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[Letter from Young J. Allen to an editor, January 28, 1868]View image of page
Results & opportunities of Taiping Rebellion
Jan. 28, 1868.
Letter No. 2.
In a previous letter I informed you, if I mistake not, that the late Tai-ping rebellion was of a two-fold, politico-religious character, and that while they sought the overthrow of the present Tartar dynasty, their chief object both at its beginning and during its progress was the extermination of idolatry. Their iconoclastic fury far surpassed all their other characteristics, and was unabated even to the day of their downfall. Hence, they laid waste in capital, city and country, on islet, lake, river, and mountain, every temple and habitation appropriated to idolatry. I have travelled through a large extent of the country once in their hands and in no place did i find one of ten thousand temples whose idols had not fallen before them. Indeed, so complete an erasure both of imges and priests did they effect that idolatry seemed almost, if not entirely and hopelessly, doomed to extinction.
After the overthrow of the Rebellion and the restoration of the country to Tartar rule, the missionaries were very anxious to follow the returning refugees to their desolated homes and carry with them an effectual antidote against a relapse into the fatal errors and superstitions which formerly duped and beggared them.View image of page
The desire to follow up the openings thus made by the Rebels was the greater, and the entrance more certain and hopeful, from the fact that among those returning were many Christians who desired to carry with them and establish in their midst the Christian Church and its doctrines. Many of us did all we could to enter in, but for lack of laborers, both native and foreign, the country seemed destined once more to be given up to idolatry. Judge then of our surprise and joy when we learned at Su Chow, the other day, that the evil day is still put off and the Church has yet another opportunity of entering the field, a large field, amongst a people who are refused the privilege of rebuilding their temples or resorting to idolatry.
The facts are about these: A large number of Mandarins holding office in the recently desolated region, convinced apparently of the folly of idolatry, its deceptive and impoverishing character, have in the interests of the country petitioned or memorialized the Government to forbid the revuilding or even the repairing of any of the temples, except the Confucian, which even the Rebels respected. The Emperor had responded favorably, and I was told that a proclamation had been issued accordingly in the region above mentioned. Again, in the city of Su Chow, where I had least
such a turn in the matter, I was shown a proclamation which Criminal Judge of this Province, and placarded in the largest thoroughfares and public places, absolutely forbidding women to enter the temples, while idolatry and the priesthood are denounced, the one as vile (encouraging lewdness), and the other as the deceivers of the people, and heavy penalties are threatened against all who dare violate the proclamation by appearing at the temples for purposes of worship. The priests are threatened with the cangue, or heavy wooden collar, and to be chained at the entrance of their
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temples. The husband of any woman violating is to be held responsible and punished with the bamboo, and the smaller mandarins having jurisdiction are made responsible for the conduct of their several districts, and are threatened with degradation, and other punishment, if they attempt to evade the requirements of the proclamation.
The people were thunder-struck at the announcement and read the writing on the wall with awe. I heard the following comment only, "the proclamation savors of the Jesus doctrines; the Judge must belong to the Church."
On Monday the 20th, we left Su-chow, and in a day and a half reached Kia-Shin-fu in the Che-kiang provinces, about sixty miles to the south of Su-chow. There we found that the highest Mandarin of the place had but a few weeks previously issued a proclamation in obedience to the Governor General who had several months before issued one at Hang-Chow, removing every obstructions out of the way of freely preaching Christianity, and also guaranteeing to the people the utmost religious liberty.
Mr. Editor, we missionaries at Shanghai are almost overwhelmed by the signs of the times. What do they mean? We are astonished at the revelations that are now apparent. Are not all things working together here to accomplish the purposes of Jehovah? It is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord that Christianity is noiselessly effecting her revolutions in this ancient pagan land. The work do the Lord shall not return unto him void. Oh! how our faith, or rather want of faith, is being rebuked.View image of page
If there was ever a time for the Church to awake, arise and put her armor on and advance to victory, that time, that opportunity is the present. The Mandarins themselves, though it may be all unconsciously, have arrayed themselves on our side and have set to their powerful arm to arrest the tide of returning superstition, idolatry and death. While, therefore, the Emperor on his throne, and the Mandarins in the provinces are proscribing idolartry and inviting Christianity by removing its disabilities, shall the Church cease to pray for the China Mission, withhold its support and deny in future --- at an early day, to send one, five or ten of the score and more missionaries that are now an absolute necessity to secure a tithing of the harvest spread out to the sickle?
Young J. Allen.