Boxer Rebellion

Boxer Rebellion

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict= The Boxer Rebellion
partof=| campaign=

caption=Boxer forces in Tianjin
date=2 November 1899–7 September 1901
casus=Unequal Treaties, discontent of continuing Western and Japanese encroachment in China against the weak Qing Dynasty
result=Alliance victory
Eight-Nation Alliance (ordered by contribution):flagicon|Empire of Japan Japan
flagicon|Russia Russia
flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
flagicon|France France
flagicon|United States|1896 United States
flagicon|German Empire Germany
flagicon|Italy|1861 Italy
flagicon|Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary
combatant2=Righteous Harmony Society (Boxers)
flagicon|Qing Dynasty China
commander1=flagicon|United Kingdom|size=23px Edward Seymour
flagicon|German Empire|size=23px Alfred Graf von Waldersee
commander2=flagicon|Qing Dynasty Ci Xi
strength1=20,000 initially 49,000 total
strength2=50,000–100,000 Boxers
70,000 Imperial troops
casualties1=2,500 soldiers,
526 foreigners and Chinese Christians
casualties2="All" Boxers,
? Imperial troops
casualties3=Civilians = 18,952+

The Boxer Rebellion, or Boxer Movement, was an uprising by members of the Chinese Society of Right and Harmonious Fists against foreign influence in China, in such areas as trade, politics, religion and technology. The campaigns took place from November 1899 to 7 September 1901, during the final years of Manchu rule in China under the Qing Dynasty.

The members of the Society of Right and Harmonious Fists were simply called "Boxers" by the Westerners due to the martial arts and calisthenics they practiced. The uprising began as an anti-foreign, anti-imperialist peasant-based movement in northern China. They attacked foreigners who were building railroads (railways) and violating Feng shui, as well as Christians, who were held responsible for the foreign domination of China.

In June 1900, the Boxers invaded Beijing and killed 230 foreign diplomats and foreigners. Some Chinese Christians were also killed, mostly in Shandong and Shanxi Provinces as part of the uprising. The government of Empress Dowager Cixi was not helpful, and diplomats, foreign civilians, soldiers and some Chinese Christians retreated to the legation quarter where they held out for fifty-five days until a multi nation coalition rushed 20,000 troops to their rescue. The Chinese government was forced to indemnify the victims and make many additional concessions. Subsequent reforms implemented after the crisis of 1900 led, at least in part, to the end of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the modern Chinese Republic.

The uprising

The Imperial court's Self-Strengthening Movement. One of the first signs of unrest appeared in a small village in Shandong province, where there had been a long dispute over the property rights of a temple between locals and the Roman Catholic authorities. The Catholics claimed that the temple was originally a church abandoned for decades after the Kangxi Emperor banned Christianity in China. The local court ruled in favor of the church, and angered villagers who claimed the temple for rituals. After the local authorities turned over the temple to the Catholics, the villagers (led by the Boxers) attacked the church building.

The exemption of missionaries from many Chinese laws further alienated some Chinese. Marshall Broomhall pointed to the policy pursued by Catholic missionaries. In 1899, with the help of the French Minister in Peking, they obtained an edict from the Chinese Government granting official rank to each order in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The Catholics, by means of this official status, were able to more powerfully support their people and oppose Mandarins. [Broomhall (1901), 7.]

The early months of the movement's growth coincided with the Hundred Days' Reform (11 June–21 September 1898), during which the Guangxu Emperor of China sought to improve the central administration, though the process was reversed by several court reactionaries. After the Boxers were mauled by loyal Imperial troops in October 1898, they dropped their anti-government slogans and turned their attention to foreign missionaries (such as those of the China Inland Mission) and their converts, whom they saw as agents of foreign imperialist influence.

:Veteran missionary Griffith John noted afterward::cquote|"It is the height of folly to look at the present movement as anti-missionary. It is anti-missionary as it is anti-everything that is foreign...The movement is at first and last an anti-foreign movement, and has for its aim the casting out of every foreigner and all his belongings." [Broomhall (1901), 10.]

