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Success ultimate failure of Taiping Rebellion

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#1 lost


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Posted 09 December 2007 - 02:29 PM

How should I rationally explain and examine the early success and ultimate failure of Taiping?

My answers based on online search is:

Taiping Rebellion, Chinese rebellion lasting from 1850 to 1864, was one of the most important 19th-century rebellions. It succeeded in establishing a separate government, the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, which ruled much of southern China for more than a decade. The Taipings rallied their forces with a mixture of messianic Christianity and attacks on the Qing (Manchu) dynasty, China’s ruling dynasty. With foreign assistance, the Qing eventually defeated the Taipings. The rebellion seriously weakened central power in China, and the ethnic antagonisms rekindled by the Taipings merged with the forces of modern nationalism to bring an end to China’s imperial regime less than 50 years after the rebellion ended.

Taiping military successes can be explained in part by the relative weakness of the Qing forces, whose decline had been apparent since the early 19th century and had been demonstrated by Britain’s easy victory in the First Opium War. The Treaty of Nanking also weakened Qing Court from financial and military aspects. However, the strengths of the Taipings should not be underestimated. The organization’s roots in the violent local society of eastern Guangxi served it well, and a fairly clear military organization evolved over the course of the northward march. Hong’s chief assistants were named kings and put in charge of armed divisions. Xiao Chaogui, originally a charcoal burner, proved to be a gifted military strategist, and the Taiping soldiers who had originally worked as miners used their skills to set explosives and bring down city walls. The Taipings were also adept at making tactical alliances with secret societies and other rebel groups.

Several factors led to the defeat of the Taipings. One was division within the Taiping leadership.
The creation of a new kind of imperial army was a second factor contributing to the Taipings’ defeat. Working by region, Chinese officials assembled a new Chinese military force. The most famous example is that of Zeng Guofan, a regional administrator who organized an army to fight the Taipings in his native province of Hunan. Foreigners also participated in the defeat of the Taipings. Although initially excited by the prospect of a Christian China, most foreigners lost sympathy with the Taipings upon learning the details of their practices. Instead, foreign governments chose to support the Qing, with whom they had recently signed advantageous treaties.

#2 light


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Posted 09 December 2007 - 09:33 PM


#3 Iovah


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Posted 10 December 2007 - 05:44 AM

It's impossible to say exact figures, but I think some of the things you mentioned are only minor factors in reality.

The success of the Taiping can be attributed to many complex issues:
1) Zealous Millenanarianism of the original believers. Although many generally discredit the religion as merely some kind of superstitious voodo based on christianity, the fact is that many of the early acolytes of the "Society of God Worshipers" were sincere in their beliefe.
2) Economic, social and natural crisis in Guangxi. Guangxi ran on many economically hard times during this period, a flood in 46', and a famine a couple years later. Also there was the problem of ethnic conflict between Hakka and Han. Most God Worshipers were Hakkas. River banditry flourished as pirates moved inland. And many other issues.
3) Militrary Luck! In the first battle between the Qing and Taipings, the battle of Jintian, the Taipings lost and obviously could not win. The war for the next year was just a rout as the Taiping's headed north to get away from the pursuing Qing Army. Not until after they had passed Changsha was the army large enough to resist and start occupying territory and defending. Before that, the Taiping would occupy the region, raid the local wealth and recruit soldiers, then abandon the region. The fact they survived this extremely long rout was luck. The Qing were not as incompetent as they have been made out to be. After all, only about 1/3 of the original 60,000 god worshippers made it to Nanjing. Most were killed in an ambush south of Changsha or in the siege of Changsha.
4) Qing policy of not accepting surrender or giving quarter to surrendered enemies resulted in Taiping willing to fight to the end. They may have ended in the late 50's if it weren't for that.

* I do not consider the Treaty of Nanjing a reason for the success of the Taipings. The Money owed in the treaty had already been paid by the start of the war, and the amount was not too great for the Qing economy.

The failure
1) Poor leadership structure. A terrible chain of command system that often over lapped and a strange hierarchy. The Taipings ruled more as a feudal warlord system. Every King ruled his region independently. One warlord would not come to the aid of the other. Resulting in poorly coordinated macro-strategy. Also, the palace coop in 1858 really ruined things. Eventuall the Taiping leaders started doing "their own thing."
2) Overly strict diciplinarian system. The system was extremely strict. For example, sexual relations were completely forbidden. Women and men were put in seperate quarters of the city. punishment was extremely strict. Taiping soldiers were highly demoralized and not motivated except that surrender was not an option.
Probably more I can't think of now, but these are some of the factors I put forward.
Christopher C. Heselton -- Student of Chinese History


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