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Zeng Guofan

Zeng Guofan

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Zeng Guofan (November 21, 1811 – March 12, 1872) was an eminent Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 official, military general, and devout Confucian scholar of the late 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....

 in China.

Zeng raised the Xiang Army
Xiang Army
The Xiang Army was a standing army organized by Zeng Guofan from existing regional and village militia forces tuanlian to contain the Taiping rebellion in China . The name is taken from the Hunan region where the Army was raised. The Army was financed through local nobles and gentry, as opposed...

 to fight effectively against 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...

 and restored the stability of 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....

 along with other prominent figures, including Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang , spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso in the West, was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty....

 and Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

, setting the scene for the era later known as the "Tongzhi Restoration
Tongzhi Restoration
The Tongzhi Restoration was an attempt to arrest the dynastic decline of the Qing dynasty of China by restoring the traditional order. The harsh realities of the Opium War, the unequal treaties, and the mid-century mass uprisings of the Taiping Rebellion caused Qing courtiers and officials to...

"(同治中兴). He was known for his strategic perception, administrative skill and noble personality on Confucianist practice, but also sometimes for his ruthlessness on the execution of his policies. Zeng also exemplified loyalty in an era of chaos, but is also regarded as a pre-cursor to the rise of warlord
Warlord
A warlord is a person with power who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to armed forces loyal to the warlord and not to a central authority. The term can also mean one who espouses the ideal that war is necessary, and has the means and authority to engage in war...

ism.

Early life


Born as a native of Xiangxiang
Xiangxiang
Xiangxiang is a county-level city in Xiangtan, Hunan Province.It has an area of 2011 square kilometers and a population of 900,000.It is the home of late Qing general Zeng Guofan. The late leader of China, Mao Zedong attended high school here....

 (湘乡), 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...

  in 1811, Zeng Zicheng (曾子城) was the grandson of Zeng Yuping, a prosperous farmer with social and political ambitions. As a youth, Zeng was notorious for living drunkenly and even experimenting with opium; choices he would later renounce as he became an ardent military man. He studied in Yuelu Academy
Yuelu Academy
The Yuelu Academy is located on the east side of Yuelu Mountain in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, China, on the west bank of the Xiang River....

 in Changsha. He passed the prefectural examination in 1833, only a year after his father Zeng Linshu (zi Zhuting). He passed the provincial examination a year later, and by 1838, at age 27, he had successfully passed the metropolitan examinations, a prestigious achievement in China. He had earned the Jinshi degree, the highest level in the civil service examinations, which led to his appointment to the Hanlin Academy
Hanlin Academy
The Hanlin Academy was an academic and administrative institution founded in the eighth century Tang dynasty China by Emperor Xuanzong.Membership in the academy was confined to an elite group of scholars, who performed secretarial and literary tasks for the court. One of its main duties was to...

, a body of outstanding Chinese literary scholars who performed literary tasks for the imperial court. It was at Hanlin where he changed his name to Zeng Guofan, which sounded more prestigious. Zeng served in Beijing for more than 13 years, and remained devoted to the interpretation of the Confucian Classics. He moved relatively quickly up the ranks by his teacher 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...

 statesman Mujangga
Mujangga
Mujangga was a Manchu statesman during the late Qing dynasty. Mujangga belonged to the Bordered Blue Banner in the Eight Banners. He was awarded the highest degree in the Imperial examinations in 1805 and quickly rose in the ranks of the Qing government...

, advancing to 2nd-Pin in five years.

Entry into imperial politics


In 1843, he was appointed chief literary examiner in the province of Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

, and six years later was made Senior Deputy Secretary of the Board of Rites (禮部侍郎). When holding the office of Military Examiner (1851) he was compelled by the death of his mother to retire to his native district for the regulation mourning, which is technically supposed to last three years. At this time the Taiping
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...

 rebels were overrunning Hunan in their conquering career, and had possessed themselves of the cities and strongholds on both shores of the Yangtze River
Yangtze River
The Yangtze, Yangzi or Cháng Jiāng is the longest river in Asia, and the third-longest in the world. It flows for from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the...

. By a special decree, Zeng was ordered to assist the governor of the province in raising a volunteer force, and, on his own initiative, he built a fleet of war junks and multiple arsenals, with which he attacked the rebels. This force eventually became known as Zeng's famous Xiang Army
Xiang Army
The Xiang Army was a standing army organized by Zeng Guofan from existing regional and village militia forces tuanlian to contain the Taiping rebellion in China . The name is taken from the Hunan region where the Army was raised. The Army was financed through local nobles and gentry, as opposed...

