Luke 24:6-7: Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.
Hong understood that he was the second son of God, sent to save China.
God’s Chinese Son
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan
by Jonathan D Spence (Author)
“A magnificent tapestry . . . a story that reaches beyond China into our world and time: a story of faith, hope, passion, and a fatal grandiosity.”–Washington Post Book World
Whether read for its powerful account of the largest uprising in human history, or for its foreshadowing of the terrible convulsions suffered by twentieth-century China, or for the narrative power of a great historian at his best, God’s Chinese Son must be read. At the center of this history of China’s Taiping rebellion (1845-64) stands Hong Xiuquan, a failed student of Confucian doctrine who ascends to heaven in a dream and meets his heavenly family: God, Mary, and his older brother, Jesus. He returns to earth charged to eradicate the “demon-devils,” the alien Manchu rulers of China. His success carries him and his followers to the heavenly capital at Nanjing, where they rule a large part of south China for more than a decade. Their decline and fall, wrought by internal division and the unrelenting military pressures of the Manchus and the Western powers, carry them to a hell on earth. Twenty million Chinese are left dead.
Hong Xiuquan, born Hong Huoxiu and with the courtesy name Renkun, was a Chinese revolutionary and religious leader who led the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing dynasty. He established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom over large portions of southern China, with himself as its “Heavenly King”.
Born: January 1, 1814, Huadu District, Guangzhou, China
Died: June 1, 1864, Nanjing, China
Children: Hong Tianguifu
Chinese prophet and rebel
Hong took the government examination for the first time in 1827 and failed to obtain even the lowest official degree, an outcome not surprising in view of the great number of candidates competing. He took the test several times, each time traveling to the provincial capital in Guangzhou (Canton), which was also the centre for trade with the West. When he failed the exam for the third time in 1837, the strain was more than he could bear. He suffered an emotional collapse. During a delirium that lasted several days, he imagined himself to be in the presence of a venerable old man with a golden beard. The old man complained that the world was overrun by evil demons, and he gave Hong a sword and seal to use in eradicating the bad spirits. Hong also believed himself to have encountered a middle-aged man who aided and instructed him in the extermination of demons.
Hong’s conversion to Christianity
When Hong recovered, he returned to his occupation as a village schoolteacher. In 1843 he took the examination for the fourth and last time, but again he failed. Shortly after this, Li Jingfang, a cousin, noticed on Hong’s bookshelves an unusual work entitled Quanshi liangyan (“Good Words for Exhorting the Age”). Written by a Chinese missionary, the work, which explained the basic elements of Christianity, had been given to Hong on his visit to Guangzhou in 1837. Apparently, Hong had briefly glanced at the book’s contents and then forgotten about it. When Li brought it to his attention, Hong reexamined the work and suddenly discovered the explanation for his visions. He realized that during his illness he had been transported to heaven. The old man he had spoken with was God, and the middle-aged man was Jesus Christ. Hong further understood that he was the second son of God, sent to save China. In reading the portions of the Bible contained in the Quanshi liangyan, Hong often translated the pronouns I, we, you, and he as referring to himself, as if the book had been written for him. He baptized himself, prayed to God, and from then on considered himself a Christian.
In 1847 Hong went to Guangzhou to study Christianity with the Rev. I.J. Roberts, an American missionary. The two months he spent with Roberts marked his sole formal training in the doctrines of Christianity; his writings show little understanding of concepts alien to Chinese culture.
After leaving Roberts, Hong joined Feng and the God Worshippers and was immediately accepted as the new leader of the group. Conditions in the countryside were deplorable, and sentiment ran high against the Qing dynasty rulers. As a result, Hong and Feng began to plot the rebellion that finally began in July 1850. Hong’s rebels expanded into neighbouring districts, and on Jan. 1, 1851, Hong’s 37th birthday, he proclaimed his new dynasty, the Taiping Tianguo (“Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace”) and assumed the title of Tianwang, or “Heavenly King.” The Taipings pressed north through the fertile Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) valley. As the rebels passed through the countryside, whole towns and villages joined them. They grew from a ragged band of a few thousand to a fanatical but highly disciplined army of more than a million, divided into separate divisions of men and women soldiers. Men and women were considered equal by the Taipings but were allowed no contact with one another—even married couples were forbidden sexual intercourse.
Hong Xiuquan: The rebel who thought he was Jesus’s brother
- Published 18 October 2012
By Carrie Gracie
BBC News, Shanghai
Chinese history can be read as a series of peasant rebellions. One in the 19th Century, led by a man who thought he was Christ’s brother, lasted 15 years and caused at least 10 million deaths. It taught the Communists lessons a century later, and is one reason why China’s leaders keep a close eye on rural unrest today.
By the end of the Taiping era at least 10 million had died, some say 20 million. Eyewitnesses described the Yangtze valley as littered with rotting corpses.
No-one knows exactly how Hong Xiuquan himself died. His decomposed body was discovered in his palace by a Qing general – an ignominious end for a challenger to empire and the opening of a terrible chapter in China’s cycle of fragmentation.
“If you look at the history of China from say the Taiping through to the death of Mao in 1976, no country had as bad a prolonged period of disasters, regime change, civil war, invasion, decline,” says Fenby.
Perhaps all of that is over. As the Communist Party prepares to hold its 18th congress, it would certainly like to think so. It has come a long way since the first congress in the Shanghai girls’ school.
But behind the mask of order and unity, China still has plenty of conflict – over land rights, corruption or injustice. There are nearly 100,000 major riots every year. No wonder Party leaders see threats everywhere and scan the horizon ready to crack down on any sign of a peasant uprising like the one which brought them to power.