With the aid of Li Hongzhang (1823-1901), Feng was finally able to take back his hometown of Suzhou from the Taiping Rebels. Li immediately made Feng his top advisor, and began promoting and enacting many of Feng’s ideas on self-strengthening from Dissenting Views from a Hut near Bin.
In 1865, following Feng’s guidance, Li also had the first modern arsenals established in Shanghai, Suzhou and Nanjing to manufacture Western munitions. One of Li’s arsenals, just outside the south gate of Nanjing’s old city walls, still stands today as a modern urban housing development known as 1865. These developments supported Feng’s thinking that if China should prioritize studying Western military tactics and technology, which Feng had begun to study through his dealings with foreign generals in the concessions of Shanghai.