Hong Xiuquan

Hong Xiuquan

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Hong Xiuquan born Hong Renkun, style name
Chinese style name
A Chinese style name, sometimes also known as a courtesy name , is a given name to be used later in life. After 20 years of age, the zì is assigned in place of one's given name as a symbol of adulthood and respect...

 Huoxiu (火秀), was a Hakka
Hakka people
The Hakka , sometimes Hakka Han, are Han Chinese who speak the Hakka language and have links to the provincial areas of Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan and Fujian in China....

 Chinese
Chinese people
The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

 who led the Taiping Rebellion
Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was a widespread civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who, having received visions, maintained that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty...

 against the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

, establishing the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was an oppositional state in China from 1851 to 1864, established by Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion...

 over varying portions of southern China, with himself as the "Heavenly King
Tian Wang
Tian Wang , translatable as either "heavenly prince" or "heavenly king," was a Chinese regal title that was most frequently used during the Sixteen Kingdoms era, among the kingdoms founded by members of the Wu Hu tribes, often used as an intermediate stage from claiming a prince/king title to an...

" and self-proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ.

Early life and education



Hong was born in Fuyuanshui Village (福源水村), Hua County (花縣; present-day Huadu District
Huadu District
Huadu District is a district in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. It is located in the far northern suburbs of Guangzhou.Xinhua Town is the seat of local government, and of the district CCP committee....

, Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

), Guangdong
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

 to Hong Jingyang (洪競揚) and Madam Wang (王氏). His grandfather was Hong Guoyou (洪國游), who was, like his ancestors, a farmer. He later moved to Guanlubu Village (官祿㘵村). His wife (Queen
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

) was Lai Xiying (賴惜英).

Hong started studying at a school called Book Chamber House (書房閣) at the age of seven. He was able to recite the Four Books
Four Books and Five Classics
The Four Books and Five Classics are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China written before 300 BC.-Four Books:The Four Books are Chinese classic texts illustrating the core value and belief systems in Confucianism...

 after five or six years. At around the age of 15 his parents were no longer able to afford his education, so he became a tutor to children in his village and continued to study privately. He took the local preliminary examinations and came first, so at the age of 22 in 1836, he took the first-degree (秀才) civil service examination
Imperial examination
The Imperial examination was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was directly responsible for the creation of a class of...

s in Guangzhou. Unsurprisingly, he failed, as imperial examinations had a pass rate of 1%. He retook the test four times, but never succeeded. This was partly due to being unable to secure a bribe to the examination officials.

Hong later attained the position of instructor (塾師) at Book Chamber House and several schools in Lianhuatang (蓮花塘) and other villages.

Visions and iconoclasm


On his visit to Guangzhou to take the civil service examination in 1836, Hong heard a Christian missionary preaching about the religion. While there he received translations and summaries of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 written by the Christian missionary Liang Fa
Liang Fa
Liang Fa was the first Chinese Protestant minister and evangelist. He was ordained by Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China....

. The following year Hong failed the examination again and apparently suffered a nervous collapse. During his recovery in 1837 he had a number of mystical visions. One involved an old man who complained to Hong about men worshiping demons rather than him. In a second one he saw Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

 being punished for his faithlessness, after which he repented. In yet another he dreamt of angels carrying him to heaven, where he met a man in a black dragon robe with a long golden beard who gave him a sword and a magic seal, and told him to purge China of demons. Several years later he would interpret this to mean that God the Heavenly Father, whom he identified with Shangdi
Shangdi
Shangdi , also known as Di in Oracle Bone Inscription and Thirteen Classics, refers to the supreme god or a divine power regarded as the spiritual ultimate by the Chinese people from the Shang Dynasty. He controlled victory in battle, harvest, the fate of the kingdom, and the weather...

 from Chinese tradition, wanted him to rid the world of demon worship. His friends and family said that after this episode he became authoritative, solemn and taller in height.

It was not until seven years later that Hong took time to carefully examine the religious tracts he had received. Hong burned all Confucian
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

 and Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 statues and books in his house, and began to preach to his community about his visions. His earliest converts were relatives of his who had also failed their examinations and belonged to the Hakka minority, Feng Yunshan
Feng Yunshan
Feng Yunshan was an important leader during the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing government 1850–1864. Feng was a companion of Hong Xiuquan from the very earliest days of the rebellion. Feng was the founder of the "God Worshipers" during the 1840s. This was the very first form the Taiping...

 and Hong Rengan
Hong Rengan
Hong Rengan was an important leader of the Taiping Rebellion. He was the cousin of the movement's founder and spiritual leader Hong Xiuquan. His position as the Prince Gan resembled the role of a Prime Minister...

