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Throughout all the human histories of the world distinctions have been made between groups of people. Long before societies emerged, before what we would call “civilization” had presented itself to the world, human beings had formed in groups of alliance. Once human groups form, they also create a group self-identity. They look at each other and see what they have in common in terms of basic physical characteristics and mental constructs. Then they look at other groups and compare what they see with themselves. The similarities get set aside in the minds of those making the discriminations and the differences of the other become the basic characteristics used for identifying that group. This explanation of the “We-They” group process comes from the field of anthropology and has been adopted by the more recently developed field of social-psychology; being borrowed as well by a myriad of other fields which have an overlapping of interest in this phenomena. I have presented this most basic of group processes in its most simplified form. The process becomes refined as humans develop their own cognitive powers of discrimination. The degree of detail in those discriminations is affected by numerous conditions of contact; proximity, length of interaction, degree of perceived threat. I use the present tense here because the developments of which I write are not limited to personal development nor to the development of mankind. These developments include the endless forming of societies, families, and sub-groups of all shapes and sizes. These groups arise, develop, decline, change and form again. Thus, we may note the endless process of discriminations being made by groups and the variations they provide in their own particular points within the identification of differences. What we may also note is that each group chooses what to do with their discriminations. We call these choices “culture”. Cultures also come in as many shapes and sizes as the societies, families, and sub-groups mentioned above.

History records the tales of the world’s cultures as they make their distinctions; their discriminations. And, historians are forever attempting to trace these to their origins and to their inevitable effects. World history is far too vast for any one person to know, much less, to fully comprehend. What most of us accrue during our lifetimes are impressions of the origins and effects of the group discriminations made in the past; and, then, of only a select few instances of the past. From these we create for ourselves what we like to think of as an “understanding”. This “understanding”, we use to assess the world in which we find ourselves from day to day. That assessment is what we bring to our groups, and is what determines the groups with whom we choose to identify. This is also what determines how we think of and treat other groups; a process of determination which is true for today as well as for hundreds of years ago. The process stays the same. The points of discrimination and the effects of our “understanding” determine the actions of our groups.

Women buying flowers

When people today use the word “discrimination” the points of difference most often being referred to are of race and/or creed. Points concerned with economic class, gender, sexual orientation, and educational level are also rather frequent for the groups we form in the 21st century. These reflect the perceptual realities of the societies which we create through the process of forming groups. When considering the perceived reality of the society formed by the Taiping, in mid-18th century China, the most striking point of discrimination seems to have been “Muliebrity”: the state or quality of being a woman. The Taiping were determined to restructure Chinese society by swallowing up all the other “groups” of China and removing the discriminations which they felt had been dividing them. One of the main divisions was their perception of the Bindings of Bondage of females in the “other” existing Chinese groups. In this sense, the word “bindings” refers to an obligatory social agreement of the Han Chinese to bind the feet of women and to keep them in a state of bondage as slaves of servitude and subjugation, exploited, and under the domination of men. The Taiping ideology considered their view of muliebrity to be significantly different from the views of the groups around them. Within the defining of the word “muliebrity”, many concepts are housed and taken into account. It can concern all aspects of femaleness, depending upon the ideas of the group or the society doing the considering. In China, all groups felt the need to determine and control all aspects of “women” as they saw fit. Chinese societies saw women through the eyes of men and the lives of women were determined by the images of those imaginings.

The Taiping made the claim of liberating the women of China from the rules, regulations, and gender roles which had been in place for over a thousand years in China. Even today, there are historians who have claimed that the Taiping emancipated the women within their occupied territories; an area which roughly comprised one third of China in the 1860s. Some have gone as far as to call the Taiping Rebellion the first women’s liberation movement in China. I find that statement to be a gross misrepresentation of the actual conditions and events which occurred during the period of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Adrienne Johnson, in her Senior Honors Thesis for Ohio State University in 2006, also disagrees with calling the Taiping a movement of liberation for women. “Taiping Pipe Dreams: Women’s roles in the Taiping Rebellion” is a presentation of Johnson’s arguments against this misrepresentation of the intentions and the implementations of the Taiping, in regard to women. In this essay, I will be drawing heavily from the Senior thesis of Johnson and as well as from the Master’s Thesis of Celia Ella Thornton Corrad for Rollins College in 2013 (“The Changing Face of China: Chinese Women and Their Awakening Culture”).

6 women sitting

It is to Johnson I refer in discussing the general social norms of which the women of China had been subjected to for over a thousand years by the time of the Taiping Rebellion. Attitudes toward women in China were based primarily upon the Classical Writings from Confucian philosophy. Women were considered to be “lesser beings” in comparison to men and were to be eliminated from all discussions. In the Confucian model which designates the hierarchal power of Chinese society, women are noticeably powerless. The concept of Yin-Yang adopted the symbolism of Male-Female from the views which society held at the time. This view described Yang as strong, Men as a Rock. Yin was confined to yielding, as was the Female to molding herself around the Rock in submission and self-deprecation. There were periods in early Chinese history when wealthy women were allowed an education. It is a testament to the successfulness of this intangible cultural heritage in transmitting its attitudes deeply into the members of its societies, that even women formed an identity which supported their lot under Confucianism. In the first century CE, a well-educated woman wrote, “Let a woman modestly yield to others; let her respect others; let her put others first, herself last. Should she do something good, let her not mention it; should she do something bad, let her not deny it.” Women were to accustom themselves, from an early age, to accept their life of service and silence. They were to live their lives in a private world where work was never finished, where complaints were not to be spoken, where their natural order fell subordinate to men, and where their lives were excluded from the larger world and confined to the inner sphere of family and home; forever barred from the outer sphere of politics, academia, trade, and labor. Her responsibilities were to care for the cooking, the cleaning, child care and elderly care. The man’s world was strictly none of her business.

Confucian texts detail in length the “Three Submissions” which defined muliebrity for China and dictated the lives of Chinese women. The Three Submissions of Childhood, Married Life, Widowhood, designated females as property in a successive order belonging to: father, then husband, and eventually the woman’s son. A girl born to a family was considered to be a sorrow; in that girls were lowly and weak. A girl’s primary duty was to humble herself before others. Foot Binding began during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) and reached its height of popularity during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 CE). As early as five years of age, girls would undergo the ritual of the first binding.”The first binding was a type of ritual procedure performed by the girl’s mother and other females. Her four smaller toes would be bent underneath her big toe, and the entire foot would be bent so her heel met the ball of her foot in this excruciating position. While the foot was growing, the pain could be almost unbearable. One woman living under the Qing reign recalled that for years of her life she was unable to walk, and was forced to crawl through the house on her hands and knees. The ideal foot size was only three inches, and such a result would require years of diligent and torturous binding. Once completed, a woman’s mobility would be severely impaired.” -[Adrienne Johnson]

Girl

As horrible as this scenario was, most Chinese women did this to their daughters. The reasoning is to be found in their desperate social situation of total enforced dependency on men. Due to their socially regulated seclusion, subjugation, and subordination, women had no means of providing for themselves. They did not even own their own lives; fathers, husbands, sons were at liberty to sell their daughters, wives, mothers into slavery if they saw fit. Women were often sold as brides or concubines to men with money. Women who were disobedient could be killed and disposed of without a thought of repercussions. A woman’s only hope in life was to marry well and to bear sons. When Chinese men developed a sexual appetite for women with bound feet, their lot was sealed. Mothers would bind their daughter’s feet because it gave them the best chance in life. Women with large feet were unwelcome in marriage. Within the main population of China, only the most desperate man would marry a women with large feet. And, the chance that she would suffer extreme abuse in the marriage was almost assured.

