User:Madalibi/Boxers (new structure)

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This is a proposed new structure for Boxer Rebellion.


The Boxers and their precursors[edit]

The term "Boxer". Chinese writers who were hostile to the Boxers referred to them as "boxer (or boxing) bandit" (quanfei 拳匪), whereas non-hostile writings called them "Boxers United in Righteousness" (Yihequan 义和拳) or the more formal "Militia United in Righteousness" (Yihetuan 义和团).[1] In these appellations, "Yihe" is often rendered as "Righteous and Harmonious" or "Righteous Harmony," but as both Chinese and some Westerners understood it at the time, this term referred to people who united together for the sake of righteousness.[2]

The Big Sword Society, one of the precursors of the Boxers movement, emerged in southwest Shandong, a low-lying region prone to natural disasters, with a high population density but little gentry presence.[3] It was also infamous for being a center of "endemic banditry".[4]

Long tradition of sectarian activities and martial arts, though not necessarily related.

  • Spirit Boxers (神拳)
  • Guan county Boxers
  • Patriarch's Assembly (祖師會)
  • Plum-Flower Boxers (梅花拳)
  • Big Sword Society (大刀會)
  • Yi-he Boxers (義和拳)

Historical background[edit]

The treaties and conventions that ended the Second Opium War granted Westerners the freedom to travel anywhere in the empire, and Chinese subjects the right to practice Christianity. They also allowed Catholic missionaries to purchase land and to erect buildings on them. The most-favored-nation clause extended these protections to Protestant missionaries.[5] In 1861, the Legation Quarter was established just south of the Imperial City in Beijing to host permanent foreign delegations.

In the decades that followed, Christian missionary activity boomed and contributed to clashes between local Chinese on the one hand and missionaries and their Chinese converts on the other (Cohen, Esherick). In the 1880s, an aggressive branch of the Catholic Church called the German "Society of the Divine Word" started sending missionaries to China; their meddling in local judicial matters created social tensions in Shandong province. The Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) depleted the normal quota of Qing troops stationed in that province, creating a vacuum in which the Boxer movement would thrive.[6] In the spring of 1895, the imperial court ordered officials to annihilate the bandits that had been plaguing the border between Shandong and Jiangsu. Shandong officials enlisted the help of the Big Swords Society, one of the precursors of the Boxers, helping the Big Swords become a powerful local player in southwestern Shandong.[7]

Origins of the Boxers[edit]

Model of a Boxer, armed with a spear and sword.
Model by George S. Stuart

The Righteous and Harmonious Fists (Yihequan) arose in the inland sections of the northern coastal province of Shandong, long known for social unrest, religious sects, and martial societies. American Christian missionaries were probably the first to refer to the well-trained, athletic young men as "Boxers", because of the martial arts and weapons training they practiced. Their primary practice was a type of spiritual possession which involved the whirling of swords, violent prostrations, and chanting incantations to deities.[8] The opportunities to fight back Western encroachment and colonization were especially attractive to unemployed village men, many of whom were teenagers.[9] The tradition of possession and invulnerability went back several hundred years but took on special meaning against the powerful new weapons of the West.[10] The Boxers, armed with rifles and swords, claimed supernatural invulnerability towards blows of cannon, rifle shots, and knife attacks. Furthermore, the Boxer groups popularly claimed that millions of soldiers of Heaven would descend to assist them in purifying China of foreign oppression.[11] These beliefs are characteristic of millenarian movements of nativist resistance, especially the characteristic magical belief, shared by the Ghost Dancers of North America and the Kartelite Cults of Africa, that the believer could be rendered invulnerable to bullets.[12]

