Red Turbans Rebellion of 1351–68

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Red Turbans Rebellion of 1351–68


(Red Troops’ Rebellion of 1351–68), a rebellion in China that led to the overthrow of the yoke of the Mongol, or Yüan, Dynasty and to the establishment of the Ming empire. The rebellion consisted of several uprisings united under the general name “Red Turbans” (after the insurgents’ emblem, a red headcloth).

A peasant uprising began in northern China under the leadership of Han Shan-t’ung (head of the secret Buddhist sect of Pai-lien chiao, or the White Lotus Society) and Liu Fu-t’ung (a member of the Pai-lien chiao). After Han Shan-t’ung’s death in 1351, Liu Fu-t’ung became the de facto head of the rebels. In addition to being anti-Mongol, the rebellion was also antifeudal.

In 1355 the rebels proclaimed the restoration of the Chinese Sung Empire, headed by the son of Han Shan-t’ung, Han Lin-erh, who was declared emperor by the rebels. In 1358 the rebels besieged the city of Tatu (Peking), capital of the Mongol emperors. In 1359 they took Pienliang (Kaifeng), captured Shantung, and went as far northeast as Korea. In 1362 government troops, reorganized with the support of Chinese feudal overlords, succeeded in crushing the rebellion. Liu Fu-t’ung perished and Han Lin-erh fled to central China to join Chu Yüan-chang, who was the leader of the insurgent movement in that area.

A second peasant uprising, in central China, began in 1351 (along the middle course of the Yangtse River). It was also led by members of the Pai-lien chiao. In this region the rebellion, headed by Hsü Shou-hui and Ch’en Yu-liang, took on a primarily antifeudal orientation.

A peasant uprising began along the lower course of the Yangtse in 1352. A wealthy townsman, Kuo Tsu-hsing, was the leader of the insurgent detachments, which acted under the leadership of the Pai-lien chiao. Soon, Kuo Tsu-hsing was joined by the Buddhist monk Chu Yüan-chang, who became the former’s closest aide. In 1353, Chu Yüan-chang formed his own independent detachment. Kuo Tsu-hsing and Chu Yüan-chang gradually moved apart from the other leaders of the peasantry and sought collaboration with the local feudal overlords, who were striving to direct the rebellion into the channel of a purely anti-Mongol struggle.

In 1356, Chu Yüan-chang became the sole head of the rebellion in the lower Yangtse region. After going over to the side of the feudal lords in the mid-1350’s, he proceeded to crush the peasant revolts, one after another, along the middle course of the Yangtse until he also brought this part of the country under his sway.

In 1367, the army of Chu Yüan-chang began its northern campaign against the Mongol rulers. In early 1368, Chu Yüan-chang proclaimed the establishment of the Ming Empire and became its first emperor. In mid-1368 his army took the Mongol capital of Tatu, and Mongol rule in China was overthrown.

The movement of Chu Yüan-chang, unlike the uprisings of Liu Fu-t’ung and Hsü Shou-hui, did not have an antifeudal orientation, but it completed the task of national liberation begun by Liu Fu-t’ung’s peasant rebels.


Borovkova, L. A. Vosstanie “Krasnykh voisk” ν Kitae. Moscow, 1971. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.