Thread: What was the Boxer Rebellion?
8/12/2003 10:39pm, #1
Periodically in general discussion someone asks what the Chinese Boxer rebellion was and the answers which come back range from the plausable to the insipid. Most of the answers however, do not appear to be closely linked to written histories of this period and the reader can be forgiven if they are confused by what sounds good verses what is actually true. To explain the Boxer Rebellion I have decided to quote some interesting texts on this subject inserting my usually cranky commentaries in [brackets].
For the martial artist there are several reaasons why these events of 1900 are of interest. The first is that the Boxer's had some sort of martial arts underpinning, which may make their actions a boni fide martial arts revolt. Whenever the Okinawan Karate people write that their karate was created for the purpose of resisting their Japanese invaders (see the Okinawan thread) my response is when was your rebellion? Secondly the Boxer rebellion changed the way martial arts were practiced in China and therefore eventually the world by process of elimination. Given the sheer number of Chinese martial artists who died, it is very likely that China lost much martial arts diversity to ill planned attacks against Western gun wielding soldiers.
The Boxer rebellion first took root on the Shantung peninsula, an outcropping that points towards Korea and which is located approximately 300 miles below Beijing. Shantung providence was especially fertile ground for a rebellion because it had been essentially seized by the Germans as part of the many unfair (i.e. extorted) treaties that China was forced into by the Western powers. Such unfair treaties started with the British Opium war of 1840-42 and included the foreign leasing of areas in 1898. The current Chinese dynasty at the time, the Manchu Dynasty was on its last legs (it would collapse in 1911) because of its inability to modernize itself in the face of western pressure and imperialism, the way Japan had. Not surprisingly the local population hated their foreign intruders and their missionaries whom they viewed as being agents of the Western imperial powers.
Edited by - on August 12 2003 23:22:27
Edited by - on August 13 2003 17:01:50
8/12/2003 11:06pm, #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2003
Yes never have fist fight with man who has gun. Not smart.
8/12/2003 11:16pm, #3
For our first contestant in the "Boxer Rebellion is Right" I submit the words of John King Fairbank who was formally Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History at Harvard University. King wrote one of the classic tomes on U.S. China relations called "The United States and China". I will be quoting from the fourth edition, enlarged, put out in 1983 by the Harvard Press. Since John was born in 1907 his language at times is a bit archaic.
"The activity of revolutionists and reformers abroad was paralled in the 1900s by the belated reform efforts of the dynasty at home. In this effort to save itself by changing it spots, the Manchu government was given a compelling impulse by the Boxer uprising of 1900, which had the makings of a traditional peasant rebellion but laacked even the social objectives of the Taiping Movement. It was led by fanatical members of a secret society, who eventually got support from xenophobic officials and gentry. The gentry violently resented both the obvious aggressions of imperialism and the less spectacular rise of a new class of Christian converts and proteges under the wing of foreign missions and the protection of extraterritoriality. [the treaties forced China to give up the right to try westerners in their courts, perhaps this protection was expanded to their local minions as well.] Manchu princes finally supported this bitter and superstitious effort to expel the foreigner by relying on the magic 'invulnrability' of Boxer braves. [ooo Braves? ethnocentric language anyone?]
In the end armed provocation by foreign troops was partly responsible for the outbreak of violence against foreigners. In this sudden frenzy the Boxers killed many thousands of Chinese Christians and some 242 missionaries and other foreign civilians in North China and Manchuria. For two months in the hot summer of 1900 they beseiged the foreign community in the Peking legations, [Beijing Embassies] yet the attack was never pushed home because leading Manchus realized its suicidal futility. Chinese officials in the southern providences quickly asserted that this was a domestic rebellion, not the anti-foreign war which Peking declared it to be. By this fiction the dynasty was preserved for another decade, though further humbled by the Boxer Protocol and indemnity of 1901." pages 210, 212.
Last edited by Sam Browning; 5/12/2004 11:15pm at .
8/13/2003 12:06am, #4
Oral history involves the use of people's spoken memories to generate a historical record where no written documentation exists. Years ago I stumbled across Ida Pruitt's "A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman" (Stanford University Press: Stanford, Ca, 1945, 1967). Ida Pruitt interviewed one Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai over several years in China primarily to obtain anthropological type information on Chinese customs of "childbirth and marriage and death". (page 1) Pruitt ended up generating a quite interesting oral history which mostly took place in P'englai [using the Wade-Giles translation of its Chinese name], a city on the Northern coast of the Shantung peninsula. At the time she told her story to Pruitt, Ning Lao Tai-t'ai was rather an elderly woman, who had spent her life working as a domestic after losing her fisherman husband to his opium addiction. Despite her lowly position Ning comes across as being quite fiesty and opinionated.
"The Boxer madness came to P'englai, but none were killed, nor did I see any altars. The people practiced the arts. They went through the exercizes and fell in rigid spells. One would say, 'I am Kuan Ping.' And another, 'I am Sun Ho.' Another, 'I am Chu Pa-chieh.' [Ed: I have no idea what these names mean!] It was all nonsense. I laughed at them. There were rumors of doors being marked with blood and of wells being poisoned. Rumors fell like snow in winter....
In the printing house was a man named Lu. His wife had been to school and her feet were not bound. She begged me to find her a pair of old bound-footed shoes that she might wear if it came to fleeing. If any were killed it would be the women with natural feet. For a woman to have natural feet was then a sure sign of being connected with the foreigners." (pages 151-152)
Last edited by Sam Browning; 5/12/2004 11:16pm at .
8/13/2003 1:45am, #5
I don't know about the other two names, but Kuan Ping could be the old romanization for Guan Ping, who was a son of Guan Yu (better known as Guan Gung or Guan Di), the Three Kingdoms historical figure and Taoist war god."The morning glory blooms for an hour. It differs not at heart from the giant pine, which lives for a thousand years."
8/13/2003 6:42am, #6
i thought the boxer rebellion was when mike tyson and lennox lewis sued don king for millions!
just kidding! thanks for the history!
8/13/2003 4:58pm, #7
Our next selection is from Jean Chesneaux, Editor 'Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China 1840-1950' (Stanford University Press, Stanford, Ca 1972), pp. 9-10.
"With the increaed foreign pressure on China in the late nineteenth century, the traditional proto-nationalism of the secret societies, which until then had taken the Manchus as the enemy, [because they had originated in Manchuria and were therefore not considered Chinese by many ethnic Han]turned against the West. Its new targets were Catholic and Protestant missions and the forces of economic modernization. The Boxers, for example, were not only a traditional secret society in the religious sense, given to amulets, mediums, and the crude millenarian belief that the natural calamities of 1897-98 heralded a cosmic cataclysm but also a fundamentally anti-foreign organization that attacked Christian missions as a symbol of the foreign penetration of rural China. The fact that several leading Boxers were former boatman from the Grand Canal may help to account for the movement's Luddite [anti-technology] aspects, notably its attacks on telegraph stations and railroads."
[the Grand Canal was a Canal running North to South from just under Beijing down to Hangchow which is south of Shanghai. Orginally started before A.D. 700, is was steadily lengthened by successive dynasties. The grand canal was probably the best North/South commercial route in China before railroads appeared in China in the latter part of the 19th century. The Chinese government also entered into all kinds of debt ridden unfavorable contracts to get such railroads built, which added insult to injury as far as many Chinese were concerned.]
"Though the Boxer Rebellion is often seen as an isolated episode, or a particular 'catastrophe' for China, it was in fact but one episode of many. At the time of the Franco-Chinese war of 1884-85 [Yes, China was considered the 'sick man of Asia' partly because they even lost a war to the French] the Triad Society organized a great strike in the Hong Kong drydocks, that succeeded in barring the use of those facilities to damaged French warships. The anti-French manifestos published in the same period by Liu Yung-fu's Black Flags, who were fighting the French in Tonkin, [The French Colony of what is today Vietnam]show the same streak of popular nationalism, as do the anti-foreign and anti-missionary riots of 1891 in the middle Yangtze region, which were apparently the work of the Ko-lao Hui. Similar proto-nationalist sentiments led by the Hung Hu-tzu in Manchuria to oppose Russian penetration of the region in 1895-1900. Their Luddite attack on the Russian railroad in northern Manchuria, which anticipated the similar attacks of the Boxers, required a veritable military eexpedition, led by four generals to suppress."
