TaipingRebellion.com 太平天囯 Tai Ping Tian Guo









  The Players 

Taiping Rebels

Hong Xiuquan


( Drawing from the book History of the insurrection in China

by Joseph-Marie Callery 1853 )

How to pronounce Hong Xiuquan

(Hung Hsiu-chuan)


Leader of the Taiping Movement

A Hakka born in Guangdong

After failing civil exams many times, had a nervous breakdown and saw visions, leading him to believe he was the younger brother of Jesus and destined to replace the corrupt, foreign 'demon' Manchu Qing Dynasty. After taking Nanjing, became preoccupied with religious visions and pleasures of the harem, The inner palace run entirely by women, as their were no eunuchs, and rarely left his palace. After the massacres that followed the death of Yang Xiuqing, he did not trust the remaining Kings, relying more on his family members . Died , perhaps of food poisoning after eating grass , which he viewed as 'manna from heaven' during siege of Nanjing in 1864. According to his son, he died of sickness. According to Li Xiucheng, he poisoned himself . Most of those in high positions in the Taiping government were from the  Hakka or Zhuang minority group. Hong is viewed as being sincere in his beliefs, while Yang is seen as using the movement to advance his own fortunes .


*There is no authentic portrait of Xiuquan, this famous drawing comes from the early Taiping book  by the French missionary and Sinologue. J.M. Callery

Ford & West  lithograph. As a matter of fact, except for Hong Rengan, who was a progressive, there are no existing photographs of living Taiping leaders or Nanjing under the Taipings . As far as is known there was no ban on photography in the Taiping kingdom , what few photographs there were may have been destroyed in the sack of Nanjing and the destruction of anything Taiping after the rebellion .

Hong Xiuquan: The Taiping Rebellion

God's Chinese Son,

The story of Hong Xiuquan

and the Taiping Rebellion

Yang Xiuqing


(Yang Hsiu-Ch'ing)


Former Hakka charcoal seller and early convert and great administrator and made the Eastern King. Went into trances and claimed to be the voice of God and the Holy Ghost . Disagreed with Xiuquan on Confucius, Yang though his works should be taught, while Xiuquan demanded they be burned as promoting idolatry.  More ambitious than devout, tried to supplant Hong Xiuquan and killed with thousand of his followers. With his death, there was no strong successor to take his place .

Shi Dakai



(Shih Ta-k'ai)

Assistant King/Yi Wang


 Tragic hero of the Taipings.

An educated man from a wealthy farming family.

Wing King

Brilliant military leader. His  compassionate administration made him popular in Jiangxi and Anqing, Anhui. Won a great victory over Zeng Guofan at Hukou in 1855 in the Boyang/Yangtze river area. Well known for his poetry.

His great popularity caused the suspicion of Hong Xiuquan and jealousy of Hong's brothers, causes him to leave Nanjing with his forces to Sichuan in 1857.

Gave himself up to Qing forces to save his remaining troops from execution . Executed by Qing forces by slow slicing in 1864 .

Feng Yunshan


1815 - 1852

Southern King/Nan Wang

Companion and first convert and early organizer in Thistle Mt.

Made South King .

Shot by a Qing solder while passing Quanzhou, Guangxi, the infuriated

Taipings sack the city, killing all. Feng dies of his wound in June .

Li Xiucheng

( Li Hsiu-ch'eng )




Loyal King/Cheng Wang

Army commander who rose through the ranks,defeated Qing forces in the battles of SanHe and P'u-Kou in 1858, reviving Taiping fortunes, Famous for his generosity and fairness,made King of Zhong(loyalty) for refusing a bribe to kill Hong Xiuquan.

Commander of forces that failed to take Shanghai, battled Ward and Gordon's Ever Victorious Army . Gave his horse to the a son of Hong Xiuquan, Hong Tiangui Fu so he could escape Nanjing, while he took a weaker horse. This horse collapsed and he was captured . Executed on August 7, 1864 by beheading . Captured in June 1864 by government forces, Li Xiucheng spent the final days before his inevitable execution writing a personal account of the Rebellion and his role in it. His deposition is the fullest narrative by a participant and an invaluable historical document.Picture from Augustus F Lindley's book . Ti-ping Tien-kwoh: The History of the Ti-ping Revolution .


Published in 2009, '>Taiping Rebel: The Deposition of Li Hsiu-Ch'eng, Li Xiucheng's account of the rebellion written before his execution . By C.A. Curwen . Cambridge University Press .


Augustus F Lindley

1840 - 1873

A British merchant ship officer, arrived in China in 1859, Appalled by the Qing government and the foreigners involved in the opium trade, grew interested enough in the Taipings to go visit them in Nanjing. Lindley resigned from the British Merchant Navy to fight on the side of the Tiaping peasant rebels. He engaged in the dramatic capture of one of Britain's best Yangzi gunships, the Firefly, which was handed to the Taiping leaders. Met  Li Xiucheng and was greatly impressed by him and the Taiping movement. He and fought with them at the Battle of Hu-hou in Jiangxi .While at a Taiping church service he wondered "...why no British missionary occupied
my place, and why Europeans generally preferred slaughtering the Taipings to accepting them as brothers inChrist ; and while scanning the assembled Christian
Chinese, praying from the Bible we Europeans trust in and declare to be our guide, I have felt a sympathy and enthusiasm for their cause that never can be weakened or
subdued. " When Charles George Gordon returned to the UK, Lindley publicly castigated Gordon in the pages of The Times. The inscription on his gravestone  reads : " Friend of China; Enemy of Oppression ."

Read the Ti-ping Tien-kwoh:

The History of the Ti-ping Revolution

(1866) by Augustus F. Lindley online at archive.org

Xiao Chao-gui


(Hsiao Ch'ao-kuei)

Western King/Xi Wang

Poor Hakka farmer, early convert, brother-in-law of Xiuqi

In trance is voice of Jesus

killed at Changsha, Sept 17,1852 .


Chen Yucheng


(Ch'en Yu-ch'eng)


Heroic King/Ying Wang

Called si-yan gou or four eyed dog due to a mole.

Joined the Taipings at 15 and quickly rose the ranks to general due to his ability. Captures Wu-chang at 18 years of age

made Ying Prince. defeated Zeng's Hunan Army at San He in 1858.

betrayed and captured, executed in 1862 .

Hong Rengan


(Hung Jen-kan)


Cousin of Hong and early convert

Shield King/Kan Wang ( Prime Minister )

Seperated from the Taipings early in the rebellion and forced to flee to Hong Kong . Where he learned English and converted to converted to Christianity .Hong also served as an assistant to James Legge, working on translations of Chinese classics into English, and on the Chinese Serial, the first Chinese language newspaper in Hong Kong. During this time he learned much about Western politics, economics, history, geography, astronomy and other sciences. Hong returned to the Taipings in Nanjing in 1858 as was made the Gan Wang or Prime minister, second only to Hong Xiuqian in power . He became popular with Westerners for his proposed reforms, banking, railroads and is considered by some as the first modern Chinese nationalist .

He urged modern reforms and alliance with western nations, but had neither the time nor the power to build the centralized modern state he had in mind . He also advocated Protestant Christianity and moved Taiping religion away from the Old Testament mindset . Captured and executed in Jiangxi while fleeing with Hong's son after the fall of Nanjing.


Hong Renda

? - 1864

Peace King

Elder half brother of Hong Xiuquan with great influence, esp. after

execution of Yang Xiuqing. Executed after fall of Nanjing

Hong Tiangui Fu


Eldest son of

Hong Xiuquan


Became the second and last king of the Taipings at 16

captured with Hong Rengan at Shi Cheng, Jiangxi . Hong Tianguifu escaped the fall of Nanjing and fled south with a small force including Hong Tianguifu, Hong Rengan and Huang Wenjin and  intended to join the remnant of Taiping forces led by Li Shixian in Jiangxi . Most of the force was captured after an ambush by Qing forces at Shicheng, Jiangxi . Hong Rengan was captured and executed at Nanchang . Hong Tiangui Fu escaped the Shicheng ambush , but he was caught on October 25th 1864 by Qing soldiers searching for him and was subsequently executed by slow slicing on November,181864 at the age of 14. There are photos of this event on the Internet if a search is done using the Chinese characters of his name . They are too gruesome to post here, but serve as a reminder of how brutal things were at this time .


 Tou Wang or Yellow Tiger

The Yellow Tiger 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 .

Wei Chang-hui

( 1823 - 1856 )


From a rich landlord family,

North King./Bei Wang

Considered mentally unstable after ordered to kill Yang Xiuqing and his forces, was himself killed after murdering Shi Dakai's family in the .'Tianjing Incident' 天京事變

Lai Wenguang



Younger brother of

Hong Xiuquan's wife, made King of Jun .(遵王)

Military commander of Taiping and Nian forces which attacked Beijing with Nien (捻) cavalry in 1865. Survived the sack of Nanjing in 1864 and tried to continue the Taiping legacy, captured and executed . Younger brother of Lai Hanying . When Mao Zedong occupied Beijing in 1949, he commissioned Lai first Beijing Military Region commander, to commemorate him.


Lai Hang ying


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.


Major Qing Personalities

Xian Feng Emperor


Slow to respond to the Taiping threat, due in part to concentrating

forces in the east to fight the foreigners. 19 when he became emperor.

