The last two centuries are considered as the golden age of millenarianism in the sense that they brought about a change in the existing system, by means of overthrow of the system which existed. And the new system which evolved was considered as better than the old system which existed and was brought about by overthrowing the powerful. The reason is simple. As the sociologists and historians of the millenarianism say, one does not become sensitive to such ideas simply being oppressed or miserable. But instead, these ideas develop from those of whose expected and traditional lives have been destroyed and disrupted, uprooted and rendered rootless, even if they were having an unpromising and unpleasant life earlier.
As a result of the industrial revolution, many such people came to North America and Europe, but the nations which Europe was trying to bring under its control were the areas where the thoughts of millenarianism had not been posed to. These areas had been influenced by the ideas of millenarianism only after the arrival of the missionary community in these areas. The Cargo Cults, Ghost Dance and the Mahdists are all example of these type of movements, which were at different times noble or peaceful, but which were often violent, typically rash and foolish or fanatic, frequently self-destructive, sometimes for and sometimes against the Europeans, which took the form of a litany of doom as they all were defeated finally.
The Taiping Rebellion is considered as the most influential of all such millenarian movements which evolved as a result of the dominance of the west (except the Bolsheviks), reaching the peak of the Chinese tradition of millenarian revolts that is nearly 2000 years old (except the Maoists).1 China had alarming problems of varying heights by natural calamities inclusive of floods, droughts and famines during the mid of the nineteenth century.2 These and other disasters were partially due to the neglect of the government in public works, and to alleviate the misery caused by them which was widespread the Qing administration did absolutely nothing.3 There was widespread unrest, in the south, as a result of the cumulative effects of the military defeats at the hands of the Westerners, economic tensions and anti-Manchu sentiments. South China was the first to be influenced by the Western dominance and the last to be conquered by the Qing conquerors.4 All these promoted the background for the Taiping Rebellion, the largest revolt in the modern Chinese history.
1. Jonathan D. Spence "God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan" Norton & Company, (1996) p.34
2. Michael, Franz. The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents, vol. 2, Dosuments and Comments Seattle: University of Washington Press, (1971) p.23.
3. Ian Heath and Michael, Perry. "The Taiping Rebellion 1851-1866" Osprey Press, (1994) p.15
4. Jonathon D. Spence "The Taiping Version of a Christian China 1836-1864" Baylor University Press, (1996) p.53
Inspired by Christianity, Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of China was a millenarian religious movement. Though the Taiping Rebellion was the result of the disturbances which occurred internally it resulted from the conflict which occurred with the west. It was a culmination of the Chinese and the European patterns of culture blended in a volatile and extraordinary way. "And this extraordinary blend originated in the brains of Hung Hsiu-ch'uan (1813-1864) who became the leader of the Taiping rebellion."5 Born to a farmer, Hung Xiu-quan was an aspiring Chinese bureaucrat; who was greatly influenced by the Christian missionaries. 6 He proclaimed that he was the younger brother of Jesus and was sent to earth by the Heavenly Kingdom. 7 Due to the onslaught of the Westerners, the Qing dynasty rule collapsed and Hung initiated a rebellion which came to be known as the Taiping Rebellion influencing the millenarianism of the Chinese peasantry in a strong manner. 8
5. Jonathan. D. Spence God's Chinese Son. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. Londres: Harper Collins, (1996), p.46
6. S.Y Teng The Taiping Rebellion and the Western Powers. Oxford: Clarendon Press, (1971) p.17
7., J.S.M. Ward (1925) The Hung Society, or the Society of Heaven and Earth. 2 Vols. Londres, (1925) p.63
8. P.A. Kuhn. "The Taiping Rebellion" John K. Fairbank (Ed.) The Cambridge History of China, Vol. X, Late Ch'ing, Part 1, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, (1978) p. 265
Among the umpteen revolts, the most worrisome at last was this. It fumed between a period of 1851 to 1864 and huge chunks of territories in south and central China came under it, and not leaving alone the capital in the south, Nanking. 9 A military constitution of a whole mixture of religions set its flag flying high. It took the form of a millenarian revolution, and the heads of Taiping changed several policies which in course of time were to leave imprints of Chinese modernizers. The policies were putting a stop to smoke of opium, throwing in money for games, tobacco use and alcohol use, export of sales, and offering sex for money. Both sexes were treated alike. Foot binding was wiped off and women were made to take direct charge as rulers and were also given positions in the Taiping army. 10
Every effort was taken to wipe off money or land being restricted to a single entity, and land was given off equally. The new cult enticed many a people to follow it. Historians of the west have a notion that acute famine that racked in the 1840's gave a jolt and the Chinese started pouring into various cults that satiated their hunger and gave shelter. 11 There was particular emphasis on the anti-Manchu preaching of the early Hung's cult. Theists were full-fledged into demolishment of demon temples and were firmly against offering prayers to the demon. There was a notion that Manchu heads set off the demon worship. 12. Hung's initially came to the point of dethroning the rule of Manchu's which they felt would open the gate ways to the divine rule. The scene did not become ugly till the point when there was a meticulous attack on the theists by the government.
9. Michael, Franz. "The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents, vol. 2, Dosuments and Comments" Seattle: University of Washington Press, (1971) p.25.
10. Jonathon D. Spence "The Taiping Version of a Christian China 1836-1864" Baylor University Press, (1996) p.56
11. Jack, Gray "Rebellions and Revolutions, China from the 1800' to the 1980s: The Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1964," Oxford, Oxford University Press (1990) p. 11
12. Vincent Y.C. Shih "The Taiping Ideology" University of Washington Press, (1967) p.37
As an entrant, the Christian doctrine was a blessing in disguise for the people of China. There was a powerful jolt in the history of the world when a single man of the Chinese land who gave an expression to the Christian belief set off a revolt in the mid nineteenth century. 13 The Taiping rebellion has been labeled the cult which is in close association with Christianity. 14 Christianity was the robe that the Taipings wore and they believed they could provide a genuine and authentic reason for a rebellion.15 One that would be of thought to a curious person is the belief that there was about to be a rejuvenation and rebirth. This belief was markedly in the: Taiping ideology.
Also the Christian idea that all men were children of God was shared by this particular ideology. As it went on, there was an idea that all men and women were a single fraternity and this ultimately promoted the notion that it is sin to make love, and thus men and women had to be confined to their own camps. 16 When the needs to be a separate confinement of the sexes, people in various gradations who took charge of the camp had to be there and thus there was a woman enacting this role which was bit out of the way when thought in the Chinese wavelength.17. The man who took the lead of this movement, Hung Xiuquan, devoted himself to political and governmental affairs after Christianity embraced him in its arms. 18
13. P. Clarke "Western reports on the Taiping. A selection of documents. Honolulu: University Press of Hawai, (1982), p.18
14. Michael, Franz. "The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents, vol. 2, Dosuments and Comments" Seattle: University of Washingon Press, (1971) p.31
15. Michael, Franz. "The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents." Seattle: University of Washington Press, (1971) p.34
16. Jonathon D. Spence "The Taiping Version of a Christian China 1836-1864" Baylor University Press, (1966) p.53
17. Boardman, E. "Christian Influence upon the ideology of the Taiping Rebellion, 1851-1864." Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, (1952). p.76
18. Ian Heath and Michael, Perry. "The Taiping Rebellion 1851-1866" Osprey Press, (1994) p.17
There was an awakening for Hung in 1837 which remolded his vision. At that particular juncture Hung was there in Canton for a particular exam, where he had the introduction to a Protestant missionary. 19 By two months he went into the…