Lecture: “Ruin and Restoration: An Eyewitness Frames the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864),” Tobie Meyer-Fong
June 14, 12:00 Noon (LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building) [view map]
Considered one of the most horrifying civil wars in world history, the Taiping Rebellion lasted for more than a decade (1850-1864) as government forces, local militias, foreign mercenaries, and rebels struggled to achieve dominance over urban strongholds and to maintain control over their own unruly troops. In the process, lives, buildings, and texts - the building blocks of community and cultural heritage - were decimated, ruined, and scattered. In the aftermath of disaster, individuals and communities engaged in processes of restoration - both physical and metaphorical.
While the tumultuous events of this war have been rewritten strategically (by the ream) in what must be one of the more voluminous and politicized historiographies in the modern China field, little attention has been paid to questions of destruction and recovery. This talk focuses on an illustrated pamphlet, “An Iron Man’s Tears for Jiangnan,” published in Suzhou just as the war was ending, and designed to encourage donations in support of the countless refugees displaced by the war. In it, the author, a local philanthropist and advocate of “moral transformation,” illuminates the politically and ideologically redemptive potential that he found in the devastating violence that he had witnessed.
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