A Great War never even heard of - the Taiping Rebellion

Posted On: Monday - August 26th 2019 7:30PM MST
In Topics: 
  History  China  Bible/Religion  World Political Stupidity

Peak Stupidity's facetious post on Superpower Battle of the Chicken Titans featured (in one corner) General Zuo, known to American's as General Tso, of sweet/salty/fatty chicken ignominy. Here's a follow up on the real war that this Chinese general was part of, and this was no laughing matter.

Taiping Rebellion - artist's rendition:

(Again, a lack of quality Jap cameras hampers our post.)

A friend brought this up 5 years or so ago to me, the fact that over the course of history there were wars in China the size of 20th-century World Wars of the West (and the whole world, of course) that most people have never even heard the name of. By "size", I mean how many MILLIONS of men maimed and killed. One such, and I believe this is the one he was referring to, was the mid-19th-century Taiping Rebellion. There is a nice compact write-up on a blog-site called "Daylight Atheist", written by Charleston (WV), Gazette writer James Haught*. For the record (of some sort), here is the Wiki article with quite a bit more detail.

As the Wiki article says from the get-go, this was no mere rebellion. It's called the Taiping Civil War** or the Taiping Revolution. Though not 1 in hundreds of Americans have heard of this Taiping Rebellion, for the Chinese it is a major part of their history. This war went on over three times as long as, and included the ~ 4 year time period of, the American Civil War**. Estimates of the men killed from just the fighting are at least 20 million, with maybe 50 more million, some of the latter dead from disease and starvation. At the least, there were 40 TIMES the deaths as there were in America at that same time in history, as almost as many Americans died in wartime than in all other wars of ours combined***.

One could of course put this as a proportion of population, and as pointed out long ago, China had more people at the time under discussion than the US has EVEN NOW! That would make America's proportion of the population killed (655,000 out of 31,000,000), 2.1%, under 1/2 of China's lowest estimate (20,000,000 out of 430,000,000), 4.6%, that could have been up to a horrific 15-20%! Just in absolute numbers, though, this was a culling of a big chunk the warrior population.

I had thought of Christian missionaries around the world as not having that much long-term influence, and I've mentioned before the Chinese lack of religion after the Communists drilled it out of them. People will tend revert to their old ways after the brave Christians get kicked out, as a group. However, this Taiping Rebellion, from back when China was Taoist, Buddhist, and all that, was started by a guy, one Hong Xiuquan, who had read some of that literature that Christians regularly leave wedged into the mailbox. Mr. Hong was under the mistaken impression that he was Jesus Christ's kid brother.
Hong said God commanded him to “destroy demons,” meaning officials and supporters of the reigning Qing Dynasty. [quotes from the James Haught article]
Things got ugly very quickly after this.
Hong proclaimed the “Heavenly Kingdom of Peace” (Taiping Tianguo), and began raising a volunteer army to wage the opposite of peace. Oppressed peasants in southern China flocked to him, partly because of his miracle message and partly because they felt bitterness against the ruthless northern Qing government.
This "Heavenly Kingdom" bit rings a bell, don't it? Oh, yeah, that sounds very much like the "Heaven's Gate" (only 39 dead - no biggie) cult of 1997 fame, and then the "People's Temple" of San Francisco with branch offices in the jungle at Jonestown, Guiana (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this story).

The Qing Dynasty was the last of China's many multi-century-long dynasties through its 5,000 year history, and was ended after the child "last emperor" (of the movie) and the Empress "Dowager"**** Cixi at the beginning of the 20th century. General Zuo, the reason for this post out of nowhere. was on the side of the Qing government.
Early rebel victories against Qing troops in 1850 caused the Taiping army to swell beyond 700,000. One of leader Hong’s top aides — Yang Xiuqing, who claimed that his utterances were the voice of God speaking through him — became a secondary commander. Together, they mandated a puritanical society inflicting the death penalty for various vices and imposing strict separation of sexes.

Although polygamy was banned, Hong, the supposed younger brother of Jesus, had a harem of concubines.
Yeah, see, now just as with Jim Jones, and fellow Commie Mao Zedong of one-century-later China on his Long Ride March, some Commies, even though they are of the SAME CLASS, mind you, get better service than others. Concubines for me, but not for thee... I see how this goes.

At the "high" point, 40% of the population was under Taiping control.

Here's another map to show how much of China was taken by the supposed younger brother of Jesus, showing the provinces of today, and with more of the movements of the troops:

(I couldn't get any better resolution than this - sorry.)

Qing Dynasty rulers struggled to defeat the snowballing mutiny. Several local resistance militias were organized. The largest was the “Ever-Victorious Army” led by American commander Frederick Ward. After Ward was killed in 1862, command was taken by Briton Charles “Chinese” Gordon. Hiring expert foreign commanders for local mercenary defense armies was expedient during that chaotic period in China.
This is interesting. I learned when reading up for that (linked-to just above) Long March article, both sides of the century-later Commie vs. Nationalist Civil War had Germans to help the with war strategy and tactics. It always comes down to "our Germans are better than their Germans", doesn't it?

Here's a tidbit from the end, after the
Hong’s body was exhumed and burned, and his ashes were blasted from a cannon, to deprive fanatical followers of a gravesite where he could be worshipped as a divine martyr.
I've said it before, the Chinese LUV their fireworks. (They did invent, gunpowder, you know ...)

General Zuo had a big part in the Chinese government's side in ending this war. Think of this, as you munch down at the China King Buffet. As Paul Harvey would have said, had he written for this blog, "Now, you know the rest of the story." I guess the Chinese don't do very much in a small way. Though it's a small tidbit of history to us, the Taiping Rebellion stands as possibly the biggest war of all time.

This is Peak Stupidity ...


Good day!

* Note that this blog is not my cup of tea, but it's owner, one Adam Lee, just included the whole Charleston Gazette article.

** Somewhat as with the American "Civil War" that was mostly State against State, not neighbor against neighbor, the term "civil war" does not quite fit. In China, the rebellion name is more appropriate in that one section of the country rebelled. In the US war, on the other hand, it was more a matter of several States, quite legally seceding from a loose compact that didn't make that part quite clear enough. As much as we'd rather use "War of Northern Aggression", or, at least "War Between the States", we're trying to be concise ... trying ...

*** This Wiki table shows that there were right near 700,000 total deaths in all other wars vs. 655,000 during the War Between the States.

**** Yeah, the Chinese are in need of better translators. They think we are supposed to know terms like "dowager" and "capitalist roader". They are not sending their best English speakers to write history.

No comments

WHAT SAY YOU? : (PLEASE NOTE: You must type capital PS as the 1st TWO characters in your comment body - for spam avoidance - or the comment will be lost!)