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Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2012
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A gripping account of China's nineteenth-century Taiping Rebellion, one of the largest civil wars in history. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom brims with unforgettable characters and vivid re-creations of massive and often gruesome battles--a sweeping yet intimate portrait of the conflict that shaped the fate of modern China. The story begins in the early 1850s, the waning years of the Qing dynasty, when word spread of a major revolution brewing in the provinces, led by a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and brother of Jesus. The Taiping rebels drew their power from the poor and the disenfranchised, unleashing the ethnic rage of millions of Chinese against their Manchu rulers. This homegrown movement seemed all but unstoppable until Britain and the United States stepped in and threw their support behind the Manchus: after years of massive carnage, all opposition to Qing rule was effectively snuffed out for generations. Stephen R. Platt recounts these events in spellbinding detail, building his story on two fascinating characters with opposing visions for China's future: the conservative Confucian scholar Zeng Guofan, an accidental general who emerged as the most influential military strategist in China's modern history; and Hong Rengan, a brilliant Taiping leader whose grand vision of building a modern, industrial, and pro-Western Chinese state ended in tragic failure. This is an essential and enthralling history of the rise and fall of the movement that, a century and a half ago, might have launched China on an entirely different path into the modern world.

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Street Date:
02/07/2012
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780307957597
ASIN:
B0050DIX42
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APA Citation (style guide)

Stephen R. Platt. (2012). Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Stephen R. Platt. 2012. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Stephen R. Platt, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Stephen R. Platt. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Stephen R. Platt received his Ph.D. in Chinese history from Yale University, where his dissertation was awarded the Theron Rockwell Field Prize. He is an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is also the author of Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China. An undergraduate English major, he spent two years after college as a teacher in the Yale-China program in Hunan province. His research has been supported by the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation. He lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.

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title
Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom
fullDescription

A gripping account of China's nineteenth-century Taiping Rebellion, one of the largest civil wars in history. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom brims with unforgettable characters and vivid re-creations of massive and often gruesome battles--a sweeping yet intimate portrait of the conflict that shaped the fate of modern China.

The story begins in the early 1850s, the waning years of the Qing dynasty, when word spread of a major revolution brewing in the provinces, led by a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and brother of Jesus. The Taiping rebels drew their power from the poor and the disenfranchised, unleashing the ethnic rage of millions of Chinese against their Manchu rulers. This homegrown movement seemed all but unstoppable until Britain and the United States stepped in and threw their support behind the Manchus: after years of massive carnage, all opposition to Qing rule was effectively snuffed out for generations. Stephen R. Platt recounts these events in spellbinding detail, building his story on two fascinating characters with opposing visions for China's future: the conservative Confucian scholar Zeng Guofan, an accidental general who emerged as the most influential military strategist in China's modern history; and Hong Rengan, a brilliant Taiping leader whose grand vision of building a modern, industrial, and pro-Western Chinese state ended in tragic failure.

