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Zeng Guofan

Zēng Guófán (曾國藩; Wade-Giles|WG: Tseng Kuo-fan, Chinese courtesy name#Zi|zi: Bóhán 伯函, Chinese courtesy name#Hao|hao: Díshēng 滌生) (1811-1872) was an eminent Han Chinese official of the Manchu Qing Dynasty. He served as Jin Shi under the Daoguang Emperor of China|Daoguang Emperor. He later raised the Xiang army to fight effectively against the Taiping Rebellion. He was known for his military skill and sometimes for his ruthlessness.

Early Life

A Chinese statesman and general, Zeng was born in 1811 in the province of Hunan, where he took in succession the three degrees of Chinese scholarship.

Entry into Imperial Politics

In 1843 he was appointed chief literary examiner in the province of Szechuan, and six years later was made junior vice-president of the board of rites. When holding the office of military examiner (1851) he was compelled by the death of his mother to retire to his native district for the regulation mourning. At this time the Taiping Rebellion|Taiping rebels were overrunning Hunan in their conquering career, and had possessed themselves of the cities and strongholds on both shores of the Yangzi River. By a special decree Zeng was ordered to assist the governor of the province in raising a volunteer force, and on his own initiative he built a fleet of war junks, with which he attacked the rebels. In his first engagement he was defeated, but his lieutenants were more successful. They recovered the capital, Changsha, and destroyed the rebel fleet. Following up these victories of his subordinates, Zeng recaptured Wuchang and Hanyang, near Hankow, and was rewarded for his success by being appointed vice-president of the board of war.

Fame and Military Campaigns

In 1853 other triumphs led to his being made a baturu (a Manchu order for rewarding military prowess), and to his being decorated with a yellow riding-jacket. Meanwhile, in his absence, the rebels retook Wuchang and burnt the protecting fleet. The tide quickly turned, however, and Zeng succeeded in clearing the country round the Poyang lake, and subsequently in ridding the province of Jiangsu of the enemy. His father died in 1857, and after a brief mourning he was ordered to take supreme command in Zhejiang, and to co-operate with the governor of Fukien in the defence of that province.

Subsequently the rebels were driven westwards, and Zeng would have started in pursuit had he not been called on to clear the province of Anhui of rebel bands. In 1860 he was appointed Governor General of the two Jiang provinces (Jiangxi and Jiangsu: 两江总督) and Imperial war commissioner. At this time, and for some time previously, he had been fortunate in having the active support of Zuo Zongtang, who at a later period recovered Kashgar for the emperor, and of Li Hongzhang. Like all true leaders of men, he knew how to reward good service, and when occasion offered he appointed the former to the governorship of Zhejiang and the latter to that of Jiangsu. In 1862 he was appointed assistant grand secretary of state. At this time the Imperial forces, assisted by the " Ever-victorious Army," had checked the progress of the rebellion, and Zeng was able to carry out a scheme which he had long formulated of besieging Nanjing, the rebel headquarters. While Gordon, with the help of Li Hongzhang, was clearing the cities on the lower waters of the Yangzi River, Zeng drew closer his besieging lines around the doomed city. In July 1864 the city fell into his Aands, and he was rewarded with the rank and title of marquis and the right to wear the double-eyed peacock's feather. After the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion, the Nian Rebellion (捻軍起義), closely related to the former movement, broke out in Shantung, and Zeng was sent to quell it.

Success did not, however, always attend him on this campaign, and by Imperial order he was relieved of his command by Li Hongzhang, who in the same way succeeded him in the viceroyalty of Chihli, where, after the massacre of Tianjin (1870), Zeng failed to carry out the wishes of his Imperial master. After this rebuff he retired to his viceroyalty at Nanjing, where he died in 1872.

Zeng was a voluminous writer. His papers addressed to the throne and his literary disquisitions are held in high esteem by the scholars of China, who treasure as a memorial of a great and un-corrupt statesman the edition of his collected works in 156 books, which was edited by Li Hongzhang in 1876.

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