Imperial Decree on events leading to the signing of Boxer Protocol
The Imperial Decree on events leading to the signing of Boxer Protocol (Chinese: 光緒二十六年十二月二十六日諭; pinyin: Guāngxù èrshíliù nián shí'èr yuè èrshíliù rì yù; literally: "Decree of the 26th day of the 12th month of the 26th year of Guangxu") is a royal decree issued by the Qing dynasty in the name of Guangxu Emperor, as an official imperial statement on historical events such as Boxer Rebellion, Eight-Nation Alliance and Battle of Peking and Siege of the International Legations, detailing instructions given to Prince Qing and Li Hongzhang as the full representatives of the Royal Court in negotiating a peace treaty with the Foreigner Powers, prior to the official signing of the Boxer Protocol on 7 September 1901. This Royal Decree was officially issued in the name of Guangxu Emperor, bearing his official Royal Seal, who was in reality under house arrest, ordered by Empress Dowager Cixi at that time, as the full administrative power was in the hand of the Empress.
In the times leading to the signing of Boxer Protocol, the Manchu Imperial Court had issued many decrees in the name of Guangxu Emperor, but historically all political decisions came from Empress Dowager.
- Decree on Day Tenth of May(lunar calendar), Empress Dowager stressed that:" No matter they are christian converts or boxer association members, they are all patriots, the Imperial Court treat them as equal, christian and boxers are the same".
- Decree on Day Nineteen of May(lunar calendar), on this day, a total of five decrees were issued. Decree No1:" I hereby order Nine Gates Infantry Commander to command various Imperial soldiers, plus the Peking Field Force, the Tiger Gods Division, with cavalry, in addition of Wuwei Middle Troop, to suppress these bandits, to intensify searching patrol; to arrest and execute immediately all criminals with weapons who advocate killing. ". Again on decree No4 of the same day, another Imperial order was given to Ronglu, the supreme commander of Nine Gates Infantry Commander:"Ronglu is to send an efficient troops of Wuwei Middle Troop swiftly, to the Peking Legation Quarter, to protect all the diplomatic buildings, no errors are to be tolerated."
- Decree on Day Twenty Fourth of May(lunar calendar), on this decree, Empress Dowager was requesting military and financial assistance from viceroys of the South Eastern provinces, at the same time, the Empress was ordering viceroys to form a joint military force to launch military attacks against foreigners. This decree was rejected by Li Hongzhang and other viceroys.
- Qing dynasty Royal Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers, this decree was the Qing dynasty's official declaration of war against 11 foreign powers. However, according to Lanxin Xiang:
|“||"The official declaration of war was worded in such a strange manner that it indicate nothing more than the strongest form of a persona non grata note... In effect it was designed to bluff and deter."
Quotation from Lanxin Xiang: The origins of the Boxer War: A multinational study. Page xi
This decree was issued one week after the Declaration of war when Imperial soldiers were ordered to fight the foreigners, showing that the Imperial Court was serious about protecting the legation staff, and the chief commander in charge of protection is Grand Scholar Ronglu.
The Imperial Decree begins with events in Summer of 1900, when Price Qing and Li Hongzhang being given the mandate of full attorney to negotiate with the Foreign Powers diplomats for a cease fire and a peace treaty, blaming the boxers bandits for the rebellion which plunged Peking into total chaos, while Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi took refuge to the western provinces for a "hunting trip". Guangxu Emperor then instructed the two attorney:
to fully utilize China's resources in offering foreign nations to their total satisfaction. (Original Chinese text: 量中華之物力，結與國之歡心; literal translation: Give them whatever China can afford, just keep them happy.)
, then went on to state:
the Royal Court has suffered unspeakable hardship and disgrace, it is the Royal Court's obligation to give a clear explanation to all my ministers and all people under the Heaven.
The Imperial Decree then stated that it was conflicts and disputes between Boxers and Chinese Christians converts that started the disaster, resulting in Guangxu Emperor and Empress Dowager "were frightened and in danger... extreme confusion, sadness and pain", so much so that they were ready to die for the country, (Original Chinese text: 朕與皇太后誓欲同殉社稷，上謝九廟之靈). In this context, the Decree then argues that it was wrong to accuse the Imperial Court for supporting the Boxer Bandits, because the Court had issued many decrees with orders to offer protection for the Chinese catholic, at the same time to ban and eliminate the rioting boxers, to stop them from "continue to create chaos that will plunge the country into extinction". (Original Chinese text: 既苦禁諭之俱窮，復憤存亡之莫保)"
The Decree then place the full blame on boxer bandits for the upheaval:
tens of thousands of rebels, daring to wear red scarfs and carrying knives, roamed the capital, burned and looted churches, besieged and attacked foreign embassies.
County magistrates were accused of being bias in dealing with Christians related disputes, and princes and ministers "were jealous of the military might of the foreigners, did not understand their own shortcomings, were taken in by the devils and the fake. Believing in the magic power of the Boxers", they began to provide boxers with rations and weapons, while the Emperor's specific orders to capture the leaders of boxer bandits went unanswered.
The Decree then emphasizes on the peace treaty, points out:"the Manchu Empire sovereignty is kept intact, no territorial land annexation had been requested", reminding the Royal subjects that unlike many other Unequal treaty of the past, when there was usually land annexation, though the Royal Court is:"resentful of (boxer bandits) ignorant violent acts, in retrospect, a mix of regret and anger." and also emphasizes on "several decrees were directed at the Zongli Yamen, requesting ministers to go and stop any aggressive attacks and offer solace to the diplomats,".
The Decree provides an answer to the all important historical question: Why didn't all the foreigners been killed in this siege of nearly two months?
Had the foreign legations being subjected to the full force of bombardment, would those buildings still be intact today? The reason why worse disasters had been avoided, was precisely because the Imperial Court intervened with full force, even frequently sending fruits and beverage to the foreigners. All you foreigners need to understand, and show appreciation that the Empress Dowager has a kind heart.
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- Xiang, Lanxin (30 December 2002). The Origins of the Boxer War: A Multinational Study. Routledge. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-7007-1563-3. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- Diana Preston (2000). The boxer rebellion: the dramatic story of China's war on foreigners that shook the world in the summer of 1900. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 312. ISBN 0-8027-1361-0. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- The Boxer Rebellion Coalition Expeditionary Operations in China Author: Maj Glen G. Butler Originally published in October 2003 Marine Corps Gazette