Motives Behind Hong Xiuquan and the Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was the
product of many different factors and factions converging at one particular
point in time: - Hong's revelations:
- economic shortage
- racial discrimination
- growing lack of respect for the corrupt and loathsome government
- most important: evangelical Christianity adopted by the leader of the rebellion Hong Xiuquan.
- Hong's revelations:
In 1837, at the age of 23, Hung failed the provincial examinations
for the second time and this failure so affected him that he became very ill
and had to be carried home where he suffered a severe nervous breakdown and
was bedridden for forty days and frequently unconscious.
During this time he had a vision that he had ascended into Heaven where he met a Presence that resembled a man of such age and power that he seemed to have been from all time, Ancient-of-Days. This Presence had him “girded with a sword, and given the command to exterminate demons, but to spare his brothers and sisters”. The Presence explained that He had made and continues to sustain all men, yet men had forgotten Him and no longer worshipped Him but had instead rebelled against Him and now worshipped demons.
Hong was told to take courage and that the Presence would be with him to assist in everything. On a second trip to Heaven Hong met a Man who identified Himself as the Son of the Ancient-of-Days and Hung recognized Him as the firstborn son and heir. This Son instructed Hung on how to confront demons and how to use his sword to slay them. When Hong finally came to himself and was recovered he informed his family and his neighbors that he had been chosen as a son of Heaven and was the duly appointed Emperor of China.
- further theological influence:
In 1843 Hong read a pamphlet of nine Protestant tracks entitled
Quanshi liangyan (Good Words to Admonish
the Age). Reading this material
carefully and attentively Hong was amazed to find that it reinforced his visions
and therefore his Heavenly Mandate. Hong spent the next several years travelling and spreading his version of Christianity,
and through his travels many people joined the new faith and his reputation
began to grow as well.
His followers, organized by his close friend Feng Yunshan, became known as the God-worshipping Society (Bai Shangdi hui)i. As the years passed and famines swept the land, the lack of the Manchu government to alleviate the sufferings of the people caused many of the poor and destitute to turn to banditry. The God-worshippers, having already attracted Imperial attention due to their conflicts with officials over the destruction of idols, began organizing themselves militarily to provide protection to their members. Soon members of secret societies, pirates, and disbanded patriotic volunteers petitioned to join the God-worshipping Society, not only because of the new faith it offered but because of the protection it offered and the threat it could become to the Qing dynasty and the Manchus. Within a matter of months Hong decided that Heaven had clearly shown the path he was to take to power and the Taiping tianguo, or Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, was established.