The Taiping Rebellion  (1850-64) was by far the bloodiest war of the nineteenth century. The revolt was a radical political and religious uprising, that ravaged 17 Chinese provinces and cost 20 million lives.

The rebels rose against the tyranny of the Manchus, advocating a program partly based on Christian doctrines. Among their aims were public ownership of land and the establishment of a self-reliant economy. Their slogans - to share property in common - attracted many famine-stricken peasants, and the Taiping ranks swelled to more than one million soldiers.

Under the leadership of  Hung Hsiu-chuan they captured Nanking and made it their capital. Hung founded the 'Great Peaceful Heavenly Dynasty' in 1851. After a few years the leaders began to quarrel among themselves, the reforms were not completed and their opponents, supported by the Western powers, defeated the Taiping in 1864. But the Manchu government was so weakened by the rebellion that it never again was able to effectively rule China.