A Christian China: A Look into the British Missionary Perspective on the Taiping Rebellion
Authors:Sarah Dannemiller, n/a n/a
Mentor:Sharyl Corrado, Assistant Professor of History, Pepperdine University
During the mid 1800s China experienced many destructive rebellions which flourished under corruptive, ineffective imperial rule and were also buttressed by strong Western forces. The Taiping Rebellion was notable because of its distinctive Christian flair rooted in theology espoused by numerous European missionaries. This paper discusses and analyzes the influence of missionaries commissioned by the London Missionary Society (LMS) in the initiation and continuation of the rebellion. I argue that London Missionary Society missionaries were instrumental in developing, influencing, and perpetuating the Taiping Rebellion. Through specific examples of translated and distributed European Christian tracts, I show how the theology of LMS missionaries made its way into the hands of Taiping leaders. I then use evidence from LMS reports on the Taiping Army to show how the Taiping leaders translated borrowed Christian theology into practical military use. I also use the correspondence between integral Taiping leaders and the British missionaries, Joseph Edkins and Griffith John, to suggest that the missionaries had confidence in the religious knowledge of Taiping leaders and that they gave support to brutal Taiping military actions. I utilize LMS reports sent back to Great Britain as evidence for the missionaries’ changing perspective of the rebellion as it became more radical and less associated with the initial agenda of European missionaries. It was through these tracts, correspondences and reports that LMS missionaries were able to perpetuate the Taiping Rebellion. The purpose of this paper is to understand why European missionaries would support and even go so far as to praise a movement that was known for being a violent, bloody enterprise on the behalf of a false Christianity.