From Chapter One, "Secret Societies in China's Historical Evolution" by Jean Chesneaux, pages 1-22.
8/13/2003 6:29pm, #8
Here's a book favored by our very own Pat from Logan. The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1985) is an account of the Soong family which was not an actual Chinese Dynasty but which may have been the most influential family in China between 1911 and 1949.
"Charlie" Soong was a Chinese Christian who was educated in this country and returned home to open a publishing business. Charlie used the proceeds of this business to finance Sun Yat-sen who founded the first Chinese republic after the collapse of the Manchu dynasty in 1911. One of Charlie's daughters married Sun Yat-sen, another married Chiang Kai-Shek and became known as Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, the first lady of the Kuomintang government which was defeated by the Chinese Communists and forced to relocate to Taiwan in 1949. Charlie's other children,notably Harvard educated T.V. Soong, financed Chiang Kai-Shek's rise to power.
Seagrave's book is not favorably looked upon by scholars because he does not have a Ph.D in Chinese history and he has included some gossip in his book. In the sections I will reproduce on the Boxer Rebellion howeever, Seagrave adequately documents his sources, footnoting to various primary sources.
"On their rampage across North China, the Boxers murdered more than two hundred missionaries and fifty of their children, and some twenty thousand 'secondary devils'--Chinese Christians.
Kung was at home on vaction in Shansi in 1900 when the Boxers swept throught his area [which was Southwest of Beijing] Both foreign and Chinese Christians were in grave danger [two sentences omitted] While he was in hiding, 159 foreigners in Shansi were exeecuted, including 137 Protestant missionaries and their children--all his friends. On July 9 at Taiyuan in Kung's home province, there was a particularly grisly scene witnessed by a Chinese convert:
'The first to be led forth was Mr. Farthing (English Baptist). His wife clung to him, but he gently put her aside, and going in front of the soldiers knelt down without saying a word, aand his head was struck off with one blow of the executioner's knife. He was quickly followed by Mr. Hoddle and Mr. Beynon, Drs. Lovitt and Wilson, each of whom was beheaded by one blow of the executioner. Then the Governor, Yu Hsien, grew impatient and told his bodyguard, all of whom carried heavy swords with long handles, to help kill the others. Mr. Stokes, Mr. Simpson, and Mr. Whitehouse were next killed, the last by one blow only, the other two by several.
When the men were finished the ladies were taken. Mrs. Farthering had hold of the hands of her children who clung to her, but the soldiers parted them, and with one blow beheaded their mother. The executioner beheaded all the children and did it skilfully, needing only one blow, but the soldiers were clumsy, and some of the ladies suffered several cuts before death. Mrs. Lovitt was wearing her spectacles and held the hand of her little boy, even when she was killed. She spoke to the people, saying, "We all came to China to bring you the good news of the salvation by Jesus Christ; we have done you no harm, only good, why do you treat us so?" A soldier took off her spectacles before beheading her, which needed two blows.
When the Protestants had been killed, the Roman Catholics were led forward. The Bishop, an old man with a long white beard, asked the Governor why he was doing this wicked deed. I did not hear the Governor give him any answer, but he drew his sword and cut the Bishop across the face one heavy stroke; blood poured down his white beardm and he was beheaded.
The priests and nuns quickly followed him in death. Then Mr. Piggott and his party were led from the district jail which is close by. He was still handcuffed and so was Mr. Robinson. He preached to the people till the very last, when he was beheaded with one blow. Mr. Robinson suffered death very calmly. [I wonder if he was a W.A.S.P. keep a stiff upper lip and all of that upbringing] Mrs. Piggott held the hand of her son, even when she was beheaded, and he was killed immediately after her. The ladies and two girls were also quickly killed.
On that day forty-five foreigners were beheaded in all, thirty-three Protestants and twelve Roman Catholics. A number of native Christians were also killed. The bodies of all were left where they fell till the next morning, as it was evening before the work was finished. During the night they had been stripped of their clothing, rings and watches. The next day they were removed to a place inside the great South Gate, except some of the heads, which were placed in cages on the city wall. All were surprisd at the firmness and quietness of the foreigners, none of whom except two or three of the children cried, or made any noise.'
[note: when the Boxer Rebellion reached Shansi Providence the central authorities themselves were putting Westerners to death, such actions were no longer reserved to the members of this secret society.]
By the time the red-sashed Boxers reached Peking and laid siege to the Legation Quarter, the Manchu government had decided to support the rebellion and declared war on the foreign powers. Six nations [I've read eight in other places] sent contingents of troops to relieve their legations, and make short work of Chinese resistance. Count Alfred von Waldersee, who comanded the Gernan contingent, was given carte blanche by the Kaiser:
'When you meet the foe you will defeat him. No quarter will be given, no prisoners will be taken. Let all who fall into your hands be at your mercy. Just as the Huns a thousand years ago under the leadership of Attila gained a reputation by virtue of which they still live in historical tradition, so may the name of Germany become known in such a manner in China, that no Chinese will ever again even dare look askance at a German.'
Once they had taken Peking, the foreign force went on a binge. The repression that followed by the western troops was far worse than anything perpetrated by the Boxers. Thousands of Chinese were massacred in Peking, and the Forbidden City's palaces were stripped. Pierre Loti, a French naval officer and a widely admired novelist, was stunned by the destruction. [see endnote]
'Silence and solitude within as well as without these walls. Nothing but rubbish and ruin, ruin. The land of rubbish and ashes, and little grey bricks--little bricks, all alike, scattered in countless myriads upon the sites of houses that have been destroyed, or upon the pavement of what once were streets...a city of which only a mass of curious debris is left, after fire and shell have crumbled away its flimsy materials.'
Thousands more Chinese were slain in retribution at Tientsin. [In Shantung Providence] One punative expedition by the Russians at the border village of Blaagovetchensk, where the Chinese had fired a few shots, resulted in the butchery of thousands of Chinese men, women, and children, whose bodies were thrown in the Heilungkiang River." (pages 131-133).
Endnote: Pierre Loti was the nom de plum of Julien Viaud (1850-1923) a French career naval officer. Loti is most famous for his book 'Madam Chrysanthum' which is about a French sailor who on a stop over in Japan buys himself some temporary female company and then whines about how she likes his friend Yves better even though he finds her tiresome after a while. The book was later turned into an opera and later a ballet called 'Madam Butterfly' which was in turn ripped off by the musical 'Miss Saigon', though with every remake the characters seem to become more likable, since its hard to put up with the Loti character in the original book. For more details see http://www.balletmet.org/Notes/ButterflyStory.html
Edited by - on August 13 2003 18:51:34
Last edited by Sam Browning; 5/12/2004 11:21pm at .
8/13/2003 7:44pm, #9
Time for the Chinese version of events. Or at least the Chinese Communist version. The following is part of a Marxist history put out by the Peoples Republic's Foreign Language Press. I should note that the Chinese Communist party views history as a tool for creating a socialist society. To quote Mao Tsetung: "They [the intellectuals] must continue to remould themslves gradually shed their bourgeois world outlook so that they can fully fit in with the needs of the new society and unite with the workers and peasants." Selected Readings From the Works of Mao Tsetung, (Foreign Languages Press, Beijing 1971), pages 457-458.
This Mao quote comes from an essay 'The question of the Intellectuals' which is part of a larger essay titled 'On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People'. The authors of 'A Concise History of China' had their own serious contradictions to handle when writing their section on the Boxer Rebellion.
