Various interpretations have been offered to explain the nature of Taiping society. The earliest ones were given by those who witnessed the progress of the movement and who either took part in suppressing and ultimately destroying it or suffered as victims of its wanton destruction. The attitude of this group is exemplified by Tseng Kuo-fan's “Proclamation, ” Chang Te-chien's Tse-ch'ing hui-tsuan (Prepared by order of Tseng)a, Ku Shen's Hu-hsüeh shenghuan chi (Narrow escape from the tiger's den), b Ming Hsin Tao Jen's Fa-i ch'uchi (The first account of the hair rebels), Ch'en Hsi-ch'i's Yüeh-i hsien-ning shih-mo chi (A complete account of the occupation of Hai-ning by the Yüeh rebels), c and a host of others. These accounts, as Teng Chih-ch'eng remarked in his “Preface to Wang Shih-to's I-ping jih-chi (Wang's diary), because of the fact that the authors were the actual victims, “only give tragic scences of burning and massacre and condemn the unorthodox and vulgar nature of the institutions and writings [of the rebels].

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