China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



2012 Feb 28 in The China Beat


Copyright 2012 Stephen R. Platt


A big new China book to hit shelves in recent weeks is Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War, written by University of Massachusetts, Amherst historian Stephen Platt. Platt places the Taiping Rebellion in a global context, emphasizing its importance to American and European observers of the conflict, whose economic ties to China made them keenly interested in the country’s domestic situation. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom also offers new insights into how the Taiping Rebellion tied into Chinese internal politics, particularly the ways in which the Taiping rebels sought to justify their planned overthrow of the Manchu Qing rulers on ethnic grounds. In the excerpt below, Platt describes how foreigners pieced together small bits of information about the early Taiping Rebellion to offer their own interpretations of what the conflict signaled for China—and the world