The Boxer Rebellion was a violent uprising against foreigners by a group of Chinese that wanted to rid China of foreigners and foreign influences. It occurred after China's humiliating defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and the partitioning of much of the east coast of China among the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Russia and Germany through trade concessions. This resulted in resentment towards foreigners among ordinary Chinese.
In 1900, Chinese insurgents known as the Righteous Fists of Harmony (and dubbed the Boxers by foreigners) rose against both the Qing dynasty and Western influences. Christian missionaries and Chinese Christians were slain, as were foreign diplomats and their families. To blunt the Boxers’ threat to the dynasty, Cixi sided with them against the Westerners. But troops sent by a coalition of eight nations, including England, Japan, France and the United States, put down the Boxer rebellion in a matter of months. [Source: Owen Edwards, Smithsonian magazine, October 2011]
The Chinese also resented Western technologies such as railroads, steamboats and telegraph lines putting Chinese out of work. Westerns were blamed for all kinds of tragedies---droughts, plagues and floods---and accused of stealing babies and filling ships with cargoes of "eyes and female nipples" bound for Western medicine cabinets. Many Chinese also believed that priests smeared themselves with menstrual blood, nailed naked women and fetuses to the Christian cross, and made flags from the pubic hair of 10,000 women.
Book: The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston.
Foreigners in China: 19th Century Tea Trade in China Harvard Business School ; Early Chinese Emmigrants to America: Central Pacific Railroad Museum cprr.org/Museum ; Chinese Americans Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Taiping Rebellion: Taiping Rebellion.com taipingrebellion.com ; Wikipedia Taiping Rebellion article Wikipedia ; Books About Taiping Rebellion questia.com; Boxer Rebellion National Archives archives.gov/publications ; Modern History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall ; San Francisco 1900 newspaper article Library of Congress ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Cox Rebellion PhotosCaldwell Kvaran ; Eyewitness Account fordham.edu/halsall ; Sino-Japanese War.com sinojapanesewar.com ; Wikipedia article on the Sino-Japanese War Wikipedia ;
Good Websites and Sources on the Opium War : Emperor of China’s War on Drugs Opioids.com ; Good Images from the Period on MIT’s Visualizing Cultures MIT’s Visualizing Cultures , MIT’s Visualizing Cultures , MIT’s Visualizing Cultures and MIT’s Visualizing Cultures ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Websites on the Qing Dynasty Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Qing Art cosmopolis.ch ; Qing Dynasty Explained drben.net/ChinaReport ; Recording of Grandeur of Qing learn.columbia.edu Court Life During the Time of Empress Dowager Cixi etext.virginia.edu
Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)
Books: 1) The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston; 2). Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War by Stephen R. Platt (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012). Platt is an associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 3) God's Chinese Son by Yale's Jonathan Spence is also about the Taping Rebellion. Other Books from the period. The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China by Julia Lovell (Picador, 2011); 2) China: Alive in the Bitter Sea by Fox Butterfield; 3) China: A New History by John K. Fairbank; 4) China's Imperial Past: An Introduction to Chinese History by Charles O. Hucker; 5) In Search of Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence; 6) The Chan's Great Continent: China to Western Minds by Jonathan Spence (Norton, 1998). 7) Cambridge History of China multiple volumes (Cambridge University Press); 8) The Last Emperors: A Social History of the Qing Imperial Institutions by Evelyn S. Rawski (University of California Press, 1999); 9) Sea of Poppies by Amitva Ghosh (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008) is a novel set during the Opium Wars mostly in India but also in China that was shortlisted listed for the Man Booker Prize. You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com.
The Boxer Rebellion was named after the Boxers, a 40,000-member secret organization actually called the "Righteousness and Harmony Society." Violently anti-western, they were called Boxers because they engaged in martial art rituals and the Chinese word for "society" sounded like the English word "fist."
