Liang Fa's Quanshi liangyan and its impact on the Taiping Movement.
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Scholars of the Taiping Movement have assumed that Liang Fa’s Quanshi liangyan 勸世良言 (Good Words to Admonish the Age, being Nine Miscellaneous Christian Tracts) greatly influenced Hong Xiuquan, but very little has been written on the role of Liang’s work. The main reason is that even though hundreds of copies were distributed in the early nineteenth century, only four survived the destruction which followed the failure of the Taiping Movement. This dissertation therefore explores the extent of the Christian influence of Liang’s nine tracts on Hong and the Taiping Movement. This study begins with an introduction to China in the nineteenth century and the early missions of western countries in China. The second chapter focuses on the life and work of Liang. His religious background was in Confucianism and Buddhism, but when he encountered Robert Morrison and William Milne, he identified with Christianity. The third chapter discusses the story of Hong especially examining Hong’s acquisition of Liang’s Quanshi liangyan and Hong’s revelatory dream, both of which serve as motives for the establishment of the Society of God Worshippers and the Taiping Movement. The fourth chapter develops Liang’s key ideas from his Quanshi liangyan and compares them with Hong’s beliefs, as found in official documents of the Taipings. The fifth chapter describes Hong’s beliefs and the actual practices of the Taiping Movement and compares them with Liang’s key ideas. Even if Hong and his leaders received the new ideas of Christianity, they compromised their traditional culture. Furthermore, they tried not only to combine Chinese culture with Christianity, but also to believe in Christianity as far as they could understand it. This study finds that even though the Quanshi liangyan may have given the Taiping Movement its religious form and driving force, the theological vision of both Liang and Hong also emerged from their Chinese culture, which energized the Taipings. The Taiping Movement resulted from a deliberate synthesis of Christian ideas and native Chinese practices.