Boxer Rebellion

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Boxer Rebellion
Part of the Century of humiliation
Siege of Peking, Boxer Rebellion.jpg Battle of Tientsin Japanese soldiers.jpg Beijing Castle Boxer Rebellion 1900 FINAL courtesy copy.jpg
Top: US troops scale the walls of Beijing
Middle: Japanese soldiers in the Battle of Tientsin
Bottom: British and Japanese soldiers in the Battle of Beijing
Date18 October 1899 – 7 September 1901
(1 year, 10 months, 20 days)

Allied victory

Eight-Nation Alliance
Yihetuan flag.svg Boxers
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Qing dynasty (from 1900)
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Claude MacDonald
Seymour Expedition:
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Edward Seymour
Gaselee Expedition:
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Alfred Gaselee
Flag of Russia.svg Yevgeni Alekseyev
Flag of Russia.svg Nikolai Linevich
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Fukushima Yasumasa
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Yamaguchi Motomi
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Henri-Nicolas Frey
Flag of the United States (1896-1908).svg Adna Chaffee Occupation Force:
Flag of the German Empire.svg Alfred von Waldersee
Occupation of Manchuria:
Flag of Russia.svg Aleksey Kuropatkin
Flag of Russia.svg Paul von Rennenkampf
Flag of Russia.svg Pavel Mishchenko
Mutual Protection of Southeast China:
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Yuan Shikai
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Li Hongzhang
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Xu Yingkui
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Liu Kunyi
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Zhang Zhidong
Yihetuan flag.svg Cao Futian   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Yihetuan flag.svg Zhang Decheng  
Yihetuan flag.svg Ni Zanqing
Yihetuan flag.svg Zhu Hongdeng
Qing dynasty:
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Empress Dowager Cixi
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Li Bingheng  
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Yuxian   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Commander in Chief:
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Ronglu
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Zaiyi
Tenacious Army:
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Nie Shicheng  
Resolute Army:
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Ma Yukun
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Song Qing
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Jiang Guiti
Gansu Army:
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Dong Fuxiang
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Ma Fulu  
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Ma Fuxiang
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Ma Fuxing
Seymour Expedition:
2,100–2,188 [1]
Gaselee Expedition:
18,000 [1]
China Relief Expedition:
2,500 [2]
Russian army in Manchuria:
100,000 [3] –200,000 [4]

Yihetuan flag.svg 100,000–300,000
Boxers and Red Lanterns
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg 100,000 Imperial troops [5]


Casualties and losses
32,000 Chinese Christians and 200 Western missionaries killed by Chinese Boxers in Northern China [6]
100,000 total deaths in the conflict (both civilian and military included) [7]
  1. Before Federation in 1901 Australian involvement in the war consisted of forces from the following separate colonies
  2. The Netherlands intervened in the conflict independently of the Eight Nations Alliance due to its policy of neutrality.
  3. 1 2 Belgium and Spain did not deploy troops to China, but Chinese armies besieged their legations during the Siege of the International Legations.

Their yells were deafening, while the roar of gongs, drums, and horns sounded like thunder…. They waved their swords and stamped on the ground with their feet. They wore red turbans, sashes, and garters over blue cloth…. They were now only twenty yards from our gate. Three or four volleys from the Lebel rifles of our marines left more than fifty dead on the ground. [87]

At the same time, a Chinese barricade was advanced to within a few feet of the American positions, and it became clear that the Americans had to abandon the wall or force the Chinese to retreat. At 2 am on 3 July, 56 British, Russian and American marines and sailors, under the command of Myers, launched an assault against the Chinese barricade on the wall. The attack caught the Chinese sleeping, killed about 20 of them, and expelled the rest of them from the barricades. [88] [ non-primary source needed ] The Chinese did not attempt to advance their positions on the Tartar Wall for the remainder of the siege. [89] [ non-primary source needed ]

Sir Claude MacDonald said 13 July was the "most harassing day" of the siege. [90] The Japanese and Italians in the Fu were driven back to their last defence line. The Chinese detonated a mine beneath the French Legation pushing the French and Austrians out of most of the French Legation. [90] On 16 July, the most capable British officer was killed and the journalist George Ernest Morrison was wounded. [91] But American Minister Edwin Hurd Conger established contact with the Chinese government and on 17 July, an armistice was declared by the Chinese. [92] [ non-primary source needed ]

Officials and commanders at cross purposes

Han Chinese general Nie Shicheng, who fought both the Boxers and the Allies General Nie Shicheng.jpg
Han Chinese general Nie Shicheng, who fought both the Boxers and the Allies

