China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change

By Emily Hahn | Go to book overview

Chapter Five

In Nanking the crusaders found any number of idols to smash, and had a splendid time doing it. They began with the famous Porcelain Pagoda, which they destroyed completely, and in their zeal also came near to murdering more than a hundred genuine Christians--some Roman Catholics whose church seemed to these homegrown monotheists a hotbed of idolatry. Fortunately the mistake was discovered and explained away in time to save the Catholics. It would have made Hung feel very bad if he had been instrumental in wiping out the first Western God-worshipers it was his lot to encounter since the ill-fated experiment with Issachar Roberts. He still felt akin to all Christians, and hoped to be able, once he had pacified his country, to unite with them. As for the Nanking Catholics, they prudently decided to join the Taipings, after they saw what happened to some other people who resisted the invaders; there were horrible scenes of carnage, as there often are following Chinese battles. The quality of mercy was not one of the Christian virtues that Hung Hsiu-ch'uan adopted. No person recognized as a Manchu was spared--men, women and children of the hated race were beheaded or burned to death--and it is no wonder that all the others deemed it wiser to merge themselves with Hung's followers. Within a week the city was quiet.

It was then that Hung's initial, astonishing drive toward a goal seemed to flag. The day of the Taipings was not yet at its noon, but Hung determined to stay where he was, in Nanking. This city was after all the proper place, he decided, for his throne and his dynasty. Not for a moment was he relinquishing his intention to overthrow the Manchu usurpers in Peking. A few weeks after the occupation he sent an army north under one of his most trusted generals, Lin, to do that task for him. But in person he was to stay

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