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Hong Xiuquan

Hong Xiuquan (洪秀全 in pinyin: hong2 xiu4 quan2) (in Wade-Giles: Hung Hsiu-ch'Řan) (January 10, 1812-1864), a Hakka Chinese Christian who led the Taiping Rebellion and established the Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping, in which he was known as the King of Heaven (天王 tian1 wang2). His courtesy name was Renkun (仁坤 ren2 kun1); other sources say Huoxiu (火秀) was his courtesy name, while Renkun was his birth given name.

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He was born in Fuyuanshui Village (福源水村), Hua District (花縣) (now Huadu City (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 Guanlubu Village (官祿[土布]╣村 guan1 lu4 bu4 cun1).

An Unsuccessful Scholar

Started studying in Book Chamber Building (書房閣), a private primary school (私塾), at seven. He was able to recite the 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 16, but he failed. He tried three times or twice more, 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.

A Youth's Visions

He came under the influence of Christian missionaries. One night, in a trance-vision, he dreamed of a man in black cloak telling him to purify the land of evil. In Guangzhou, after his second attempt in the exam, he received a copy of the booklet The Benevolent Words to Advise the World (《勸世良言》), written by Liang Fa. After reading it in 1943, believed that the man in black in his vision was God, and that he was the younger son[?] of God, thus brother of Jesus Christ, on earth to found a new kingdom.

However, it is possible that these divine signs are his post hoc rationalization to gain legitimacy for the Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping.

The Gathering

First, in his house, he burned all Confucian and Buddhist statues and books. This act was considered sacrilegious and insane, and 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 a large number of Hakka coal-burning workers on Zijing Mountain (紫金山) in Guiping District (桂平縣), many of who became members of the sect. He preached a mix of Christianity and communal utopianism[?]. In 1947, he fomally studied the Old Testament for four months under Issachar J. Roberts (羅孝全) (1802-1871), an American Protestant missionary. But he was never baptized.


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 same year, he also officially changed the name of the Buddhist Nine Immortals Temple (九仙廟) of Wuxuan District (武宣縣) to Nine Demons Temple (九妖廟).

Ideals in a Kingdom

In the Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping he established in 1851, he dictated several reforms[?] that would have improved the lives of his subject. But they were implemented harshly and ineffectively. (See Taiping Rebellion) Starting from 1853, Hong began to retreat from the political life as a king and became obsessed with his faith and engaged in sensual activities. In 1856, he started to get ill.

A Boby in a Sewer

He committed suicide by poison on June 1, 1864 at the age of 52 after all hope of maintaining his kingdom was lost. His body was discovered later in a sewer. Although in other sources, he was said to have died of illness.

He was succeeded by his teenager son, Hong Tianguifu.


  • The Imperial Decree of Taiping《太平詔書》(1952)
  • The 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 faith and goal that later leads 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, then and nowadays, to be of low quality, because the lack of use of classical phrases.

Holding the Universe in the hand,
I slay the attacking powers.
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.


╣ The transliteration of Yahweh was Yehuohua (爺火華). It is now Yehehua (耶和華).  


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.  

External links

  • 紀念館 (The Memorial Museum) (http://big5.viewcn.com/ShenZhouLiaoWang/ChengShiDH/GuangZhou/MingShengJingGuan/GBK/27134) (in Chinese) with a picture of Hong's huge longan tree.

Notes ╣ B¨ [土布], one obscure character used only in few placenames, is "㘵" (#13877) in Unicode, but the character currently does not appear on most browsers, including MS IE, Mozilla, and Netscape.

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