Dec 26, 2022
Last time we spoke tension was brewing within the Taiping capital between the the heavenly king and his subordinate kings. The Foreigners were debating who would win the civil war for China and who would be the best bet for trade. The new Yung-Ying armies, such as the Xiang army of Zeng Guofan began to encircle Nanjing in an effort to strangle the Taiping. Within the Taiping capital, conflict finally broke out and Yang Xiuqing was murdered by his comrade King Wei Changhui. When Shi Dakai found out he demanded blood, leading to Wei Changhui’s death and almost his own, but he fled Nanjing, taking a large army with him to campaign in exile. Now Hong Xiuquan fell into a depression and fell into seclusion, who would lead the movement now that the great taiping kings were all gone?
#28 This episode is The Taiping Rebellion part 5: Out with the old kings, in with the new
Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.
With Shi Dakai’s departure, Hong was put in quite a pickle, as one of his commanders, General Li said “morale declined and there was no unified policy. Each went his own way. The Sovereign did not place complete confidence in anyone. He had been frightened by the East, North and Flank Kings and dared not trust other ministers, but placed all his trust in members of his own clan”. Thus the Taiping fortune had turned dramatically, the period of swift campaigns and sweeping victories had ended. They would not be able to exploit the blitzkrieg like momentum they once held. Now the Qing provincial armies would organize and begin the process of wrestling back control over vital and strategic territories in the upper Yangtze valley. Hong Xiuquan was alone in Nanjing with none of his original comrades to pick up the much needed leadership roles. As bad as Yang XIuqing had been, he was at least effective as an organizer and strategist.
On the other side of the coin, the Qing were unable to take advantage of all the Taiping upheaval. Their main besieging camps around Nanjing were smashed in 1856 and they faced two other large threats. The first ws another rebellion taking place in northern CHina, that of the Nian rebellion. The Nian rebellion was severing lines of communications from north to south making it extremely difficult to coordinate against the Taiping. The second was of course the second Opium war which threatened the eastern coast and cut off contact with the sea, effectively leaving local regional commanders in the south and center of China to have to formulate their own strategies against the Taiping. The financial records show at this time Emperor Xianfengs treasuries were significantly reduced. The Qing court had begun suspending orders for silk and porcelain and these sort of goods were necessary to showcase imperial glory. Alongside this, weddings and funeral stipends for Manchu Banner troops were canceled, golden bells, buddhist statues and other items made of gold, silver and such were melted down to make coins. The Qing court forced officials to reduce staff, canceled repairs to palace buildings and by 1857 some Imperial Banner families had reached starvation levels of just a few pounds of relief grain per month. The Emperor was allowing his Banner troops to use their own banks and rice stores in an attempt to shield military personnel from the effects of inflation. Despite the economic hard times, and enemies left right and center, the Qing armies could have crushed the Taiping altogether during this turbulent time, had it not been for the Qing leaders insistence on the policy of having veteran Taiping troops executed if captured without exception. There was really little incentive to stop serving the Taiping.
Now Hong Xiuquan did not stop at just placing his two brothers in high positions. There was Hong’s sister, his wife Lai and his children, the 8 sons of his eldest brother, 2 from his second eldest brother. Hong also had 8 daughters from various consorts, many of whom were married. Hong also had a dozen or so cousins, the Hong family had roots in Guangdong and Guangxi and many had made the trek from Thistle mountain to Nanjing. Now that Yang was dead, Hong was able to do things with less scrutiny, thus he began to extend his family as he saw fit. Hong’s palace was run entirely by women under his general supervision. Allegedly 2000 women worked for him divided into 3 categories, female ministers and bureaucrats, maids and attendants and the women of his immediate family. That last group included consorts of which according to his son Tiangui, Hong Xiuquan had 88 consorts in Nanjing. Tiangui was around 9 years old in 1857 is told he is too old to remain in the palace and is forced to live in an outer palace and given 4 wives. He is forbidden from seeing his mother or sisters, bound by stern rules set forth by his father. Hong Xiuquan dictated at four, his sons are no longer allowed close contact with their older sisters; at seven, they can no longer sleep in their mothers’ or other consorts’ beds; they must also stay ten feet or more away from their sisters, and learn to bathe themselves; by nine they should not even see their grandmothers. Their sisters’ separation from their brothers is similar: after five, they must never be touched by their brothers, and after nine they stay entirely with the women and are not meant to see even their younger brothers any more. In 1857, a year after the assasination ordeal, Hong Xiuquan issued the only official publication of the time known as “poems by the heavenly father”. They show us how Hong Xiuquan concerned himself with maintaining order and harmony among his hundreds of concubines and maids in his giant harem. He then explained “heavenly principles” admonishing his women to please their master and to follow his ordained rules. The mixture of fantastic ideas and fanatical beliefs in these writing to his women showcase the decline of the heavenly king. He was so concerned with having his own personal religious experience, that to ascent to heaven, rather than focus on the Taiping revolution. Whatever governmental structure existed was handled by Hong Xiuquans family rather than him, most at the hands of Hong Rengfa/Rengfu. Later on when one of the leading Taiping commanders, General Li Xiucheng is captured by Zeng Guofan he tells him “In Nanjing there was no one at court to carry on the government, the morale of the soldiers and people was broken and troubled. The military leaders were greatly displeased with the Hong brothers as both men were deficient in talent and had no plans”.
