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Gordon G. ChangPlatt's fine work is not a comprehensive history. Instead, it is, as he writes, an attempt to relay what it was like to live through the tumultuous events. He does this by concentrating on a handful of central figures, especially the Shield King, Hong Rengan, and the commander of the Qing dynasty's armies, Zeng Guofan, a Confucian scholar turned general…The emphasis on individuals permits Platt to give us an engaging narrative, which begins with Hong Rengan's perilous escape to Hong Kong in 1852, but he has written more than just a history of personalities. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom hints at broad themes, putting the Taiping upheaval in the context of events outside the sprawling Qing empire.
—The New York Times Book Review