Now with a majority of conservative reactionaries in the Imperial Court, the Empress Dowager issued edicts in defence of the Boxers, drawing heated complaints from foreign diplomats in January, 1900. In June 1900 the Boxers, now joined by elements of the Imperial army, attacked foreign compounds in the cities of Tianjin and Peking. The legations of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States, Russia and Japan were all located on the Legation Quarter close to the Forbidden City in Peking. The legations were hurriedly linked into a fortified compound that became a refuge for foreign citizens in Peking. The Spanish and Belgian legations were a few streets away, and their staff were able to arrive safely at the compound. The German legation on the other side of the city was stormed before the staff could escape. When the Envoy for the German Empire, Klemens Freiherr von Ketteler, was murdered on 20 June by a Manchu banner man, the foreign powers demanded redress. On 21 June Cixi declared war against all Western powers, but regional governors refused to cooperate. Shanghai's Chinese elite supported the provincial governors of southeastern China in resisting the imperial declaration of war. [Chen (1994).]

iege in Peking

The fortified legation compound in Peking remained under siege from Boxer forces from 20 June to 14 August. Under the command of the British minister to China, Claude Maxwell MacDonald, the legation staff and security personnel defended the compound with one old muzzle-loaded cannon; it was nicknamed the "International Gun" because the barrel was British, the carriage was Italian, the shells were Russian, and the crew were from the United States.

Foreign media described the fighting going on in Peking as well as the alleged torture and murder of captured foreigners. Whilst it is true that thousands of Chinese Christians were massacred in north China, many horrible stories that appeared in world newspapers were based on a deliberate fraud [ Preston (2000) Page 173-4.] . Nonetheless a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment arose in Europe, the United States and Japan. [Elliott (1996)]

The poorly armed Boxer rebels were unable to break into the compound, which was relieved by an international army of the Eight-Nation Alliance in July.

Eight-Nation Alliance

The rebellion was stopped by an alliance of eight nations consisting of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Foreign navies started building up their presence along the northern China coast from the end of April 1900. On 31 May, before the sieges had started and upon the request of foreign embassies in Beijing, an International force of 435 navy troops from eight countries were dispatched by train from Takou to the capital (75 French, 75 Russian, 75 British, 60 U.S., 50 German, 40 Italian, 30 Japanese, 30 Austrian); these troops joined the legations and were able to contribute to their defence.

First intervention (Seymour column)

As the situation worsened, a second International force of 2,000 marines under the command of the British Vice Admiral Edward Seymour, the largest contingent being British, was dispatched from Takou to Beijing on 10 June. The troops were transported by train from Takou to Tianjin (Tien-Tsin) with the agreement of the Chinese government, but the railway between Tianjin and Beijing had been severed. Seymour however resolved to move forward and repair the rail or such as the train, or progress on foot as necessary, keeping in mind that the distance between Tianjin and Beijing was only 120 kilometers.

After Tianjin however, the convoy was surrounded, the railway behind and in front of them was destroyed, and they were attacked from all parts by Chinese irregulars and even Chinese governmental troops. News arrived on 18 June regarding attacks on foreign legations. Seymour decided to continue advancing, this time along the Pei-Ho river, towards Tong-Tcheou, 25 kilometers from Beijing. By the 19th, they had to abandon their efforts due to progressively stiffening resistance, and started to retreat southward along the river with over two hundred wounded. Commandeering four civilian Chinese junks along the river, they loaded all their wounded and remaining supplies onto them and pulled them along with ropes from the riverbanks. By this point, they were very low on food, ammunition and medical supplies. Luckily, they then happened upon The Great Hsi-Ku Arsenal, a hidden Qing munitions cache that the western powers had no knowledge of until then. They immediately captured and occupied it, discovering not only German Krupp made field guns, but rifles with millions of rounds in ammunition, along with millions of pounds of rice. Further, medical supplies were ample too. There they dug in and awaited rescue. A Chinese servant was able to infiltrate through the boxer and Qing lines, informing the western powers of their predicament. Surrounded and attacked nearly around the clock by Qing troops and boxers, they were at the point of being overrun. On 25 June however a regiment composed of 1800 men, (900 Russian troops from Port-Arthur, 500 British seamen, with an ad hoc mix of other assorted western troops) finally arrived. Spiking the mounted field guns and setting fire to any munitions that they could not take (an estimate £3 million worth), they departed the Hsi-Ku Arsenal in the early morning of 26 June, with the loss of 62 killed and 228 wounded. [Account of the Seymour column in "The Boxer Rebellion", pgs 100-104, Diane Preston]

econd intervention

With a difficult military situation in Tianjin, and a total breakdown of communications between Tianjin and Beijing, the allied nations took steps to reinforce their military presence significantly. On 17 June, they took the Taku Forts commanding the approaches to Tianjin, and from there brought increasing numbers of troops on shore.

