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v2.1 Reference

The White Lotus War

Rebellion and Suppression in Late Imperial China

The White Lotus War (1796–1804) in central China marked the end of the Qing dynasty's golden age and the fatal weakening of the imperial system itself. What started as a local rebellion grew into a serious political crisis, as the central government was no longer able to operate its military machine.

Yingcong Dai's comprehensive investigation reveals that the White Lotus rebels would have remained a relatively minor threat, if not for the Qing's ill-managed response. Dai shows that the officials in charge of the suppression campaign were half-hearted about the fight and took advantage of the campaign to pursue personal gains. She challenges assumptions that the Qing relied upon local militias to exterminate the rebels, showing instead that the hiring of civilians became a pretext for misappropriation of war funds, resulting in the devastatingly high cost of the war. The mishandled demilitarization of the militiamen prolonged the hostilities when many of the dismissed troops turned into rebels themselves. The war's long-term impact presaged the beginning of the disintegration of the Qing in the mid-nineteenth century and eruptions of the Taiping Rebellion and other uprisings.

The White Lotus War will interest students and scholars of late imperial and modern Chinese history, as well as history buffs interested in the warfare of the early modern world.

About the Author

Yingcong Dai is professor of history at William Paterson University. She is the author of The Sichuan Frontier and Tibet: Imperial Strategy in the Early Qing.


"A major scholarly achievement. This book will form the basis of our understanding of the White Lotus War for decades."—William T. Rowe, author of Crimson Rain: Seven Centuries of Violence in a Chinese County
University of Washington Press

9780295745459 : the-white-lotus-war-dai
July 7, 2019
$60.00 USD

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The Sichuan Frontier and Tibet

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