AHC Zeng Guofan founds a dynasty

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by varyar, Oct 7, 2019.

  1. varyar Who?

    Dec 14, 2007
    I've been reading a bit about the Taiping Rebellion and the Hunan Army lately, and a couple times, it's mentioned how Zeng was encouraged to overthrow the Qing after the Taiping were defeated. From what little I've read about the man, he was far too orthodox a Confucian to cast down the dynasty he had just played such a major part in saving.

    But it seems like an interesting idea to me, so can we try and make it happen?

    One potential route I'm seeing is the Taiping are more successful - they managed to break out into the north and capture Beijing (however briefly). The court flees to the northeast and the Taiping try to hold their gains... but can't, and the Hunan and Anhui armies eventually quell the rebels. In the aftermath, Zeng is persuaded that the Qing have lost the Mandate of Heaven and eventually takes the imperial throne.

    Alternatively, the Qing court does something really stupid and short-sighed after the Taiping Rebellion is put down, and Zeng is alienated from them to the point of revolt himself.

    What do the more knowledgeable folks concerning Chinese history thing?
  2. Hegemon of words and thoughts

    Sep 4, 2017
    Ribeirao Preto, World State
    Hmm. I don’t know how likely the first scenario is... if the Qing were thrown entirely out of the picture (say even Tongzhi and Cixi die) then Zeng might find it more difficult to establish control over China even if he successfully gains command over a large group of soldiers and a powerbase. He would be just another warlord among many. He would also need to convince the European powers to accept him while simultaneously not alienating the Chinese.

    I doubt the second scenario would occur. Cixi understood and appreciated Zeng’s contribution to the destruction of the Taiping. Even the court’s hostility towards Zeng failed to provoke him. Even had he been provoked, I doubt it would’ve come to much. The revolts had been quelled and order restored. The British and other European powers are firmly on the side of the Qing. There are simply too many domestic and foreign enemies for any rebel to overcome.

    Add to that Zeng’s personal loyalty to the Qing and his increasing ill health after suppressing the rebellion...

    Hope this helps.

    Edit: the first scenario might have a good chance of happening, though. Zeng was both educated and a high military commander. It’s just that I think the Qing would have to be entirely and decisively thrown out of the picture. Even the second opium “war”, which did capture Beijing and force Cixi and Tongzhi to flee, was not enough to destroy the Qing. As long as the Qing are still viable, I think Zeng will be inclined to side with them.
  3. varyar Who?

    Dec 14, 2007
    Thanks, very helpful!

    I'm leaning towards the first scenario, too. War and chaos in the capital leads to the imperials being killed (by accident or design - history will be unclear on that front) and the survivors flee first to Manchuria (hee, Northern Qing) and eventually to Japan as Zeng consolidates control over China and invades the northeast. Mostly I just want a rough setting for an AH story I'm starting to contemplate - TTL China in 2019, a homicide detective in Beijing (or Nanjing, if Zeng moves the capital like the Nationalists did) gets involved in shenanigans that vaguely involve a member of the imperial family.
  4. dandan_noodles Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2015
    I've thought about this once or twice, though definitely not an expert. The way I was seeing it, after the war, Zeng believes the Imperial court and regency around the Tongzhi emperor is corrupt, marches north with his victorious army, and takes possession of the state to better guide the emperor in his minority. Zeng dies relatively early after the war, so his younger brother, Zeng Guoquan, who urged his brother to make himself emperor, boots the Qing and enthrones himself as emperor, establishing the Chu(?) dynasty.
    Kaze and varyar like this.
  5. schai Well-Known Member

    Mar 13, 2011
    I suspect that Zeng's unwillingness to rebel was largely due to his poor health. He didn't want to follow the footsteps of Wu Sangui, who would have succeeded if he had a better health.