. He collaborated with them to destroy idols in small villages to the ire of local citizens and officials. Hong and his converts' acts were considered sacrilegious
Sacrilege
Sacrilege is the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense, any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege. It can come in the form of irreverence to sacred persons, places, and things...

 and they were persecuted by Confucians who forced them to leave their positions as village tutors. Hong Xiuquan and Feng Yunshan fled the district in 1844, walking some 300 miles to the west to Guangxi
Guangxi
Guangxi, formerly romanized Kwangsi, is a province of southern China along its border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, a region with special privileges created specifically for the Zhuang people.Guangxi's location, in...

, where the large Hakka population was much more willing to receive his teachings. As a symbolic gesture to purge China of Confucianism, he asked for two giant swords, three chi
Chi (unit)
The chi is a traditional Chinese unit of length, approximately equal to one foot. Its length is derived from the length of human forearm and has first appeared during the Shang Dynasty approximately 3000 years ago. Since then it has spread to and adopted by other East Asian cultures, such as...

(about 1 metre) long and nine jin
Catty
The catty , symbol 斤, is a traditional Chinese unit of mass used across East and Southeast Asia, notably for weighing food and other groceries in some wet markets, street markets, and shops. Related units include the picul, equal to 100 catties, and the tael, which is of a catty. A stone is a...

(about 5.5 kg), called the "demon-slaying swords" (斬妖劍), to be forged.

The God Worshippers


Hong then preached to a large number of charcoal-burners on Mount Zijing (紫荊山) in Guiping District (桂平縣), who mostly belonged to the Hakka
Hakka people
The Hakka , sometimes Hakka Han, are Han Chinese who speak the Hakka language and have links to the provincial areas of Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan and Fujian in China....

 minority like Hong himself, and readily joined him. He preached a mix of communal utopianism, evangelism
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

 and his idiosyncratic quasi-Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. While proclaiming sexual equality, the sect segregated men from women and encouraged all its followers to pay their assets into a communal treasury. By the end of the 1840s, Hong had a sizeable following which he called the God Worshippers (拜上帝會), but local officials were still attempting to suppress his religious movement after his move to Guangxi.

Hong stayed at the Yuan Floral Hall (袁氏花廳) in Shiling
Shiling
Shiling is a town on the outskirts of Guangzhou, China. Its name means "Lion Ridge", so called because of the local mountain ridge that is shaped like a lion . Shiling Town has long consisted of small farms abutting the mountains from which it gets its name. In the 1970s the government began...

 (c. 1845 - 1847) where he studied, preached, developed his revolutionary theory and wrote many of his famous works.

In 1847 Hong studied with the American Southern Baptist
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention is a United States-based Christian denomination. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with over 16 million members...

 missionary Reverend Issachar Jacox Roberts
Issachar Jacox Roberts
Issachar Jacox Roberts was an American Baptist missionary in 19th century China. Roberts was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, and graduated from Furman University, a Baptist school in Greenville, South Carolina...

 for two months in Guangzhou, during which time he gained most of his knowledge of Christianity. He formally studied the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

. After Hong asked Roberts for aid in maintaining his sect, Roberts (wary of people converting to Christianity for economic aid) refused to baptise him.

Most of Hong Xiuquan's knowledge of the scriptures came from the books known as "Good Words to Admonish the Age" by the Chinese preacher Liang Fa
Liang Fa
Liang Fa was the first Chinese Protestant minister and evangelist. He was ordained by Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China....

 as well as a localized Bible translated into Chinese. Many Western missionaries grew jealous of Hong and his local ministry. These missionaries were fond of spreading rumors about him, one such rumor being that he had not been baptized.

Hong and his cousin were both baptized according to the way prescribed in the pamphlet "Good words to admonish the age"

When Hong returned to Guangxi, he found that Feng Yunshan
Feng Yunshan
Feng Yunshan was an important leader during the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing government 1850–1864. Feng was a companion of Hong Xiuquan from the very earliest days of the rebellion. Feng was the founder of the "God Worshipers" during the 1840s. This was the very first form the Taiping...

 had accumulated a following of around 2,000 converts. Guangxi was a dangerous area at this time with many bandit groups based in the mountains and pirates on the rivers. Perhaps due to these more pressing concerns, the authorities were largely tolerant of Hong and his followers. However, the instability of the region meant that Hong's followers were inevitably drawn into conflict with other groups, not least because of their predominately Hakka ethnicity. There are records of numerous incidents when local villages and clans, as well as groups of pirates and bandits, came into conflict with the authorities, and responded by fleeing to join Hong's movement. The rising tension between the sect and the authorities was probably the most important factor in Hong's eventual decision to rebel.

