One of the greatest wars of the last two centuries, a war that took between 20 and 30 million lives over its 15 years of conflict, the bloodiest civil war in history, was a religious conflict known as the Taiping Rebellion. The religion of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was a fusion of Christianity and the opposition to the traditional Chinese beliefs. It started when the Protestant missionaries attempted to spread their religion in Guangzi province of Qing dinasty China, building on the earlier Catholic attempts. One such missionary, Liang Fa, the first Chinese protestant minister and the publisher of the first Chinese translation of the Bible, was heard by Hong Xiuquan, a farmer who’s been desperately trying to pass the exams to obtain a civil service position. Soon after failing, in 1837, Hong had a series of visions in which both Jesus Christ and Jehova (who he identified with Shangdi, the supreme god of Han religion) named him the Divine Younger Brother of Jesus and chose him to rid the world of demon worship and Confucianism in the name of the one true God.
After lengthy study of Bible tracts and the Old Testament, building on those visions, Hong developed the dogma of his version of Christianity, wrote commentaries on the Bible which were to be studied by his followers as well as the Bible itself, and proceeded with the task. Citing the first three commandments, he relentlessly destroyed the idols and evangelized, gathering followers among the local ethnic minority. His group became known as Pai Shang-ti Hui (the Society of God-Worshippers) by 1846, growing up to 30,000 in 1850 at which time it came in conflict with the provincial government and the bloodshed began.
The territory ruled by Hong Xiuquan was named Taiping Tianguo (太平天囯), Heavenly Kingdom of Peace, with the capital in Nanjing, and it encompassed much of south and central China, with as many as 600 cities. The military conflicts were always bloody and brutal, Taiping army fought with fanaticism and religious fervor. The rebels destroyed everything Confucian and imperial, which they considered blasphemous. Strongly iconoclastic, the Taiping followers smashed religious statues and imperially approved icons throughout the lands. The Taiping government instilled strict morals and religious rites, abolished private property and land ownership, providing what they called Equal Share of Land to each citizen instead. Social classes were also abolished, and women were given equal rights to men, but men and women were strictly separated, even the married couples. Opium, alcohol, gambling, prostitution were all banned. Nearly all members of Taiping society came from the lower classes of Chinese society, they were miners and farmers. The landlords on the occupied lands were simply executed. Thus, in many ways Taiping kingdom, despite being a strict theocracy, bore striking resemblance to the early Soviet Russia, which was to come 70 years later and in fact Taiping rebels became a great inspiration to the founders of the future People’s Republic of China. Sun Yat-sen even called himself Hong Xiuquan the Second in his youth.