Birthday: January 1, 1814
Died At Age: 50
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Hong Huoxiu
Born Country: China
Born in: Hua County, Guangdong, Qing China
Famous as: Revolutionary
Spouse/Ex-: Lai Xiying
father: Hong Jingyang
mother: Madam Wang
children: Hong Tianguifu
Died on: June 1, 1864
place of death: Tianjing, Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
Who was Hong Xiuquan?
Hong Xiuquan was a Chinese religious prophet and revolutionary, who led the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing Dynasty. He had established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom over several parts of southern China, over whom he ruled as the ‘Heavenly King’. He also proclaimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ. Xiuquan was raised and educated as a Confucianist. He was unable pass the civil service examination despite four attempts, which led to his nervous breakdown. Soon, he had a vision, where he saw a man with a golden beard telling him that the land needs to be purified and also said that men were worshipping demons instead of him, and therefore, they should be exterminated. He interpreted it as a message from God and Jesus, and assumed himself to be the second son of God. He also began considering himself a Christian, and began regarding his country’s culture as work of evil. He also insisted that the Confucian symbols should be destroyed. He began preaching as well as burning Buddhist and Confucian statues and books he found. When he had over 10,000 followers, he began the Taiping Rebellion, after declaring his own dynasty, which was centered on the captured city of Nanjing. The rebellion went on for 15 years and caused the death of around 20-30 million people.
Childhood & Early Life
Hong Xiuquan was born on 1st January 1814, in Hua County, in Qing China, to Hong Jingyang and Madam Wang. His father was a farmer and elected headman, Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Guanlubu Village.
From an early age, he used to show exceptional intelligence and interest in studies, and therefore, his family made some financial sacrifices so that they could provide him with a proper education.
He studied at Book Chamber Building from the age of seven. Within some years, he was able to recite the Four Classics. When his parents were unable to fund his education anymore, he started tutoring other children in the village, so that he could fund his own education.
He came first in the local preliminary examinations. He hoped to pass the Confucian civil service examination, and enter the government bureaucracy. He took the government exams multiple times, but failed each time. Eventually, this led to his emotional turmoil and a nervous breakdown. He eventually saw an old man who had a golden beard in his visions.
According to the old man, the world was being run by evil demons, and it needed purification. Hong Xiuquan also believed that he met a middle-aged man who helped him and also instructed him in the extermination of demons.
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Conversion to Christianity
Hong Xiuquan soon returned to his village and began working as a teacher. During this time, he received a copy of the Book ‘The Benevolent Words to Advise the World’, which was written by a Christian named Liang Fa. This led him to believe that he was transported to heaven, when he had the visions, and the man with the golden beard was actually God, and the middle-aged man was Jesus
He started reading the Bible and interpreting it in his own way. He felt that the book was written specifically for him. He soon baptized himself, prayed and started considering himself as a Christian. He started believing himself to be the Second Son of God, meant to save China. He began propagating his new doctrine among his friends and family. He soon caught the attention of the Confucians, who considered his actions blasphemous.
He also lost his job, as he had destroyed the tablets of Confucius in the school. Along with his disciple Feng Yunshan, they fled the district, and walked hundreds of miles to Guangxi, and eventually founded ‘The God’s Worshippers Society’. He also started regarding Chinese culture as work of the devil.
The Rebellion and the Heavenly Kingdom
Soon, Hong Xiuquan and Feng began plotting their rebellion against the Qing Dynasty. His rebels began expanding into the neighboring districts as well. Whole towns and villages joined their armies. Soon, their numbers rose and reached over 10,000. Despite being fanatical, they were highly disciplined.
His army eventually captured Nanjing, a city of Central China in March 1853. He renamed it as Tianjing ‘Heavenly Capital’. They also tried to capture the Qing Capital at Beijing but failed. But his army emerged victorious in several other places. He declared the foundation of the Taiping Dynasty, and assumed the title of the Heavenly King. He soon created a civil bureaucracy and also reformed the calendar that was used in his kingdom.
He also introduced few social reforms, such as making women more equal socially to men. He was very strict with religious and moral rules as well. Trade was mostly suppressed, and he introduced communal land ownership. Polygamy was outlawed, but Hong and other leaders had their own personal harem.
Hong put Yang Hsiu-ch’ing, a former firewood salesman, in charge of the state. Yang was responsible for planning the military strategies, as well as organizing the new state. However, Yang soon became insubordinate and therefore, Hong ordered him to be executed by a Taiping General Wei Changhui. Eventually, Wei also became quite haughty, and Hong had him killed as well.
Downfall & Death
Soon after, Hong Xiuquan handed over the government affairs to his elder brothers who were quite incompetent. He stayed away from government affairs, and spent most of his time either with his concubines or in religious speculation. When Nanjing was besieged, his generals warned him that they wouldn’t be able to hold the capital for much long and that he should leave the city. Hong refused and believed that God would provide for them.
When the city was low of food supplies, he ordered his subjects to eat manna, a medicinal herb. He himself survived on weeds from his palace grounds. Hong Xiuquan soon fell ill and died. Some suggest that he died due to the ingestion of the weeds, though others say that he committed suicide by poisoning. He was buried in the bare ground with a shroud without a coffin, as per the Taiping customs. His teenage son Hong Tianguifu succeeded him.
The Taiping Rebellion was eventually suppressed by the Qing Forces by around 1864. It is estimated that during the 15 years of rebellion, around 20-30 million people died.