to Christianity. More than 30 million Qing Dynasty followed Hong to southern China fixing a dynasty (Reilly 44). Taiping rebellion influenced Hong’s to endure Christianity to Confucianism and traditional Buddhism.
Causes of the Taiping Rebellion
Most of the traditional rebellions experienced in China were ascribed to various reasons. Important causes contributing to the rise of the Taiping rebellion were diverse and they included; Christianity and Hung Hsiu-Chuan (Chaurasia 56). Hung Hsiu was a charismatic leader of Hakka, the charcoal burners in Kwangsi province. The Hung Hsiu –Chung had resilient supporters who had taken a sacrilegious brand of Christianity as their true religion shaping their dogma.
The Hakka had formed a God-worshipping community and that they had their role and responsibilities outlined towards their religious conviction. Hung was a strong and a firm believer in faith. He asserted that he was the true and only one who was the second son of God (Chaurasia 66). By his classless Christian sermons exercised through his preaching, he engrossed the nucleus of rebellion.
Hung had the support of the natives and he had strengthened his relations in the Kwangsi province. Coupled with his religious community backing and insecurity of Kwangsi province he was capable of handling any threat. This compelled the cause of the Taiping Rebellion.
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Secondly, Landlordism and Over-taxation in the rural areas of China was another cause of the Taiping Rebellion. Massive corruption which was a result of opium wielded financial credence on peasants in rural areas. The majority of the constrained peasants had to dispose of their land and be in a position to pay their huge debts (Chaurasia 76). Their land was readily booked by the wealthy locals who comprised landlords or the gentry. Also, the elites, i.e. the gentry and landlords knew valuable ways of dodging tax from the government officials who were allowed to collect taxes on behalf of the government. Occasionally, they were immune from tax payments.
The local government officials, therefore, loaded the peasants in tax payment sidelining the wealthy landlords. Also, funds to strengthen the well-being of the population i.e. social services improvements were diverted to wealthy local officials (Chaurasia 79). Therefore the peasants and entire population were left to suffer and starvation. Landlordism contributed to the unequal distribution of land among the people.
The land is also credited with political and social instability in China. Concentrating huge land parcels in the 19th century was in the hands of the wealthy and members of higher classes. Peasants were left poorer, desperate, and famine stricken (Chaurasia 81). However, they had to persist struggling to post high monthly rent imposed to them by the landlords. Uncertain natural misfortune to the peasants meant a threat to their survival because there was no alternative to incite them.
Thirdly, high-level corruption and misgovernment contributed to Taiping Rebellion in China. The government at Ch’ing was inefficiency and was composed of corrupt leaders. The central administration overseeing the roles and control of local government was inexperienced, loose and irresponsible (Chaurasia 83).Ineffective handling of local government grievances such as landlordism, over taxation, indebtedness and banditry was a common practice. These grievances were often ignored by the government which was believed to solve the people’s agitations. Thus, the social nature of the local nobility began to corrode because most of the officials began the practice of managing local rackets therefore oppressing and extorting the poor population. The negativity of people towards the government and authorities in place intensified thus consolidating tension.
Chien-lung tenure was characterized by high-level corruption in form of grafts, bribes and presents. After his demise, his chief political consultant predecessor Ho Shen, was found guilty of corruption charges and sentenced to death. The outcome revealed that he had a huge fortune which was a result of corruption (Chaurasia 87). Though, the corrupt wealth was confiscated, corruption still advanced. Corruption had penetrated every sector of the government and the army this posed a demoralizing efforts in heightening efficiency hence prompting a contributory reason to the rise of Taiping Rebellion.
Fourthly, the banditry and political instability in the rural areas encouraged Taiping rebellion. In rural areas, farmers were taxed heavily, paid high rents and government didn’t provide immunity from the corrupt officials (Chaurasia 89). These activities encouraged farmers to desert their lands and form bands which later resulted in banditry.
In every era of dynastic decline, enormous and wide scale banditry was a common norm in certain parts of China. When the government realized the threat of banditry, it intervened by involving military intrusion this made China to be insecure. Bandits’ battalion was well proved from as far as mountainous areas to thick forests thus they were a threat to the already settled population in those regions. The threat posed by bandits was severe so the government did not have enough security personal to accord protection to its officials. However, the trouble known to extend to a larger scale called for ordering of troops to aid in restoring calm and order (Chaurasia 94). Besides, the troops themselves compromised the situation because of mistrust among them. The government troops were demoralized and the community viewed them as a basis of danger. The community dreaded the troops and imminent was feared as an attack by thugs. These tensions assigned to the Taiping rebellion.
Fifthly, the growth of secrete society and emergence of local military further forced Taiping Rebellion. The government failure to meet its security needs for its people prompted the local communities to form their own security units (Chaurasia 96).Though, the government was in opposition to this idea, because they thought it was a military form of monopoly to warranty government rebellion and uprisings.
However, the government waived the policy during the period of emergency to allow the locals to subsist and have their own security plans. The local military corps became influential in their own localities. They owned up the responsibilities of settling disputes and sometimes used force to realize their objectives. They also exercised the responsibility of defending the localities against invasion by bandits and occasionally applied force in solving conflicts emanating from neighboring communities. Devising local military amassed more powers by becoming an appealing tendency. And it was tricky to define self-independence and direct insult with authorities in the society.
