The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace (known as Taiping Tianguo in Chinese) was founded by a man named Hong Xiuquan in the mid-19th century. Hong Xiuquan was born into a marginal peasant family in 1813 in Guangdong Province, Guangdong Province, China. He had very little formal education, but he claimed to have had several visions throughout his life. The most influential of these visions was one that he had in 1836, during which he believed that he was presented with a document from God telling him to “destroy the demons, save the people and to establish the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace”.
Emboldened by this vision and encouraged by his second cousin, Feng Yunshan, Hong Xiuquan began to preach his message of rebellion against the Qing dynasty. He considered himself as the younger brother of Jesus Christ, sent to Earth to spread his word among the Chinese people. He maintained that the teachings of Christianity were much more suitable for the Chinese population than Confucianism, which was the main religion of China at the time.
He gathered many followers, who shared his desire to overthrow the Qing dynasty and spread righteousness and peace through the land. This group became known as the Taiping Tianguo, or “Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace”. In order to formalize his movement, Hong Xiuquan developed a set of rules and regulations for his followers. This included reforms such as abolishing private ownership and the practice of polygamy, introducing free public education, abolishing the foot-binding of women and establishing the rights of women in society.
He also declared himself the Heavenly King, and demanded absolute loyalty from his followers. All of the group’s activities, including tax collection and military operations, were managed according to the will of the Heavenly King. In 1851, the Taiping Tianguo launched a full-scale rebellion against the Qing dynasty. They gained large swaths of territory and declared Nanjing their capital city. At its peak, the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace encompassed over one third of China.
Unfortunately, the movement eventually lost momentum and was overturned after 14 years of fighting. By 1864, the Qing dynasty had successfully quelled the rebellion, and Hong Xiuquan died soon after. Although the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace was unsuccessful in the end, it made an incredible impact on China’s history and is still remembered even today.