From a military standpoint, the rebellion got off to an impressive start. The army itself was uncannily disciplined; after elaborate initiation rituals, Taiping believers became fanatically disciplined and devoted soldiers, willing to die without hesitation in God’s cause against demonic forces.
The army of the Taipings roared northward through the central Yangtze valley to Nanking. In many ways, however, this dramatic progress of the Taipings was no progress at all and explains why they lost so easily despite their impressive start. The central reason they advanced so quickly was that they avoided large urban centers and so encountered little resistance. When they conquered a territory, they made no effort to consolidate the conquest by setting up an administrative mechanism, but instead roared on northwards. There was no room for disagreement in the military hierarchy; not only did the Heavenly King gain his authority directly from God, but the military generals themselves claimed to be guided by God the Father in a series of visions. There was little room, then, for serious strategic thinking in this environment.
The Taipings occupied Nanking in March of 1853; they renamed the city, T’ien-ching, or “Heavenly Capital.”
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