The local society was also a characteristic of the locals. They were formed to foster camaraderie and common backing among them. When they grew stronger with time, they converted into a firm and robust organization encompassing both military and political supremacy (Lee 56). The secrete societies later played an instrumental role in conspiring and leading anti-movement uprisings. The societies showed a threat to Manchu dynasty because they had anti-dynastic inclination, therefore, Taiping Rebellion was unavoidable.
Lastly, the local hostility in Kwangsi necessitated the cause of Taiping rebellion. Kwangsi was a province which was made up of intricate ethnic, political, economical and social intricacies. The population in this province comprised of Punti and Hakka (Lee 65). The Puntin were locals and Hakka “guests”. Punti had occupied Kwangsi much earlier than Hakka. They were populous than Hakka.
The Hakka settled in Kwangsi from other regions in China. The two groups had an opposing culture because of different dialects and culture as well. Their living lifestyle was a major contributing cause to disputes and conflicts among themselves. Besides conflicts of Punti and Hakka, other minorities living in Kwangsi existed i.e. the Yao, Lop and Miao. These communities did not coexist harmoniously with one another (Lee 75).
Occupational grouping also created tension within the tribes in Kwangsi. This was because every community championing for their own community interests. For instance, the boat crews were responsible for dominating water transport; charcoal burners and miners who lived-in the hilly slopes had a close-knit social society with well organized leadership. The tribal and occupational groupings compelled forming secrete societies to help in safeguarding of each tribe and community well being therefore stressing friendship. Besides, the formed societies protected each individual tribe and that any intruders in their territories were dealt with. Besides, every group was armed and when feuding was uncontrollable in the province, the Taiping rebellion resulted (Lee 85).
Parties involved in the Taiping Rebellion
The west industrial powerhouses such as the United States and Britain were instrumental in precipitating the Taiping Rebellion in China (Wolf 58).The Interests arose to safeguard trade in the country. China was a potential market for their finished products. Britain and the US therefore were willing to do what they can to make China change its foreign trade policies of isolation to contribution to changing world economy (Wolf 67).China was active in importation of more products from Britain than it would export. This had a devastating effect to its economy. For instance the foreign textiles importation made the native produced cotton products unappealing hence driving locally produced handcraft out of market.
Besides the western powers influence, the native contributed to the uprising of the Taiping rebellion. The natives were affected by foreign influence in “killing” their businesses the locals couldn’t find market for their locally produced products (Wolf 76). Also, products imported from the west were superior to locally produced products hence the Chinese sellers couldn’t provide a competitive environment for their products and goods. The practices lead to either enormous bankruptcy or job loss. People who lost their jobs did not have other means to survive.
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The Hakka Community was also another party involved in the Taiping rebellion. The Hakka people lived-in Guangxi, a hilly country (Wolf 82). They were felt as “outsiders” by the local inhabitants. This was because of their unique customs and language. They had practices that were not in tandem with the tradition held by most Chinese culture. The Hakka people were revolutionaries and were keen in restoring China to the Chinese people. The famine effects and inefficiency in the government made the Hakka people to dislike the Qing dynasty. The Hakka were mainly people drawn from the lowest class of the society i.e. they were former miners and charcoal burners. Their status compelled them to wage a revolution in order to improve their class in life and in the society.
Western Missionaries were also a party involved in the Taiping Rebellion. The Missionaries were involved in spreading the Christian faith (Wolf 86). The Chinese people had already showed their own traditional religions such as Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The Missionaries therefore integrated traditional religion teachings in their preaching’s to make Christianity appealing. This was because; it was taut for the missionaries to alter the already entrenched belief of the people. The Missionaries believed that by incorporating the teaching of traditional religions especially the Confucianism, it was easier for the population to admit Christian faith (Wolf 90).Missionaries facilitated change of intelligent Chinese such as Hong who later inspired a revolution in China (Wolf 88).
The army was also involved in the Taiping rebellion. The army composition was made up of predominantly two major tribes; the Han Chinese and Hakka. Both of these tribes were minority in comparison to populous Han Chinese. Hakka community were suppressed economical and politically by the ruling dynasty. Hence the contribution to the Taiping rebellion was a way of finding their place in Chinese society (Wolf 91).
Effects of Taiping Rebellion
Taiping rebellion bought about several significances to Chinese population. It is estimated that, over ten million of t deaths were reported. The death shook Manchu dynasty and other Kingdoms around the world in the 19th century (Heath and Perry 47). The first adverse effect of the rebellion was; it simplified the rise of Han Chinese in the government of Manchu.
The fight that was waged towards the Taiping was fundamentally because the leaders of Han Chinese. Therefore, the Taiping only served as an avenue in which the administrative authority to transfer commands from Manchu to Han. Hunan and Anwhei leaders were granted powerful and influential posts in the new government. Leaders such as Tseng, Li Hung and Tso Tsung Tang were promoted to authoritarian position which they merited for because of the vast contribution they had done during the Taiping Rebellion. But, these men had rigorously propelled reestablishment of Tung-Chih and helped to recommend for internal strengthening actions. Also, the leaders had provided a significant role in various Chinese provinces, department of foreign affairs and were in the forefront of Sinkiang colonization (Heath and Perry 56).
