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A theory of millenarism: the Taiping revolutionary movement, 1850-1865

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dc.contributor.author Thong, Wee Hing
dc.date.accessioned 2011-09-27T02:03:46Z
dc.date.accessioned 2022-10-31T00:32:05Z
dc.date.available 2011-09-27T02:03:46Z
dc.date.available 2022-10-31T00:32:05Z
dc.date.copyright 1980
dc.date.issued 1980
dc.identifier.uri https://ir.wgtn.ac.nz/handle/123456789/26588
dc.description.abstract This thesis focuses upon the world view of millenarism in its construction of a theory of millenarism. Accordingly, we have adopted a definition of millenarism which emphasizes the way in which millenarism perceives its world: millenarism refers to 'religious movements which are characterised by an expectation of imminent, total, ultimate, this-worldly collective salvation, brought about by supernatural agencies or means' (Talmon, 1966: 159). This definition also points to the cause of millenarism: the quest for a meaningful and ordered world. A certain kind of society is predisposed to millenarism. Its world view is essentially religious, and it conceives of time and history as basically linear. Pre-Taiping China was such a society. All spheres of life were pervaded by Chinese folk religion, while religious institutions such as Taoism and Buddhism expressed more explicitly the religious nature of Chinese society. The Chinese viewed time and history as occurring in cycles of linear progression. In such a society, the disintegration of the plausibility structure, the break-up of the world view and crises of individual and group identity, as the result of certain drastic and rapid historical changes, predispose this society to millennial uprising. Pre-Taiping society was characterised by conditions of dynastic upheaval, and combined with these were a dramatic increase of population and the impact of the Western world. These conditions were especially drastic in their consequences for the Kwangsi Hakkas in Southeastern China. Their traditional world view was disintegrating and less and less viable in providing meaning and order in a rapidly changing society. They were therefore predisposed to new ideas, to a new definition of the situation. The introduction of new ideas, either explicitly or indirectly millennial in content, and their reception by disadvantaged or distressed groups, spark off a millennial uprising, which becomes a full-fledged movement in search of a socially meaningful and ordered world. Thus, the Kwangsi Hakkas, receptive to new ideas, became the first adherents of Taiping millenarism, and began their programme of establishing the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace. From a small, provincial uprising, the Taipings emerged as the most serious challenge to Chinese society-at-large (which was Confucian). The Taiping world view, like all millennial world views, was syncretistic. It comprised elements from both the traditional world view and the new 'message': but it was qualitatively different. This syncretism enabled the Taipings to understand their past, present and future. Millennial movements and world views, if they are to persist, require certain legitimatizing processes. The power mechanisms (such as military superiority) which maintain these processes in the short-run must be replaced by legitimate government in the long-run. On both counts, the Taipings failed. Consequently, they were not only destroyed as an organized movement, but all those who had failed to escape before the final collapse of the movement were annihilated. en_NZ
dc.format pdf en_NZ
dc.language en_NZ
dc.language.iso en_NZ
dc.publisher Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
dc.title A theory of millenarism: the Taiping revolutionary movement, 1850-1865 en_NZ
dc.type Text en_NZ
vuwschema.type.vuw Awarded Research Masters Thesis en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline Sociology en_NZ
thesis.degree.grantor Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
thesis.degree.level Masters en_NZ
thesis.degree.name Master of Arts en_NZ

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