God's Chinese Son

by Jonathan D. Spence

Start Free Trial

In reference to God's Chinese Son, examine Hong’s belief system (Christian and Chinese beliefs), describe how he wanted to change China’s political, socioeconomic, and religious institutions, and explain why you think so many people were willing to follow Hong and ultimately die for him.

Quick answer:

As explained in God's Chinese Son, Hong Xiuquan wanted to change China by overthrowing the Qing dynasty and replacing it with a Christian kingdom run by him. Hong professed a belief in communal policies based on equality and egalitarianism. However, in practice, Hong’s regime was deadly, repressive, and hypocritical.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Jonathan D. Spence, Hong Xiuquan’s belief system started out as ordinary. Early on, Hong adopted the prevailing ideology of the period. He had no aims to take on China's established rulers. He even took the Chinese imperial examinations.

After his belief in the status quo failed to earn him any success (according to Spence, Hong failed the examinations four times), Hong dabbled in Christianity. Soon, he’d use a dream he had to support his argument that he was Jesus’s son.

Now, Hong’s belief system revolved around him. He believed that the High Heaven appointed him to “slay the demon devils.” As Spence points out, those demon devils were the members and supporters of the Qing dynasty. Hong presented a magical, intoxicating vision of himself and China. His mystical charisma garnered him dedicated followers, who would, as your question notes, fight and kill for him.

At first, Christian missionaries thought Hong might be a positive sign that Christianity was spreading throughout China. However, as Hong’s political program took hold, it became apparent that Hong was using Christianity as a pretext to turn himself into an all-powerful ruler.

Hong professed a communal ideology. Spence includes a quote from Hong where he declares that “every place shall have equal shares and every one be clothed and fed.” However, in practice, Hong’s regime was deadly and repressive. It was also hypocritical. He outlawed sex yet kept a harem for himself.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial