The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion or civil war that was waged in China between the Manchu Qing dynasty and the Han, Hakka-led Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. It lasted from 1850 to 1864, although following the fall of Nanjing the last rebel army was not wiped out until 1871. After fighting the bloodiest civil war in world history, with 30 to 50 million dead, the established Qing government won decisively, although the outcome is considered a pyrrhic victory.
|Part of the century of humiliation|
An 1884 painting of the Battle of Anqing (1861)
|Commanders and leaders|
|10,000,000 (all combatants)|
|Casualties and losses|
Total dead:30-50 million
|Literal meaning||"Taiping [Great Peace] Heavenly Kingdom Movement"|
The uprising was commanded by Hong Xiuquan, an ethnic Hakka (a Han subgroup) and the self-proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ. Its goals were religious, nationalist, and political in nature; Hong sought the conversion of the Han people to the Taiping's syncretic version of Christianity, to overthrow the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and a state transformation. Rather than supplanting the ruling class, the Taipings sought to upend the moral and social order of China. The Taipings established the Heavenly Kingdom as an oppositional state based in Tianjing (now Nanjing) and gained control of a significant part of southern China, eventually expanding to command a population base of nearly 30 million people.
For more than a decade, the Taiping occupied and fought across much of the mid and lower Yangtze valley, ultimately devolving into total civil war. It was the largest war in China since the Manchu conquest of China in 1644, involving every province of China proper except Gansu. It ranks as one of the bloodiest wars in human history, the bloodiest civil war, and the largest conflict of the 19th century. In terms of deaths, the civil war is comparable to World War I. 30 million people fled the conquered regions to foreign settlements or other parts of China. The Taiping were extremely intolerant: they carried out widespread massacres of Manchus, the ethnic minority of the ruling Imperial House of Aisin-Gioro, whom they believed to be demons, and forced strict religious mandates on their people.
Weakened severely by an attempted coup (the Tianjing incident) and the failure of the siege of Beijing, the Taipings were defeated by decentralized, irregular armies such as the Xiang Army commanded by Zeng Guofan. Having already moved down the Yangtze River and recaptured the important city of Anqing, Zeng's Xiang Army besieged Nanjing during May, 1862. Two years later, on June 1, 1864, Hong Xiuquan died and Nanjing fell during the Third Battle of Nanjing, barely a month later. The 14 year civil war greatly weakened the Qing dynasty, which would collapse less than 50 years after the end of the war. It exacerbated sectarian tension and accelerated the rise of regionalism, foreshadowing the Warlord Era that would come after another Hakka, Sun Yat-Sen, overthrew the Qing in the 1911 Xinhai Revolution.