The international force, with British Lieutenant-General Alfred Gaselee acting as the commanding officer, called the Eight-Nation Alliance, eventually numbered 54,000, with the main contingent being composed of Japanese soldiers: Japanese (20,840), Russian (13,150), British (12,020), French (3,520), U.S.(3,420), German (900), Italian (80), Austro-Hungarian (75), and anti-Boxer Chinese troops. [ [ Russojapanesewarweb] ] The international force finally captured Tianjin on 14 July under the command of the Japanese colonel Kuriya, after one day of fighting.

Notable exploits during the campaign were the seizure of the Taku Forts commanding the approaches to Tianjin, and the boarding and capture of four Chinese destroyers by Roger Keyes. The march from Tianjin to Beijing of about 120 km consisted of about 20,000 allied troops. On 4 August there were approximately 70,000 Imperial troops with anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 Boxers along the way. They only encountered minor resistance and the battle was engaged in Yangcun, about 30 km outside Tianjin, where the 14th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. and British troops led the assault. However, the weather was a major obstacle, extremely humid with temperatures sometimes reaching 110 °F (43Celsius).

The International force reached and occupied Beijing on 14 August. The United States was able to play a secondary, but significant role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion largely due to the presence of U.S. ships and troops deployed in the Philippines since the U.S conquest of the Spanish American and Philippine-American War. In the United States military, the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion was known as the China Relief Expedition.

The end of rebellion

A large international expeditionary force under the command of German general Alfred Graf von Waldersee arrived too late to take part in the main fighting, but undertook several punitive expeditions against the Boxers. Troops from most nations engaged in plunder, looting and rape. German troops in particular were criticized for their enthusiasm in carrying out Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany's 27 July order::cquote|"Make the name German remembered in China for a thousand years so that no Chinaman will ever again dare to even squint at a German. [Eugene, Melvin. Sonnenburg, Penny M. [2003] (2003). Digitized 2006. Colonialism: An International, Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia. ISBN 1576073351] The speech, in which Wilhelm invoked the memory of the 5th century Huns, gave rise to the British derogatory name "Hun" for their German enemy during World War I and World War II.


On 7 September 1901, the Qing court was compelled to sign the "Boxer Protocol" also known as Peace Agreement between the Eight-Nation Alliance and China. The protocol ordered the execution of ten high-ranking officials linked to the outbreak, and other officials who were found guilty for the slaughter of Westerners in China.

China was fined war reparations of 450,000,000 tael of fine silver (around 67.5 million pounds approximately equal to US$6.653 billion today. [] ) for the loss that it caused. The reparation would be paid within 39 years, and would be 982,238,150 taels with interests (4% per year) included. To help meet the payment, it was agreed to increase the existing tariff from an actual 3.18% to 5%, and to tax hitherto duty-free merchandise. The sum of reparation was estimated by the Chinese population (roughly 450 million in 1900), to let each Chinese pay one tael. Chinese custom income and salt tax were enlisted as guarantee of the reparation. Russia got 30% of the reparation, Germany 20%, France 15.75%, Britain 11.25%, Japan 7.7% and the US share was 7%. [Hsu, 481]

China paid 668,661,220 taels of silver from 1901 to 1939. Some of the reparation was later earmarked by both Britain and the U.S. for the education of Chinese students at overseas institutions, subsequently forming the basis of Tsinghua University. The British signatory of the Protocol was Sir Ernest Satow, and was in response to the SCHIA programs.

The China Inland Mission lost more members than any other missionary agency: 58 adults and 21 children were killed. However, in 1901, when the allied nations were demanding compensation from the Chinese government, Hudson Taylor refused to accept payment for loss of property or life in order to demonstrate the meekness of Christ to the Chinese. [Broomhall (1901), several pages]


The imperial government's humiliating failure to defend China against the foreign powers contributed to the growth of nationalist resentment against the "foreigner" Qing dynasty (who were descendants of the Manchu conquerors of China) and an increasing feeling for modernization, which was to culminate a decade later in the dynasty's overthrow and the establishment of the Republic of China. The foreign privileges which had angered Chinese people were largely cancelled in the 1930s and 1940s.