Yet the Hong clan did not seem to have anyone who could pull everything together. Hong Renfa and Renfu were said to be “deficient in talent and military tactics. THey were obstinately bent on carrying out their own views, and were obsessed with the notion that Heaven would support them in everything”. Shi Dakai was the last real hope for the revolution and when he left he also took with a significant part of the military and some of the best commanders. When the Qing court received news of Shi Dakai’s departure they instructed Zeng Guofan to invite Shi Dakai into the fold. Shi Dakai refused to surrender to the Qing and instead marched his army through Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Fujian and then westward into Hunan. From Hunan he tried to gain entry to Sichuan. Shi Dakai had thus conducted a ceaseless and exhausting campaign across 15 different provinces over a distance of more than 6000 miles, seeking first a permanent base, and then it became more of a game of survival. Countless troops got sick, died or deserted. By June, Shi Dakai found himself cornered, helpless and exhausted, so he simply walked into the encampment of the commanding Qing general pursuing him and gave himself up. He hoped by forfeiting his life he could have 2000 other Taiping veterans be pardoned. He prepared for all of this by having having his 5 wives commit suicide and his drowned, to save them from the inevitable shame and agony they would have faced at the hands of the Qing troops. He was interrogated for over 6 months by Luo Bingzhang who had directed the defenses at Changsha which killed the west king. Shi Dakai was executed slowly via dismemberment and his 2000 of his most loyal followers who had been held under guard at a local temple were slaughtered. Though Shi Dakai had assumed new titles and gave many to his commanders, he never promulgated any new political programs, nor did he have any grand purpose for his military campaign, and thus he was more of a military adventurer rather than a revolutionary leader in the end.
Shi’s forces would remain a threat to the Qing and Zeng Guofan’s Hunan forces. Shi had permitted many of his men to leave for home and the Taiping who went back to Guangxi province would survive to the end of the rebellion, slaughtering many more Qing. Shi also continuously recruiting as he marched his forces, in 1858 Shi’s forces were said to be several hundred thousand strong before Zeng Guofans armies decimated them. Shi Dakai’s force was quite the diversionary campaign, forcing Zeng Guofan to dispatch many of his best commanders to deal with him, but he was never distracted from his main target, the Taiping stronghold of Nanjing. Initially when the Qing ordered Zeng Guofan to march into Sichuan to stop Shi’s invasion of the provin, he refused the follow the Qing strategy. He argued with the Qing court stating the difference between the rebels who occupied and developed strategic areas for economic bases, ie: the main Taiping force in the lower Yangtze versus what he called the “roaming bandits” who never settled down. Those roamers were Shi Dakai and the Nian rebels. The real threat he insisted was the Taiping in Nanjing and Anhwei and they must be dealt with first. The Qing government…well they had no real way to coerce Zeng Guofan at this point and just followed his advice.
Meanwhile in Nanjing, Hong Xiuquan’s choice to appoint his own kin as officials was backfiring. He had made this appointment in the hopes of re-establishing a working organization. However the proliferation of titles contributed to disorganization and chaos. He had appointed Meng De’en as chief of staff. Meng had been a member of the administrative staff and Taiping documents indicate he was an official responsible for providing women for the heavenly king’s harem but had no experience in military matters. And despite his nominal role in the central administration and his new military authority he really held no real influence over either the courts or the armies. Alongside this Hong’s brothers were using their positions to amass wealth and live lives of luxury. So the field commanders became the only ones making actually military decisions. The attitudes of these commanders towards the new appoints in Nanjing can be seen strongly be the remarks of Li Xiucheng who again as a prisoner under Zeng Guofan wrote “there was no one at court to carry on the government, the morale of the soldiers and people was broken and troubled”. From his perspective, the military leaders were very dissatisfied with the Hong brothers and distrustful of Meng who in his words “was a great favorite of the heavenly king and had not been outside the capital. He alongside his second in command Li Kaifang were both men without ability and moreover kept in hand by the Hong brothers”.
