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 biggest civil wars in heritage. Autumn within the Heavenly Kingdom brims with unforgettable characters and vibrant re-creations of huge and sometimes ugly battles—a sweeping but intimate portrait of the clash that formed the destiny of recent China.
The tale starts within the early 1850s, the waning years of the Qing dynasty, while observe unfold of an enormous 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 strength from the bad and the disenfranchised, unleashing the ethnic rage of hundreds of thousands of chinese language opposed to their Manchu rulers. This homegrown stream appeared all yet unstoppable till Britain and the USA stepped in and threw their help in the back of the Manchus: after years of big carnage, all competition to Qing rule was once successfully snuffed out for generations. Stephen R. Platt recounts those occasions in spellbinding aspect, construction his tale on attention-grabbing characters with opposing visions for China’s destiny: the conservative Confucian student Zeng Guofan, an unintended basic who emerged because the so much influential army strategist in China’s smooth background; and Hong Rengan, a super Taiping chief whose grand imaginative and prescient of establishing a contemporary, commercial, and pro-Western chinese language kingdom resulted in tragic failure.
This is an important and spell binding background of the increase and fall of the stream that, a century and a part in the past, may have introduced China on a wholly diverse course into the fashionable international.

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He despatched one column with naval help south towards Xiangtan and for my part led a fleet of 40 ships north to take again Jinggang. The river flowed from south to north, so Zeng was once struggling with with an upstream virtue. however, the predicted victory become a rout. stuck in a crosswind with a robust present, his green males misplaced keep watch over in their vessels. those that didn’t drown outright observed their boats captured and burned by way of rebels who waited at the banks, or who blocked them with a fleet numerous occasions higher than Zeng’s. This time, he didn’t write a memorial yet in its place took concerns into his personal arms; he rowed out of sight of his officials and attempted to drown himself. A frightened secretary who had in mystery observed him fall into the water and controlled to pull him out. His officials carried him again to Changsha to recuperate. forty four every one defeat gave fodder to his provincial critics, or even as he lay convalescing from his suicide try a bunch of imperial officers in Changsha have been petitioning for him to be punished and his military disbanded. forty five yet then got here observe of a decisive victory via the land forces he had despatched south to Xiangtan. 4 days of incessant assaults opposed to the rebels’ mudworks resulted in a slaughter, with studies of 10000 rebels killed and one thousand boats captured. the rest of the Taiping strength started to pull again in a large retreat to the north, leaving Changsha secure in the intervening time. there has been desire. Zeng quickly discovered to depart the battlefield command to others (as Tang Jian had instructed the emperor, his real expertise used to be to exploit the abilities of others). He had time to reconsolidate his forces and rebuild his military, and during the summer season and fall of 1854 they driven the Taiping northward out of Hunan completely and into Hubei province, the place his forces reconquered its capital, the very important river urban of Wuchang, in October. The string of victories quieted his provincial critics for a time, yet many in Hunan and Beijing remained leery of his unorthodox place. The Xianfeng emperor, at the least, was once overjoyed by means of the inside track that Zeng’s strength had recaptured Wuchang. “It is astonishing,” he introduced, “that Zeng Guofan, an insignificant pupil, can have finished this type of exceptional deed! ” yet one of many emperor’s counselors took a extra jaundiced view, admonishing him that during the longer term, the results of a provincial from Hunan elevating a military of 10,000 males dependable often to himself “would now not be a blessing to the empire. ”46 The emperor had no respond to that. As his military grew, Zeng Guofan accrued the simplest commanders he may locate. so much of them have been Hunanese, starting together with his closest buddies and friends and fanning out throughout the neighborhood networks of students. 3 of his 4 more youthful brothers could function commanders: Guohua, who was once thirty-two years outdated in 1854, whilst Zeng Guofan was once forty-three; Guoquan, thirty; and Guobao, twenty-six. yet besides the Hunanese there have been additionally numerous key commanders from different provinces, introduced in by means of suggestion or poached from the higher ranks of the fairway ordinary.

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