Chapter 8 The Crisis Within

Chapter 8 The Crisis Within - Chapter 8 The Crisis Within...

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Chapter 8 The Crisis Within Social Dislocation North and South The damaging defeats of China by the British during the first half of the 19th century were part cause and part consequence of China s own growing domestic instability. Domestic corruption grew worse in early 19th century. The bureaucracies that managed the Yel- low Rive dike works and the Grand Canal grew ineffective and bloated, so did the massive gov- ernment system of salt distribution. Paramilitary organizations increased during this time to protect small communities from maraud- ers. In much of China, private interests were encroaching on formerly governmental spheres and the imperial system seemed incapable of reasserting its former powers. Emperor Jiaqing (r. 1799-1820) relied on rhetoric more than policies to cleanse the empire of corrupt bureaucrats and cronies. Like his son, Emperor Daoguang (r. 1821-1850), Jiaqing pro- moted ministers who believed in a purist view of the fundamental Confucian virtues, even if they had nothing practical to say about the many domestic and foreign problems of the day. (By the end of Daoguang s reign, a series of popular uprisings began that lasted for 23 years and al- most brought about the fall of the Qing.) The Lin Qing uprising in northern China (1813) was an example of this growing domestic unrest. Lin presents a case study of the rootlessness endemic to that portion of Qing society that hovered above the poverty line. After spending a restless young adulthood, Lin recruited several hundred recruits, promising land and preaching anti-Manchuism. He planned to attack Peking and kill Emperor Jiaqing. His plan unraveled, and a small band made a disastrous move on Peking. Lin was arrested and executed. His casual accumulation of followers and money, the generalized grievances, and the broad reli- gious claims were typical of many other such groups formed in north China over subsequent decades. In south China, discontent was embodied by the Triads (Heaven and Earth Society), a brother- hood founded in Taiwan and Fujian that practiced criminal activity, protected by society mem- bers in government offices. Triads offered an alternative form of protection and an organization- al focus to those living on the edge of destitution. The Traids sought to oust the Qing and re- store the Ming, probably as a result of the repeated foreign occupation of Canton. The Taiping The Taiping Rebellion (1850-64) was the result of broad social forces and the strong personal influence of Hong Xiuquan. Hong was Hakka minority who failed to pass the licentiate s sheny- uan degree several times. He had a strange dream in which a father figure and an elder brother gave him a sword with which to slay evil spirits. After reading a biblical tract he had been given Hong came to believe that his dream was a message from God and that he must be Jesus brother. Hong preached publicly and soon fled Canton for the Thistle Mountain.
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