The Manchu General Ronglu concluded that it was futile to fight all of the powers simultaneously and declined to press home the siege. [94] The Manchu Zaiyi (Prince Duan), an anti-foreign friend of Dong Fuxiang, wanted artillery for Dong's troops to destroy the legations. Ronglu blocked the transfer of artillery to Zaiyi and Dong, preventing them from attacking. [95] Ronglu forced Dong Fuxiang and his troops to pull back from completing the siege and destroying the legations, thereby saving the foreigners and making diplomatic concessions. [96] Ronglu and Prince Qing sent food to the legations and used their Manchu Bannermen to attack the Muslim Gansu Braves ("Kansu Braves" in the spelling of the time) of Dong Fuxiang and the Boxers who were besieging the foreigners. They issued edicts ordering the foreigners to be protected, but the Gansu warriors ignored it, and fought against Bannermen who tried to force them away from the legations. The Boxers also took commands from Dong Fuxiang. [97] Ronglu also deliberately hid an Imperial Decree from General Nie Shicheng. The Decree ordered him to stop fighting the Boxers because of the foreign invasion, and also because the population was suffering. Due to Ronglu's actions, General Nie continued to fight the Boxers and killed many of them even as the foreign troops were making their way into China. Ronglu also ordered Nie to protect foreigners and save the railway from the Boxers. [98] Because parts of the railway were saved under Ronglu's orders, the foreign invasion army was able to transport itself into China quickly. General Nie committed thousands of troops against the Boxers instead of against the foreigners. Nie was already outnumbered by the Allies by 4,000 men. General Nie was blamed for attacking the Boxers, as Ronglu let Nie take all the blame. At the Battle of Tianjin (Tientsin), General Nie decided to sacrifice his life by walking into the range of Allied guns. [99]

Boxer soldiers BoxerSoldiers.jpg
Boxer soldiers

Xu Jingcheng, who had served as the Qing Envoy to many of the same states under siege in the Legation Quarter, argued that "the evasion of extraterritorial rights and the killing of foreign diplomats are unprecedented in China and abroad." [100] [ page needed ] Xu and five other officials urged Empress Dowager Cixi to order the repression of Boxers, the execution of their leaders, and a diplomatic settlement with foreign armies. The Empress Dowager, outraged, sentenced Xu and the five others to death for "willfully and absurdly petitioning the Imperial Court" and "building subversive thought." They were executed on 28 July 1900 and their severed heads placed on display at Caishikou Execution Grounds in Beijing. [101]

Han Chinese general Dong Fuxiang whose Moslem "Gansu Braves" besieged the Legations Dong Fuxiang.jpg
Han Chinese general Dong Fuxiang whose Moslem "Gansu Braves" besieged the Legations

Reflecting this vacillation, some Chinese soldiers were quite liberally firing at foreigners under siege from its very onset. Cixi did not personally order imperial troops to conduct a siege, and on the contrary had ordered them to protect the foreigners in the legations. Prince Duan led the Boxers to loot his enemies within the imperial court and the foreigners, although imperial authorities expelled Boxers after they were let into the city and went on a looting rampage against both the foreign and the Qing imperial forces. Older Boxers were sent outside Beijing to halt the approaching foreign armies, while younger men were absorbed into the Muslim Gansu army. [102]

With conflicting allegiances and priorities motivating the various forces inside Beijing, the situation in the city became increasingly confused. The foreign legations continued to be surrounded by both Qing imperial and Gansu forces. While Dong Fuxiang's Gansu army, now swollen by the addition of the Boxers, wished to press the siege, Ronglu's imperial forces seem to have largely attempted to follow Empress Dowager Cixi's decree and protect the legations. However, to satisfy the conservatives in the imperial court, Ronglu's men also fired on the legations and let off firecrackers to give the impression that they, too, were attacking the foreigners. Inside the legations and out of communication with the outside world, the foreigners simply fired on any targets that presented themselves, including messengers from the imperial court, civilians and besiegers of all persuasions. [103] Dong Fuxiang was denied artillery held by Ronglu which stopped him from levelling the legations, and when he complained to Empress Dowager Cixi on 23 June, she dismissively said that "Your tail is becoming too heavy to wag." The Alliance discovered large amounts of unused Chinese Krupp artillery and shells after the siege was lifted. [104]

Gaselee Expedition

Boxer Rebellion
Traditional Chinese 義和團運動
Simplified Chinese 义和团运动
Literal meaningMilitia United in Righteousness Movement
Forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance
Relief of the Legations

