Origins of the Boxers
The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, whose members would come to be known by foreigners as the Boxers, was a secret society founded in the northern coastal province of Shandong consisting largely of people who had lost their livelihoods due to imperialism and natural disasters.. Other factors that contributed to the growth of the Boxers included opium addiction and religion.
Beliefs and Practices
Westerners came to call the well-trained, athletic young men "Boxers" due to the martial arts and calisthenics they practiced. The Boxers' primary feature is spirit possession, which involved the whirling of swords, violent prostrations, and chanting incantations to Taoist and Buddhist spirits. When the spirit possession had been achieved, the boxers would allegedly obtain invulnerability against guns and cannon.
The Boxers believed that they could, through training, diet, martial arts and prayer perform extraordinary feats, such as flight, and could become immune to swords and bullets. Further, they popularly claimed that millions of spirit soldiers would descend from the heavens and assist them in purifying China of foreign influences.
Stuff that doesn't have a home yet
Several secret societies in Shandong predated the Boxers. In 1895, the Manchu Yuxian, a magistrate in the province, acquired the help of the Big Swords Society in fighting against bandits. Although the Big Swords had heterodox practices, they were not bandits and were not seen as such by Chinese authorities. Their efficiency in defeating banditry led to a flood of cases overwhelming the magistrates, to which the Big Swords responded by executing the bandits that were apprehended. The Big Swords relentlessly hunted the bandits, but the bandits converted to Catholic Christianity, gaining them legal immunity from prosecution and also placed them under the protection of the foreigners. The Big Swords responded by attacking bandit Catholic churches and burning them. As a result, Yuxian executed several Big Sword leaders, but did not punish anyone else. More secret societies started emerging after this.
Chinese Christians also filed false lawsuits and caused major religious disputes.
After the Hundred Days' Reform failed, the conservative Empress Dowager Cixi seized power and placed the reformist Guangxu Emperor under house arrest. The European powers were sympathetic to the imprisoned emperor, and opposed Cixi's plan to replace the Guangxu emperor. Empress Dowager Cixi decided to use Boxers to expel foreign influences from China which would also weaken the Boxers. Thus, the Boxer slogan became "support the Qing, destroy the Foreign." (扶清灭洋) 
One Boxer leader, Zhu Hongdeng (Chu Hung-teng) (Name means red lantern Zhu) claimed descent from Ming dynasty Emperors, his surname, Zhu, was the same surname as the Ming Imperial Family, and he announced that his goal was "Fan Ch'ing Fu Ming" (Fan Qing Fu Ming) (Overthrow Qing to Restore Ming). It was changed to "Fu Ch'ing Mieh Yang" (Fu Qing Mie Yang) (Support Qing, Destroy Foreigners).
Aggression arising from religious and racial intolerance towards the growing numbers of Christian missionaries and their converts, who were protected under the policy of extraterritoriality, as well as increasing European immigration gained the attention of foreign powers, particularly those of Europe.
- G. William Skinner divided China into eight "macroregions": "North China [located along the coast], Northwest China [inland, west of North China], the Lower, Middle and Upper Yangzi [all three ranging, in succession, from the coast to the western border], the Southeast Coast, Lingnan (centered on Canton) and the Southwestern region around Yunnan and Guizhou" (Esherick 1987, 3-4)
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