 (Hunan Army or Chu Army). In his first engagement he was defeated, but his lieutenants were more successful. They recovered the capital, Changsha, and destroyed the rebel fleet. Following up these victories of his subordinates, Zeng recaptured Wuchang and Hanyang
Hanyang
Hanyang was one of the three cities that merged into modern-day Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province, People's Republic of China. Currently, it is a district and stands between the Han River and the Yangtze River, where the former falls into the latter...

, near Hankow, and was rewarded for his success by being appointed vice-president of the Board of War. The Xiang Army under Zeng contained some integrated Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

 drill groups

Fame and military campaigns


In 1853, other triumphs led to his being made a baturu (a 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...

 order for rewarding military prowess), and to his being decorated with a yellow riding-jacket. Meanwhile, in his absence, the rebels retook Wuchang and burnt the protecting fleet. The tide quickly turned, however, and Zeng succeeded in clearing the country round the Poyang lake, and subsequently in ridding the province of Jiangsu
Jiangsu
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. The name comes from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning , and su, for the city of Suzhou. The abbreviation for this province is "苏" , the second character of its name...

 of the enemy. His father died in 1857, and after a brief mourning he was ordered to take supreme command in Zhejiang
Zhejiang
Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of the People's Republic of China. The word Zhejiang was the old name of the Qiantang River, which passes through Hangzhou, the provincial capital...

, and to co-operate with the governor of Fujian in the defence of that province.

Subsequently, the rebels were driven westwards, and Zeng would have started in pursuit had he not been called on to clear the province of Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 of rebel bands. In 1860, he was appointed Viceroy of Liangjiang
Viceroy of Liangjiang
The Viceroy of Liangjiang , fully referred to as the Governor General of the two Yangtze Provinces and surrounding areas; Overseeing Military Affairs, Food Production; Manager of Waterways; Director of Civil Affairs , was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing Dynasty of China...

 (the provinces of Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

, Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

, and Jiangsu
Jiangsu
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. The name comes from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning , and su, for the city of Suzhou. The abbreviation for this province is "苏" , the second character of its name...

: 两江总督) and Imperial war commissioner. At this time, and for some time previously, he had been fortunate in having the active support of Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang , spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso in the West, was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty....

, who at a later period recovered Kashgar
Kashgar
Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Kashgar is the administrative centre of Kashgar Prefecture which has an area of 162,000 km² and a population of approximately...

 for the emperor, and of Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

. Like all true leaders of men, he knew how to reward good service, and when occasion offered he appointed the former to the governorship of Zhejiang and the latter to that of Jiangsu. In 1862, he was appointed assistant grand secretary of state. At this time, the Imperial forces, assisted by the "Ever-victorious Army," had checked the progress of the rebellion, and Zeng was able to carry out a scheme which he had long formulated of besieging Nanjing
Third Battle of Nanking
The Third Battle of Nanking was the last major engagement of the Taiping Rebellion, occurring in 1864 after the death of the king of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Hong Xiuquan. There were probably more than a million troops in the battle and the Taiping army sustained 100,000 dead in the three day...

, the rebel headquarters. While Charles George Gordon
Charles George Gordon
Major-General Charles George Gordon, CB , known as "Chinese" Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, was a British army officer and administrator....

 of the Ever-victorious army, with the help of Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

, was clearing the cities on the lower waters of the Yangtze River, Zeng drew closer his besieging lines around the city.

In July 1864, 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...

 fell into his hands, and he was rewarded with the rank and title of Marquess (of the First Class) Yiyong (毅勇侯) and the right to wear the double-eyed peacock's feather (雙眼花翎). He, Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang
Zuo Zongtang , spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso in the West, was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty....

 and Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang
Li Hongzhang or Li Hung-chang , Marquis Suyi of the First Class , GCVO, was a leading statesman of the late Qing Empire...

 were called Zeng, Zuo, Li the leaders in suppressing the Rebellion. After the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion, the Nian Rebellion (捻軍起義), closely related to the former movement, broke out in Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

, and Zeng was sent to quell it.

Success did not, however, always attend him on this campaign, and by Imperial order he was relieved of his command by Li Hongzhang, who in the same way succeeded him in the viceroyalty of Zhili
Zhili
Zhílì was a northern province in China from the Ming Dynasty until the province was dissolved in 1928 during the Republic of China era.-History:...

, where, after the Tianjin Massacre
Tianjin Massacre
The Tianjin Religious Case , more commonly known as the Tientsin Massacre in Western sources, occurred in Tientsin in 1870. It is considered to be one of the most important incidents involving missionaries in the late Qing Dynasty...

 (1870), Zeng failed to carry out the wishes of his Imperial master. Instead of the desired policy towards foreigners, Zeng took on a more diplomatic stance. After this rebuff, he retired to his viceroyalty at Nanjing, where he died in 1872 mysteriously in Hong Xiuquan
Hong Xiuquan
Hong Xiuquan , born Hong Renkun, style name Huoxiu , was a Hakka Chinese who led the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing Dynasty, establishing the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom over varying portions of southern China, with himself as the "Heavenly King" and self-proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ.-Early...