Its easy to see the Taiping were in a major crisis and Li Xiucheng wrote one passage that shows us that it could have very well fallen to pieces by 1858. “The feeling of the people has undergone a great change. Government affairs were in disorder, and each man was pursuing his own course. The sovereign had become mistrustful of others. The affairs between the kings had so alarmed him that he was distrustful of ministers of other surnames and put his confidence in his own family and relations. There was a unanimous desire at this time to separate. However, they did not dare to separate on their own, since they had heard that whenever the Qing generals and soldiers capture Guangxi men they decapitated them, not sparing a single one. Hence they banded closely together instead of dispersing. Had the Qing dynasty been willing at this early date to spare Guangxi men, a breakup would have taken place long ago”. A very revealing passage to be sure. The inability of the Hong brothers and Meng De’en to manage military campaigns forced Hong Xiuquan to give the military leaders a free hand and he even created new titles and positions for them within the Taiping hierarchy. The first two important men to emerge in 1856 were Chen Yucheng and Li Xiucheng who received the titles of second chief commandant and deputy commandant. Left to their own by the useless Taiping court, they were forced to make their own strategic decisions and coordinate based on their need for self preservation.
The military situation for the Taiping was critical. Control over the Yangtze had been lost to Zeng Guofan’s Xiang army and with it came the loss of transportation for military supplies and provisions. In december of 1856, Wuhan had been recovered by the Qing which threatened Taiping control over the south Yangtze areas. The 2 Taiping commander thus came together in January of 1857 at a conference in Anqing to figure out how to coordinate a campaign. This led to a joint strategy to strengthen the Taiping military position in the Yangtze area. Now neither commander had played a large role in the Taiping campaigns prior to taking Nanjing. Chen Yucheng was too young to take an active role during the march from Guangxi to Nanjing. At Nanjing he was appointed to the rank of corps superintendent in charge of provisions for the Taiping left fourth army, to be blunt it was a desk job. By 1854 he petitioned for combat duty and got his wish in june that year to occupy Wuchang. He distinguished himself as the 38th commander then the 13 senior secretary commanding the Taiping rear 13th army and front 4th army of river troops. His military achievements and personal bravery earned him fame amongst the Taiping, and he also became well known to the Qing who targeted him as an important Taiping commander.
Li Xiucheng was a fellow villager of Chen Yucheng. He did fight during the march from Guangxi to Nanjing, but was not promoted to important military positions until later on. At Nanjing he became an assistant to another Taiping leader, Hu I-Kuang before receiving an appointment by Yang Xuiqing as a new corps general and later corps superintendents leading troops in 1853. Before the power struggle, Li had been sent with other Taiping officers to Chenchiang in Guangxi. After the power struggle Li was in command at Tongcheng in Anhwei and found himself in quite a struggle. He had a small force of less than 3000 men in a city isolated by Qing forces, he was surrounded, by his own account by over 10,000 Qing troops in over a 100 camps. To break out of this terrible position, Li cooperated with Chen Yucheng and collaborated with a Nian rebel force.
I have not spoken too much about the Nian, but at this time the area of northern Anhwei along the borders of Henan, Shandong and Jiangsu were under their control. They had started as groups of local corps formed during all the disarray of the 1840’s and 1850’s. They rose up to defend their villages against local bandits and raids from neighboring forces. By the mid 1850’s these groups banded together into a regional force held together by a secret society affiliation and by support from some local gentry clans. They held a formidable cavalry force and used a system of defense in depth, allowing them to perform campaigns into neighboring areas. They were anti-Qing and thus rebels, making it easy for them to cooperate with the Taiping when possible. Honestly I am contemplating writing an episode on the Nian rebellion and on many of the other lesser known rebellions of the 19th century, but my god there are many and its easy to become sidetracked. Who knows maybe at some point I will have to make a patreon to produce exclusive content, wink wink, anyone who might be interested in such things let me know, comment on my private channel, the pacific war channel or catch me in the KNG discord perhaps, really want to hear from you guys and gals what you want to hear more about.