This is an essential and enthralling history of the rise and fall of the movement that, a century and a half ago, might have launched China on an entirely different path into the modern world.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Minxin Pei, San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: "A refreshing and gripping account that illuminates how civil conflicts can suck in outsiders and why the West has had great difficulties in trying to maintain a façade of neutrality and protect its commercial interests at the same time . . . Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom may not have said the last word on the Taiping Rebellion, but the story it tells is powerful, dramatic, and unforgettable."
      • premium: False
      • source: Gerard Martinez, San Antonio Express-News
      • content: "Structurally, Stephen Platt's Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom is a thriller . . . We read in starred reviews things like 'the book brings history to life.' We read these words so often that we have forgotten what they mean, but this book reminds us. It makes history immediate and personal, one that speaks to us on a sensory, moral, intellectual and emotional level. They should teach this one in schools."
      • premium: False
      • source: Ross Perlin, The Daily Beast
      • content: "A compelling and often meticulous account . . . Platt is at his best when dissecting the often absurd dynamics of Western intervention."
      • premium: False
      • source: Tom Zelman, Minneapolis Star Tribune
      • content: "An intricate and compelling historical narrative rich in military campaigning, vivid personalities and, above all, diplomatic misunderstanding. When Confederate artillery fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, the Taiping rebellion had been raging for 10 years, and it would continue until rebel supply lines collapsed in 1864. With a wonderful flair for storytelling, Platt explores the relationship between the two conflicts . . . Authoritative and fascinating, Platt's work will interest both the specialist and the casual reader (like me) who wants to learn about an event that presaged China's entry into the modern world."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jonathan E. Lazarus, Newark Star-Ledger
      • content: "China's brutal Taiping Civil War erupted in the 1850s and raged until the fall of rebel-held Nanjing in 1864. The bloodbath paralleled our own North-South conflict, but dwarfed it in terms of casualties, geography and global fallout . . . [Platt] juxtaposes the competing ideologies and leaders of the ruling Manchu Qing dynasty and the Hunan Taiping rebels with savvy and assurance. By neatly folding in the machinations of the British, Platt paints a picture of combat dire enough to have choked the Yangtze's flow several times with discarded victims."
      • premium: False
      • source: Gilbert Taylor, Booklist (starred review)
      • content: "Platt has skillfully converted his erudition into an eminently general-interest treatment of what may have been the most lethal civil war in history."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly (starred review)
      • content: "Splendid . . . An upheaval that led to the deaths of 20 million, dwarfing the simultaneously fought American Civil War, deserves to be better known, and Platt accomplishes this with a superb history of a 19th-century China faced with internal disorder and predatory Western intrusions."
      • premium: False
      • source: Henry Kissinger
      • content: "Stephen Platt brings to vivid life a pivotal chapter in China's history that has been all but forgotten: the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-nineteenth century, which cost one of the greatest losses of life of any war in history. It had far-reaching consequences that still reverberate in contemporary China. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom is a fascinating work by a first-class historian and superb writer."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China
      • content: "A splendid example of finely calibrated historical narrative. The civil war that erupted in China between the early 1850s and 1864 was perhaps the bloodiest in human history; with a wealth of vivid detail, Platt shows how the fates of China's rulers and many millions of their subjects were manipulated by British diplomatic and commercial interests, as well as colored by the rebels' own unorthodox religious and political beliefs. It is a tragic and powerful story."
      • premium: False
      • source: CHOICE Magazine
      • content: "The ambitious scale and lively writing make Platt's book an excellent entree into a pivotal event in world history."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from November 14, 2011
        History’s bloodiest civil war ended in 1864—in China. The cataclysmic Taiping rebellion is given a splendid account by UMass-Amherst historian Platt (Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China). In 1837 a peasant named Hong Xiuquan announced that he was Jesus’ younger brother, sent to rid China of “devils” including its weak, corrupt, ethnically foreign Manchu rulers. His charisma attracted a vast following that by the 1850s had conquered a large area, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, with a capital at Nanjing. Despite the oddball theology, many Christian missionaries from England and elsewhere enthusiastically supported the Taipings, but could not win over their governments, who were preoccupied with pugnacious efforts to extract trading concessions from the enfeebled central government. Crushed with immense bloodshed, the rebellion left the Manchu dynasty even weaker, although it limped on for 50 more years. An upheaval that led to the deaths of 20 million, dwarfing the simultaneously fought American Civil War, deserves to be better known, and Platt accomplishes this with a superb history of a 19th-century China faced with internal disorder and predatory Western intrusions. 16 pages of photos; 5 maps. Agent: Brettne Bloom.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        November 15, 2011
        During years that overlapped the American Civil War, the Chinese were engaged in their own self-destructive conflict (1851–1864), which eventually claimed more than 20 million lives. Platt (Chinese History/Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China, 2007) maintains a generally descriptive, analytical, dispassionate voice, despite the savagery, arrogance and absolute mercenary and/or egotistical motives of the principal players. The author begins in 1853 with a quick description of the Qing dynasty, then in its second century of sway. Rising in opposition was the so-called Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, whose sub-monarchs went by names like Brave King and Loyal King. Weaving their way into the fabric were various Western Christian missionaries hoping to covert the masses, aligning themselves with the rebels, who were infused with a sort of hybrid Christianity. The French and British nervously observed, concerned about protecting their trade channels, sometimes venturing into battle, supplying arms, ships and leadership. Although there were too few of them in country to occupy territory, Platt shows that the armaments and early support were important factors in the eventual defeat of the initially dominant Taiping. By 1861, of course, the Americans were engaged in their own civil war; the North feared the British would side with the Confederacy and were relieved when they opted for China instead. Platt tells all of these stories in a seamless narrative, moving gracefully from one point of view to the next, relating strategies, presenting personalities and illuminating political complexities. In general, he allows the horrors of war--mass executions, rapes, starvation, cannibalism, cholera and overall depravity--to speak for themselves. The author raises a curtain to show us events largely unknown in the West--yet achingly familiar as well.

