Barbarians at the Gate

Yaqub Beg’s Western Uprising1 min read

The rebel general whose demise led to the provincializing of Xinjiang

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

Muhammad Yaqub Beg (1820-1877) was an adventurer and soldier of fortune who led a massive rebellion against the Qing Empire in what is today Western China. From his humble origins as a petty mercenary, he exploited a weakened Qing, carved out a kingdom in the desert and drew the attention of the world’s great powers. Ultimately, his rebellion was crushed by Qing forces led by General Zuo Zongtang (of the eponymous chicken dish), and his demise paved the way for the provincializing of Xinjiang by the Qing. In this old episode of Barbarians at the Gate, Jeremiah Jenne and James Palmer look at the life and times of this daring general and what his legacy means for Western China today: