Week 5 Blog Post

This week, we learned about the Taiping Rebellion and the Chinese Exclusion Act. I used Exploration Pack 2: Migration. During the mid to late nineteenth century, China was experiencing a lot of instability. Two of the major events contributing to the decline of the Qing Dynasty were the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion. The Taiping Rebellion was the bloodiest civil war in history, with an estimated 20 million deaths between 1850 and 1864. Hong Xiuquan was the leader of the rebellion against the Qing government. At this point, China was experiencing many social and economic problems, including widespread addiction to opium that was imported by the British, political corruption, and a weakened military. According to the podcast, one of the reasons why Hong gained so many followers was because he was drawing on millenarian ideas in Chinese tradition where rebels believed that “they will be led by a messiah in a great apocalyptic battle. And after this battle, paradise on earth, a great peace will be achieved.” These ideas were usually based in Buddhism, but Hong was a Christian. He believed that he was the younger brother of Jesus and that he needed to “purify” China from the Manchus by establishing a Christian kingdom. While it was a civil war within China, the Taiping Rebellion showed the influence of the West in nineteenth century China. Hong was influenced by Christian missionaries, who were allowed to enter China after the treaties signed at the end of the First Opium War. 

A result of the instability in nineteenth century China was an increase in immigration, mostly to the United States and Southeast Asia. Chinese immigrants were harshly discriminated against in the US. There were race riots where white settlers attacked and lynched Chinese workers because of their race. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred Chinese people from immigrating to the US and did not allow any Chinese people to become American citizens because they were considered “unassimilable.” It was the first US law that excluded a specific ethnic group from immigration. The law was not repealed until 1943 when China joined the Allies in World War II.

Chinese immigrants had a very different experience in Southeast Asia. They were called the Peranakan Chinese. According to the article “Who are the Peranakan Chinese? Deep roots and many routes,” the Peranakan Chinese kept their traditions from their home culture and integrated them into other Southeast Asian cultures. Rebeca Choong Wilkins writes, “It may not be self-evident, but much of Southeast Asia’s most beloved clothing, cuisine, and architecture all have Peranakan roots” (Choong Wilkins). Peranakan men have become very successful in Southeast Asia, and the “founding father” of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, was Peranakan.

There are three white men and four Chinese men standing in a gold mine. The white men are holding tools and one has a pan.
Chinese gold miners working alongside white miners at Auburn Ravine in central California, 1852.


Choong Wilkins, Rebecca. “Who are the Peranakan Chinese? Deep roots and many routes” LARB China Channel January 24, 2019. https://chinachannel.lareviewofbooks.org/2019/01/24/peranakan/

Melvin Bragg and guests. “The Taiping Rebellion”. In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, Feb. 24 2011.

“The Chinese Exclusion Act”. Directed by Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu. Public Broadcasting Service, 2018. https://video-alexanderstreet-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/watch/the-chinese-exclusion-act






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