In 1895, in spite of ambivalence toward their heterodox practices, Yuxian, a Manchu who was then prefect of Caozhou and would later become provincial governor, used the Big Swords Society in fighting bandits. The Big Swords, emboldened by this official support, also attacked their local Catholic village rivals, who turned to the Church for protection. The Big Swords responded by attacking Catholic churches and burning them. "The line between Christians and bandits", remarks one recent historian, "became increasingly indistinct." As a result of diplomatic pressure in the capital, Yuxian executed several Big Sword leaders, but did not punish anyone else. More martial secret societies started emerging after this.[13]

A Boxer during the revolt

The early years saw a variety of village activities, not a broad movement with a united purpose. Martial folk religious societies such as the Baguadao (Eight Trigrams) prepared the way for the Boxers. Like the Red Boxing school or the Plum Flower Boxers, the Boxers of Shandong were more concerned with traditional social and moral values, such as filial piety, than with foreign influences. One leader, Zhu Hongdeng (Red Lantern Zhu), started as a wandering healer, specializing in skin ulcers, and gained wide respect by refusing payment for his treatments.[14] Zhu claimed descent from Ming dynasty emperors, since his surname was the surname of the Ming imperial family. He announced that his goal was to "Revive the Qing and destroy the foreigners" ("扶清灭洋 fu Qing mie yang").[15]

Causes of conflict and unrest[edit]

The combination of extreme weather conditions, Western attempts at colonizing China and growing anti-imperialist sentiment fueled the movement. First, a drought followed by floods in Shandong province in 1897–1898 forced farmers to flee to cities and seek food. As one observer said, "I am convinced that a few days' heavy rainfall to terminate the long-continued drought ... would do more to restore tranquility than any measures which either the Chinese government or foreign governments can take."[16]

A French political cartoon depicting China as a pie about to be carved up by Queen Victoria (Britain), Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany), Tsar Nicholas II (Russia), Marianne (France) and a samurai (Japan), while a Chinese mandarin helplessly looks on.

A major cause of discontent in north China was missionary activity. The Treaty of Tientsin (or Tianjin) and the Convention of Peking, signed in 1860 after the Second Opium War, had granted foreign missionaries the freedom to preach anywhere in China and to buy land on which to build churches.[17] On 1 November 1897, a band of armed men who were perhaps members of the Big Swords Society stormed the residence of a German missionary from the Society of the Divine Word and killed two priests. This attack is known as the Juye Incident. When Kaiser Wilhelm II received news of these murders, he dispatched the German East Asia Squadron to occupy Jiaozhou Bay on the southern coast of the Shandong peninsula. [18] Germany's action triggered a "scramble for concessions" by which Britain, France, Russia and Japan also secured their own sphere of influence in China.[19]

In October 1898, a group of Boxers attacked the Christian community of Liyuantun village where a temple to the Jade Emperor had been converted into a Catholic church. Disputes had surrounded the church since 1869, when the temple had been granted to the Christian residents of the village. This incident marked the first time the Boxers used the slogan "Support the Qing, destroy the foreigners" ("扶清灭洋 fu Qing mie yang") that would later characterise them.[20] The "Boxers" called themselves the "Militia United in Righteousness" for the first time one year later, at the Battle of Senluo Temple (October 1899), a clash between Boxers and Qing government troops.[21] By using the word "Militia" rather than "Boxers", they distanced themselves from forbidden martial arts sects, and tried to give their movement the legitimacy of a group that defended orthodoxy.[22]

Aggression toward missionaries and Christians drew the ire of foreign (mainly European) governments.[23] In 1899, the French minister in Beijing helped the missionaries to obtain an edict granting official status to every order in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, enabling local priests to support their people in legal or family disputes and bypass the local officials. After the German government took over Shandong many Chinese feared that the foreign missionaries and quite possibly all Christian activities were imperialist attempts at "carving the melon", i.e., to divide and colonize China piece by piece.[24] A Chinese official expressed the animosity towards foreigners succinctly, "Take away your missionaries and your opium and you will be welcome."[25]

The early growth of the Boxer movement coincided with the Hundred Days' Reform (11 June – 21 September 1898). Progressive Chinese officials, with support from Protestant missionaries, persuaded the Guangxu Emperor to institute reforms which alienated many conservative officials by their sweeping nature. Such opposition from conservative officials led Empress Dowager Cixi to intervene and reverse the reforms. The failure of the reform movement disillusioned many educated Chinese and thus further weakened the Qing government. After the reforms ended, the conservative Empress Dowager Cixi seized power and placed the reformist Guangxu Emperor under house arrest.

The national crisis was widely seen as being caused by foreign aggression.[26] Foreign powers had defeated China in several wars, forced a right to promote Christianity and imposed unequal treaties under which foreigners and foreign companies in China were accorded special privileges, extraterritorial rights and immunities from Chinese law, causing resentment among the Chinese. France, Japan, Russia and Germany carved out spheres of influence, so that by 1900 it appeared that China would likely be dismembered, with foreign powers each ruling a part of the country. Thus, by 1900, the Qing dynasty, which had ruled China for more than two centuries, was crumbling and Chinese culture was under assault by powerful and unfamiliar religions and secular cultures.[27]

Boxer War[edit]

Intensifying crisis[edit]

Chinese Muslim troops from Gansu, also known as the Gansu Braves, killed a Japanese diplomat on 11 June 1900. Foreigners called them the "10,000 Islamic rabble."[28]

In January 1900, with a majority of conservatives in the imperial court, Empress Dowager Cixi changed her long standing policy of suppressing Boxers, and issued edicts in their defence, causing protests from foreign powers. In spring 1900, the Boxer movement spread rapidly north from Shandong into the countryside near Beijing. Boxers burned Christian churches, killed Chinese Christians and intimidated Chinese officials who stood in their way. American Minister Edwin H. Conger cabled Washington, "the whole country is swarming with hungry, discontented, hopeless idlers." On 30 May the diplomats, led by British Minister Claude Maxwell MacDonald, requested that foreign soldiers come to Beijing to defend the legations. The Chinese government reluctantly acquiesced, and the next day an international force of 435 navy troops from eight countries disembarked from warships and travelled by train from Dagu (Taku) to Beijing. They set up defensive perimeters around their respective missions.[29]

On 5 June, the railway line to Tianjin was cut by Boxers in the countryside and Beijing was isolated. On 11 June, at Yongding gate, the secretary of the Japanese legation, Sugiyama Akira, was attacked and killed by the soldiers of general Dong Fuxiang, who were guarding the southern part of the Beijing walled city.[30] Armed with Mauser rifles but wearing traditional uniforms,[31] Dong's troops had threatened the foreign Legations in the fall of 1898 soon after arriving in Beijing,[32] so much that troops from the United States Marine Corps had been called to Beijing to guard the legations.[33] The German Kaiser Wilhelm II was so alarmed by the Chinese Muslim troops that he requested the Caliph Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire to find a way to stop the Muslim troops from fighting. The Caliph agreed to the Kaiser's request and sent Enver Pasha (not the future Young Turk leader) to China in 1901, but the rebellion was over by that time.[34]

Also on 11 June, the first Boxer, dressed in his finery, was seen in the Legation Quarter. The German Minister, Clemens von Ketteler, and German soldiers captured a Boxer boy and inexplicably executed him.[35] In response, thousands of Boxers burst into the walled city of Beijing that afternoon and burned many of the Christian churches and cathedrals in the city, burning some victims alive.[36] American and British missionaries had taken refuge in the Methodist Mission and an attack there was repulsed by American Marines. The soldiers at the British Embassy and German Legations shot and killed several Boxers,[37] alienating the Chinese population of the city and nudging the Qing government toward support of the Boxers. The Muslim Gansu braves and Boxers, along with other Chinese then attacked and killed Chinese Christians around the legations in revenge for foreign attacks on Chinese.[38]

The Boxers' expansionist phase (Fall 1899 – Spring 1900)[edit]

