Page:Tseng Kuo Fan and the Taiping Rebellion.djvu/48

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TSENG KUO-FAN

anti-dynastic, with a membership that had to act in secret because of government spies who were on the alert to ferret out and destroy all such subversive organisations. Only half a century before, one of these fraternities, the White Lily Society, had fomented a rebellion which raged in several provinces of the west and northwest and even penetrated central China. From 1796 until 1804 the government had its hands full in suppressing this outbreak. The White Lily Society had first sprung up as a protest against Mongol usurpation. It languished under the native Ming Dynasty, but revived when the Manchus overthrew them.[1]

Another of these secret orders was the Triad Society, sometimes called the Society of Heaven and Earth. This organisation was distinctly anti-Manchu, a product of the first century of Tartar domination in China; it was especially strong in Kwangtung and Kwangsi, the very region where the Taipings first arose. With the avowed purpose of restoring the Ming Dynasty to power it had a widely scattered membership, bound together by solemn oaths, and only awaited a favorable opportunity to overthrow the alien government. We shall later consider its relation to the Taipings in the early days of that movement. The Triads, or a branch of their order, held Shanghai for three years, from 1853 to 1856, but were unable to come to terms with the religious fanatics in power at Nanking. It is only a fair assumption that these societies, not to mention many others with similar aims, noted the Manchu weakness against the Westerners and believed that their long-awaited opportunity had come.[2]

  1. Li Ung-bing, Outlines of Chinese History, pp. 469 ff.
  2. De Groot, J. J. M., in the second volume of Sectarianism and Beligious Persecution in China, chapter XVII, 536-556, traces this movement to sectarian persecutions, particularly those in Hunan in 1836 and the following