White Lotus

Chinese Buddhist millenarian movement that was often persecuted because of its association with rebellion. The movement had roots in 4th-century worship of the Buddha Amitabha, whose devotional cult inspired Mao Ziyuan to form the White Lotus Society, a pious vegetarian group of monks and laity. By the 14th century it had developed into a millenarian sect that combined Maitreyan and Manichaean beliefs and was active in rebellions at the end of the Yuan dynasty. The society became most prominent through its role in the White Lotus Rebellion (1786–1804), a large-scale uprising in central China that contributed to the fall of the Qing dynasty. It was eventually put down by peasants organized into local militia defense corps. Later Chinese governments came to use the term White Lotus for all illegal millenarian groups. Some observers saw the Nian Rebellion of 1852 as well as the secret society behind the Boxer Rebellion as new manifestations of the White Lotus Society.

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(1794) American uprising to protest a federal liquor tax. Farmers in western Pennsylvania rebelled against paying a tax on their locally distilled whiskey and attacked federal revenue collectors. After 500 armed men burned the home of the regional tax inspector, Pres. George Washington ordered 13,000 federal troops to the area. The rebellion quickly dissolved without further violence. The event established the authority of federal law within the states and strengthened support for the Federalists' advocacy of a strong central government.

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(1850–64) Large-scale rebellion against the Qing dynasty and the presence of foreigners in China. The peasants, having suffered floods and famines in the late 1840s, were ripe for rebellion, which came under the leadership of Hong Xiuquan. Hong's visions convinced him he was the younger brother of Jesus, and he saw it as his duty to free China from Manchu rule. He preached the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people under God; property was to be held in common. His followers' militant faith unified a fiercely disciplined army that swelled to more than a million men and women (women were treated as equals by Taiping rebels). They captured Nanjing in 1853 and renamed it Tianjing (“Heavenly Capital”). Their attempts to capture Beijing failed, but an expedition into the upper Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) valley scored many victories. Hong's idiosyncratic Christianity alienated both Western missionaries and the Chinese scholar-gentry. Without the gentry, the Taiping forces were unable to govern the countryside or supply their cities effectively. The leadership strayed from its original austerity and descended into power struggles that left Hong without competent help. In 1860 an attempt to take Shanghai was repelled by U.S.- and British-led forces, and by 1862 Chinese forces under Zeng Guofan had surrounded Nanjing. The city fell in 1864, but almost 100,000 of the Taiping followers preferred death to capture. Sporadic resistance continued elsewhere until 1868. The rebellion ravaged 17 provinces, took some 20 million lives, and left the Qing government unable to regain an effective hold over the country. Seealso Li Hongzhang; Nian Rebellion.

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(1786–87) Uprising in western Massachusetts. In a period of economic depression and land seizures for debt collection, several hundred farmers led by Daniel Shays (1747?–1825), who had served as a captain in the Revolutionary army, marched on the state supreme court in Springfield, preventing it from carrying out foreclosures and debt collection. Shays then led about 1,200 men in an attack on the nearby federal arsenal, but they were repulsed by troops under Benjamin Lincoln. As a result of the uprising, the state enacted laws easing the economic condition of debtors.

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or Nien Rebellion

(circa 1852–68) Rebellion in northern China during the Qing dynasty. The Nian, a secret society, was probably a reincarnation of the White Lotus Society; it attracted poor peasants, salt smugglers, and army deserters who used guerrilla hit-and-run tactics to attack the wealthy and redistribute the plundered goods among the needy. They took over local militias and formed their own armies. They were finally crushed by Li Hongzhang, who defeated them using modern weapons and blockade lines. Seealso Taiping Rebellion.

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or Easter Rebellion

(1916) Republican insurrection in Ireland against the British, which began on Easter Monday, April 24. Led by Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, some 1,560 Irish Volunteers and 200 members of the Irish Citizen Army seized the Dublin General Post Office and other strategic points in Dublin. After five days of fighting, British troops put down the rebellion, and 15 of its leaders were tried and executed. Though the uprising itself had been unpopular with most of the Irish, the executions caused revulsion against the British authorities. The uprising heralded the end of British power in Ireland.

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Rebellion beginning in 755 in China led by An Lushan (703–757), a general of non-Chinese origin. An Lushan rose through the ranks of the Tang-dynasty army in the 740s, becoming a military governor and a favourite of the emperor, Xuanzong. In 755 he turned his troops on the eastern capital city, Luoyang, and after taking it he proclaimed himself emperor. Six months later his forces took Chang'an, the western capital. He was murdered in 757, and the rebellion was put down in 763. The Tang government was much weakened, however, and the second half of the Tang dynasty and the subsequent Five Dynasties period were troubled by chronic warlordism.

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Rebellion is a refusal of obedience.It may therefore be seen as encompassing a range of behaviours from civil disobedience and mass nonviolent resistance, to violent and organized attempts to destroy an established authority such as the government. Those who participate in rebellions are known as "rebels".

Throughout history, many different groups that opposed their governments have been called rebels. In the United States, the term was used for the Continentals by the British in the Revolutionary War, and the Confederacy by the Union in the American Civil War. It also includes members of paramilitary forces who take up arms against an established government.

Most unarmed rebellions have not been against authority in general, but rather have sought to establish a new government in their place. For example, the Boxer Rebellion sought to implement a stronger government in China in place of the weak and divided government of the time. The Jacobite Risings (called "Jacobite Rebellions" by the government) attempted to restore the deposed Stuart kings to the thrones of England and Scotland, rather than abolish the monarchy completely.

Types of rebellion

A violent rebellion is sometimes referred to as an insurgency, while a larger conflict may escalate into a civil war. There are a number of terms that fall under the umbrella of rebel, and they range from those with positive connotations to those with pejorative connotations. Examples include:

  • Nonviolent resistance or civil disobedience, which do not include violence or paramilitary force
  • Resistance movement, which is carried out by freedom fighters, often against an occupying foreign power
  • Revolution, which is carried out by radicals, usually meant to overthrow the current government
  • Uprising, which is carried out by militants
  • Revolt, a term that is sometimes used for a more localized rebellions rather than a general uprising
  • Mutiny, which is carried out by military or security forces against their commanders
  • Subversion, which are non-overt attempts at sabotaging a government, carried out by spies or other subversives
  • Terrorism, which is carried out by different kinds of political or religious extremists


See also

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