Taiping Rebellion

Rebellion in Qing-era China from 1850 to 1864 / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a civil war in China between the Manchu-led Qing dynasty and the Hakka-led Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. It lasted from 1850 until the fall of Tianjing (now Nanjing) in 1864, although the last rebel army was not wiped out until August 1871. The conflict resulted in approximately 20 to 30 million deaths.[4] The established Qing government won decisively, although at great cost to its fiscal and political structure.

Taiping Rebellion
Part of the Century of Humiliation
An 1884 painting of the Battle of Anqing (1861)
DateDecember 1850 – August 1864

Qing victory

  • Qing dynasty severely weakened
  • Taiping armies remain at large until 1871
Commanders and leaders
3.4 million+[1] 2 million[2]
10 million (all combatants)[3]
Casualties and losses
Total dead: 20–30 million[4]
Quick facts: Taiping Rebellion, Traditional Chinese, ...
Taiping Rebellion
Traditional Chinese太平天國運動
Simplified Chinese太平天国运动
Literal meaning"Taiping (Great Peace) Heavenly Kingdom Movement"

The uprising was commanded by Hong Xiuquan, an ethnic Hakka (a Han subgroup) and the self-proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ. Its goals were religious, nationalist, and political in nature; Hong sought the conversion of the Han people to the Taiping's syncretic version of Christianity, to overthrow the Qing dynasty, and a state transformation.[5][6] Rather than supplanting the ruling class, the Taipings sought to upend the moral and social order of China.[7] The Taipings established the Heavenly Kingdom as an oppositional state based in Tianjing and gained control of a significant part of southern China, eventually expanding to command a population base of nearly 30 million people.

For more than a decade, Taiping armies occupied and fought across much of the mid- and lower Yangtze valley, ultimately devolving into total civil war. It was the largest war in China since the Ming–Qing transition, involving most of Central and Southern China. It ranks as one of the bloodiest wars in human history, the bloodiest civil war, and the largest conflict of the 19th century. In terms of deaths, it is comparable to World War I.[4][8] Thirty million people fled the conquered regions to foreign settlements or other parts of China.[9] The war was characterized by extreme brutality on both sides. Taiping soldiers carried out widespread massacres of Manchus, the ethnic minority of the ruling Imperial House of Aisin-Gioro. Meanwhile, the Qing government also engaged in massacres, most notably against the civilian population of the Taiping capital, Tianjing.

Weakened severely by internal conflict, an attempted coup, and the failure of the siege of Beijing, the Taipings were defeated by decentralized, provincial armies such as the Xiang Army organized and commanded by Zeng Guofan. After moving down the Yangtze River and recapturing the strategic city of Anqing, Zeng's forces besieged Nanjing during May, 1862. After two more years, on June 1, 1864, Hong Xiuquan died and Nanjing fell barely a month later. The 14-year civil war, combined with other partially linked internal and external wars, weakened the dynasty but provided incentive for an initially successful period of reform and self-strengthening. It exacerbated ethnic disputes and accelerated the rise of provincial power. Historians debate whether these developments foreshadowed the Warlord Era, the loss of central control after the establishment of Republic of China in 1912.