From the moment a girl reached the age of being sexually attractive to men, she was whisked away to the Inner Chambers and no longer to be seen by anyone outside of the immediate family. Girls as young as ten years old would live the rest of their lives until death in the privacy of the family home. Wealthy families had separate quarters in the house. On the rare occasion of a wealthy women leaving the confines of her home, she would wear many layers of clothes and a veil, then be transported by the seclusion of a covered sedan chair. Poor families also did their best to keep the girls hidden within their modest homes. But, the desperate poor had to endure the shame of their women working outside the home, in public view of men. These women were always considered sexually suspect. Their reputations of virginity and modesty forever being tainted. Even Buddhist nuns were shunned and suspected of lude behavior.

In the second submission of married life, men were expected to control their wife (wives). The wife was expected to obey her husband. If either fell short of these obligations, they could expect grave difficulties. There is another subjugation of humiliation for a married woman; subjugation at the hands of the woman’s mother-in-law. There are two plausible reasons for why a woman in traditional China would exert such extreme power over her daughter-in-law. The first being that it was the only real power a woman could have in her lifetime; and most women took it as their right to use this power when it came to them. The only way for a woman to relieve herself from the pressure of her mother-in-law was to produce a son. Widowhood was, perhaps, the most dreaded experience in a woman’s life. Widows were considered to be cursed, because their husbands had died. Many women were encouraged to commit suicide rather than to endanger the safety of the family. Many women felt death a better option than being the property of their sons and the recipient of cruel comments and disrespect given to widows.

3 people, woman shrouded

Over the years of centuries fluctuations in these societal norms occurred. These were small changes and not always lasting into the next dynasties. During the Qing Dynasty, differences between social classes began to change the lives of women. Poor women had to work to help support the family. More and more, they were forced to venture outside their homes for profit. The options available for these poor women were to beg, to be servants, and to work in the fields. Reputations aside, these women were given the freedom to leave the confines of their homes during the day. Women of wealthy families, living in progressive regions also enjoyed more personal freedom during this time. Being relieved of many household chores, they could spend time weaving and embroidering with silk; a skill which took a long time to master. However, they still could not leave their homes. But, in their homes, they had authority over the servants.

The period of the Qing was, perhaps, a more socially complicated time than in the previous dynasty of the Ming. The majority of Chinese were Han, yet a large amount of the ethnic minorities continued to support the cultural norms of the Ming, as well. The Qing, themselves, had brought their own cultural norms into China. They did not bind the feet of their women. But, they did not interfere with the Chinese who did. When it came to female chastity, the Qing weer very adamant that women bore the responsibility for remaining chaste. Men were considered to just be men in their desires for women. If a woman did not fight hard enough against her assailants, then her defilement was her own fault. The Qing did outlaw prostitution in 1723. They allowed their women the freedom of movement outside the inner quarters of the house; but, Manchu women were still property to be protected and commanded by men. The women of China still found themselves bound by bondage of some form or another. The Taiping would soon interfere with existing order and develop a different form of bondage bound by the ideology of the Heavenly Kingdom.

The Hakka community in Southern China would play a major part in the formation of the ideology of social reform which Hong Xiuquan and his Taiping followers would force upon the women of their occupied territories. Hong had grown up in a small Hakka village; the third son of a poor Hakka farmer. His mother, like all Hakka women, did not have bound feet. It was not their custom. The men claimed to have no sexual appreciation for the deformed tiny feet of the Han, but, also had no moral objection to the bindings. The fact of the matter was that Hakka women had a better chance of a fortuitous marriage if their feet were left to grow as nature intended. It must be remembered that Hakka communities have been typically poor during their thousand year journey on the path of migration. Hakka custom allows Hakka women to work outside the home, without disgrace from their own groups. Men were glad to have the extra labor which women provided in the fields, construction and manual labor. “This improved the status of women in two ways. Firstly, it suggested greater equality between men and women, though this equality did not extend far beyond work for many Hakka women. Secondly, it increased work options available to women, beyond simply spinning, weaving and embroidering. In the Hakka culture, far fewer women turned to begging and prostitution when in need of money. Instead, they could find legitimate jobs in their enhanced sphere.”- [Adrienne Johnson]