More interested in his harem than state affairs and alcoholic .

Became seriously depressed after the burning of the Summer Palace

by British and French forces in 1860 and became ill, dying in 1861.

Tong Zhi emperor


Became emperor at the age of 5 after his father Xian Feng's death, his mother Empress Dowager Cixi and uncle, Prince Gong became regents.


Empress Dowager Cixi




Regent for her son, the Tongzhi emperor, who was 5 when he became emperor in 1861. She came from an ordinary Manchu family. Her father was dismissed from the civil service in 1853 for not resisting the Taipings and perhaps beheaded. She was de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, ruling over China for 48 years from her husband's death in 1861 to her own death in 1908. Cixi recognized the decay within the Manchu military and civilian administration would soon lead to the demise of the Qing Dynasty, placed the Han Chinese Zeng Guofan in overall command of the Qing armies against the Taiping. Before then, almost all top Qing military leaders had been Manchus. Zeng was one of the few Qing generals who had defeated the Taipings at this point .



 Empress Dowager Cixi took over the rule of mighty Imperial China in the late 19th century. After her son Tongzhi succeeded his father Emperor Xianfeng, she made herself custodian to the minor emperor on the dragon throne. During audiences she sat behind the curtains and determined what the Chinese ruler would "decide .

 Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend

of the Last Empress of China

by Sterling Seagrave

Zeng Guofan


hear Zeng Guofan pronounced


A Han Chinese native of Hunan level of civil exams. When the Taipings took over Hunan, he started his own armed force to fight them. Being one of the first Manchu officals to score a victory against the Taipings, he was given more power despite not being Manchu . He created the Hunan or Xiang army, the model for later provincial and warlord armies, which were not part of the Manchu banner system. His Hunan army stressed officer-soldier relationships and Confucian vales. After a serious defeat of the main Qing army in 1860, Zeng was entrusted with military leadership. After early reverses, retook Changsha, and destroyed the rebel fleet and made war commissioner and viceroy Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Anhui., besieging and destroyed the Taiping movement in 1864 .

Li Hongzhang


(Li Hung-chang)


A native of Anhui, he also attained the highest rank in the civil service exams like Zeng Guo-feng . He raised his own forces to fight the Taipings and came to the notice of Zeng. He supported the foreign trained Ever Victorious Army which protected Shanghai. Created a mixed Chinese-Filipino force, led by French officers, known as the Ever Triumphant Army. Li's father had been Zeng's classmate .

Frederick Townsend Ward


American from Salem, Mass, arrived in China in 1860 . Became commander what would become the ever victorious Arrmy to protect  Shanghai. Trained Chinese in western military methods, became a  Chinese citizen and married a Chinese woman. Died in agony after being shot in the stomach at Cixi, Zhejiang , a few miles from Ningpo.Was buried with honors and in Manchu Mandarin clothes . Later his tomb was dug up, bones scattered and area paved over shortly after the Korean War.

Caleb Carr's story of

Frederick Townsend Ward

Charles 'Chinese' George Gordon


An Englishmen, born in London . Saw action in the Crimean War . Became a full Lieutenant in 1854. Involved in the Second Opium War . Appointed commander of the Ever Victorious Army after the death of Ward .Captured Suzhou in 1862. Following a dispute with Li Hongzhang over the execution of rebel leaders, in which he threatened to shot Li,Gordon withdrew his force from Suzhou . He later made amends with Li, fought for 5 more months, then his army was disbanded . Died in

Khartoum, Sudan, fighting the  ' Mad Madhi " Muhammad Ahmad .


The Road to Khartoum:

A Life of General Charles Gordon


 Gordon of Khartoum





Qing general of and a descendent of Genghis Khan. Defeated the Taiping Northern Expedition against Beijing by surrounding the Taiping forces with earthen walls and diverting the Grand Canal into their encampment at Lianzhen.Sent bags of Taiping ears ans noses to Beijing as trophies .In 1859 he thwarted a British and French attack on the Taiku Forts .Next he was called to combet the growing Nian rebellion, where he was assassinated  by a special Nian (Nien) force in 1865.



Viceroy Xiu Guangxin

(Siu Kwang sin)

Qing Viceroy of the Two Guangs ( Guangxi and Guangsong ) Unable to stop the advance of the Taiping movement out of Guangxi . The forces under him did little to confront the Taipings, and plundered the contryside they went through. Recalled to Beijing and beheaded .

Zuo Zongtang


(Tso Tsung-t'ang)


A native of Hunan, Like Hong Xiuquan,h e failed the civil service exams many times . Given a command in 1860, captured Shaoxing and made Gov of Zhejiang and under secretary of War.The Gen of General Tso's chicken





 Early Causes for

the Rebellion