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 Fall of Nanjing, The Death of Hong Xiuquan 

 

A depiction of a Qing attack on Nanjing, with Qing troops marching

cattle in front of them to set off and traps laid in the ground

Click image for larger view .

 

Nanjing was now cut off from support from the Yangtze valley and was besieged. It was defended with fanatical determination . Hong Xiuquan dies on June1, 1864, perhaps of an illness after eating 'manna' weeds growing around his palace .According to his son, he died of sickness. According to Li Xiucheng, he poisoned himself .He was wrapped in a yellow shroud and buried without a coffin, this is the Taiping method .It is announced that the Heavenly king has gone to heaven and request the Heavenly father send an army to help the Taipings .

 

Hong's son, Tiangui Fu,reigns for six weeks .On July 19, 1864, a huge mine with over 40,000 lb of gunpowder blew a long breach in the wall.near the East Gate . Li Xiucheng railed his troops was able to protect the imperial palace till midnight .Then he set fire to the palace and retreated. The Taiping imperial palace burned to the ground .Li Xiucheng  gave his own horse to Hong's son Hung Fu-tien, taking a weaker horse for himself. the walls were breached and most of the inhabitants of the city, about 100,000 were slaughtered .However, the 100,000 figure may be taken from the word myriad . According to some sources, there were only about 20,000 fighting men left in Nanjing when it fell, about 1,500 escaped and 7,000 executed. The imperial forces numbered about 80,000 . Zeng Guofan claimed 10,000 Qing soldiers died from disease in the two years of the siege and about 9,000 killed in battle .After the fall, a search as made for the 'Taiping Treasure' which was assumed to be vast, but could not be found .Zeng Guofan was disappionted in this and claimed Suzhou had more weath than Nanjing .

 

Last stand of the Taipings

 

Tiangui Fu and a few others hide in an old temple while the Qing forces rape and loot Nanjing. At night, they manage to escape in the chaos by wearing Qing uniforms. The horse of Liu Xiucheng collapses and he is forced to remain. He falls asleep and is captured by Qing soldiers . He is executed after writing a confession. Hong Tiangui Fu and Hong Rengan escaped with about 1,000 followers. They were followed by Zeng Guofan 's cavalry and went as far as Shicheng, Jiangxi, trying to flee to the Taiping homeland of Guangxi when they were captured Tiangui Fu is executed  on Nov 18, 1864. Most of the few Taiping armies that remained were hunted down and destroyed by the following year, except for the forces of  Lai Wenkwok, who united with Nian rebels to try to keep the Taiping movement alive. He was captured and executed in 1868 .

 

Taipings who survived 

 

The Yellow Tiger or Tou Wang survived after the fall of Nanjing at Huzhou, Zhejiang, retreated to Jiangxi, then took Zhangzhou in Fujian, near Xiamen, left there April16,1865, later takes Ganzhou, Jiangxi, also taken by Qing forces in 1865, disappears from history.

 

Lai Hang ying ( 1813-1909 )  another brother of Hong Xiuquan's wife, made a king early on military commander in Jiangxi, made vice prime minister, only Taiping leader to survive. Sun Yat-Sen listened to many of his stories from the Taiping days.

 

Causes of the Taiping Defeat 

 

Taiping prisoners

 

What was the cause of the Taiping defeat ?  In a military sense it was the failure of the Taipings to take advantage of the Qing preoccupation with the Second Opium War to march on Beijing in the 1850s. If Hong Xiuquan had sent a large force north, quickly, not bothering to hold cities, as he had in the advance on Nanjing in 1851-3, he probably could have taken Beijing or set up a more secure southern nation south of the Yangtze, with the Qing ruling the lands north. But Hong Xiuquan did not do this, but sent out armies piecemeal fashion .

 

The Taiping system, while some of its egalitarian and reform measures appear admirable, was unstable at the top, as the great purge of 1856 demonstrates . What if Hong Xiuquan had not picked up that religious tract by Liang Afa ? Would he have latched on to an Confucian/Doaist framework ? The great numbers of poor who flocked to the Taiping banner shows the desperation of people who feel they have nothing to lose .The Taiping rebellion enabled the Qing dynasty to enact some reforms to survive another half century, but not enough to defend against the Japanese in 1894 and the late 1930s, leading to millions of more Chinese people be slaughtered . The Taipings were an inspiration for Sun Yatsin and Mao Zedong .

 

 Links

 

God's Chinese Son on the internet

 

Encarta on the Taiping Rebellion

 

The Land System of the Heavenly Kingdom

 

Nanjing Taiping Museum

 

Frederick Townsend Ward

 

about the TV Series TWILIGHT OF A NATION

 

Chinese Sources for the TAIPING REBELLION

 

 Sino Japanese War 1894-5

 

 

 

  Foreign Involvement and

Changing views on the Taipings

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