Guiping, Guangxi: The Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion is one of the most under-recognized events in world history, both in terms of scale and impact. It devoured over 20 million lives and sowed the seeds for the founding of China’s Communist Party, whose actions today impact every corner of the planet. It also caused hundreds of thousands Chinese to flee and start new lives abroad.
The Taiping Rebellion started in 1851 and was led by Hakka Chinese Christian fundamentalist Hong Xiuquan, who believed he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. Less than ten years earlier, China’s loss of the First Opium War had triggered the start of the country’s ‘century of humiliation’, in which ‘barbaric’ foreign powers repeatedly forced their will upon the weak, corrupt, and inward looking Qing rulers.
Hong Xiuquan sought to restore order and pride, and set out to build a ‘Heavenly Kingdom’. His peasant uprising fought against foreign influence, feudalism, and traditional concepts such as Confucianism and Buddhism, while advocating equality for women and common ownership of land and resources. The rebellion erupted in Guangxi province and quickly spread throughout southern China.
Pushing Chinese overseas
Almost toppling the Qing dynasty, the rebellion was finally suppressed in 1867 with help from the British and the French. With the Qing rulers aiming to exterminate all rebels, including their wives and children, numerous insurgents changed their names or fled, while tens of thousands of common people had already left the devastated country. People went everywhere from California to Calcutta, and countless rebels were shipped off as coolies to places such as Indonesia, Cuba, or Peru.
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