The Road to War[edit]

The Seymour Expedition[edit]

Siege of the Legations[edit]

Lifting of the Siege[edit]


The uprising left Russia in military control of Manchuria and a large part of Zhili (Huenemann 61) THey relinquished their Zhili position in order to consolidate their position in Manchuria (Huenemann 62). Their pursuit of territorial concessions in Manchuria led to the formation of the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1902 Manchurian Convention (8 April 1902). When Russian troops did not proceed to their scheduled withdrawal in 1903 (Hueneman 65-66) led Japan to attack Russia in February 1904

The Boxer Protocol[edit]

Long-term consequences[edit]


  1. ^ Cohen 1997, p. 16
  2. ^ Esherick 1987, p. 154; Cohen 1997, p. 303, note 5.
  3. ^ 1987, p. 13.
  4. ^ 1987, pp. 18, 19-23.
  5. ^ Cohen 1997, pp. 552–53.
  6. ^ Cohen 1997, p. 17.
  7. ^ Cohen 1997, p. 19.
  8. ^ Thompson, Larry Clinton (2009), William Scott Ament and the Boxer Rebellion: Heroism, Hubris, and the Ideal Missionary, Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., Inc., p. 7
  9. ^ Cohen (1997), p. 114.
  10. ^ Esherick (1987), pp. xii, 54- 59, 96, etc..
  11. ^ Lanxin Xiang (2003). The origins of the Boxer War: a multinational study. Psychology Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-7007-1563-0. 
  12. ^ Landes, Richard (17 July 2008), "Millennialism", in James R Lewis, The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, OUP USA, p. 342, ISBN 978-0-19-536964-9 
  13. ^ Cohen (1997), p. 19.
  14. ^ Cohen (1997), p. 27–30.
  15. ^ Lanxin Xiang (2003). The origins of the Boxer War: a multinational study. Psychology Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-7007-1563-0. 
  16. ^ Thompson (2009), p. 9.
  17. ^ Esherick (1987), p. 77.
  18. ^ Esherick (1987), p. 123.
  19. ^ Esherick (1987), p. 129–30.
  20. ^ Esherick (1987), p. 143–144, 163.
  21. ^ Esherick (1987), p. 253.
  22. ^ Esherick (1987), p. 32.
  23. ^ Spence (1999) pp. 231–232.
  24. ^ Esherick (1987), Ch 3 "Imperialism for Christ's Sake", pp. 68–95.
  25. ^ Thompson (2009), p. 12.
  26. ^ Cohen (1997), p. 114.
  27. ^ Thompson (2009), p. 7–8.
  28. ^ Lynn E. Bodin (1979). The Boxer Rebellion. Osprey. pp. 26, 40. ISBN 0-85045-335-6. 
  29. ^ Thompson (2009), p. 42.
  30. ^ Preston (2000), p. 70.
  31. ^ Elliott (2002), p. 126.
  32. ^ Lanxin Xiang (2003). The origins of the Boxer War: a multinational study. Psychology Press. p. 207. ISBN 0-7007-1563-0. 
  33. ^ Chester M. Biggs (2003). The United States Marines in North China, 1894–1942. McFarland. p. 25. ISBN 0-7864-1488-X. 
  34. ^ Kemal H. Karpat (2001). The politicization of Islam: reconstructing identity, state, faith, and community in the late Ottoman state. Oxford University Press US. p. 237. ISBN 0-19-513618-7. 
  35. ^ Weale, B. L. (Bertram Lenox Simpson), Indiscreet Letters from Peking. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1907, pp. 50–1.
  36. ^ Robert B. Edgerton (1997). Warriors of the rising sun: a history of the Japanese military. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 70. ISBN 0-393-04085-2. 
  37. ^ Morrison, p. 270
  38. ^ Sterling Seagrave; Peggy Seagrave (1992). Dragon lady: the life and legend of the last empress of China. Knopf. p. 320.