Hong Xiuquan (1814-1864) was a ‘Hakka’ Confucian scholar from Guangdong, who came into contact with Western (Christian) missionaries in his youth. Although all evidence suggests that he passed the Imperial Exam (along with thousands of others) – due to a lack of imperial posts he was arbitrary ‘failed’ and made to lose face. He fled into the hills to escape the wrath of the local villagers who had sacrificed for and financed his studies, and it is here that he suffered a mental breakdown from nervous and physical exhaustion! During this time in the wilderness, Hong Xiuquan had a number of visions where the Christian God directly spoke to him and said he was the ‘new’ Son of God and should consider himself God’s Messenger on Earth!
When Hong Xuiquan came out the mountains and started preaching – a great Hakka Army was formed of tens of thousands of militant Hakka men and women! It swept through the cities and destroyed any Qing and Western Forces it encountered! The ‘Taiping Heavenly Kingdom’ was formed over vast areas of Southern, Central and Parts of East China – with Four Kings and Hakka Christianised culture forming the cultural blue-print! In a rare example of co-operation, both the Catholic and Protestant Churches in the West condemned the Taiping – saying that Jesus would not be a member of an inferior race – giving the imperial (Western) powers permission to assist the Qing military in its military attack upon the Taiping strongholds! Cutting off the farming lands and livestock by the Westerners ensured the development of widespread famine and the poisoning of local water supplies caused drought.
As the Hakka population weakened, their defeats on the battlefield grew in importance until all of their strongholds were over-run. Hong Xiuquan’s dead body was found hastily hidden in a sewer in Nanjing – the capital of the Taiping. The Western Churches then issued a joint declaration thanking the Western Forces for their service and stating that any attempts by non-Europeans to ‘usurp’ hegemonic power from the only ‘true’ and ‘genuine’ Churches in the West would be met with the same determination and level of destruction. A conservative estimate of the dead inflicted between 1851-1864 is 20-30 million men, women and children. I believe there are perhaps two Taiping Churches left in the world – one in Malaysia and another in South America – both formed by fleeing Hakka Chinese.
The Altar consists of a Christian Cross stood upright behind a statue of the ‘Jade Emperor’ which sits on the altar. It is this combination of Chinese cultural elements and Christian iconography that led to the Western Churches rejecting it as a movement. As the ‘new’ Son of God – Hong Xiuquan stated that it was he who was the new Christian authority in the world and not the old Western Churches! I think an episode of ‘Family Guy’ once featured the character ‘Stewie’ dying and going to Heaven – where he met Jesus! Stewie said he was a Chinese man called ‘Jesus Hong’! Finally, whilst traversing through Hunan, Taiping Officials noted the existence of a strange written language that only women in the area could understand!
Nu Shu (女书) – Women’s Book (Literature) Or Nu Zi (女字) Women’s Characters
Another Name: 长脚文，江永女书 (Chang Jiao Wen – Jiangyong Nu Shu) – ‘Long Footed Literature’ (as in ‘women who do not bind their feet and conform to social customs) – and ‘Jiangyong’ (Hunan) Women’s Book (a body of female-derived literature). It is said to be ancient to to have been invented possibly by a noble woman banished to the countryside to live thousands of years ago. As some noble women were allowed to read and write – this lady taught the local women a new type of script disguised as ornate patterns painted upon fans given as wedding gifts from a mother to a daughter.
Apparently, men were none the wiser and the Chinese Authorities only became aware of its existence in the 1950s. There are between 600-700 characters premised upon traditional Chinese character formation – but radically altered so as to form a ‘phonetic’ alphabet – which is unique in China. If a man suspected a ‘secret’ language was being used – then he could not decipher the meaning just by extrapolating data from the ideogram itself – as this language does not work in this way. As men lacked the ‘key’ to unlocking the text – it just came across as perhaps stylised interpretations of Oracle Bone Script – but in a haphazard manner – as if an illiterate person was copying ideograms with no real understanding of their meaning. A very clever deception that re-affirmed all the patriarchy of the day – whilst generating a shield which covered a very real freedom for some local women.