The future American president Herbert Hoover was in Beijing at the time of the Boxers Rebellion. Of the Boxers he wrote, "Their avowed purpose was to expel all foreigners from China, to root out every foreign thing---houses, railways, telegraphs, mines---and they included all Christian Chinese and all Chinese who had been associated with foreign things."
The Boxers wore turbans and red sashes and believed themselves to be to invulnerable to bullets fired from foreign weapons. Before the Boxer Rebellion they perpetrated isolated attacks and murders mostly against "foreign-tainted" Chinese.
Websites and Resources
Foreigners in China: Tales of Old Shanghai earnshaw.com/shanghai-ed ;19th Century Tea Trade in China Harvard Business School ; Early Chinese Emmigrants to America: Brown Quarterly brownvboard.org ; Central Pacific Railroad Museum cprr.org/Museum ; Chinese Americans Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Taiping Rebellion Taiping Rebellion.com taipingrebellion.com ; Taiping Rebellion article academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu ; Wikipedia Taiping Rebellion article Wikipedia ; Books About Taiping Rebellion questia.com
Boxer Rebellion National Archives archives.gov/publications ; Modern History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall ; San Francisco 1900 newspaper article Library of Congress ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Cox Rebellion PhotosCaldwell Kvaran ; Eyewitness Account fordham.edu/halsall ;
Links in this Website: QING DYNASTY factsanddetails.com/china ; OPIUM WARS PERIOD factsanddetails.com/china ; OPIUM AND ILLEGAL DRUGSfactsanddetails.com : FOREIGNERS AND CHINESE IN THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES factsanddetails.com/china ; factsanddetails.com/china ; EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI, LAST EMPEROR AND ATTEMPTED REFORMS factsanddetails.com/china ; SUN YAT-SEN AND ATTEMPTS AT CHINESE DEMOCRACYfactsanddetails.com/china ; WARLORDISM AND CHIANG KAI-SHEK factsanddetails.com/china
Good Websites and Sources on the Opium War : Emperor of China’s War on Drugs Opioids.com ; Good Images from the Period on MIT’s Visualizing Cultures MIT’s Visualizing Cultures , MIT’s Visualizing Cultures , MIT’s Visualizing Cultures and MIT’s Visualizing Cultures ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Opium War article homestead.com ; Books: China: Alive in the Bitter Sea by Fox Butterfield; China: A New History by John K. Fairbank; China's Imperial Past: An Introduction to Chinese History by Charles O. Hucker; In Search of Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence; The Chan's Great Continent: China to Western Minds by Jonathan Spence (Norton, 1998). Sea of Poppies by Amitva Ghosh (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008) is a novel set during the Opium Wars mostly in India but also in China that was shortlisted listed for the Man Booker Prize.
Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) Brooklyn College site academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge chinaknowledge.de ; 5) China History Forum chinahistoryforum.com ; 6) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; 7 ) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia 20th Century History China History Virtual Library
Boxers Rebellion Violence
The Boxers besieged foreign neighborhoods, attacked foreign soldiers and killed a handful of foreign residents while chanting:
Burn, burn, burn, kill, kill, kill...
Surely government bannermen are many;
Certainly foreign soldiers a horde;
But if each of people spits once
They will drown bannermen and invaders together
[Source: Poems of Revolt, 1962]
One of the worst episodes took place on June 13, when the Boxers set fire to a mission compound occupied by 200 Chinese Christian converts. "Between sword and flames,” the North China Daily News reported, "the whole lot of those unfortunate converts were either ruthlessly slain or burned to cinders." Some of the Chinese converts were tortured and decapitated: their heads and entrails displayed to besieged foreigners.
Foreigners Besieged by the Boxers
The primary event of the Boxer Rebellion was a siege by a force of 25,000 Boxers against 4,000 people from 18 nations holed up in Tientsin, a foreign settlement in Beijing, protected by 1,700 Russian soldiers and 1,100 sailors and marines from several countries.
