During and after the Taiping Civil War (1851–64), the notion of the Other was implicated in the provocation and mediation of violence and, as a result, acquired a multitude of new meanings and manifestations. Focusing on the discourse surrounding the Taiping War, this article explores the multiple political, moral, and cultural implications embedded in the idea of otherness. Unpacking the propaganda discourse of both the Taiping rebels and the Qing government, the author investigates the making of the political enemy by opposing regimes. In particular, the construction of a religious and political enemy is vital to Taiping identity formation. The author focuses on marginal figures in historical and fictional accounts who traverse political boundaries and constitute a third category beyond demarcations of “us” and Other in Taiping propaganda and its Qing counterpart. In short stories, however, these figures are subject to moral judgment and thus subsumed under another form of normative narrative involving otherness. Only in the realm of fantasy and imagination are political and moral efforts to construct and modulate otherness finally called into question. This article explores the acute malleability of the Other during the violent and chaotic Taiping Civil War and in its aftermath.

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