There does not seem to be significant coordination between the Nian and Taiping prior to this, and perhaps that can be explained by a simple difference in goals of the two movements. The Nian were a local rebel group that had little program nor major political purpose beyond control and exploitation of the area their forces dominated. They did not hold the ambition to establish a new dynasty, let alone some sort of proto-marxist revolution like the Taiping sought. The Taiping for their part had little interest in local bandit or rebel groups who were unwilling to submit to the Taiping faith. At the start of the Taiping rebellion in Guangxi province they had already alienated many secret society and bandit groups who were quasi interested in the Taiping cause. Yang Xiuqing in Nanjing did little to change this policy. But after the breakdown of centralized command in Nanjing, men like Li Xuicheng who held purely military interests to heart saw joint action with groups like the Nian.
Thus the first significant joint action between the Taiping and Nian came about in early 1856 when the Nian leader Li Chaozhou from southern Huai area joined up with Li Xiucheng to perform a campaign in Chenchiang. When Li’s position was in crisis at Tongcheng he quickly tried to establish contact with Li Chaozhou the southern Nian leader, but also the northern Nian leader Zhang Luoxing. Zhang pledged collaboration with the Taiping forces under Li Xiucheng, claiming the Nian forces under his control to be a million strong. This forced the Qing in northern Anhwei to go on the defensive easing the pressure upon Li Xiuchang. The military alliance also raised Li Xiuchangs status amongst the Taiping, earning him a promotion in rank. The joint military campaign led to a number of cities in the Huai area to be taken between 1857 and 1859. But this cooperation remained purley on a military basis and would not last. It never extended beyond the Huai area and even within the area it was quite nominal in scale as a result of the Nian not having any real political structure. The Nian were more of a federation of autonomous communal units and the incapability with the Taiping ideology made any further integration impossible. The southern Nian leaders such as Li Chaozhou who had been the chief collaborators with Li Xiucheng could not be trusted for very long. They were not Guangxi men like Li Xiucheng, and thus could surrender to the Qing and keep their heads, which they eventually did. The cities they were defending were handed over much to Li Xiuchengs despair.
Li ascribed their surrender to be a result of undisciplined troops stating “Li Chaozhous troops were a disorderly lot; they were constantly troubling the people and plundering any city that was taken, and when this could not be effected they vented their rage on the peoples themselves. Li chastised the assistant generals of the districts until he was ashamed to meet me and finally sent his submission to the Qing”. Li was also dissatisfied with the northern Nian leader Zhang Luoxing who according to him “His men were only interested in promotions but not in serving when called”. Li was angered by the lack of cooperation or to be more blunt the fact the Nian’s disobeyed Taiping directions as to why the Taiping campaigns failed. However the push to perform joint actions led to Taiping victories in the central Yangtze area which most definitely helped their cause.
For one thing the joint actions led the Nian to hit Qing supply lines which further contributed to a major victory over the Qing at Tongcheng on february 24th of 1857. After this victory the Taiping leaders pursued the retreating Qing forces northwards alongside their Nian allies. But then many Nian forces attempted a western campaign and lost ground in Hubei. There were 2 major thrusts made in April and september of 1857 and then april and may of 1858, but both were frustrated by the Xiang army and other Qing forces. The Nian began a general retreat back into northern Anhwei which was their economic base. Meanwhile Li Xiucheng acquired a base closer to Nanjing establishing supply lines and from then on took on a key role defending the Nanjing region.
Though the Taiping/Nian joint operations slowed the advance of the Xiang army in Hunan, Zeng Guofan’s strategic plan still proved itself and his forces slowly but surely advanced in the Yangtze area. In may of 1858 contingents of the Xiang army recovered the city of JiuJiang which was the last remaining Taiping strategic base in the center of the Yangtze area. It was a vital base that provided them with resources from the provinces of Jiangxi and Hunan as well as a major recruitment point. From Jiujiang, Zeng Guofans army could prepare to march into Anhwei. Zeng Guofan also sought to advance forces into the upper Yangtze area to strangle the Taiping, while other Qing forces rebuilt the camps that were surrounding Nanjing in 1856. The northern and southern blockading camps were rebuilt in 1857 under the command of the Manchu generals He Chun and Zhang Guoliang. By the end of 1857 their forces were marching upon the city of Chenchiang which the Taiping had been holding since 1853.
