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Book Review on God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan by Jonathan Spence Essay


Oppression from the world rulers is one of the paradoxes or enigmas that run into the contemporary times; moreover, the impact of oppressive rulers exists up today. In his book, God’s Chinese Son: the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, Jonathan Spence focuses on the conflict between citizens uprising and the ruling class.

Spence describes political and religious misunderstandings that continuously prevail in the society. Spencer’s view on corruption, impunity, and oppression of poor subjects and women in the society compels him to write the aforementioned book.

Contemporarily, the novel applies to all audiences especially historians, common citizens, and world rulers especially dictators and/or oppressive rulers.

During his school days, Hong Xiuquan successfully passes his exams but he is unable to pass the national scholarly examinations, failing three times. Unfortunately, his failure is a product of his inability to give out bribes to the examination council officials.

The officials belong to the Qing dynasty, which is the oppressive ruling class in China. Although not successful, he detests his life teaching young children in his neighborhood. However, he turns to Christianity after reading a religious book, Christian, which brands the Manchu leaders as evil spirits out to destroy him and his people.

On the other hand, the Chinese ruling class is full of cruel leaders, pirates, and oppression to the minority class. All the poor hopeless people turn to Xiuquan as a way to escape from the oppressive society.

Since historical times, patriarchy exists with oppression of women who remain subservient to their male counterparts. On the contrary, men do not return the favor accorded by women; they continue to discriminate women treating them as unequal partners.

The society especially traditional society treats women as lesser beings in the world, which denies them the ability to rule or hold some official positions. Spence’s main aim is to fight or expose feminism that exists during the Qing dynasty through religion.

Christianity is one of the earliest religions that promote equal treatment of all men whether men or women. Therefore, when Xiuquan establishes a religious uprising in the South, which treats all men as equal, he wins support of most common citizens especially women.

Likewise, in the contemporary world, women are unable to access or hold some official duties due to the deep-rooted chauvinism. Amazingly, the fear of competition from women makes men jealous, which leads to oppression especially from the male political leaders.

Corruption, piracy, subjugation, and inequality are problems that run from ancient times into the contemporary world. The political class loathes competition from their subjects or other individuals; therefore, all people who raise their voices against government or criticize the mode of ruling end up facing intimidation in life.

For instance, when Xiuquan becomes popular attracting supporters all over China, the ruling dynasty turns against him. The Manchu leaders kill most of his supporters contributing to the disintegration of the Taiping movement.

In addition, he is the target of the Qing dynasty rulers who want to wipe him out. Due to fear of punishment from the Manchu leaders, his followers decide to retract from the environment. Although the government is unable to curb corruption and inequality in the society, it does not keenly solve the problem about Taiping movement but rather resorts to killing the supporters of the movement.

Currently, there is worldwide resistance against corruption and dictatorship particularly the recent uprising in the Arab world. Unfortunately, the dictators shamelessly shoot and kill the protestors to silence them; however, the protestors end up achieving their freedom.

Due to inequality in the historical China, the society subjugates the minority groups. People from the minority groups are unable to achieve high levels of education and turns out to rebel against the majority group; the ruling class.

The corrupt leaders require bribe for anybody to pass his/her examinations; unfortunately, most poor people belong to the minority groups and are unable to afford the bribes.

Therefore, when Hong brainwashes his fellow failures to rise against the government, they willingly support him. Contemporarily, education is not a key to good life because most scholars are unable to get employment even after attaining the highest level of education.

Corruption prevails in the entire society whether in the public or private sector and only rich people who are able to afford the bribes end up achieving their worldly desires.

Spence highlights the origin of inequality that still prevails in the society particularly in the education sector. Therefore, inequality and oppression can only be solved when the community or society gangs up against the vice as portrayed by Hong.

Religious conflicts started in ancient times where each religion strived to out do the other. Unluckily, the urge to promote and spread different religious beliefs degenerates into civil wars, as it is the case with Hong’s religion.

