History KS3 / GCSE: The Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1864

Historian Michael Wood calls it the 'worst war of the 19th Century'. He explores the background to the revolt - the defeat in the Opium War, and rural poverty.

The Taiping Rebellion was mostly a revolt by poor rural peasants against their landlords and the rich; inspired by the religious pamphlets of an American missionary.

Hong, the leader, spent years in the rural South of China preparing the peasants for rebellion.

Initially very successful, Hong, with an army of 100,000 men, was installed as Emperor in Nanjing.

China had two governments - one traditional the Qing, in Beijing the other revolutionary, in Nanjing.

The Taiping rebels created a brave new world - a classless society where private property was abolished.

Finally, in 1864, aided by Britain and the other Western Powers and modern weapons, the Qing were able to re-conquer Nanjing and finally defeat the Taiping Rebellion and reunite China.

This short film is from the BBC series, The Story of China. A series exploring the stories, people and landscapes that have helped create China's distinctive character and genius over four thousand years.

Teacher Notes

You could start by discussing whether the Taiping rebellion was merely a revolt by the rural poor against the rich.

You could then discuss the reasons for the defeat of the rebels in 1864.

Finally, you could discuss the long-term impact of the Taiping Rebellion on China.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is relevant for teaching history at Key Stage 3 and 4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and at Third and Fourth Level in Scotland.

More from The Story of China

The Rise of Mao ZeDong
The First Opium War, 1838-1842