Troops of the Eight-Nation Alliance (except Russia) that fought against the Boxer Rebellion in China, 1900. From the left Britain, United States, Australia, India, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Japan. (49652330563).jpg
Troops of the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900 (Russia excepted);
left to right: Britain, United States, Australia, India,
Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Japan
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Empire of Japan 1854020,300
Flag of Russia.svg  Russian Empire 1075012,400
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  British Empire 82,02010,000
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg  France 53903,130
Flag of the United States (1896-1908).svg  United States 22953,125
Flag of the German Empire.svg  German Empire 5600300
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Kingdom of Italy 2802,500
Flag of Austria-Hungary (1867-1918).svg  Austria-Hungary 4296unknown

Foreign navies started building up their presence along the northern China coast from the end of April 1900. Several international forces were sent to the capital, with varying success, and the Chinese forces were ultimately defeated by the Eight-Nation Alliance of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Independent of the alliance, the Netherlands dispatched three cruisers in July to protect its citizens in Shanghai. [105]

British Lieutenant-General Alfred Gaselee acted as the commanding officer of the Eight-Nation Alliance, which eventually numbered 55,000. The main contingent was composed of 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. [106] The "First Chinese Regiment" (Weihaiwei Regiment) which was praised for its performance, consisted of Chinese collaborators serving in the British military. [107] Notable events included the seizure of the Dagu Forts commanding the approaches to Tianjin and the boarding and capture of four Chinese destroyers by British Commander Roger Keyes. Among the foreigners besieged in Tianjin was a young American mining engineer named Herbert Hoover, who would go on to become the 31st President of the United States. [108] [109]

The Boxers bombarded Tianjin in June 1900, and Dong Fuxiang's Muslim troops attacked the British Admiral Seymour and his expeditionary force. 3090 recapture lg.jpg
The Boxers bombarded Tianjin in June 1900, and Dong Fuxiang's Muslim troops attacked the British Admiral Seymour and his expeditionary force.
The capture of the southern gate of Tianjin. British troops were positioned on the left, Japanese troops at the centre, French troops on the right. CaptureTianjin.jpg
The capture of the southern gate of Tianjin. British troops were positioned on the left, Japanese troops at the centre, French troops on the right.

The international force finally captured Tianjin on 14 July. The international force suffered its heaviest casualties of the Boxer Rebellion in the Battle of Tianjin. [110] With Tianjin as a base, the international force marched from Tianjin to Beijing, about 120 km, with 20,000 allied troops. On 4 August, there were approximately 70,000 Qing imperial troops and anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 Boxers along the way. The allies only encountered minor resistance, fighting battles at Beicang and Yangcun. At Yangcun, the 14th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. and British troops led the assault. The weather was a major obstacle. Conditions were extremely humid with temperatures sometimes reaching 42 °C (108 °F). These high temperatures and insects plagued the Allies. Soldiers became dehydrated and horses died. Chinese villagers killed Allied troops who searched for wells. [111]

The heat killed Allied soldiers, who foamed at the mouth. The tactics along the way were gruesome on either side. Allied soldiers beheaded already dead Chinese corpses, bayoneted or beheaded live Chinese civilians, and raped Chinese girls and women. [112] Cossacks were reported to have killed Chinese civilians almost automatically and Japanese kicked a Chinese soldier to death. [113] The Chinese responded to the Alliance's atrocities with similar acts of violence and cruelty, especially towards captured Russians. [112] Lieutenant Smedley Butler saw the remains of two Japanese soldiers nailed to a wall, who had their tongues cut off and their eyes gouged. [114] Lieutenant Butler was wounded during the expedition in the leg and chest, later receiving the Brevet Medal in recognition for his actions.

Chinese troops wearing modern uniforms in 1900 Chinese Soldiers 1900.jpg
Chinese troops wearing modern uniforms in 1900

The international force reached Beijing on 14 August. Following the defeat of Beiyang army in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese government had invested heavily in modernising the imperial army, which was equipped with modern Mauser repeater rifles and Krupp artillery. Three modernised divisions consisting of Manchu Bannermen protected the Beijing Metropolitan region. Two of them were under the command of the anti-Boxer Prince Qing and Ronglu, while the anti-foreign Prince Duan commanded the ten-thousand-strong Hushenying, or "Tiger Spirit Division", which had joined the Gansu Braves and Boxers in attacking the foreigners. It was a Hushenying captain who had assassinated the German diplomat, Ketteler. The Tenacious Army under Nie Shicheng received Western style training under German and Russian officers in addition to their modernised weapons and uniforms. They effectively resisted the Alliance at the Battle of Tientsin before retreating and astounded the Alliance forces with the accuracy of their artillery during the siege of the Tianjin concessions (the artillery shells failed to explode upon impact due to corrupt manufacturing). The Gansu Braves under Dong Fuxiang, which some sources described as "ill disciplined", were armed with modern weapons but were not trained according to Western drill and wore traditional Chinese uniforms. They led the defeat of the Alliance at Langfang in the Seymour Expedition and were the most ferocious in besieging the Legations in Beijing.