Rebellion and the Heavenly Kingdom



By 1850 Hong had between 10,000 and 30,000 followers. The authorities were alarmed at the growing size of the sect and ordered them to disperse. A local force was sent to attack them when they refused, but the imperial troops were routed and a deputy magistrate killed. A full-scale attack was launched by government forces in the first month of 1851. In what came to be known as the Jintian Uprising
Jintian Uprising
The Jintian Uprising was an armed revolt formally declared by Hong Xiuquan on 11 February 1851 during the late Qing Dynasty. The uprising was named after Jintian , the place where it took place...

, named after the town of Jintian (present-day Guiping, Guangxi
Guangxi
Guangxi, formerly romanized Kwangsi, is a province of southern China along its border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, a region with special privileges created specifically for the Zhuang people.Guangxi's location, in...

) where the sect was based. Hong's followers emerged victorious and beheaded the Manchu
Manchu
The Manchu people or Man are an ethnic minority of China who originated in Manchuria . During their rise in the 17th century, with the help of the Ming dynasty rebels , they came to power in China and founded the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China until the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which...

 commander of the government army.

Hong declared the foundation of the "Heavenly Kingdom of Transcendent Peace" on 11 January 1851.

Despite this evidence of forward planning, Hong and his followers faced immediate challenges. The local Green Standard Army
Green Standard Army
Green Standard Army is the name of a category of military units under the control of the Qing Dynasty in China. It was made up mostly of ethnic Han soldiers and operated concurrently with the Manchu-Mongol-Han Eight Banner armies...

 outnumbered them ten to one, and had recruited the help of the river pirates to keep the rebellion contained to Jintian. After a month of preparation the rebels managed to break through the blockade and fight their way to the town of Yongan (not to be confused with Yong'an
Yong'an
Yong'an is a county-level city in Fujian province, China. It is located on the Sha River, which is a tributary of the Min River.The county is located in west central Sanming, a prefecture level city in Fujian. It is located approximately 289.68 kilometres southwest of Fuzhou, capital of Fujian...

), which fell to them on 25 September 1851.

Hong and his troops remained in Yongan for three months, sustained by local landowners who were hostile to the Manchu-ruled Qing Dynasty. The imperial army regrouped and launched another attack on the rebels in Yongan. Having run out of gunpowder, Hong's followers fought their way out by sword, and made for the city of Guilin
Guilin
Guilin is a prefecture-level city in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of far southern China, sitting on the west bank of the Li River. Its name means "forest of Sweet Osmanthus", owing to the large number of fragrant Sweet Osmanthus trees located in the city...

, to which they laid siege. However, the fortifications of Guilin proved too strong, and Hong and his followers eventually gave up and set out northwards, towards Hunan
Hunan
' is a province of South-Central China, located to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting...

. Here, they encountered an elite militia created by a local member of the gentry specifically to put down peasant rebellions. The two forces fought at Soyi Ford on 10 June 1852 where the rebels were forced into retreat, and 20% of their troops were killed. However in March 1853 Hong's forces managed to take Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 and turned it into the capital of their movement.

Hong ruled by making frequent proclamations from his Heavenly Palace, demanding strict compliance with various moral and religious rules. Most trade was suppressed and property socialized. Polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 was forbidden and men and women were separated, although Hong and other leaders maintained groups of concubines.

Yang Xiuqing
Yang Xiuqing
Yang Xiuqing , , was an organizer and commander-in-chief of the Taiping Rebellion.Yang was a firewood seller in Guangxi before he joined the rebellion. In 1848 he converted to Christianity after reporting that he had experienced visions of God. In 1850 he began to claim that he could miraculously...

 was a fellow Taiping leader (the "East King") who had directed successful military campaigns and who often claimed to speak with the voice of God. Hong became increasingly suspicious of Yang's ambitions and his network of spies; in 1856 he had Yang and his family murdered.

Following a failed attempt by the Taiping rebels to take Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 in 1860, Qing government forces, aided by Western officers, slowly gained ground.

Death


Some sources say Hong committed suicide by taking poison on 1 June 1864 at the age of 52 after Qing authorities finally gained a decisive military advantage and all hope of maintaining his kingdom was lost. However, in other sources, he was said to have died of illness. Hong Rengan
Hong Rengan
Hong Rengan was an important leader of the Taiping Rebellion. He was the cousin of the movement's founder and spiritual leader Hong Xiuquan. His position as the Prince Gan resembled the role of a Prime Minister...