Should they embrace the Boxers who to put it bluntly were a backwards secret society with quasi religious overtones, who cooperated with the ruling 'feudal' Manchu Dynasty, and who would not have been openly tolerated in the People's Republic? The answer is yes. The authors airbrushed such details away in favor of pursuing an anti-imperialist, peasant uprising theme, which has some degree of truth but which lacks many of the messy elements of reality.
I am posting this text despite its weaknesses because the authors do attempt to answer the question of who the rank and file Boxers were in order to satisfy their own Marxist fetish with class. They provide a useful sequence of events and an interesting view of how the imperial powers reacted to this crisis. If you like the piece tell me so we can all gather unannounced at Vargas's house to sing the Micky Mao song, "Whose the leader of the Party who made this totalitarian ideology for you and me? Micky Mao, Micky Mao, Micky Mao."
The text I am using is Jian Bozan, Shao Xunzheng, and Hu Hua, 'A Concise History of China' (Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1964, 1981), pages 119-124.
"VI. The Yi He Tuan Peasant Movement Against Imperialist Aggression
The Anti-Imperialist Movement of the People as Reflected in the Opposition to Foreign Missionaries. Foreign aggression was intensified following the failure of the reform movement which had counted on royal power as its mainstay. The increased aggression, coupled with the increasingly difficult lot of the common people caused by the burden of taxation, led to the anti-imperialist movement of the Yi He Tuan (Boxers of Righteous Harmony) in the closing years of the nineteenth century. This organization was mainly composed of the peasant masses of North China.
Spontaneous struggles of the lower social strata of the Chinese people against imperialism had continued ever since the failure of the Taiping Revolution. They generally took the form of opposition and resistance to missionaries and mission societies, sent to China by the aggressive foreign powers. Relying upon the special privileges extorted at the point of the bayonet from China by their governments, the missionaries penetrated into the interior of China and engaged in covert spying as well as in open activities designed to enslave the Chinese people. [like opposing foot-binding] These foreign missionaries, particularly the Catholics, established churches and expropriated estates. Backed by the the armed might of their imperialist governments, they threatened local Chinese officials, interfered with the government administration and law suits, and recruited scoundrels as 'converts', [was their a scoundrel depo back then?] using them to oppress the common people. All this fanned the indignation of the Chinese people.
The Yi He Tuan Movement. The great struggle against imprialism which had been brewing among the people for a long time broke out in Shandong in 1899 and quickly took the form of a movement of broad proportions. At first it was led by a secret society known as the Yi He Tuan. Training in boxing was a special feature of this society's activities. Its members were principally peasants, handicraftsmen, transport workers and other low paid workers. The organizaation also included a fair sprinkling of riff-raff and landlords who were victims of religious persecution. It was natural that such a movement, based on the peasantry, should also oppose feudal oppression. But as Shandong was at that tim a victim of aggression by German imperialism, the struggle of the Yi He Tuan was at first directed against the foreign aggressors and the foreign missionaries, the representatives of the aggressive force with whom the Chinese people were in closest contact. The Qing [Manchu] officials of Shandong Province vainly attempted to put down the movement by force. Their action only served to accelerate its tempo.
The Qing rulers had now become so weak that they were unable to cope with events and could only view the rapid spread of the movement with alarm. Moreover, the people's rebellion was taking placein the immediate vicinity of the capital. As the Yi He Tuan was against foreign missionaries they decided to seize its leadership aand use the movement for their own ends. The Yi He Tuan was legally recognized, and even some government officials themselves took paart in the movement in order to gain control of the movement from within. The composition of the leadership became very mixed and led to the adoptation of a new slogan by the Yi He Tuan 'Support the Dynasty and Exterminate the Foreigners'. With the legalization of the Yi He Tuan the movement spread rapidly from Shandong to the neighboring providences and finally to such cities as Beijing and Tianjin. In the summer of 1900 the city of Beijing was almost completely dominated by the Yi He Tuan and there were open attacks on foreign churches and the legations of the imperialist powers.