Mother and daughter

Hong Xiuquan had grown up in poverty, under the stigma of being culturally distinct from the Chinese norm, and sharing the frustration of many young Hakka men who had been educated well enough to sit for the imperial examinations, but, not well enough educated to be able to pass them. Hong’s timeline begins at his birth in 1814 amd moves to the point of his finally giving up on his examination aspirations in 1837. By 1844, Hong left his familial home to gather a following of God Worshippers. These followers were composed of men and women. Some were attracted by the religious content of Hong’s rebel movement. Most were seeking protection from the oppression exerted by the surrounding non-Hakka communities. The socio-economic distress which the Hakka felt, caused friction and outbursts of violence between the Hakka and the more dominant minority group, the Punti. The Qing, having been distracted by war with the British and the French, had outlawed the God Worshippers in hopes that the movement would die out. By 1850, the Qing took military action against the group and were repelled. This marked the point of sufficient encouragement for the Taiping to raise an army of true standing. The new dynasty was declared in 1851: Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace. With Hong Xiuquan as the Heavenly King, the Taiping boldly pushed north to the Yangtze and then east to Nanjing. Once the Southern Capital had been taken and all the Manchus of the city exterminated (men, women, and children), the Heavenly Capital became the nexus for the implementation of Hong’s vision to restructure Chinese society. The Taiping Social Program was no longer mere ideology, it had transitioned from thought to action with the forming of laws to be enforced with severity.

Before moving further along the timeline of Hong and his Taiping followers in their social revolution, it is worth (re)considering how things had come this far. We know that the history of China has often been laden with poverty and ethnic tensions. Yet, these factors were normally not enough to cause rebellions of the Taiping nature. What was it about the Chinese society in the mid-1800s which was triggering the Hakkas to develop their particular revolutionary ideologies and made them willing to rebel against the established order? Celia Ella Thornton Corrad spends a fair amount of words on this subject. She begins with the distribution of wealth and power. These points are expressed indirectly, rather than being simply the accumulation of moneys. The problem was the great divide between the “literati” or “gentry” class and the Hakka lower class. The literati had power because they had the time and assets which provided them a higher quality education in preparation for the imperial examinations. Most key appointments made by the Qing went to Manchus; because they were more successful in the examinations. The Hakka candidates were under great stress to study quickly because their families suffered great hardships to provide a son an education. Many of the Taiping leaders had failed their examinations. The examinations were based on the Classics of Confucius. The failure of these young men to successfully find entry into the ruling class was an impetus of importance in the form which the Taiping ideology would take. “Resentment became so intense that it distorted their sense of judgment. Instead of blaming the rulers, their fury was directed at the Confucian classics for barring them from a life to which they aspired.”- [C.E.Thornton Corrad]

Mother and baby

Corrad also notes that the level of poverty in China was extreme. There was a famine between 1846-1850 which left the majority of people in the country barely surviving. The famine had grown out of a series of natural disasters: drought, flooding, storms, sandstorms, hail, and crop failures. Masses of people began to “roam” the countrysides in search of sustenance. These migrants were all potential rebels. Corrad explains, “Poverty may be a sufficient condition for a rebellion, but poverty alone does not breed rebellions with long-range purposes and systematic ideological schemes. Before a rebellion could happen with such [an] adverse group as that of the Taipings, there must have been some concrete situation capable of effecting a psychological transformation in the minds of the people and providing a stimulus to awaken them to serious thought.” Normally, the Chinese people tended to accept their lot in life; tragedies were part and parcel to living. The Confucian ideal, of happiness being obtained from mastering the self rather than the mastering if the outside world, was well-ingrained in the inherited thought and customs of the Chinese. Corrad suggests that when the Qing attacked the Taiping in Kwangsi, one of the poorest districts of China, the leaders of the Taiping were at hand; already organized with a complete system of ideology to support their actions. And this is why the rebellion gained in power so quickly. These failed exam candidates were not just any disgruntled peasants striking wildly out of anger. The leaders of the Taiping had done their homework and the people were ready to follow them.