        (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        February 1, 2012

        By the 1850s, China's Qing dynasty had held power for over 200 years, with peasants more and more having to endure privation, starvation, and disease. Ordinary Chinese believed the Qing, who were ethnic Manchu, were ineffective against "foreign devils" and in the Opium Wars with Britain. Enter Hong Xiuquan, failed civil servant and a convert to Christianity who believed he was Jesus's brother. He set off the immense and brutal civil war known as the Taiping Rebellion and established the breakaway state of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Platt (history, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst), as his subtitle shows, prefers to call it a civil war, the most devastating in history, with over 20 million killed, with brutality on both sides. The rebels, the majority ethnic Han, had strength in their great discipline and fanaticism. They would take a city, then move to the countryside enlisting farmers to join the battle against ruling forces. The Qing ultimately crushed the rebellion with help from trading partners in the West. VERDICT Platt's study of this era will be challenging for general audiences, but specialists and those seeking a serious study of the topic will appreciate it.--Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

        Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from January 1, 2012
        Platt presents the perplexing Taiping Rebellion that convulsed China's Qing dynasty from 1851 to 1864. Overlapping with additional portents that the Qing had forfeited the mandate of heaven, such as territorial cessions to Russia and the Anglo-French capture of Beijing, the turbulent times tested the loyalty of imperial officials like Zeng Guofan. Tracking his apparently amply documented career, Platt richly portrays Zeng's inner self-doubts about his outer presentation as the general tasked to subdue the Taiping rebels. On their side, Platt has a comparably knowable character named Hong Rengan, a Christian convert whose relative, Taiping leader Hong Xiuquan, proclaimed himself the Heavenly King and younger brother of Jesus. However eccentric Taiping theology was, it was the rebels' control of the Yangtze River and environs that vexed foreign powers trying to extract concessions from the Qing government. From attacking the Qing in 1860, Britain performed a volte-face by fighting the rebels with a mercenary army raised by another bizarre figure, American freebooter Frederick Ward. Incorporating his perceptive characterizations and a comprehensible account of Zeng's ultimately victorious military campaigns, Platt has skillfully converted his erudition into an eminently general-interest treatment of what may have been the most lethal civil war in world history.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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A gripping account of China's nineteenth-century Taiping Rebellion, one of the largest civil wars in history. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom brims with unforgettable characters and vivid re-creations of massive and often gruesome battles--a sweeping yet intimate portrait of the conflict that shaped the fate of modern China.

The story begins in the early 1850s, the waning years of the Qing dynasty, when word spread of a major revolution brewing in the provinces, led by a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and brother of Jesus. The Taiping rebels drew their power from the poor and the disenfranchised, unleashing the ethnic rage of millions of Chinese against their Manchu rulers. This homegrown movement seemed all but unstoppable until Britain and the United States stepped in and threw their support behind the Manchus: after years of massive carnage, all opposition to Qing rule was effectively snuffed out for generations. Stephen R. Platt...

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