The Taiping Rebellion 1851-1864
August 22, 1988

The leadup to the Taipings

The traditional Chinese system of trade had been destroyed, due in part to corrupt Chinese officials. The Emperor had failed in one of his main Confucian duties, the protection of his country and people. From this time on, the old ways of China were threatened, not only from outside the country but also from within.

The harsh treaties, the humiliation of losing the wars, and the problems caused by the indemnities, the fixed tariffs and western influences, were to encourage groups like the Taipings to rebel against the emperor and make the past 1860 attempts at self-strengthening more difficult.

The Self-Strengthening Movement

The Self-Strengthening Movement (SSM) tried to institute reforms into Chinese society in order to quell other more rebellious movements like the Taipings. The reforms themselves are below:

Overall, the SSM achieved little significant improvement. It lacked guidance and was half-hearted. The Empress openly opposed the reforms (note her use of naval funds for her palace). The reforms were basically conservative - they lacked the ruthless approach required to bring in wholesale changes. Also the corruption of officials saw many funds pocketed and not used for reform projects and purposes anyway.

The Taiping Rebellion

Hung Hsiu Chuan led the Taipings.

The revolutionaries were considered China's first revolutionaries because they were the first to challenge the basic of all Chinese society, Confucianism.

There was much social and economic distress, and the people were so depressed that they were reay to reboke the Mandate from Heaven. Another problem was over-population; during the 1900's the population had jumped enormously and this put unbearable pressure on the land. Farmers had less andless to farm, and many were forced off the land completely. These became bandits or beggars, worsening social problems. On top of all this, the country experienced a series of natural disasters that weakened resources even further, and when the government decided to help its people many of the funds were held back by corrupt officials. Also, the opium trade took large amounts of silver out of the country, creating inflation and raising taxes.

The 10 Heavenly Commandments differed from the Confucian teachings by: a) they were concerned more with the present than the past; b) there was less emphasis on the family as a base for all society; c) there was more emphasis on the individual; d) collective punishment was abolished; e) they addressed the needs of a modern China; f) there was less emphasis on philosophical aspects of life.

The problems the 10 Heavenly Commandments were designed to solve were: a) the bandits, and other criminals (6, 8); b) the population crisis, and other forms of sexual abandon (7); c) the drug problem (7); d) the general breakdown of society's morals (9,10).

Firstly, I think that the Taipings were devoted to improving all aspects of Chinese life; they formulated a code of ethics the was intended to replace, not supplement, the Confucian teachings, and this code was applicable to all people, rather than just a few; a code for the people; a code for everyone. Then, on the second and third pages, he outlines what needs to be done to get society "back on the rails" again. He has gone to great lengths to make this of advantage to everybody; a rail system, a shipping trade, a postal system... the exposure of valuable goods for the public gain... the establishment of a state news agency... the establishment of "Shire patrol officers" and a police force... all with the public in mind.

The Taipings failed to do what they set out to achieve because a) the initial leader stepped down and the place was not the same without him; b) many of the more dynamic leaders were killed, and their replacements were not a good; c) There were internal disputes and assassinations; d) it was Christian and so didn't really attract anyone; e) the internal standards of conduct were hard to follow, and often no followed at all by the leaders; f) they were inferior on the military side of things.

Many lives were lost as a result of the rebellion - about 10,000,000. The ultimate result was the decline of the dynasty - although they managed to put it down, the length of time they took and the foreign resources they used weakened the people's opinion; not no mention the amount of men and money they lost... Also, the armies used to fight the Taipings were from specific regions; they split the country up into sections, so breaking up its unity and thus its leaders - the dynasty. Another result was the increase of hostility toward foreigners: the Taipings had caused much hardship and because they appeared to be Christian, and Christ was foreign, the populace shunned foreigners. Also, the fight illustrated China's chronic lack of expertise - in all fields - and people started to realise that China needed to learn as much as possible from the West, and abandon her superiority complex. The two most significant results here were the general decline of the dynasty, and changed attitudes towards the west.