What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China

By Tobie Meyer-Fong | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Words

War engendered religious passion, and not just on the Taiping side. This was a war inspired by the iconoclasm of a failed examination candidate who believed himself to be God’s second son. His fervor was, however, matched by that of more orthodox visionaries who described the war as a punishment visited upon their communities by divine forces angered by waste, disloyalty, and immoral dramas. Many in Jiangnan invoked time-honored religious paradigms to account for carnage heard about, witnessed, or survived, and sought guarantees of safety in the divine logic of reward and retribution. Itinerant preachers, school teachers, and lecturers proclaimed that frugality, orthodoxy in family relationships, respect for staple grains, abstemiousness, vegetarianism, and the practice of honoring the written word by collecting and disposing of scraps of paper all had talismanic power against death, loss, war, and disease.

The dynasty’s supporters promoted inspirational lectures and talks on the Sacred Edict as part of a broader strategy for local defense and to awaken the masses to their proper political obligations, drawing in the process upon the rhetoric of popular religion.1 Good words delivered in print or heard in speech could confer security on both individuals and

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What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Author’s Note xv
  • Chapter One- War 1
  • Chapter Two- Words 21
  • Chapter Three- Marked Bodies 65
  • Chapter Four- Bones and Flesh 99
  • Chapter Five- Wood and Ink 135
  • Chapter Six- Loss 175
  • Chapter Seven- Endings 203
  • Notes 209
  • Glossary 271
  • Bibliography 275
  • Index 305
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