To face the new threat, a Taiping military conference was held and alongside Li Xiucheng and Chen Yucheng a number of other Taiping generals gained prominence. Two of the most important were Yang Fuqing and Li Shixian. Yang was actually a cousin of Yang Xiuqing who escaped the slaughter by being in Jiangxi province performing a military campaign. Li Shixian wsa a cousin of Li Xiucheng and fought under him, until 1858 when he assumed his own command campaigning in southern Anhwei. The Taiping government depended on the loyalty of these key generals rather than any efforts made by Meng De’en and other useless Taiping administrators within Nanjing. In August of 1858 when the Qing began to strangle Nanjing, Hong Xiuquan gave the military commanders new titles and assignments. Now ever since the Yong’an campaign way back when, the Taiping military was more or less divided as such: the forward army, rear army, central army and left army. Chen Yucheng was appointed chief general of the forward army, which originally had been Feng Yunshans title; Li Xiucheng became chief general of the rear army; Yang Fuqing became the chief general of the center army, but was forced to share this position with Meng De’en who somehow was going to command men from Nanjing; and last Li Shixian was made chief general of the left army previously held by Shi Dakai.
At the conference Li Xiucheng called for unified action, here is some of what he said in his own words “I then wrote to the garrison generals of the different places, calling on all officers of the Heavenly dynasty to hold a council of war on an appointed day at Ts’ung-yang near Anqing. The generals and officers of the various places responded to my call…we each took an oath that we would support each other and agreed to join forces in the conflict before us”. The result of the conference led Chen Yucheng to march upon Shuch’eng, luzhou, chuzhou, then to link up with Li Xiucheng at the Anhwei-Jiangsu border to hit the Qing forces at Wuxi and Pukou dealing a complete defeat to the northern Qing camp trying to strangle Nanjing. The Taiping broke the northern half of the Qing blockading forces ending a large threat to Nanjing.
However these forces the Taiping defeated at the northern blockade were regular Qing forces. Fresh from that victory the Taiping now had to face the Xiang army who were marching into Anhwei. These forces were being led by Li Xubin who was accompanied by Zeng Guofans brother, Zeng Guohua. Their Xiang army was threatening the entire Taiping position in Anhwei and to face it Chen Yucheng rushed his army over to its defense, followed by Li Xiucheng. A major battle occurred on November 15th of 1858, resulting in the complete annihilation of the Xiang force and the deaths of Li Xubin and Zeng Guohua. Thus the Taiping control over Anhwei remained firm and Zeng Guofan suffered a terrible setback. Chen Yucheng and Li Xiucheng quickly recaptured all the lost territories in Anhwei and parted ways. Chen Yucheng chose to establish a base in the northern and western parts of Anhwei around Anqing, while Li Xiucheng took the eastern section closer to Nanjing.
Because Li Xiucheng was closer to Nanjing he was able to assert more control and began to introduce some order to the chaotic Taiping capital. According to his own account Li Xiucheng requested of the heavenly king ‘to select men according to talent, enact laws for the relief of the people, promulgate strict decrees, renovate court discipline, enforce rewards and punishments, treat the people with compassion, reduce taxes in grain and money”. Apparently the only response he got was a demotion, though he was soon promoted right back. A demotion really did nothing to affect any of the field generals actual power as they were basically the only ones doing anything. Later in 1858 when Nanjing was yet again under siege, Li Xiucheng went to Nanjing where he claimed he succeeded in re-establishing order and control. He convinced the heavenly king that to save Tianjin, they must collect forces outside for its relief. Each of the leaders continued thus to hold their own areas of supply, until messengers from Nanjing showed up demanding their armies come help break another blockade against Nanjing at the cities of Chianpu and Pukou.
Now during the years of 1856 to 1859, the Taiping were firmly on the defensive. Their military actions were almost always done by commanders working amongst themselves without any regard for the Nanjing government. These commanders thought in military terms and were no longer really concerned with the Taiping ideology, thus their revolutionary purpose was dying. This also resulted in each commander becoming shortsighted and their focus shifted simply to their own respective regions. They only coordinated with each other during times of immediate threat and had proven themselves capable of defeating not just the regular Qing forces, but that of Zeng Guofan. No attempt was made by the Taiping leaders to regain the initiative and the disintegration of central control was crumbling Nanjing. Transporting supplies to Nanjing had become an issue as Zeng Guofan began attacking riverways, especially along the Yangtze. Earlier, Tianjin enjoyed dominion over the Yangtze river and supplies poured in from 50-100 miles away inland. Yet by 1856 the Yangtze and other lakes were severed from Tianjin, and this resulted in a large loss for communication and the supply network. Even though the Taiping held numerous important cities on the banks of the Yangtze, the waterway itself was denied to them.
