Hong Xiuquan’s Relevance Today
Mystical Visions and the Path to Revolution

(From Wikipedia)

Key points in this article:

  • Hong Xiuquan was the inspiration behind the Xinhai Revolution in China
  • Dreams of the celestial father and demon slaying awakened Hong’s revolutionary spirit
  • ‘The mystical’ can change the world

The fact that Sun Yat-sen is the epitome of democracy movements in China is without doubt. Sun’s greatest inspiration for his ideology of revolution was Hong Xiuquan, after hearing stories about the hero in his childhood.

Hong Xiuquan was the political revolutionary and leader of the Taiping Revolution against the corrupt Qing dynasty. At the time, he and his followers were only known as a group of suppressed rebels.

Sun Yat-sen’s hero worship of Hong comes from an episode from his childhood when he met at his front door an old soldier who had fought for Hong in the rebellion. He listened intently as the soldier told him about Hong’s outstanding achievements.

The gripping firsthand account of Hong’s leadership inspired Sun to proclaim himself as the second Hong Xiuquan and devote himself to a revolution that shook China to its very core.

Thus Hong Xiuquan can be said to be the origin of China’s democracy movement. While his ambitions were thwarted, his revolution had the power to organize agricultural villagers, defeat the powerful Qing armies and, for a time, even establish an independent kingdom. That is why, despite the fact that it was suppressed, Hong’s revolution is still regarded with great reverence.

The stimulus that kept aflame the passion in Hong Xuiquan and his followers was a mystical dream he had. What follows is a narrative summary of his life.


Imperial Examinations Failure and Mental Breakdown

Hong was born into a peasant family. He was noted for his high intelligence, which encouraged him to take the notoriously difficult Imperial examinations, the only path open for those of low birth to become a civil servant.

While he was preparing to take the examinations, he met a foreign missionary and received a set of pamphlets. At first, he did not pay much attention to them but kept them nonetheless. These pamphlets were later to bring major changes into Hong’s life.

Hong studied hard but failed the Imperial exams three times, and had a mental breakdown after his third failure. It was then that he began to experience a series of visions and mystical dreams.

In one of these he saw a group of people come to guide him to the afterlife, which he thought was a premonition of his death. Upon waking, he called his parents to his bedside to dictate his will. His dreams and visions continued during his delirium.


The Celestial Father

First he dreamt that he rose to heaven: a strange place filled with light. He met an old woman who washed his body in a river. He was taken to a palace where his heart was extracted from his body to be replaced by a new crimson heart.

This probably signified the purification of his soul.

Hong was then taken to a spacious room where a golden-haired sage sat up high. This was the being whom Hong later called the celestial father.

Beside the celestial father was the celestial brother, later identified as Jesus Christ. The Father weeps thus: “Humans have forgotten that I created and support them, and are now worshipping evil. You must banish the devil and save your brothers and sisters”. The celestial father was most loving and kind.

He untrusted Hong with psalms to be read thoroughly to attune his mind to the celestial father. He warned Hong to not direct his mind to wrong things. Hong was given a sacred sword and belt to fight against evil.


Fighting the Demons

In the dream, demons suddenly appeared from the underworld, and Hong had to fight them alongside the celestial father and brother. It was a long battle, with only time enough to get short amounts of sleep before battling the demons again. Whenever Hong felt exhausted, countless heavenly soldiers would appear beside him to protect him and aid him in battle.

Many heavenly gates sometimes appeared, which functioned as barriers, and helped cast the demons down to the underworld.

Hong’s visions continued for 40 days at the end of which he returned to Earth reborn.


The Dream, The Pamphlets, and His Mission

When he regained consciousness, Hong decided to try out for the Imperial examinations a fourth time. He had yet to analyze the meaning of his dream. He failed the examination for the fourth and final time, but this time his attention went to the Christian pamphlets on his shelf.

When he read them he was astonished to find that the celestial father who created humankind was Jehovah the Father in Heaven, and the celestial brother was Jesus Christ. For the first time he realized that his dreams and visions were a divine revelation.

Hong likened this epiphany to “awakening from a long dream”.

The newly awakened Hong Xiuquan began to work towards establishing a utopian society where all people are brothers and sisters under the heavenly father, and therefore equal regardless of birth, race or sex. This was the impetus behind the Taiping Revolution.


‘The Mystical’ Can Change The World

Modern day China is heavily atheistic, and now degrades Hong’s mystical experiences as a fictional story used to justify the revolution.

Hong himself however, said, “if I had read the pamphlets without having had gone through illness, I would not have believed in the Christian creed”.

Hong Xuiquan himself attributed the beginning of his great ambitions to his mystical experiences, and explained so to those who met him.

An encounter with something beyond this world – a mystical ‘something’ – can give one the power to change the world in a great way.

Hong Xiuquan’s Relevance Today
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