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Old 07-28-2010, 09:23 AM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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...or at least not very well known in the West....

If you were to conduct a survey of people's knowledge of the bloodiest wars in all modern (gunpowder age) history (in terms of total deaths), I suspect that most people would correctly identify WW II and its estimated sixty million killed, as #1. I think that most would guess that WW I (nine million dead) was in second place, and they would be wrong.

So...what war is in second place? The Napoleonic Wars? Sorry, that was about 4 million over 15 years.The Thirty Years War? Estimates range from 3 to 7 million for that conflict.

No, # 2 was a Civil War, and not the American one which was ghoulish enough with its 600,000 dead. The answer is the Taiping Rebellion which took place in China between 1850 and 1864.

At the time, China was ruled by the Quing, or Manchu Dynasty. They were ineffective, corrupt, unjust, exploitive and barbaric. The leaders lived in ruinously expensive luxury while the majority of the peasants fought starvation and grinding poverty. They were taught from birth that the rulers were untouchable gods and that they ruled not only China, but the entire world. This fantasy was somewhat shattered in 1842 when the Chinese could not disguise or paper over the severe defeat that they suffered at the hands of the Brits in the First Opium War.

Suddenly the rulers were suspect.

In 1836, Hong Xiuquan who was among those who aspired to a life of academic scholarship, failed his imperial examination and went into some sort of trance as a consequence. While recuperating in bed, he read a pamphlet left by a Christian missionary. Hong claims that reading this tract opened his eyes to his actual identity...he was the brother of Jesus Christ and had been sent to China by the father and Jesus, to rid the place of the corrupt Manchus and establish Christianity, albeit an extremely eccentric edition of it he styled the “Heavenly Kingdom” (Taiping), throughout China. A firewood peddler named Yang Xiuqing joined the movement and became known as The Voice of God, becoming something of the Paul to Hong’s Jesus.

Throughout the 1840’s Hong’s following grew substantially, partly a consequence of providing actual regional benefits to people ignored or abused by the Manchu government. By 1850 they were strong enough to field a 10,000 man army and the rebellion began in the Guangxi province, spreading rapidly from there. The revolt continued to attract participants despite the fact that after the first few years, the Taipings proved to be every bit as cruel and corrupt as the Manchus. Hong himself retired from public life in 1853, and spent his days secluded with his concubines, ruling his movement through a series of decrees and religious tracts which would be read to his court by one of the trollops. By 1860, the Taipings controlled one third of the nation, using the captured and occupied Nanjing as their capitol.

Both the Taipings and the Imperial forces appealed to the European powers for recognition and help, but the British maintained a policy of official neutrality, while continuing to protect their own interests. When the Taipings tried to capture Shanghai, they were repulsed by a British sponsored army under the American soldier of fortune, Frederick Townsend Ward. (This force went on to become The Ever Victorious Army under Chinese Gordon and did more than any other armed body to defeat the Taipings.) The British and French also made a quick march and occupation of Peking when the Imperial government was dragging its feet on living up to their treaty obligations, a lesson rammed home when they burned the Imperial Summer Palace, an extraordinarily beautiful gardened estate which housed a large percentage of China’s ancient and priceless works of art.

Because the oddball Christianity of Hong’s movement rejected all traditional Confucian values, the Taipings were never able to make many inroads among the Chinese middle classes and they remained loyal to the Imperial government. By the summer of 1864, most of China had been retaken by the Manchus and they were beseiging Nanking. Hong abdicated in favor of his 15 year old son, and then died of food poisoning shortly thereafter. Nanking fell in July and most of the Taiping leaders were executed. Fanatic followers in the countryside kept up a guerrilla war until 1871, but the rebellion itself may be said to have ended with Nanking’s capture.

The death toll is unknown, but the high guess is 30 million, the low estimate 20 million. Most of the victims of course were peasants and it is astonishing that so many died fighting in a war where they had nothing at all to gain by victory. After the first few years, the Taipings behaved no differently from the Manchus, stealing all the wealth available, the leaders living in extraordinary luxury via a tax system which may accurately be described as “take everything in sight.” All that was really at stake for the peasants was whether they were to be cruelly exploted by the Manchus, or cruelly exploited by the Heavenly Kingdom crowd.

The above represents but a thumbnail sketch of the events. The full story has been written frequently, more recently by Jonathan Spence’s “God’s Chinese Son.” (1996)
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:18 PM
 
Location: Finally escaped The People's Republic of California
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Grandstander
I believe it was you who had mentioned a 3 sided war in South America that had wiped out almost a generation of males from one country....Could you refresh my memory, with those casulatly totals
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Old 07-28-2010, 10:27 PM
 
Location: San Antonio
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Paraguay.
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Old 07-28-2010, 10:33 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Originally Posted by Cali BassMan View Post
Grandstander
I believe it was you who had mentioned a 3 sided war in South America that had wiped out almost a generation of males from one country....Could you refresh my memory, with those casulatly totals
That must of been someone else, South American history is a weak area for me.
There was the War of the Pacific fought between Peru on one side and Bolivia and Chile on the other, 1879-1884, but I do not know doo dap diddly about it. According to this site:
Nineteenth Century Death Tolls

...the total casulaties for the war amounted to 14,000, 10,000 of them being Peruvians.