, Hong Xiuquan's cousin, said his illness was caused by "eating manna
Manna
Manna or Manna wa Salwa , sometimes or archaically spelled mana, is the name of an edible substance that God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert according to the Bible.It was said to be sweet to the taste, like honey....

" - a command taken from the Bible that Hong had given to his people as they starved.

On 30 July 1864, Qing general Li Chendian
Li Chendian
Li Chenden , an eminent Han military general during the late Qing Dynasty in China. He joined the Xiang Army and fought effectively against the Taiping Rebellion restoring the stability of the Qing Dynasty. He was one of nine generals who led the force which occupied Nanjing in 1864...

 found Hong's badly decomposed body in the palace of Nanjing.

Hong was succeeded by his teenage son, Hong Tianguifu
Hong Tianguifu
Hong Tianguifu , also called Hong Tiangui and in Qing historical record, Hong Futian , was the second and last king of the Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping. He is popularly referred to as the Junior Lord . Officially, like his father Hong Xiuquan, he was the King of Heaven...

. The Taiping Rebellion was suppressed by Qing forces later in 1864.

Publications

  • Imperial Decree of Taiping (《太平詔書》) (1852)
  • The Instructions on the Original Way Series (《原道救世訓》系列) (1845–1848): included in the Imperial Decree of Taiping later. The series is proclaimed by the People's Republic of China
    People's Republic of China
    China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

    's National Affairs Department to be Protected National Significant Documents in 1988.
    • Instructions on the Original Way to Save the World (《原道救世訓》)
    • Instructions on the Original Way to Awake the World (《原道醒世訓》)
    • Instructions on the Original Way to Make the World Realize (《原道覺世訓》)
  • New Essay on Economics and Politics (《資政新篇》) (1859)

Quotes


The following poem, titled Poem on Executing the Evil and Preserving the Righteous (斬邪留正詩), written in 1837 by Hong, illustrates his religious thinking and goal that later led to the establishment of the "Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping". Note that in the seventh line, the name of the then yet-to-come kingdom is mentioned. This, and other poems of his, are considered by some scholars to be of low quality, because the lack of use of classical phrases.

《斬邪留正詩》

Poem on Executing the Evil and Preserving the Righteous

手握乾坤殺伐權,

In my hand I wield the Universe and the power to attack and kill,

斬邪留正解民懸。

I slay the evil, preserve the righteous, and relieve the people's suffering.

眼通西北江山外,

My eyes see through beyond the west, the north, the rivers, and the mountains,

聲振東南日月邊。

My voice shakes the east, the south, the Sun, and the Moon.

璽劍光榮存帝賜,

The glorious sword of authority was given by the Lord,

詩章憑據誦爺前,

Poems and books are evidences that praise Yahweh
Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton, for which the original pronunciation is unknown...

 in front of Him.

太平一統光世界,

Taiping [Perfect Peace] unifies the World of Light,

威風快樂萬千年。

The domineering air will be joyous for myriads of thousand years.


Legacy


Views and opinions on Hong differ greatly.

The Communists
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 under Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 generally admired Hong and his movement as a legitimate peasant uprising that anticipated their own. Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese doctor, revolutionary and political leader. As the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is frequently referred to as the "Father of the Nation" , a view agreed upon by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China...

 came from the same area as Hong and was said to have identified with Hong since his childhood days.

In 1959 the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 established a small museum, Hong Xiuquan's Former Residence Memorial Museum (洪秀全故居紀念館), in his birthplace, where there is a longan tree planted by him. The museum's plate is written by the famous literary figure Guo Moruo
Guo Moruo
Guo Moruo , courtesy name Dingtang , was a Chinese author, poet, historian, archaeologist, and government official from Sichuan, China.-Family history:Guo, originally named Guo Kaizhen, was born on November 10 or 16, in the small town of Shawan...

 (1892–1978). The residence and Book Chamber Building were renovated in 1961.

Hong has been compared to Falun Gong
Falun Gong
Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline first introduced in China in 1992 by its founder, Li Hongzhi, through public lectures. It combines the practice of meditation and slow-moving qigong exercises with the moral philosophy...

 founder Li Hongzhi
Li Hongzhi
Li Hongzhi is the founder and spiritual master of Falun Gong , a "system of mind-body cultivation" in the qigong tradition. Li Hongzhi introduced Falun Gong on 13 May 1992 in Changchun, and subsequently gave lectures and taught Falun Gong exercises across China...

 in that he rallies a large number of people behind a religious or spiritual cause to challenge the status quo, although Li's political intentions have been of intense debate.

Additional sources



External links