On twitter last week, Shanghai-based author and historian Derek Sandhaus (@dsandhaus for those who are tweet-ready) made the following comment:
I thought…wow, who wins in a Lizard King/Taiping smackdown?
So…channeling my inner Bill Simmons channeling his Dr. Jack, here is the breakdown:
Jim Morrison and his dead Indians, Hong Xiuquan and the Manchu demons, flaming swords, and the whole “God is my father” dream sequence in which he was commanded to purge the Earth of evil. EDGE: Hong Xiuquan
Educational achievement? Morrison famously walked out of UCLA film school and formed a rock and roll band that performed on Ed Sullivan. Hong just as famously flunked the provincial-level exams, had a nervous breakdown, and formed a God-Worshipping Society which went on to nearly topple an empire in a massive war that cost the lives of as many as 30 million people. EDGE: Hong Xiuquan
God complex? Hong Xiuquan was perhaps a bit clearer in his claims to be God’s son, but anyone who plays balance beam on the Venice Beach sea wall loudly proclaiming “I am the Lizard King, I can do anything” definitely has a sense of his own inner beast-deity. Still, son of God trumps getting in touch with your personal reptile. BIG Edge: Hong Xiuquan
Women? Well, we know Hong kept quite the harem even as he was attempting to get his followers into single-sex barracks (didn’t work too well). Jim Morrison may or may not have been married to Pamela Morrison (née Courson) while he also participated in a Wiccan wedding ritual binding him to the rock journalist Patricia Kennealy. And then there were the groupies. I suppose we can argue over who had more groupies, certainly Hong’s were better organized — that whole ‘harem’ thing again — but I can’t get over the hypocrisy of the Taiping leaders. EDGE: Jim Morrison
(Weird, but sort of relevant, social media note. On my Facebook page it once said “Connect with Patricia Kennealy: 1 Mutual Friend.” I thought…nah. Sure enough, it was THAT Patricia Kennealy. I’m still waiting for her to accept my friend request, perhaps if I hadn’t signed it “The Gecko Prince” she would have gotten back to me sooner…)
Supporting Cast? Jim Morrison had The Doors. I know people will disagree, but I love The Doors musically. Hong Xiuquan heavily relied on his back-up musicians, notably Yang Xiuqing and Shi Dakai but Jim Morrison had the good sense not to make Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger “kings” nor did John Densmore claim to speak with the voice of God (thus technically outranking Hong who was only God’s #2 son). Edge: Jim Morrison
Life after death? Both died relatively young and under mysterious circumstances. The Taiping tried to carry on under Hong Xiuquan’s 15-year-old son, who presided over the sack of the Taiping capital and was executed less than six months after taking the throne. After Jim Morrison’s death, the surviving Doors made the Other Voices album with the surviving Doors taking over vocalist duties. Hmmm….having your son lose your kingdom and then be killed in a painful and gruesome execution or listening to Ray Manzarek sing? Edge: Hong Xiuquan
Jim Morrison is awesome, but hey…Hong was an icon of bad-assdom before it was cool. I’m giving it to Hong. Feel free to disagree in the comments section.