In October 1900, Russia was busy occupying much of the northeastern province of Manchuria, a move which threatened Anglo-American hopes of maintaining what remained of China's territorial integrity and an openness to commerce under the Open Door Policy. This behavior led ultimately to the Russo-Japanese War, where Russia was defeated at the hands of an increasingly confident Japan.


During the incident, 48 Catholic missionaries and 18,000 Chinese Catholics were murdered; 222 Chinese Eastern Orthodox Christians were also murdered, along with 182 Protestant missionaries and 500 Chinese Protestants known as the China Martyrs of 1900.

The effect on China was a weakening of the dynasty as well as a weakened national defense. The structure was temporarily sustained by the Europeans who were under the impression that the Boxer Rebellion was anti-Qing. Besides the compensation, Empress Dowager Cixi realized that in order to survive, China had to reform despite her previous view of European opposition. Among the Imperial powers, Japan gained prestige due to its military aid in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion and was now seen as a power. Its clash with Russia over the Liaodong and other provinces in eastern Manchuria, long considered by the Japanese as part of their sphere of influence, led to the Russo-Japanese War when two years of negotiations broke down in February 1904. Germany earned itself the nickname "Hun" and occupied Qingdao bay, consequently fortifying it to serve as Germany's primary naval base in East Asia. The Russian Lease of the Liaodong (1898) was confirmed. The U.S. 9th Infantry Regiment earned the nickname "Manchus" for its actions during this campaign and members of the regiment (stationed in Camp Casey, South Korea) still do a commemorative 25 mile (40 km) foot march every quarter in remembrance of the brutal fighting. Soldiers who complete this march are authorized to wear a special belt buckle that features a Chinese imperial dragon on their uniforms. Likewise both the U.S. 14th Infantry Regiment, which calls itself "The Golden Dragons"; the 15th Infantry Regiment; the U.S. 6th Cavalry Regiment; the US 3rd Artillery (see Coats of arms of U.S. Field Artillery Regiments) also have a Golden Dragon on their coat of arms. Another U.S. unit involved in the rebellion was the first formation of "2d Regiment" of USMC detachments.

The impact on China was immense. Soon after the rebellion the Imperial examination system for government service was eliminated; as a result, the classical system of education was replaced with a Westernized system that led to a university degree. Eventually the spirit of revolution sparked a new nationalist revolution, ironically led by a Christian Sun Yat-sen, which overthrew the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty.

Fictional interpretations

* Liu E, "Lao Can Youji" (1907) translated by Harold Shadick as "Travels of Lao Ts'an", (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952. Reissued: New York; London: Columbia University Press, 1990). 277p. A novel set during the period, with a (mistaken) explanation of the origins of the Boxers.
* The 1963 film "55 Days at Peking" was a dramatization of the Boxer rebellion. Shot in Spain, it needed thousands of extras, and the company sent scouts throughout Spain to hire as many as they could find. imdb title|id=0056800|title=55 Days at Peking
* In 1975, Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studio produced the film "Boxer Rebellion"(八國聯軍, Pa kuo lien chun) under director Chang Cheh with one of the highest budget to tell a sweeping story of disillusionment and revenge [ [ HKflix] ] . It depicted followers of the Boxer clan being duped into believing they were impervious to attacks by firearms. The film starred Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun and Wang Lung-Wei.
* The popular film series "Once Upon a Time in China", starred Jet Li as the legendary martial artist/Chinese doctor Wong Fei Hung.
* In the movie "Shanghai Knights", which takes place before the actual Boxer rebellion, the Boxers, led by Wu Chow and backed by British Lord Nelson Rathbone, killed Chon Wang and Chon Lin's father, attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria, and unite the Emperor's enemies and storm the Forbidden City in order for their leaders to become King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of China, but they fail.
* The novel "Moment In Peking" by Lin Yutang, opens during the Boxer Rebellion, and provides a child's-eye view of the turmoil through the eyes of the protagonist.
* The novel "The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure", by Adam Williams, describes the experiences of a small group of western missionaries, traders and railway engineers in a fictional town in Northern China shortly before and during the Boxer Rebellion.
* Parts I and II of C. Y. Lee's "China Saga" (1987) involve events leading up to and during the Boxer Rebellion, revolving around a character named Fong Tai.
* Neal Stephenson, in his award-winning sci-fi novel "The Diamond Age", refers to the Boxer Rebellion in many ways, including "Fists of Righteous Harmony" as the name of uprising Chinese xenophobic faction.
* The novel for teenagers "Tulku", by Peter Dickinson begins with a missionary from the United States being killed during the destruction of a village in China.
* In the cult television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spin-off series Angel, vampires Spike, Darla, Drusilla, and Angelus wreak havoc during the Boxer Rebellion.
* The science fiction novel "For More Than Glory", by William C. Dietz, was inspired by and loosely based on the Boxer Rebellion.
* The adventure/romance novel "Monraker's Bride", by Madeleine Brent includes a spirited defence of a mission station towards the end of the Boxer Rebellion.
* The horror play "La Dernière torture" ("The Ultimate Torture"), written by André de Lorde and Eugène Morel in 1904 for the Grand Guignol theater (just four years following the events depicted), is set during the Boxer Rebellion, in the French area of the fortified legation compound, specifically on 22 July 1900, the thirty-second day of the Boxers' siege of the compound.
*Tintin and his Chinese friend Chang discuss the Boxer Rebellion and inter-racial prejudices in Herge's "The Blue Lotus"
* Douglas Reemans novel The First to Land describes actions of Royal Marines captain Blackwood during the Boxer Rebellion.
* "The Last Empress (novel)", by Anchee Min, describes the long reign of the Empress Dowager Cixi in which the siege of the legations is one of the climax in the novel.



