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In: Debating War in Chinese History
In: Debating War in Chinese History
In: China's Encounters on the South and Southwest
In: Culture, Courtiers, and Competition


While much has been written about the impact (or not) of Western intervention in the latter stages of the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1866), comparatively little attention has heretofore been directed towards the impact of the riverine campaigns and the combined land-river operations whereby the Qing steadily reduced the scope of Taiping control and tightened the cordon around their heavenly capital at Nanjing. Strategists such as Hu Linyi and Zuo Zongtang recognized the importance of riverine warfare and sought to build a Qing flotilla capable of meeting its military needs. Furthermore, the experience gained in riverine operations against the Taipings would later be applied in Zuo Zongtang’s campaigns in northwest China and Central Asia to great effect. Using Zuo’s personal accounts, contemporary newspaper reports, and other primary sources, this article highlights significance of rivers and riverine operations for the extension and maintenance of empire in late Qing China.

In: Journal of Chinese Military History