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Yang Xiuqing : biography

1821 - 3 September 1856

Yang Xiuqing (), (died 2/3 September 1856), was an organizer and commander-in-chief of the Taiping Rebellion.


Yang plotted to take the throne. First he demanded to be called Wansui (Ten Thousand Years), a title reserved for the emperor (Hong had assumed it in 1852). After giving outward agreement, Hong secretly summoned the Western King and the able general Shi Dakai, who both despised Yang. In the three months that followed Yang's murder on September 2, these two also killed Yang's family and 20,000 of his adherents. Within a few years, the fortunes of the Taiping Rebellion declined as the rebellion's leaders became involved in the ensuing conspiracies and intrigues. Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 887.


Yang was a firewood and charcoal seller in Guangxi before he joined the rebellion. In 1848 he converted to Christianity after reporting that he had experienced visions of God. In 1850, perhaps in service of his political ambitions, he began to claim that he could miraculously heal true believers. He was an early participant in the rebellion and rose quickly to prominence; in 1851, when Hong Xiuquan took the title of Heavenly King for himself, he made Yang, in spite of having no military knowledge or experience, commander-in-chief of the army. Yang was further named "East King", in keeping with three other leaders of the rebellion who were given titles as "kings" of the four quarters of the Heavenly Kingdom. In 1851, Yang announced a vision in which it was revealed that there were traitors in the highest levels of the movement, and two years later that words of the Eastern King, that is, Yang himself, were divine. devised an extensive network of spies to root out the intrigues of loyalists in the kingdom. By the 1850s Yang became the most powerful leader of the Taiping Rebellion. Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 886-87.

With this presumed divine guidance, Taiping troops captured the city of Nanjing (Nanking), which became the capital of the Heavenly Kingdom in 1853. Yang took control of the city. He disciplined the troops after an initial period of violence and slaughter by declaring that he would execute any officer who entered a private home. City residents were ordered to return to the work. Men and women were required to live separately, and were prohibited from walking together or even speaking to each other (there continued to be male and female military units). As Hong, the Heavenly King, became less interested in politics and more interested in his harem, he named Yang as prime minister of the Heavenly Kingdom. Many of the basic laws and regulations were issued during this period of Yang's control. Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 887.

In August, 1856, Yang defeated the government troops besieging Nanking. He first led them to divide their forces by forcing them to send relief forces to other cities, then sent all his own troops against them in a massed attack. Arrogance over victory, however, led to his downfall. Teng in Eminent Chinese, p. 887. Yang clashed with Hong over the rebellion's policies and views toward Confucianism and iconoclasm; Yang believed that Confucian morality was essentially positive and that its basic tenets were compatible with the rebellion's interpretation of Christianity and that images of dragons were not sacrilegious. Hong, however, rejected this notion and believed that Confucianism ought to be eradicated, as it was the work of the devil.


Further References

  • Ssu-yu Teng, "Yang Hsiu-ch'ing," in Arthur Hummel, Jr., ed., Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1943) Vol II pp. 886-888.

Category:Chinese dissidents Category:Converts to Christianity Category:Hakka people Category:Military leaders of the Taiping Rebellion Category:People from Guigang Category:1856 deaths Category:1821 births Category:Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period subjects

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