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 The Purges of Sept-Oct 1856 or the 'Tianjing Incident' 天京事變 




Mayhem during the Tianjing Incident


Taiping print showing Li Xiucheng, Chen Yucheng

and Hong Xiuquan in happier time


The brotherhood of the kings soon feel victim to the ambition of Yang Xiuqing, the Eastern King who often claimed to speak with the voice of God.  Using the voice of God, Yang often gave orders to Hong, who was supposed to be his superior, in the name of the 'Holy Father." Xiuyuan's progressive mental deterioration led to his withdrawal from active governing . Hong had became increasingly suspicious of Yang's ambitions and his network of spies a few years ealier. Yang was a brilliant administrator, and his downfall stems from trying to replace Hung from supreme power .


 On June 20 1856, the Taiping Army defeated the Qing army led by Xiang Rong at the Jiangnan camp lifted the three-year-long siege on Nanjing. Xiang Rong died on  August 9 and news of his death reached Nanjing. Yang Xiuqing saw that the Kingdom was out of immediate danger and began to make his plans to seize power. Soon, Yang Xiuqing pretended to be possessed by the 'Holy Father' and summoned the Xiuquan to his palace. Yang said to Hong, "You and the East King are both my sons. The East King has made significant contributions, so why is he still being hailed as 'Long Live for Nine Thousand Years' instead of 'Long Live for Ten Thousand Years'?" Hong Xiuquan replied, "The East King has indeed made significant contributions by conquering an empire, so he should be hailed as 'Long Live for Ten Thousand Years'." The 'Holy Father'-possessed Yang Xiuqing asked again, "Should the East King's son be hailed as 'Long Live for a Thousand Years'?" Hong Xiuquan replied, "Since the East King is hailed as 'Long Live for Ten Thousand Years', his son and his descendants should also be hailed as 'Long Live for Ten Thousand Years' as well." The 'Holy Father' possessed Yang Xiuqing said happily, "I'm returning to heaven."  Now Yang would have the same status as Xiuyuan .*


* After taking Nanjing, Xiuyuan announced a new hierarcy based on the ancient 'wan sui'  (万岁) "ten thousand years" saying, usually translated as " long live ." During the Tang dynasty, it came to be used exclusively to address the emperor as a prayer for his long life and reign. Hong Xiuquan announced a hierarchy of this new kingdom based on this.: Hong Xiuquan  the Heavenly King Lord of 10,000 years ,Yang Xiuqing East King Lord of 9,000 years, Xiao Chaogui West King Lord of 8,000 years ,Feng Yunshan South King Lord of 7,000 years, Wei Changhui North King Lord of 6,000 years ,Shi Dakai Wing King Lord of 5,000 years Tiangui (Hong's son) The Young Monarch of 10,000 years


Yang Xiuqing then ordered Wei Changhui and the Yi King Shi Dakai to leave the capital to reinforce the armies on the western frontier. Leaving Yang Xiuqing and Hong Xiuquan were alone in the capital city. Soon Chen Chengrong met Hong Xiuquan secretly, claiming that Yang Xiuqing had the intention of killing and taking the Heavenly throne


Convinced the threat was real , in August 1856, Xiuyuan summoned Wei Chang-hu and Shi  Dakai ito the capital with instructions to kill Yang. On Sept 1, 1856 Wei struck, since his forces were closest to Yang's . In the ensuing battle an estimated 27,000 were killed, including Yang, 54 of his wives and concubines. Now suspicious of everyone, Wei began a purge of his enemies, continuing the killings. When Shi Dakai arrived a few days latter he was appalled at the carnage and urged Wei to cease . Wei now suspected Shi of treason, and Shi left the capital. Wei then killed Shi's family.




Shi then marched on Nanjing with a huge army to take revenge . As most of the Taiping military outside Nanjing supported Shi Dakai, Wei Changhui started to panic and he ordered an attack on Hong Xiuquan's residence to seize power. The coup was crushed by Hong Xiuquan's loyal subordinates and the former followers of Yang Xiuqing. Wei Changhui was killed with 200 of his followers and on  November 2 and his severed head was sent to Shi Dakai to appease Shi Dakai's anger . In addition to the loss of life and destruction of the Taiping original vision, there was no able administrator as Yang to take over . Shi Dakai was now the only one of the original five kings still alive, so Hong named two of his elder brothers as kings. Hong Renfa is now called the "Peace King" and Hong Renda is proclaimed the "Blessings King." Hard feelings and resentment now begin to fester between Shi Dakai and Hong's two brothers.Shi was thwarted by the brothers of Xiuyang, and Shi departed the capital with his own army. The Qing took advantage of this situation to retake Wuchang and large areas of  Jiangnan . However, there was a revival of military fortunes in 1858 under the leadership of Chen Yucheng and Li Hsin cheng, dealing the Hunan army a defeat at Sanhe 三河 in Anhui in Nov 1858 . After the Tianjing Incident, the leaders of the rebellion began to lose support from the people, and the rebellion started to decline. The Taiping military  was greatly shakened  weakened and they started losing battles against the Qing armies.


However, the Qing forces were not able to take advantage of this situation due to many reasons: the growing Nian rebellion in north China,who had a strong cavalry, well-trained and fully equipped with modern firearms, which has cut off communication to the south, continued trouble with the British over trade and other issues which would soon lead to the Second Opium War and the insistence that all Taipings troops would be beheaded if captured, which gave the Taiping troops reason not to surrender .






 Major Defeat of the Qing

Jiangnan Army



Major Defeat of the Qing Jiangnan Army 1860