The siege lasted for two months. The besieged Europeans quickly ran out food but not alcohol. Trying to make the best of the situation they continued to dress for dinner and indulge themselves in the plentiful supplies of champagne while they ate mule shoulder stew.
Describing the measures taken to defend themselves, Hoover wrote, "In hunting for materials for barricades we hit upon the great godowns [warehouses] filled with sacked sugar, peanuts, rice and other grain. Soon we and other foreigners whom I enlisted and a thousand terrified Christian Chinese were carrying and piling up walls of sacked grain and sugar along the exposed sides of the town and at cross streets."
Assaults on the barricades by Boxers, accompanied by a 250,000-person mob and 80,000 Chinese troops, were repulsed by marines and sailors. Exaggerated reported that Boxers were torturing and beheading foreigners found their way to the foreign press. One described a professor who was tortured for three days and decapitated and his head was displayed on a spike. Some people inside in Tientsin were discussing how they would shoot their wives and children if the Boxers got too close. But in the end few foreigners were killed or hurt
End of the Boxers Rebellion
A multinational force of 20,000 troops---made up mainly of soldiers from Britain the United States, Russia, France and Japan---was dispatched from the coast of China to Beijing. The assemblage of force showed unusual cooperation considering that all the nations involved were global rivals at the time.
The multinational army arrived after 55 days and quickly put down the rebellion. Describing the arrival of the first Western forces, Hoover wrote, "We saw them coming over the plain. They were American and Welsh Fusilers. I do not remember a more satisfying musical performance than the bugles of the American marines entering the settlement."
The Boxers were driven off into the plains around Tientsin and many were rounded up. Thousands were machine-gunned down at the Pai River. Further north Russian troops drowned thousands of Chinese in the Amur River. According to one account 247 missionaries, 66 diplomatic personnel and 30,000 Chinese Christians were killed in the rebellion but these figures are considered wildly exaggerated.
After the rebellion, China was forced to pay $330 million in reparations; Western armies occupied and plundered Beijing; and the Qing dynasty was forced to accept foreign armies posted in China. The United States Open Door Policy (1899) led to the American involvement in the Boxer Rebellion and other incidents around the globe and helped establish the United States as a world power. Shock waves caused by the rebellion and by the reparations demanded by the outraged world powers sent military and political convulsions through China for the rest of the 20th century.
Cixi survived, but with a reputation for cruelty and treachery. She needed help dealing with the foreigners clamoring for greater access to her court. So her advisers called in Lady Yugeng, the half-American wife of a Chinese diplomat, and her daughters, Deling and Rongling, to familiarize Cixi with Western ways.
Imperial Reform Edict Issues After the Boxer Rebellion
According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “In the wake of the Boxer Uprising (1899-1901) and the catastrophic foreign intervention that that movement precipitated, the imperial government reconsidered the need for fundamental reforms. Government reform had already been attempted, and rejected, in 1898 when Kang Youwei (1858-1927) and his colleagues temporarily ran the imperial government, with the support of the Guangxu Emperor (1871-1908, r.1875-1908), until the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) ousted them. A mere three years later, however, the Empress Dowager issued the edict below. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]
According to the “Reform Edict of the Qing Imperial Government (January 29, 1901)”: “Certain principles of morality (changjing) are immutable, whereas methods of governance (zhifa) have always been mutable. The Classic of Changes states that “when a measure has lost effective force, the time has come to change it.” And the Analects states that “the Shang and Zhou dynasties took away from and added to the regulations of their predecessors, as can readily be known.” Now, the Three Mainstays (Bonds) [ruler/minister, parent/child, and husband/ wife] and the Five Constant Virtues [humaneness, rightness, ritual decorum, wisdom, and trustworthiness] remain forever fixed and unchanging, just as the sun and the stars shine steadfastly upon the earth. Throughout the ages, successive generations have introduced new ways and abolished the obsolete. Our own august ancestors set up new systems to meet the requirements of the day. [Source: Reform Edict of the Qing Imperial Government (January 29, 1901) issued by the Empress Dowager Cixi, 1835-1908 from “Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century”, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 285-287; Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]
