Yellow Turban Rebellion

From Anarchy In Action
Map showing the Yellow Turban Rebellion in Eastern Han Dynasty of China.

China's Yellow Turban rebellion lasted from 184 to 205 CE. John Clark refers to the "Taoist Yellow Turbans, a revolutionary, egalitarian movement of the second century."[1]

Ngo Van Xuyet elaborates:

The members of the Taoist cults, which the powerful considered to be “Demon Religions” (guidao) that were opposed to the official orthodox cults, were condemned to death. The torture of a religious teacher and the execution of more than one thousand adepts of the Taiping Dao in Luoyang, the capital, led to an insurrection during the second month of 184. The insurgents wore, as a symbol of their membership in the cult, a yellow turban, the color of the Yellow Heaven, for which reason they were called Yellow Turbans, or Ant-Rebels because of their vast numbers.

They seized several cities, important urban centers in Shandong and Henan provinces, despite the resistance of the imperial troops of Luoyang. The government officials fled or were killed. Government buildings were burned. After they seized the cities of Shandong and Henan, they occupied the mountainous region of Taishan (between Shanxi and Shandong) in 185 A.D.; in 186, they took Shanxi, Hubei and Leaotong; and in 188, Shaanxi. The patriarch Zhang Jiao and his two brothers Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang died early in the fighting and imperial repression caused terrible devastation and thousands of insurgents were killed. This did not prevent the Yellow Turbans from raising an army of several hundred thousand men in various provinces. Despite their defeat, their influence persisted.[2]

  1. "Anarchism" in Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, edited by Bron Taylor (London: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005), 54.
  2. Ngo Van Xuyet, "Ancient utopia and peasant revolts in China," Libcom,