512 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 1 in
December 11, 2012
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0307472213
ISBN - 13: 9780307472212
Read from the Book
CHAPTER 1THE PREACHER'S ASSISTANTHong Kong in 1852 was a diseased and watery place, a rocky island off the southern shore of the Qing Empire where the inhabitants lived in dread of what one described as "the miasma set free from the ground which was everywhere being turned up." A small British settlement sat between the mountains and the bay, but the emerald and sapphire glory of the scene belied the darkness below the surface. Leaving the concentration of godowns, military barracks, and trading firms along the colony's nostalgically named central streets (The Queen's Road, Wellington Street, Holly-wood Road), one could find the grandest vistas in the gravel paths that led up the coast into the hills, but the European settlement soon gave way to scattered Chinese houses among fields growing rice and sweet potatoes unchanged in the decade since the British took the island as their prize in the Opium War. Some of the wealthier merchants had built opulent mansions in those hills, with terraced gardens commanding a view of the harbor and town. But as though their builders had strayed too far from the protection of the settlement, the inhabitants of those houses sickened and died. Marked as "homes of fever or death," the ghostly manors sat silent and abandoned, their empty gaze passing judgment on the settlers below.One of those settlers was Theodore Hamberg, a young Swedish missionary with a thin chinstrap beard that set off his delicate, nearly effeminate fe
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2012 Cundill Prize in History
A gripping account of China’s nineteenth-century Taiping Rebellion, one of the largest civil wars in history. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom brims with unforgettable characters and vivid re-creations of massive and often gruesome battles—a sweeping yet intimate portrait of the conflict that shaped the fate of modern China.
The story begins in the early 1850s, the waning years of the Qing dynasty, when word spread of a major revolution brewing in the provinces, led by a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and brother of Jesus. The Taiping rebels drew their power from the poor and the disenfranchised, unleashing the ethnic rage of millions of Chinese against their Manchu rulers. This homegrown movement seemed all but unstoppable until Britain and the United States stepped in and threw their support behind the Manchus: after years of massive carnage, all opposition to Qing rule was effectively snuffed out for generations. Stephen R. Platt recounts these events in spellbinding detail, building his story on two fascinating characters with opposing visions for China’s future: the conservative Confucian scholar Zeng Guofan, an accidental general who emerged as the most influential military strategist in China’s modern history; and Hong Rengan, a brilliant Taiping leader whose grand vision of building a modern, industrial, and pro-Western Chinese state ended in tragic failure.
This is an essential and enthralling history of the rise and fall of the movement that, a century and a half ago, might have launched China on an entirely different path into the modern world.
About the Author
Stephen R. Platt received his Ph.D. in Chinese history from Yale University, where his dissertation was awarded the Theron Rockwell Field Prize. He is an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is also the author of Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China. An undergraduate English major, he spent two years after college as a teacher in the Yale-China program in Hunan province. His research has been supported by the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation. He lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.
“A refreshing and gripping account that illuminates how civil conflicts can suck in outsiders and why the West has had great difficulties in trying to maintain a façade of neutrality and protect its commercial interests at the same time. . . . Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom may not have said the last word on the Taiping Rebellion, but the story it tells is powerful, dramatic, and unforgettable.” —Minxin Pei, San Francisco Chronicle “Structurally, Stephen Platt’s Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom is a thriller. . . . We read in starred reviews things like ‘the book brings history to life.’ We read these words so often that we have forgotten what they mean, but this book reminds us. It makes history immediate and personal, one that speaks to us on a sensory, moral, intellectual and emotional level. They should teach this one in schools.” —Gerard Martinez, San Antonio Express-News “A compelling and often meticulous account. . . . Platt is at his best when dissecting the often absurd dynamics of Western intervention.” —Ross Perlin, The Daily Beast “An intricate and compelling historical narrative rich in military campaigning, vivid personalities and, above all, diplomatic misunderstanding. When Confederate artillery fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, the Taiping rebellion had been raging for 10 years, and it would continue until rebel supply lines collapsed in 1864. With a wonderful flair for storytelling, Platt explores the relationship between the two conflicts. . . . Authoritative and