Hóng Xiùquán (洪秀全, Wade-Giles: Hung Hsiu-ch'üan, born Hong Renkun 洪仁坤, Courtesy name Huoxiu 火秀; January 1, 1814-June 1, 1864) was a Hakka Chinese who led the Taiping Rebellion, which established the short-lived "Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping" over varying portions of southern China, with himself as the "Heavenly King" (天王/Tian Wang).
He was born in Fuyuanshui Village (福源水村), Hua County (Fa Yuen in Cantonese) (花縣) (now Huadu (花都市)), Guangdong to Hong Jingyang (洪競揚) and Wang-shi (王氏). His grandfather was Hong Guoyou (洪國游), who was, like his ancestors, a farmer. He later moved to Guānlùbù Village (官祿[土布]¹村).
Visions of an unsuccessful scholar Edit
Hóng Xiùquán started studying in Book Chamber Building (書房閣), a private school (私塾), at age seven. He was able to recite the Four Classics after five or six years. Then he tried to take the first-degree (秀才) civil service examinations in Guangzhou at the age of 22, in 1836, but he failed. He tried again two or three times, and never succeeded.
He later got the position as an instructor (塾師) at Book Chamber Building and several schools in Lianhuatang (蓮花塘) and other villages.
Hóng Xiùquán claimed that one night in 1837, in a trance-vision, he dreamed of a man in black dragon cloak telling him to purify the land of evil. In Guangzhou, after his second attempt in the exam, he had received a copy of the booklet The Benevolent Words to Advise the World (《勸世良言》), written by the Christian Liang Fa. Several years later, in 1843, after reading the tract, he came to believe that the man in black in his vision was God, and that he was the second son of God, the younger brother to Jesus, on earth with a mission to found a new kingdom - a new Messiah. However, it is possible that this was his post hoc rationalization to gain legitimacy for the "Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping".
First, in his house, he burned all Confucian and Buddhist statues and books. As this act was considered sacrilegious and insane, he was attacked by Confucians. So in 1844, he fled to Guangxi, where with Feng Yunshan (馮雲山), he began a new iconoclastic sect called the "God Worshippers" (拜上帝會), which initially included only a few of his relatives.
He then preached to a large number of Hakka coal-burning workers on Zijin Mountain (紫金山) in Guiping District (桂平縣), many of who became members of the sect as Hong himself was a Hakka. He preached a mix of communal utopianism and his idiosyncratic quasi-Christianity. In 1847, he formally studied the Old Testament for four months under Issachar Jacox Roberts (羅孝全) (1802-1871), a Baptist missionary from the United States, but he was never baptized.
Destructions and ideals Edit
As a symbolic gesture to purge China of Confucianism, in 1843, he asked for two giant three-chi (尺) long and nine-jin (斤) heavy swords, called the "Swords that Execute the Vicious" (斬妖劍), to be forged.
In the "Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping" he established in 1851, he dictated several reforms that were implemented harshly and ineffectively in the Taiping Rebellion. Beginning in 1853, Hong began to retreat from the political life as a king and became obsessed with his religious experiences and engaged in sensual activities. In 1856, his health deteriorated.
Some sources claim that he committed suicide by poison on June 1, 1864 at the age of 52 after the Chinese authorities finally gained a decisive military advantage and all hope of maintaining his "kingdom" was lost and his body was discovered later in a sewer. However, in other sources, he was said to have died of illness.
He was succeeded by his teenage son, Hong Tianguifu.
- The Imperial Decree of Taiping《太平詔書》(1852)
- The Instructions on the Original Way Series (《原道救世訓》系列) (1845 - 48): included in The Imperial Decree of Taiping later. The series is proclaimed by PRC's National Affairs Department (國務院) to be Protected National Significant Documents (全國重點文物) in 1988.
- The Instructions on the Original Way to Save the World (《原道救世訓》)
- The Instructions on the Original Way to Awake the World (《原道醒世訓》)
- The Instructions on the Original Way to Make the World Realize (《原道覺世訓》)
- The New Essay on Economics and Politics (《資政新篇》 ) (1859)
The following poem, called "The Poem on Executing the Vicious and Preserving the Righteous" (《斬邪留正詩》), written in 1837 by Hong, illustrates his religious thinking and goal that later lead to the establishment the "Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping". Note that in the second last line, the name of the then yet-to-come kingdom is mentioned. This, and other poems of his, are considered by some scholars to be of low quality, because the lack of use of classical phrases.
- Holding the Universe in the hand,
- I slay evil, preserve justice, and improve the lives of my subjects.
- Eyes can see through beyond the west, the north, the rivers, and the mountains,
- Sounds can shake the east, the south, the Sun, and the Moon.
- The glorious sword of authority was given by Lord,
- Poems and books are evidences that praise Yahweh in front of Him.
- Taiping [perfect Peace] unifies the World of Light,
- The domineering air will be joyous for myriads of thousand years.
Views and opinions on Hong differ greatly. Peasant revolutionaries, most notably Mao Zedong, have praised Hong and asserted the legitimacy of his Taiping Kingdom, in reflection to legitimize his own rise to power. He has also been equated to Li Hongzhi in that he rallies a large number of people behind a religious or spiritual cause to challenge the status quo, although Li's political intentions have been of intense debate.
In his birthplace, in 1959, the PRC established a small museum called Hong Xiuquan's Former Residence Memorial Museum (洪秀全故居紀念館), where there is a longan tree planted by him. The museum's plate is written by the famous literary figure, Guo Moruo (郭沫若) (1892-1978). The residence and Book Chamber Building were renovated in 1961.
- 紀念館 (The Memorial Museum) (in Chinese) with a picture of Hong's huge longan tree.