The Peasant Rebellion: The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace

The Taiping Rebellion is a rising of Chinese peasants for equality. A struggle of thirteen years for the equal distribution of land, for the equality of the sexes – defeated with the military support of the British Empire.

Hung Xiu­quan, the son of a farmer, comes under the influence of Christian missionaries, and reaches the conclusion that he is the younger son of Jesus sent to found the Heavenly Kingdom on Earth. Faced with the collapse of Qing dynasty rule – under Western onslaught – Hung taps into the deep millenarianism of the Chinese peasantry, previously expressed in Buddhist terms.

He begins a rebellion – the Taiping Rebellion: Taiping tien-quo means the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace.

Lasting from 1851 to 1864 it takes control of large swerves of south and central China, including the southern capital of Nanking. There a theocratic-military government is established.

Although it is millenarian in form, the Taiping leaders adopt many policies, which later become the marks of modernizers in China: prohibition of opium ­smoking, gambling, the use of tobacco and wine, polygamy, the sale of slaves, and prostitution.

They promote the equality of the sexes: they abolish foot binding and appoint women as administrators and officers in the Taiping army. They also try to abolish the private ownership of land and property, and they develop a program for the equal distribution of land.

 

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