Zeng Guofan (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Zeng directed the Ch’ing Dynasty’s extraordinary suppression of the Taiping Rebellion. His strategy used locally recruited but professional armies and required twelve years to succeed. He continued to serve in high office and is recognized as a key figure in the Ch’ing restoration that began in the 1860’s. Renowned for his probity, Zeng recruited men who became the dynasty’s chief ministers after his death, but few approached his talents or his upright character.
Zeng Guofan came from a large landowning family striving to become part of the scholar-official elite. In 1838, he passed the highest imperial examination and became a member of the prestigious Hanlin Academy, where he had considerable leisure to develop his theories of government. In 1849, he was appointed to an important post in the central civil bureaucracy. Over the next three years, he acquired broad experience in the upper echelons of government.
The teachings of T’ang Chien, a scholar-official who adhered to the orthodox school of Neo-Confucianism associated with Chu Hsi, had great influence on Zeng. T’ang advocated a combination of Neo-Confucian self-cultivation and active service to the state. Chu Hsi had followed that pattern; it was also to characterize Zeng’s life.
Zeng was a thin, stern-looking man with a long beard, whose whole demeanor reflected his lifelong practice of Puritan...
(The entire section is 2342 words.)
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Zeng Guofan (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Zeng created the Xiang Army of troops from Hunan, which suppressed the Taiping Rebellion and became the model for most of the Chinese armed forces before World War II.
Born the oldest son of a poor scholarly family in Hunan, Zeng Guofan studied for the traditional civil service examinations and passed the first level at the age of twenty-eight. Married in 1833, he pursued his studies and achieved the highest academic rank five years later. Appointed to the prestigious Hanlin Academy in Beijing, he spent a dozen years there, rising to vice president of the board of rites.
In 1853, Zeng took the normal three-year leave to mourn his mother’s death. Shortly after his return to Hunan, troops of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) entered the province, and he broke his mourning to create a military force for the defense of Hunan (later, he spent even less time in mourning for his father). He based his command on Confucian principles, good pay, loyalty of troops to their officers, and loyalty of the officers to the commander. Zeng’s forces eventually grew into the Xiang Army, which was mainly responsible for crushing the Taiping Rebellion. Because of the many rivers and lakes in the region of conflict, he also created a naval force to assist his army. After several unsuccessful attempts, in 1854, Zeng scored a victory at Xiangtan and recovered Wuchang from the rebels. The rebels retook...
(The entire section is 471 words.)