The Taiping ideology was focused on two main points: the redistribution of wealth and the redefining of gender roles. People wanted economic security and both of these points of focus addressed those needs. The Taiping were out to destroy the Qing and needed followers, so, they fed their ideology to gather members of both genders. “Recruiters used men and women to carry out their revolution. As peasant revolts intensified, entire families participated. The rebels’ military potential became strengthened with the inclusion of women. The expanded Taiping army sought to “westernize their rule” and openly “destroyed Confucian and ancestral shrines”, initially showing defiance in a relatively safe zone. The Taiping army had no conveniences, moving on their feet, resorting to eating “bird’s nest soup and lotus seeds”, while living off the land. Without maps, telegraph, or medical corps, Commanders and Generals were on their own, with poor planning and coordination. Since they were against vices such as gambling, opium, tobacco, adultery, prostitution, and foot binding, they set a positive example, especially to women. Putting all money and valuables into a central treasury, convincing men to abandon their queues, and adopting Christian principles, they finally attracted other bandit groups that roamed various areas of China.”- [C.E.Thornton Corrad]

Woman sewings

The Community Treasury of the Taiping did, indeed, redistribute wealth in the Taiping occupied territories. This redistribution was meant to be an equalizing element in the Taiping restructuring plans for the new society. In this, all men and women of all classes received funds in accordance to need. Land was also distributed amongst all Taiping followers. Johnson writes, “Every person above the age of sixteen was given a certain plot of land, regardless of gender. Those under sixteen were also given land, though only half of what adults received.” In further efforts toward equalization, the Universal Education system provided school for all children. All people were required to attend church services. The Taiping appeared to be following Zhou Li’s Confucian format for the Utopian Society; as well as incorporating ideologies from Daoist movements of Chinese history. “Hong was aware of a series of Daoist movements that, throughout Chinese history, had pursued a utopian egalitarian society of “great peace” (taiping). This was reflected in the very essence of the rebellion, as Hong named his rebellion “Taiping tianguo”, meaning “Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace”. In addition to Christianity, Confucianism, and Daoism, Hong was influenced by his Hakka upbringing. All of these influences melded into the new Taiping social order.” – [Adrienne Johnson]

Hong wanted to create a society which not only reflected his studies of Confucianism and Daoism, he wanted to include the Hakka gender roles which he had been taught as a youth. The practices of the Taiping rebels were to reflect all of these founding concepts. The fact that these concepts were not always compatible nor logical together, did not appear to cause concern. As a result, Hong’s Taiping society came to enforce rather novel practices for women. True, women were now receiving land and education. The snake in the grass for women came in the guise of the Taiping definition of “muliebrity”. One of the main concerns of the Taiping was the so-called protection of the female “virtue”. Far flung measures, which were disadvantageous to women, were enforced for the sake of protecting women from sexual assaults. Concubinage was “officially” abolished, prostitution was outlawed, and the Bible was amended with anti-sexual freedom for women propaganda. The Taiping made a conceptual shift from the Qing in regard to female chastity. Whereas the Qing placed the responsibility of a woman’s chastity squarely upon the shoulders of women, the Taiping placed the burden upon the Taiping society: implementing a communal system which would separate women from their families. The Taiping punishments for offenses was primarily execution. So, women either submitted to the Taiping society’s restructuring, committed suicide or were executed for lack of compliance.