The general decline of the Taiping became quite apparent to foreign observers, between the years of 1857 and 1859 only one significant foreign mission would journey up the Yangtze and it was led by Lord Elgin. Yes if you remember from our Second Opium War series, Elgin tried to go up the Yangtze to navigate the commercial prospects of the region and to investigate the political situation. Elgin departed from the new treaty port of Hankou which was in the hands of the Qing and the furthest up the Yangtze river. Elgin wanted to test if the Chinese authorities would respect the status of the British flag under the new treaty of Tianjin, but it was also a chance to investigate the Taiping. Elgin had only heard rumors in SHanghai about the rebels and he wanted to gauge them first hand. As Elgin wrote to the foreign secretary “As we have seen fit to affect neutrality between the Emperor of China and the rebels. We could not, of course, without absurdity, require him to give us rights and protection in places actually occupied by a Power which we treat with the same respect as his own.” When Elgin could see from the bridge of his ship, the Furious and a few inland excursions, it looked like the civil war was more devastating than any rumors in SHanghai led one to believe. He reported this about the state of the city of Zhenjiang “I never before saw such a scene of desolation. heaps of ruins, intersected by a few straggling streets.“[We] might have imagined ourselves in Pompeii. We walked along deserted streets, between roofless houses, and walls overgrown with rank, tangled weeds; heaps of rubbish blocked up the thoroughfares, but they obstructed nobody.In order to save repetition I may here observe, once for all, that with certain differences of degree, this was the condition of every city which I visited on my voyage up and down the Yang-tze.”
Elgins first direct contact with the Taiping came in the form of a cannonball that roared over the deck of his ship as they passed by Nanjing on November 20th. Elgin did not expect hostilities and thought they would merely pass by unmolested. In response he sent a few gunships back downriver to hammer the rebel forts. The Taiping then sent messengers offering an apology for firing upon Elgins ships and asked for aid in fighting the Qing dynasty. A month later on Christmas day of 1858, as Elgins fleet was passing the city of Anqing on their way back to Shanghai he received a letter from Hong Xiuquan inviting him to join the Taiping in their divine mission to destroy the Manchu. “The Father and the Elder Brother led me to rule the Heavenly Kingdom, to sweep away and exterminate the devilish spirits, bestowing on me great honor. Foreign younger brothers of the western ocean, listen to my words. Join us in doing service to the Father and Elder Brother and extinguishing the stinking reptiles.” There were many attempts at communication and trade. Many individual Taiping commanders sent letters expressing hope to procure foreign rifles and cannons, but the British continuously stated they were abiding by a neutrality stance. Many of the Taiping tried to appeal to the British on the basis of their shared religion. “are both sons of the Heavenly Father, God, and are both younger brothers of the Heavenly Elder Brother, Jesus. Our feelings towards each other are like those of brothers, and our friendship is as intimate as that of two brothers of the same parentage.” The shared christianity between the two remained a sticky situation. There were many in Britain who pointed out the need to help the Christians in China. At a time when Britain and France were at war with the Qing, it seemed like there was quite a rationale for simply allying with the Taiping. But there were two major obstacles in the way, the first being the principle of neutrality. If they helped the Taiping, they may lose any relations they had left with the Qing. The second issue was that it was hard to understand if the Taiping were really christian or not. Multiple missionaries tried to investigate this matter and they were not convinced. It also did not help that the Heavenly King began sending the foreigners a manifesto demanding their come pay their respects to him as god’s son.
The foreigners in the end would have little sympathy for the Taiping cause and it would actually lead to them contributing to the Qing side of the war in the end. The rationale for this was to secure the treaties they signed with the Qing and quite honestly, the Taiping did not look like they were going to win the war by the late 1850s. But were the Taiping defeated? Many would argue this is not the case, they could have reorganized and revamped their revolutionary purpose, and in 1859 a man arrived to Nanjing to do just that.
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The Taiping found new leadership figures in Li Xiucheng and Chen Yucheng. The Nian rebels proved valuable allies initially, but in the end it simply was not working out. The Taiping desperately needed foreign support but were burning those bridges.