Similarly, some unethical traditional beliefs like female circumcision prevail due ancient religious practices. For instance, when Hong decides to promote Christianity as a religious practice, he disowns the local Buddhist practices branding it as idol worship.

He openly preaches Christianity while condemning the Buddhist practice; he burns all the religious books and idols in his community using swords (Spence 1996, p.67).

However, some people refuse to follow his teachings and opt to keep their religion, which compels Hong to move to South where he has many converts. Contemporarily, religious conflicts are prominent especially between Muslim and Christianity and in most cases; bloodshed is the conspicuous result of such conflicts.

Spence achieves his aim to condemn and highlight religious conflicts between different communities.

Besides supporting Chinese history especially their origin from the West, Spence eloquently describes the bearing characteristics of ruling class in China during the nineteenth century.

Personally, it assists me to understand religious and cultural beliefs and conflicts in China as compared to other societies or countries. Although Spence is not a Chinese, he is able to use the existing documentaries to describe and write a book about the ancient China.

He draws a clear picture of the Taiping movement and the Qing dynasty, which are historical events that occurred many years ago. Spence’s ability to highlight the negative effects of conflicts or civil wars compels the reader to promote peace in the society.

Due to the impact of war, there is a decline in both the economical and social superiority of China especially the Southern community. The habitants of the China end up struggling to survive to earn a living in the oppressive society.

However, the author does not fully explore the role played by Xiuquan during the decline of Taiping kingdom. He only mentions about the combination of both internal and external forces that led to the failure of the movement.

Additionally, he does not explicitly discuss the people who were envious and against Hong’s popularity, which contributed to his fall and defeat by the ruling class. Besides the criticism, Spence’s work is a success proving his expertise in literary works.

He enables the reader to learn about the major historical recordings in the East Asian community exposing to the world religious and historical changes in China. Additionally, the source he uses in writing his book is in Chinese language and therefore requires translation in other languages.

Preferably, he extracts information from other secondary sources despite the documentaries and historical artifacts. He therefore, gives a good encouragement to learn and speak different languages.

In summary, Spence’s book, Chinese Son: the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, condemns corruption and inequality in the society. Besides, focusing on the traditional changes in the ancient China, he enlightens the world about its major historical events/changes.

He explicitly draws the picture of religious and political differences in the society. Expertly, Spence uses different sources like documentaries to write his book.

Moreover, Spence’s book draws some similarities from the contemporary world especially the political and religious upheavals that constrain the world economy increasing poverty levels in society.

According to my opinion, religious differences should not lead to bloodshed in the society; on the contrary, religious diversity should promote unity, which is not the case in the historical events of China.

Finally, both political and religious leaders should combine efforts to eliminate corruption, conflicts, oppression, and inequality in the society. Therefore, Spence’s book is applicable to all audiences including students and political leaders.

Reference

Spence, Jonathan. 1996. God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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IvyPanda. (2019, March 28). Book Review on God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan by Jonathan Spence. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-gods-chinese-son-the-taiping-heavenly-kingdom-of-hong-xiuquan-by-jonathan-spence/

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"Book Review on God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan by Jonathan Spence." IvyPanda, 28 Mar. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-gods-chinese-son-the-taiping-heavenly-kingdom-of-hong-xiuquan-by-jonathan-spence/.

1. IvyPanda. "Book Review on God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan by Jonathan Spence." March 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-gods-chinese-son-the-taiping-heavenly-kingdom-of-hong-xiuquan-by-jonathan-spence/.


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IvyPanda. "Book Review on God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan by Jonathan Spence." March 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-gods-chinese-son-the-taiping-heavenly-kingdom-of-hong-xiuquan-by-jonathan-spence/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Book Review on God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan by Jonathan Spence." March 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-gods-chinese-son-the-taiping-heavenly-kingdom-of-hong-xiuquan-by-jonathan-spence/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Book Review on God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan by Jonathan Spence'. 28 March.

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