“Laws and methods (fa) become obsolete and, once obsolete, require revision in order to serve their intended purpose of strengthening the state and benefiting the people. It is well known that the new laws propounded by the Kang rebels were less reform laws (bianfa) than lawlessness (luanfa). These rebels took advantage of the court’s weakened condition to plot sedition. It was only by an appeal to the Empress Dowager to resume the reins of power that the court was saved from immediate peril and the evil rooted out in a single day. <|>
“How can anyone say that in suppressing this insurrectionary movement the Empress Dowager declined to sanction anything new? Or that in taking away from and adding to the laws of our ancestors, we advocated a complete abolition of the old? We sought to steer a middle course between the two extremes and to follow a path to good administration. Officials and the people alike must know that mother and son [the Empress Dowager and the Guangxu emperor] were activated by one and the same motive. <|>
“We have now received Her Majesty’s decree to devote ourselves fully to China’s revitalization, to suppress vigorously the use of the terms new and old, and to blend together the best of what is Chinese and what is foreign. The root of China’s weakness lies in harmful habits too firmly entrenched, in rules and regulations too minutely drawn, in the overabundance of inept and mediocre officials and in the paucity of truly outstanding ones, in petty bureaucrats who hide behind the written word and in clerks and yamen runners who use the written word as talismans to acquire personal fortunes, in the mountains of correspondence between government offices that have no relationship to reality, and in the seniority system and associated practices that block the way of men of real talent. The curse of our country (Ch. “guojia, J. kokka) lies in the one word si, or “private advantage”; the ruin of our realm lies in the one word li, or “narrow precedent.” Those who have studied Western methods up to now have confined themselves to the spoken and written languages and to weapons and machinery. These are but surface elements of the West and have nothing to do with the essentials of Western learning. Our Chinese counterparts to the fundamental principles upon which Western wealth and power are based are the following precepts, handed down by our ancestors: “to hold high office and show generosity to others,” “to exercise liberal forbearance over subordinates,” “to speak with sincerity,” and “to carry out one’s purpose with diligence.” But China has neglected such deeper dimensions of the West and contents itself with learning a word here and a phrase there a skill here and a craft there, meanwhile hanging on to old corrupt practices of currying favor to benefit oneself. If China disregards the essentials of Western learning and merely confines its studies to surface elements that themselves are not even mastered, how can it possibly achieve wealth and power? To sum up, administrative methods and regulations must be revised and abuses eradicated. If regeneration is truly desired, there must be quiet and reasoned deliberation. <|>
“We therefore call upon the members of the Grand Council, the Grand Secretaries, the Six Boards and Nine Ministries, our ministers abroad, and the governors.general and governors of the provinces to reflect carefully on our present sad state of affairs and to scrutinize Chinese and Western governmental systems with regard to all dynastic regulations, state administration, official affairs, matters related to people’s livelihood (minsheng), modern schools, systems of examination, military organization, and financial administration. Duly weigh what should be kept and what abolished, what new methods should be adopted and what old ones retained. By every available means of knowledge and observation, seek out how to renew our national strength, how to produce men of real talent, how to expand state revenues and how to revitalize the military. The first essential, even more important than devising new systems of governance (zhifa), is to secure men who govern well (zhi ren). Without new systems, the corrupted old system cannot be salvaged; without men of ability, even good systems cannot be made to succeed. … Once the appropriate reforms are introduced to clear away abuses, it will be more than ever necessary to select upright and capable men to discharge the functions of office. Everyone, high and low: take heed! The Empress Dowager and we have long pondered these matters. Now things are at a crisis point where change must occur, to transform weakness into strength. Everything depends upon how the change is effected. <|>
Image Sources: Boxer Rebellion, Ohio State University Columbia University, Nolls website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html
Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated November 2016