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Hong Xiuquan v Zeng Guofan: The Duellists

The rebel leader of the Taiping and his nemesis. One defended the Qing dynasty against the other - a man who declared that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ.

This was the duel that shaped China. Hong Xiuquan was a poor boy who went into a trance and became convinced he was Jesus's younger brother, with a mission to conquer China. Zeng Guofan was a loyal Confucian bureaucrat who rose up the imperial hierarchy. In the mid-19th century, Hong's visions led him to launch a war under the name "Taiping" - heavenly kingdom of great peace. He created a quasi-state in some of China's richest heartlands, run on Christian principles, imposed on pain of death. The ruling house sent in Zeng to beat the rebels. The result was one of the bloodiest, most savage civil wars in Chinese history, shaped by the rivalry between two men, one set to conquer China, and one to save the old regime.
Presenter: Rana Mitter
Producer: Ben Crighton
Researcher: Elizabeth Smith Rosser.

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15 minutes