Woman with mirror at back

Communes consisted of segregated dorms: separating the living quarters of men from women and girls from everyone. This totally destroyed the nuclear family system as a social form within the Taiping society. The communal system was created in the image of the aforementioned Utopian Ideal acquired from the annals of Chinese literary history. These ideals were based upon: No Sex, Rigorous Military Discipline, Intense Ideological Trainings. To say the least, the lives of all people were disrupted by these measures. However, some were more disrupted than others. Certainly, the lives of women were far more affected than the lives of men. The Hakka women were already accustomed to hard work. But, the work had formerly been to their own choosing and now the work was assigned. The Hakka women had been accustomed to raising their own children and living together as a family with their husbands. These were no longer possible. Husbands and wives were initially not allowed sexual contact with each other; this regulation was eventually reversed, for practical reasons. Young girls were institutionalized for their own protection; forbidden contact with even fathers and brothers, by penalty of death. All segregated groups lived communally, in barracks, with no privacy. In exchange for these sacrifices, women gained a theoretical power of position and self-development. The gain would never actually materialized in practice.

For the non-Hakka women, matters were much more severe. The severity lay in the fact that these women had, from early childhood, been bound by the custom of footbinding. When the rebels occupied their new territories, they forcefully removed the bindings from the feet of these women. Being immensely deformed and disabled by the years of binding, once removed, their feet were denied the little support which had once kept them upright. Women who resisted the removal of their bindings were executed or had their feet chopped off as punishment. These women had also spent most of their lives in seclusion within the inner chambers of their homes. Their sudden exposure to men looking upon them was experienced as traumatic. Being taken from the only spaces they had known and thrown into large barracks with women whom they did not know, was also traumatizing. The Taiping men and women had little understanding of what these women were experiencing. They considered these women to have been “liberated” by their captors. They were sent out to perform hard manual labor for which they were neither physically nor psychologically capable of dealing. Hundreds upon hundreds of these women ended up committing suicide rather than continue their new lives of “emancipation”. The Taiping had assumed that bound feet, once set free, would grow and revert to the form and function of normal foot development. They also had very little pity for those who could not do the work which was being asked of them. For the non-Hakka women, there was no question as to any improvement upon their position in life under the Taiping. They were now held as tightly in bondage by the Heavenly Kingdom as they had been by the bindings of their feet and the bindings of seclusion and subjugation had been before their unfortunate meeting with the Taiping. The new definition of muliebrity being forced upon them, was one which was allowing no period of adjustment. “Simply listening to the promises [of emancipation], one would certainly assume that the Taipings were truly concerned with improving the lives of women. However, reality rarely matched rhetoric. Many of the claims for improvement of female roles never came to fruition. Some did materialize but were to the detriment of the women they effected. The lofty claims of gender equality made by the Taipings proved to be little more than unfulfilled promises.” – [Adrienne Johnson]

Woman and child, lute

What was promised was New Power and Equal Opportunities for women. However, the power structure of the Taiping never provided for an equal representation in government. Hong was noted for saying that he appointed uncles, nephews, and sons into important positions. But, never did he mention any appointments for his wife & concubines, daughters or nieces. A small number of women did pass the new Taiping imperial examinations and gain positions as officials by way of merit. In work, the majority of women had no direct authority over men. Women worked in separate groups from men and these groups were mostly overseen by other women; but sometimes by men. Women occupied their own military groups. Even though men were expected to relinquish their attitudes of superiority over women, they never did. Women were always suspect and never trusted. “In a step frighteningly reminiscent of Qing attitudes, many men claimed that these new powerful and independent women were amoral and sexually promiscuous. They claimed that the women were not actually officials. According to men, these powerful women were in fact the king’s concubines, claiming that any power they might have was illegitimate… Hong spoke of equality, but the Taiping religious texts explain women’s roles in a light very familiar to what they had experienced before.” – [Adrienne Johnson]. The Three Submissions were now called The Three Obediences: father, husband, son. A quote from one of Hong’s poems, as given by Johnson states, “Women in the rear palaces should not try to leave; If they should try to leave it would be like hens trying to crow. The duty of the palace women is to attend to the needs of their husbands; and it is arranged by Heaven that they are not to learn of the affairs outside.”