The Combined Forces of the Imperialist Brigands Against China in 1900. The imperialist powers decided to dispatch their own troops to suppress the Chinese people's revolutionary movement. [the same one coopted by the Manchu dynasty?] The combined forces of the eight powers, Britain, the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Austria advanced on Beijing by way of Dagu and Tianjin. Although the Yi He Tuan had only primitive weapons, it fought bravely against the foreign aggressors. Some of the officers and soldiers of the Qing army also took part in the fighting. The troops of the imperialist powers had superior equipment and indiscriminately killed civilians and burned villages in the course of their advance on Beijing. In August 1900 they marched like robbers into Beijing and sacked the city in seaarch of 'war booty'. The outrages and atrocities--arson, looting, killing, and raping--committed by these aggressive armies in and around Beeijing, Tianjin, and Baoding have seldom been equalled in world history. [or at least not until the Japanese showed up at Nanking on their own in 1937]
When the combined forces of the eight powers broke into Beijing the Qing court, led by Empress Dowager Ci Xi, fled to Xian. Before leaving it [I assume they are referring to the court] denounced the Yi He Tuan as 'rioters' and maade friendly overtures to the aggressive armies, requesting them to suppress the 'rioters' on its behalf. The imperialists declared that they had not come to make war on China but had come to suppress the riots, put down the rebellion, and help the legitimate Chinese government to restore peace and order. Thus, hoodwinked at first by the feudal rulers, the members of the Yi He Tuan became the tragic victims of bloody slaughter by foreign imperialists working in league with the feudal forces at home.
The failure of the Yi He Tuan movement demonstrated that without the leadership of an advanced class it was impossible for a peasant revolution to succeed. [though the Yi He Tuan was much more interested in reaction then revolution] At the time of the movement, China had no independent proletarian class. The newly-born bourgeoisie was weak and lacking in determination, even the democratic revolutionariees among the bourgeoise regarding the movement as a barbarous insurrection. [because it was] Fighting by themselves, the peasant masses could not hope to succeed against the crafty and ferocious feudal ruling class plus the forces of imperialism. Neverless, the Yi he Tuan Movement revealed that among the Chinese peasants there was an immense potential force for the struggle against imperialism and feudalism.
This force, which played an important role in subsequent Chinese history, compelled the imperialists to reconsider their policy towards China. The imperialists realized that if they partitioned China and brought it under their own direct control they would have to deal with countless struggles of the same kind. This caused them to decide to preserve a semblance of 'Chinese independence', return the city of bijing to the feudal Qing rulers, and act as wire-pullers behind the political scene of China.
The 1901 Treaty. While the Yi he Tuan was waging fierce struggles against imperialism in the north, the viceroys and governors of the southern providences adopted an attitude of 'friendly co-operation' towards the imperialist powers. Because of the support received from the latter, they succeeded in suppressing the anti-imperialist movements of the people in central and south China. After the capture of Beijing by the joint forces of the eight imperialist powers, the Qing government appointed Li Hongzhang, then leader of the southern viceroys, to negotiate peace with them. In 1901 Li Hongzhang signeed a protocol with eleven imperialist powers--Britain, the United States, Russia, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. Under its terms China had to pay an indemnity of 450 million taels, spread over a period of thirty-nine years. The total amount including principle and interest was more than 980 million taels. The Qing government was to be held responsible for the suppression of the Chinese people's anti-imperialist activities. Imperialist troops were to be stationed in Bijing and at all strategic points between Beijing, Tianjin and the Shanhaiguan Pass. The fort at Dagu, one of the most important in China's system of national defense, was to be demolished.
After the signing of the Protocol of 1901, the head of the Qing government, Empress Dowager Ci Xi, returned to beijing from Xian, prepared to faithfully serve the imperialist powers and rule with their support. The imperialists felt that the Qing government was still a useful tool despite its corruption, and they could keep it in place with the backing of their armed forces. The march of events was soon to upset this calculation."
Edited by - on August 13 2003 21:37:27
8/13/2003 9:15pm, #10
Nice post SB
Jeremy M. Talbott
Owner of Kungfools, Scourge of Kungfools' joke-based logic, and the Preeminent Force in putting dumbasses like him to bed