I do not know if 10,000 Peruvians constituted an entire generation of males.
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Old 10-18-2011, 11:15 PM
 
Location: 30-40°N 90-100°W
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
The above represents but a thumbnail sketch of the events. The full story has been written frequently, more recently by Jonathan Spence’s “God’s Chinese Son.” (1996)
I read that one. It's a fascinating and strange period of history. Although I think the peasants, at first, felt they had more to gain than claimed. Particularly the women.

Initially the Tai'Ping distributed food more equitably than the Manchu. Also many of the Chinese wanted a native-Chinese dynasty and, weird features aside, the Tai'Ping seemed to make that possible. Furthermore the Tai'Ping ended foot-binding and although women were still submissive to men they had more of the role. And the moral perfectionism, or the theoretical moralism, of the Tai'Ping might have had some appeal in a land that had been devastated by Opium and Opium wars.

Another aspect might be criminal elements. Some of the Chinese triads had begun as groups desiring a Ming restoration. So serving the Tai'Ping may have re-ignited some of their old patriotism. Although what I suppose it ignited more is opportunism. Fighting for the Tai'Ping could pretty easily be a cover for looting and criminality. And I believe some of the Chinese pirates sided with the Tai'Ping out of opportunism.

I think I read that for a decade or so after the Tai'Ping that elements of it survived as pirates in Vietnam. They were called the "Black Flag" or some such. Although looking it up I guess they weren't related, but the founders of Vietnam's "Black Flag Army" claimed Tai'Ping connections anyway and some who fought in the BFA had fought for the Tai'Ping.

The rebel den of Nùng Trí Cao ... - James Anderson - Google Books

I know this is reviving a rather old thread, but it's a pretty interesting period of history to me.
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Old 10-18-2011, 11:59 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Originally Posted by Thomas R. View Post
I read that one. It's a fascinating and strange period of history. Although I think the peasants, at first, felt they had more to gain than claimed. Particularly the women.

Initially the Tai'Ping distributed food more equitably than the Manchu. Also many of the Chinese wanted a native-Chinese dynasty and, weird features aside, the Tai'Ping seemed to make that possible. Furthermore the Tai'Ping ended foot-binding and although women were still submissive to men they had more of the role. And the moral perfectionism, or the theoretical moralism, of the Tai'Ping might have had some appeal in a land that had been devastated by Opium and Opium wars.

Another aspect might be criminal elements. Some of the Chinese triads had begun as groups desiring a Ming restoration. So serving the Tai'Ping may have re-ignited some of their old patriotism. Although what I suppose it ignited more is opportunism. Fighting for the Tai'Ping could pretty easily be a cover for looting and criminality. And I believe some of the Chinese pirates sided with the Tai'Ping out of opportunism.

I think I read that for a decade or so after the Tai'Ping that elements of it survived as pirates in Vietnam. They were called the "Black Flag" or some such. Although looking it up I guess they weren't related, but the founders of Vietnam's "Black Flag Army" claimed Tai'Ping connections anyway and some who fought in the BFA had fought for the Tai'Ping.

The rebel den of Nùng Trí Cao ... - James Anderson - Google Books

I know this is reviving a rather old thread, but it's a pretty interesting period of history to me.
Thanks for adding those details. It makes sense that the Taiping movement had to have been offering some sort of hope for improvement, or it could not have attracted so large a following. It helped that the Manchus ruled by world class greedy caprice, telling the people that they were dirt, existing only to serve the Manchus. Why would anyone rebel against that?

Hong Xiuquan channeled Caligua in a fashion, always very strange, but didn't go completely off his rocker until after he was in a position of absolute power over a large segment of China. I cannot think of any historical situations where the combination of insanity and absolute power resulted in prosperous, happy times.
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Old 10-23-2011, 09:08 AM
 
4,044 posts, read 5,653,982 times
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Originally Posted by Cali BassMan View Post
Grandstander
I believe it was you who had mentioned a 3 sided war in South America that had wiped out almost a generation of males from one country....Could you refresh my memory, with those casulatly totals
This is it Paraguayan War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 10-25-2011, 06:26 AM
 
Location: 30-40°N 90-100°W
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I think that's considered worse in percentage-of-a-nation-killed, but is smaller than the Tai'Ping in overall number. I read some on it and it was also pretty bizarre. It was always called "The War of the Triple Alliance" when I read of it, but I guess "Paraguayan War" maybe makes more sense.

Curiously they claim Paraguayans still celebrate Solano Lopez as like their main national history. Kind of bad when your "main national hero" is a guy who was involved in a war that obliterated most of the male population.
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