The Taiping society of the Heavenly Kingdom was riddled with hypocrisy. The leaders of the movement had little personal concern for the virtue of their own women; yet, they were zealous in their regulation of the chastity of “regular” women. “Every woman….must be either married, the member of a family, or an inmate of one of the large institutions for unprotected females, existing in most of their principal cities, and superintendent by proper officials; no single woman being allowed in their territory otherwise.” – [Lindley; as given by Johnson]. Obviously, policies were not equally enforced. There was a rule that men were allowed only one wife and no concubines. However, high officials had both multiple wives and consorts. Hong, himself had 36 consorts when he wrote the regulations outlawing consorts in 1851. He eventually collected a harem of 88 consorts. “In one of Hong’s many annotations to the Bible in 1853, he stated, ‘God has sent an edict to the effect that high officials may marry more than one wife.’ In certain instances, even men without official positions were promised permission to marry additional wives if they displayed valor in battle. The women were considered rewards for loyalty and hard work. When the Taipings conquered Nanjing, the local women were distributed among the soldiers. One observer reported, ‘The number of women a man was to receive was determined by his rank; the highest-ranking men received more than ten women, and the number decreased as the rank lowered.’ Not only were they being doled out as the spoils of war, many were forced into concubinage by becoming secondary wives.” – [Adrienne Johnson]. These women had lived their lives in seclusion. When the policy of distribution of women was announced, over 900 women committed suicide by: hanging, drowning, cutting their throat, or taking poison before they could be captured.

Feet

In responding to the claims of some that the Taiping afforded women a liberation through the abolishment of footbinding, Johnson replies, “It is true that the Taiping Rebellion addressed issues of women’s status and position that were unheard of in China before they emerged. Women were promised property rights, expansion of their job sphere, and leadership positions in society. By looking at their stated goals, one might believe that the Taipings greatly improved the lives of women. However, even the rhetoric of the rebellion reflects a more confusing notion of women’s rights. The writings of Taiping leaders reveal a peculiar mix of a desire of gender equality and a pervasive sense of female inferiority. Finally the actions of the Taipings show that the promise of women’s liberation never truly materialized. The benefits of their actions were almost always paired with losses: Taiping women were not respected for their work efforts, and women in the conquered populations were forced to work at jobs for which they were not prepared. There was no opportunity for women to gradually acclimate to their new roles; they were thrust into lives that they neither wanted nor were they capable of handling.” – [Adrienne Johnson]

I agree with Adrienne Johnson’s words of response. However, I am left with the inclination to add a number of my own words at the end of this essay; to address a point which begs for recognition. The Taiping failed desperately, by most accounts, to reach their own self-proclaimed goals. They did not overthrow the Qing government nor did they dispose of the dynasty system of China. They failed to create a new Chinese society based upon their claimed ideologies. New gender roles were not established and women were not protected from harm in their Heavenly Kingdom. Yet, even in all these failures, one point seems to go unnoticed by all; unnoticed by the Taiping and unnoticed by the scholars of the two dissertations from which I have been drawing information and insight. What I feel is missing is that the Taiping completely “missed the point” of what they thought they were addressing. The “point” is that the Taiping did not understand what “Women’s Liberation, Women’s Rights, or Emancipation of Women” actually mean. By not understanding those concepts, it was impossible for them to create a society in which women could actually be liberated, have rights or be emancipated. Even the “Separate but Equal” approach to the question of “Equal Rights for Women” was unsuccessful and missing the point. And, the point continually missed is: The right of “Self-Determination” determines the Liberation and Emancipation of women; not segregation and subjugation, nor the patriarchal rules and regulations set by hypocritical governments from their self-appointed positions of superiority.

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