's former mansion.

Family & Personal


Zeng was a voluminous writer. His papers addressed to the throne and his literary disquisitions are held in high esteem by the scholars of China, who treasure as the edition of his collected works in 156 books, which was edited by Li Hongzhang in 1876, as a memorial of a great and un-corrupt statesman. Zeng enjoyed reading greatly, and held a special interest in the 23 Histories, and other classics. He was also a dedicated poet and a diary author.

Zeng called 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....

 females "Big foot hillbilly witch" during 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...

.

Unlike his contemporaries, Zeng was officially married only once, to a woman of the Ouyang
Ouyang
Ouyang is one of the most common two-character Chinese compound surnames in the world. However, it is not one of the top two hundred Chinese surnames, as documented by the Language Publication Society, Beijing in 1990...

 family when he was in his late teens. His wife was known to be a capable woman. He had 3 sons and 5 daughters with her, and two of his eldest children died young. His eldest son, Zeng Jize
Zeng Jize
Marquis Zeng Jize , one of China's earliest ministers to London, Paris and Saint Petersburg, played an important role in the diplomacy that preceded and accompanied the Sino-French War .- Early career :Zeng Jize , a native of Hunan province, was the eldest son of Zeng Guofan...

, who inherited his title of First Class Marquess, went on to become a famous diplomat in late-Qing history.

His younger brother, Zeng Guoquan
Zeng Guoquan
Zeng Guoquan 1856 follow his old brother Zeng Guofan, was an eminent Han Chinese official, military general, and devout Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty in China...

, was an ambitious general in the Xiang Army
Xiang Army
The Xiang Army was a standing army organized by Zeng Guofan from existing regional and village militia forces tuanlian to contain the Taiping rebellion in China . The name is taken from the Hunan region where the Army was raised. The Army was financed through local nobles and gentry, as opposed...

. He was later appointed Viceroy of Liangjiang
Viceroy of Liangjiang
The Viceroy of Liangjiang , fully referred to as the Governor General of the two Yangtze Provinces and surrounding areas; Overseeing Military Affairs, Food Production; Manager of Waterways; Director of Civil Affairs , was one of eight regional viceroys in China proper during the Qing Dynasty of China...

 (the provinces of Jiangxi, Anhui, and Jiangsu: 两江总督) in 1884.

Opinion & Legacy


Zeng Guofan's legacy in history is twofold. On one hand he is criticized as a staunchly conservative traitor, but on another he is seen as a hero in preserving order and stability. Many in China and abroad admire his ability to successfully survive in the ruthless late-Qing
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....

 bureaucracy. Some have blamed Zeng for all the civilian losses and damages done during 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...

, while others criticize him for being too friendly with certain foreign ideas.

Since the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, criticism of Zeng gradually began to disappear. Chinese author Tang Haoming published in 1992 his three-book trilogy Zeng Guofan, a novelization of Zeng's life during and after the Taiping Rebellion. This trilogy characterized Zeng as a common person, but had adopted a much more positive view of Zeng. Both 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...

 and Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 have praised Zeng's ability in military and political affairs. Especially in recent years, Zeng Guofan's life and his works have been the topic of many new publications. Zeng's leadership and military skills had been used by many as a new field of thought aiding in business or bureaucratic dealings.

Succession of Marquess Yiyong

Order Name Chinese name Lifespan Reign Notes
1 Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan
Zeng Guofan was an eminent Han Chinese official, military general, and devout Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty in China....

, Marquess Wenzhen of Yiyong
一等毅勇文正侯曾国藩 1811-1872 1864-1872
2 Zeng Jize
Zeng Jize
Marquis Zeng Jize , one of China's earliest ministers to London, Paris and Saint Petersburg, played an important role in the diplomacy that preceded and accompanied the Sino-French War .- Early career :Zeng Jize , a native of Hunan province, was the eldest son of Zeng Guofan...

, Marquess Huimin of Yiyong
一等毅勇惠敏侯曾纪泽 1839-1890 1877-1890
3 Zeng Guangluan, Marquess of Yiyong 一等毅勇侯曾廣鑾 1873-1920 1890-1912
(1912-1920)
Zeng Jiza's third son
posthumous Zeng Jihong 曾紀鴻 1848-1881 Zeng Guofan's second son
posthumous Zeng Guangquan 曾广铨 1871-1940 Zeng Jihong's fourth son
Zeng Jiza's adopted son
- Zeng Zhaokui 曾昭揆 (1920-?) Zeng Guangquan's son

External links

Tang Haoming's Three-Book Trilogy of Zeng Guofan's life 《曾国藩》