Saturday 10 January 2009

The Real "Warlords"

January 11, 2009

Last year’s acclaimed Chinese film “The Warlords”, which may still be showing in the odd art house, tells a compelling story set during the anarchy of the Taiping rebellion in 19th century China. (And is well worth a viewing if you haven’t seen it.) One of the rebellion's key events came 158 years ago today, on January 11, 1851 when Hong Xiuquan proclaimed himself ruler of the Heavenly Kingdom of Peace, Taiping Tianguo.

He had been converted to Christianity and started seeing visions after failing the Chinese civil service examination for the fifth time. The rebellion lasted more than 25 years and cost the lives of perhaps 20 million people (though Hong himself died of food poisoning in a city under siege in 1864). The Taipings were against gambling, opium, tobacco, prostitution and polygamy, but Hong kept a harem of 88 concubines. To find out more about this extraordinary story, see A Disastrous History of the World.

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