They helped Han Chinese to posses more authority and moral during the rebellion. By expanding the Manchu government, the Hans Chinese swell in numbers and superseded Manchus hence they had more command in the grand council and other important decision making organs of the government. The Taiping rebellion had brought about renewed and historical distribution of authority across China.
Secondly, the Taiping rebellion led to the rise of regionalism to promote easier and elaborate administration. The rebellion brought evolution and expansion of regional and provincial establishments to boost administration and access of essential government services “at the expense” of the central government (Heath and Perry 66).This had been intensified as a result of crisis of Taiping Rebellion. The political balancing of provincial and central authority was important in ensuring that interests of the population at the local and national level were addressed.
Regionalism was widely recognized and embraced. It provided more financial autonomy and increased military of governors. This helped in combating militias and rebels in the country (Heath and Perry 76). Moreover, introducing new taxes such as; transit commercial tax provided less supervision of tax collectors and therefore increased revenue for the government. The soft approach of the central government about army control and taxes was a significant which contributed to fall of Ch’ing dynasty during the 1911 century.
Thirdly, the load of politics militarization in China came to being. The politics in China were shaped and incorporated militarization because of Taiping Rebellion. The pressure emanating from the civil war contributed to the need of soldiery politics in China (Heath and Perry 79). The locally formed Huai and Hsiang Army was significant because it showed how loose the central government was and a need to built and equip the regional government. The establishment of army resulted in show of loyalty to the officer in charge than showing the loyalty to the nation. This mirrored the former government where the army served the interests of the few rather than the whole population in china (Heath and Perry 79).
Local politics were affected by militarization. The instabilities associated with the social structures in the locality influenced developing a local Tuanlien (Triefeldt 71). This was an inclination that was in place even before the Taiping Rebellion. The local militia showed undesirable characteristics such as the use of force, failing to settle fighting communities as the former army did. The population viewed them as a reproduction of government forces (Heath and Perry 88). The instabilities continued anywhere in the country because even the existence of armed groups was a dangerous affair for the dynasty.
And lastly, the Taiping rebellion created and impact in revolutionary movements and reforms in China. Reforms in the country were necessary to combat future rebellions from occurring. The existence of internal discontent and presence of foreign intrusion made the Manchu government embrace the needed reforms and ensure efficiency and transparency in governing China (Triefeldt 67).
The conventional restructuring during the Tung Chih restoration era was a sure reply towards the Taiping rebellion. However, not only was the government responsible for suppressing the Taiping’s but was entrusted with the responsibility of rehabilitating economy and setting up measures to control and strengthen local government. Tseng Kuo and his friends played a major role in promoting rehabilitation of rebels as a result of Taiping rebellion (Triefeldt 73).
Tseng was not happy with the Taiping Confucian order and has a results the areas that were recovered from Taiping , they understood the need of Confucian model which portrayed better governance by incorporating efficient and well trained men. The Confucian played a significant role in reshaping the leadership and efficiency in the government. And in 1860s many diligent governor-general and governors who ineffectively handled their duties well emerged (Triefeldt 75). The Confucian perfectionism helped Tung Chi to restore efficiency towards governance during his period. It simplified survival and reviving the inherited society.
The Taiping had prompted rebellion mind-set and anti-dynasty moods were a common persistent in most peoples mind. The secrete society, Triat and “heaven and earth “in modern China the Communist Party continue to applause the Taiping Rebellion as a magnificent crofter uprising in present-day Chinese History (Triefeldt 76).
In conclusion, the Taiping Rebellion was one of the deadliest uprisings ever to emerge during the 19th century. It altered the political, economic and social structures in modern day China. The paper has examined the causes of the Rebellion as Christianity and Hung Hsiu-chuan, Landlordism and Over-taxation, high-level corruption, growth of secrete society, banditry and political instability in the rural areas hostility in Kwangsi among other causes.
The parties involved in the Rebellion included the West. They were made up of Britain and United States, the missionaries and dissatisfied Chinese population. The Rebellion brought about undesirable effects to Chinese population. These results lead to; rise of Han Chinese in the government, growth of regionalism, militarization and emergence of revolutionary movements and reforms.
Chaurasia, R.S. History of Modern China. New Delhi:Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2004.
Heath, Ian, and Perry Michael. The Taiping Rebellion 1851-66,Volume 275 of Men- at-arms series. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1994.
Lee, Khoon, Choy. Pioneers of Modern China: understanding the inscrutable Chinese.Singapore: World Scientific, 2005.
Reilly, Thomas, H.The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom: Rebellion and The Blasphemy of Empire. Washington: University of Washington Press, 2004.
Triefeldt, Laurie. People & Places.Pennsylvania: Quill Driver Books, 2007.
Wolf, Eric, R. Peasant Wars of The 20th Century. Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.