* Brandt, Nat (1994). "Massacre in Shansi." Syracuse U. Press. ISBN 0815602820, ISBN 1583483470 (Pbk).
* Chen, Shiwei. "Change and Mobility: the Political Mobilization of the Shanghai Elites in 1900." "Papers on Chinese History" 1994 3(spr): 95-115.
* Cohen, Paul A. (1997). "History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth" Columbia University Press. [ online edition]
* Cohen, Paul A. "The Contested Past: the Boxers as History and Myth." "Journal of Asian Studies" 1992 51(1): 82-113. Issn: 0021-9118
* Elliott, Jane. "Who Seeks the Truth Should Be of No Country: British and American Journalists Report the Boxer Rebellion, June 1900." "American Journalism" 1996 13(3): 255-285. Issn: 0882-1127
* Esherick, Joseph W. (1987). "The Origins of the Boxer Uprising" University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06459-3
* Harrison, Henrietta. "Justice on Behalf of Heaven." "History Today" (2000) 50(9): 44-51. Issn: 0018-2753.
* Jellicoe, George (1993). "The Boxer Rebellion", The Fifth Wellington Lecture, University of Southampton, University of Southampton. ISBN 0854325166.
* Hsu, Immanuel C.Y. (1999). "The rise of modern China", 6 ed. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195125045.
* Hunt, Michael H. "The Forgotten Occupation: Peking, 1900–1901." "Pacific Historical Review" 48 (4) (Nov. 1979): 501–529.
* Preston, Diana (2000). "The Boxer Rebellion". Berkley Books, New York. ISBN 0-425-18084-0. [ online edition]
* Preston, Diana. "The Boxer Rising." "Asian Affairs" (2000) 31(1): 26-36. ISSN 0306-8374.
* Purcell, Victor (1963). "The Boxer Uprising: A background study". [ online edition]
*Seagrave, Sterling (1992). "Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China" Vintage Books, New York. ISBN 0-679-73369-8. Challenges the notion that the Empress-Dowager used the Boxers. She is portrayed sympathetically.
*Tiedemann, R. G. "Boxers, Christians and the Culture of Violence in North China." "Journal of Peasant Studies" 1998 25(4): 150-160. ISSN 0306-6150.
* Warner, Marina (1993). "The Dragon Empress The Life and Times of Tz'u-hsi, 1835-1908, Empress Dowager of China". Vintage. ISBN 0-09-916591-0
* Eva Jane Price. "China journal, 1889-1900: an American missionary family during the Boxer Rebellion," (1989). ISBN 0-684-19851-8; see Susanna Ashton, "Compound Walls: Eva Jane Price's Letters from a Chinese Mission, 1890-1900." "Frontiers" 1996 17(3): 80-94. ISSN: 0160-9009.

External links

* [ U. of Washington Library's Digital Collections – Robert Henry Chandless Photographs]

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