Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War

By Stephen R. Platt

Winner of the 2012 Cundill Prize in History

A gripping account of China’s nineteenth-century Taiping uprising, one of many greatest civil wars in heritage. Autumn within the Heavenly Kingdom brims with unforgettable characters and vibrant re-creations of big and sometimes ugly battles—a sweeping but intimate portrait of the clash that formed the destiny of contemporary China.
 
The tale starts off within the early 1850s, the waning years of the Qing dynasty, while be aware unfold of an important revolution brewing within the provinces, led through a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and brother of Jesus. The Taiping rebels drew their energy from the negative and the disenfranchised, unleashing the ethnic rage of hundreds of thousands of chinese language opposed to their Manchu rulers. This homegrown flow appeared all yet unstoppable until eventually Britain and the U.S. stepped in and threw their help in the back of the Manchus: after years of big carnage, all competition to Qing rule used to be successfully snuffed out for generations. Stephen R. Platt recounts those occasions in spellbinding element, construction his tale on attention-grabbing characters with opposing visions for China’s destiny: the conservative Confucian pupil Zeng Guofan, an unintended normal who emerged because the so much influential army strategist in China’s glossy background; and Hong Rengan, an excellent Taiping chief whose grand imaginative and prescient of establishing a contemporary, business, and pro-Western chinese language country led to tragic failure.
 
This is a necessary and spell binding historical past of the increase and fall of the circulate that, a century and a part in the past, may need introduced China on a completely varied direction into the fashionable international.

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It was once candy. The previous guy in black led him to seem down on the humans on this planet, the place all over he may well see defilement and perversion. Then he awakened. Hong Xiuquan’s visions persevered on and off for 40 days, and Hong Rengan stayed through his cousin’s facet listening in his waking moments to listen to tales of what he had visible. there have been different recurrent characters, one a middle-aged guy he referred to as “elder brother” who traveled with him to the “uttermost areas” of the realm to slay demons together with his sword. In one other dream-vision, the previous guy in black was once berating Confucius for failing to educate right doctrine to the chinese language humans, and Confucius humbly confessed his guilt and disgrace whereas Hong Xiuquan regarded on. His brothers saved the doorways to the home locked in the course of these weeks, and they'd occasionally trap Hong Xiuquan jumping approximately his room, shouting “Kill the demons! ” and slashing wildly on the air. His madness drew the interest and enjoyment of acquaintances, who got here to examine him as he slept, to work out the well-known madman pack up. At one element he awakened claiming to be the emperor of China. His kin used to be shamed and nervous. As Hong Rengan defined to Theodore Hamberg, “His acquaintances and family in basic terms responded, that the complete was once unusual certainly, with no considering on the time that there has been any fact within the topic. ” What Hong Rengan didn't think on the time—but did think by the point he stated his tale to Hamberg—was that his cousin’s visions have been, actually, divine revelations. Hong Xiuquan ultimately recovered, and Hong Rengan observed that he was once actually a distinct individual after his ordeal—taller, superior, and tremendously extra clever. He was once now extra good-looking, with reasonable epidermis and excessive nostril. His gaze had develop into “piercing and hard to suffer. ” His voice boomed, and whilst he laughed, “the entire residence resounded. ” more fit and sharper of brain than ever prior to, he back to his educating and his training for the civil carrier tests. yet he was once not more winning than ahead of. In 1843 he sat for the exam in Canton for the fourth time, and failed another time. That was once the 12 months one other cousin stumbled on a forgotten e-book in Hong’s cupboard. It used to be a Christian tract in chinese language, which a missionary had pressed into his fingers a few years sooner than in Canton yet which he had by no means learn. The cousin regarded it over and idea it fascinating, so Hong Xiuquan took the time to learn it rigorously. And hence got here his epiphany. That ebook, he informed Hong Rengan, unlocked the key of his dream-visions from six years ahead of. After interpreting the fundamental tenets of Christianity, he unexpectedly understood all of it: the previous guy in black with the golden beard who had commanded him used to be God, and the elder brother who had helped him slay demons used to be Jesus Christ. The demons have been the idols worshipped via the chinese language of their Confucian and Buddhist temples, and his brothers and sisters have been the chinese language humans. Hong Xiuquan baptized himself, then threw away the Confucian pills in his schoolroom. Hong Rengan was once Hong Xiuquan’s first convert, besides a neighbor named Feng Yunshan.

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