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Frontiers of History in China

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, Volume 13 Issue 2 Previous Issue   
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Orginal Article
Authenticating the Renewed Heavenly Vision: The Taiping Heavenly Chronicle (Taiping tianri)
Huan Jin
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (2): 173-192.
Abstract   PDF (396KB)

The publication of The Taiping Heavenly Chronicle (Taiping tianri) in 1862 marks a critical moment in the development of the Taiping propaganda machine. Printed with copper plate printing technology that evinces imperial authority, this text is the only official history written by the Taipings in their quest to institute an overarching narrative of the movement. A systematic description of the origin and nature of the Taiping movement, The Taiping Heavenly Chronicle aims to establish Hong Xiuquan as the sole religious and political leader after the internecine Tianjing Incident (1856), which radically restructured the Taiping leadership. Using imagery, popular literary tropes, and narrative devices, this text incorporates the heterogeneous elements found in the Christian-inspired Taiping discourse to rewrite thousands of years of Chinese history.

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The Power of Persuasion in Propaganda: The Taiping Three Characters Classic
Yao Dadui
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (2): 193-210.
Abstract   PDF (404KB)

Taiping leaders were adept at using material from traditional Chinese sources and Western Protestant writings. The Taiping Three Character Classic, or Sanzijing (SZJ) exemplifies the Taipings’ skillful adaptation of a pre-existing popular text in order to propagate its religious doctrine and political ideology. The traditional SZJ featured an appealing style and imparted Neo-Confucian values to readers. The style of traditional SZJ contained a unique pattern that was kept in latter adaptations, while the text’s content was modified to suit new realities. The Taiping SZJ followed the structure of the traditional SZJ, but it provided its own historical ideas and utopian visions, which differed from Christian Millennialism. The Taiping utopian vision was not about the future, but about a return to the period of the “the three dynasties” in Chinese history, an approach also used by Confucian intellectuals. The persuasive power in Taiping propaganda text lies in Taiping’s exploitation of Chinese and Western resources, especially in utilizing existing concepts, popular texts and cultural patterns.

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Singing Punishment and Redemption in the Taiping Civil War: Yu Zhi’s Plays
Rania Huntington
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (2): 211-226.
Abstract   PDF (352KB)

Among the dramatists who depicted the Taiping Civil War, attempting to find meaning in the carnage and chaos, Yu Zhi (1809–74) is unique. He wrote plays during and after the war, so he considers the chaos from two historical vantage points. As one of the earliest literati to write plays in the newly popular pihuang form, he addressed different actual and imagined audiences compared to his peers. Although virtually all extant plays take an absolute anti-Taiping stance, his plays differ from his contemporaries’ in their focus on morality rather than sentiment, and on edification rather than commemoration. At the root of these differences is an understanding of the nature of evil, redemption, and belief.

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Writing the Taiping War into the History of the Southern Ming: Xu Zi, the Militia of Luhe, and the Annals of a Fallen State
Chuck Wooldridge
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (2): 227-258.
Abstract   PDF (416KB)

Between 1853 and 1858, the militia and hired braves of Luhe county, Jiangsu, distinguished themselves by successfully defending against Taiping attack when surrounding counties and cities all fell. The historian Xu Zi (1810–62) served as a militia leader, commanding a company of troops and working to raise funds to pay for provisions. At the same time, he was writing his history of the Southern Ming Courts: Annals of a Fallen State, With Appended Annotations (Xiaotian jinian fukao). In his history, Xu Zi included anecdotes of his wartime experiences, writing the Taiping War into the history of the Southern Ming. What does history do? Xu Zi hoped it could help establish and maintain the coherence of the forces fighting the Taiping. To that end, he presented exemplary figures from the past for people of his own time to emulate, and he narrated those stories to his fellow soldiers. At the same time, his work suggests that the practices of the historian—including investigation of sources, expressions of emotion, and evaluation of policy—could provide avenues for defeating the Taiping. By writing himself into his history of the Southern Ming, he showed how the past could become a tool of war.

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9 articles