This chapter introduces the main themes of the book and places it in historiographical context. The chapter argues that the Taiping Rebellion should be termed a civil war, and should be understood in relation to the questions and concerns of those who lived through it. It calls attention to the devastating human and material consequences of the Taiping War. The chapter identifies the reasons scholars in both the United States and China have tended to focus on other issues. Western scholars have emphasized the Taiping movement’s Christian orientation or roots in local religious practice or the biography of the movement’s founder. Chinese scholarship in general highlights place of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in the history of revolution in China.
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