太平天國

When I was young I used to think that all history was boring. One day I realized that was simply because I hadn’t been taught any Chinese history. If you haven’t had the pleasure of being exposed to it, let me put it this way: the history of every other country pales in comparison with the weird shit that’s gone on in China.

Let me take a random example—oh, I dunno, the Taiping Rebellion. Let’s see. One day, in the mid-1800’s, a young man named 洪秀全 (Hong Xiuquan) decided that a) he was Jesus’s brother, and b) he had to drive the demons out of China and establish the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, 太平天國 (Taiping Tianguo). Soon he had an army of a million people, and by came within inches of overthrowing the Qing dynasty and taking control of all of China. Ultimately the imperial forces prevailed, but over 20 million people died in the rebellion. By 1864 he was dead by his own hand in a gutter. (The Wikipedia’s entry on the Taiping Rebellion has more, and I really want to read God’s Chinese Son.)

Now who can fail to be intruiged by that? It’s hard to imagine something comparable in, say, American history. (The bloodiest battle America’s ever fought, by comparison, was the Civil War, with about 1 million casualties.) And that’s just a taste of what Chinese history has to offer. There’s plenty more fascinating stuff out there. Check out the Boxer Rebellion, for example, with its “Fists of Righteous Harmony” and 刀枪不入.