Origins of the Taiping Rebellion

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  • Origins of the Taiping Rebellion (Hong XiuQuan)
    • Economic
      • Econmic downturn
        • Silver drain
        • Higher taxes
    • Social
      • Widespread opium addiction
      • Drug and sex industries in Canton
      • Ethnic conflict: Hakka vs Punti
        • Local wars and ethnic fragmentation- feuds between villages
          • Hakka immigrants from north- customs set them apart from Han Chinese and hill tribes
        • Economic competition between Hakkas and dominant majority
          • Armed conflicts since c.1842
        • Hakkas= minority. Hong was a Hakka
          • Had to 'fit' with native culture
      • Population explosion C18 and C19
      • Hong was educated in common body and canonical literature
        • Unexpected that he would abandon his literary heritage and culture
    • Religious
      • Hong's conversion
        • 1844- tour of southern provinces
        • 1847- two months with missionary Issachar Jacox Roberts
          • Taught him fundamental protestantism
      • Visions- Heavenly King and second son of God
        • 1837- met Heavenly Father and Heavenly Elder Brother
        • Heavenly and Earthly missions- destroy demons
      • Hong preached own version of Old Testament and became a militant evangelist
        • Created an iconoclastic monotheism strong enough to create Taiping theocracy
          • Too blasphemous for missionary support
          • Half-borrowed and half-recreated Christianity for Taiping purposes
        • Protestant OT encouraged a militant people to march against oppressors
      • Ill/ delirious for 40 days= visions of heaven
      • Converted Kwangsi Hakkas over next decade
      • Hong's only known exposure to Christianity pre-1840= 'Good Words to Admonish the Age'
        • Written by a Cantonese Christian convert
          • Introduced concept of Jesus as saviour
      • Hong's writings
        • Convinced that Christian revelation would transform Chinese spiritual life if it were widespread
        • Revealing in terms of intitutionalis-ing his vision
          • Little emphasis on the nation but large focus on families and individuals
    • Political
      • Number of examination candidates increased
        • Qing failed to increase number of degrees and government posts
      • Provincial exam statistics
        • 1558= 2,700 candidates, 75 graduates
        • 1729= 9,000 candidates, 78 graduates
        • 1844- 7,500 candidates, 72 graduates
      • Hong Xiuquan- examination failures c.1830, 1836, 1837, 1843
        • Could not gain bacc. degree or elite status
      • Late 1840s- Politicisation of God Worshippers
      • Hong wrote poems of political implication
    • Western/ external forces
      • First Opium War (1839-42)
      • 'Unequal Treaties'
      • China and West met under 'traumatic circumstances' C19
      • Ideas can be transmitted through:
        • Precise language of textual material impinged upon host culture
        • Process whereby foreign material becomes important to groups outside of original receiving group
  • Notes from: Fairbank, 'China: A New History'
  • Notes from: Kuhn, 'Origins of the Taiping Vision: Cross-Cultural Dimensions of a Chinese Rebellion'


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