<p style='text-align: justify;'>The 'Taiping Heavenly Kingdom' (Taiping Tianguo) (1850-1864) was an armed insurrection based on a messianic cult of Christian inspiration, which captured over six hundred cities in no less than sixteen out of the eighteen provinces of China and cost over ten million lives. It was probably the most destructive civil war in history before the twentieth century, but is today regarded in China as a precursor of later revolutionary struggles, as shown by the following quotation from an official standard history textbook published in the PRC:</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>"The glorious Taiping Revolution in semi-colonial and semi-feudal China failed for the lack of proletarian leadership. But though it failed in its fight against feudalism and foreign aggression, it nevertheless was the largest peasant revolution in Chinese history. It established a revolutionary political power, put forward a clear-cut anti-feudal programme, engaged the greater part of the country in struggle for fourteen years and dealt heavy blows against Qing feudal rule and foreign capitalist forces of aggression. Its magnificent struggles and historic achievements will always be remembered for propelling the forward advance of history and stimulating the revolutionary will of the Chinese people."</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>Bai Shouyi (ed.), <i>An Outline History of China</i> (Beijing, Foreign Languages Press, 1982) p. 453.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>The Taiping rebels set up their own institutions of government and issued official publications. After the insurgency had been suppressed, with the assistance of native forces led by the British officer Charles 'Chinese' Gordon (1833-1885), the Imperial authorities made strenuous efforts to destroy all Taiping publications, with the result that hardly any survive in China. Thirty-two of the forty-odd <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/mulu/taiping.html'>extant titles</a> (some in more than one variants) are included in the collection of Chinese books donated to Cambridge University Library by Sir Thomas Wade (1818-1895).</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>The work shown here is the most important source of information about the origins of the Taiping movement. Like several other items in the Cambridge collection, it is the only known copy. It recounts the vision experienced in 1837 by the founder of the movement, Hong Xiuquan, who had been in contact with Christian missionaries, in which he ascended to heaven, met God, and was given a mission to save the world. It also describes Hong's wanderings in south China between 1844 and 1847, preaching and smashing the idols in local temples.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'><b>References</b></p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>James Chester Cheng, <i>Chinese sources for the Taiping Rebellion</i>, 1850-1864, (Hong Kong, 1963).</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>Michael Franz, <i>The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents</i>, (Seattle, 1971).</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>太平天国印书, 南京太平天国历史博物馆编, (南京, 1959). [FB.103:25.1-6]</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>太平天国印书, 南京太平天国历史博物馆编, (南京, 1979). [FB.171.172-173]</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>太平天国的文献和历史 : 海外新文献刊布和文献史事研究, 王庆成著 (北京, 1993). [FM.2000.8.522]</p>
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