The British won the race among the international forces to be the first to reach the besieged Legation Quarter. The U.S. was able to play a role due to the presence of U.S. ships and troops stationed in Manila since the U.S. conquest of the Philippines during the Spanish–American War and the subsequent Philippine–American War. In the U.S. military, the action in the Boxer Rebellion was known as the China Relief Expedition. United States Marines scaling the walls of Beijing is an iconic image of the Boxer Rebellion. [115]

Indian troops at the Temple of Heaven. They were the first to enter the Legation Quarter. Indian troops at Temple of Heaven Peking 1900.jpg
Indian troops at the Temple of Heaven. They were the first to enter the Legation Quarter.

The British Army reached the legation quarter on the afternoon of 14 August and relieved the Legation Quarter. The Beitang was relieved on 16 August, first by Japanese soldiers and then, officially, by the French. [117]

Evacuation of the Qing imperial court from Beijing to Xi'an

Japanese woodblock print depicting troops of the Eight-Nation Alliance BoxerTroops.jpg
Japanese woodblock print depicting troops of the Eight-Nation Alliance

As the foreign armies reached Beijing, the Qing court fled to Xi'an, with Cixi disguised as a Buddhist nun. [24] :272–273 The journey was made all the more arduous by the lack of preparation, but the Empress Dowager insisted this was not a retreat, rather a "tour of inspection." After weeks of travel, the party arrived in Xi'an in Shaanxi province, beyond protective mountain passes where the foreigners could not reach, deep in Chinese Muslim territory and protected by the Gansu Braves. The foreigners had no orders to pursue Cixi, so they decided to stay put. [118]

Russian invasion of Manchuria

Russian officers in Manchuria during the Boxer Rebellion Russian soldiers during the boxer rebellion.jpg
Russian officers in Manchuria during the Boxer Rebellion

The Russian Empire and the Qing Dynasty had maintained a long peace, starting with the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689, but Russian forces took advantage of Chinese defeats to impose the Aigun Treaty of 1858 and the Treaty of Peking of 1860 which ceded formerly Chinese territory in Manchuria to Russia, much of which is held by Russia to the present day (Primorye). The Russians aimed for control over the Amur River for navigation, and the all-weather ports of Dairen and Port Arthur in the Liaodong peninsula. The rise of Japan as an Asian power provoked Russia's anxiety, especially in light of expanding Japanese influence in Korea. Following Japan's victory in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895, the Triple Intervention of Russia, Germany and France forced Japan to return the territory won in Liaodong, leading to a de facto Sino-Russian alliance.

Local Chinese in Manchuria were incensed at these Russian advances and began to harass Russians and Russian institutions, such as the Chinese Eastern Railway. In June 1900, the Chinese bombarded the town of Blagoveshchensk on the Russian side of the Amur. The Czar's government used the pretext of Boxer activity to move some 200,000 troops into the area to crush the Boxers. The Chinese used arson to destroy a bridge carrying a railway and a barracks on 27 July. The Boxers destroyed railways and cut lines for telegraphs and burned the Yantai mines. [119]

The Chinese Honghuzi bandits of Manchuria, who had fought alongside the Boxers in the war, did not stop when the Boxer rebellion was over, and continued guerrilla warfare against the Russian occupation up to the Russo-Japanese war when the Russians were defeated by Japan.

Massacre of missionaries and Chinese Christians

The Holy Chinese Martyrs of the Eastern Orthodox Church as depicted in an icon commissioned in 1990 Chinese Martirs.jpg
The Holy Chinese Martyrs of the Eastern Orthodox Church as depicted in an icon commissioned in 1990

Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic missionaries and their Chinese parishioners were massacred throughout northern China, some by Boxers and others by government troops and authorities. After the declaration of war on Western powers in June 1900, Yuxian, who had been named governor of Shanxi in March of that year, implemented a brutal anti-foreign and anti-Christian policy. On 9 July, reports circulated that he had executed forty-four foreigners (including women and children) from missionary families whom he had invited to the provincial capital Taiyuan under the promise to protect them. [120] [121] Although the purported eyewitness accounts have recently been questioned as improbable, this event became a notorious symbol of Chinese anger, known as the Taiyuan Massacre. [122] The Baptist Missionary Society, based in England, opened its mission in Shanxi in 1877. In 1900 all its missionaries there were killed, along with all 120 converts. [123] By the summer's end, more foreigners and as many as 2,000 Chinese Christians had been put to death in the province. Journalist and historical writer Nat Brandt has called the massacre of Christians in Shanxi "the greatest single tragedy in the history of Christian evangelicalism." [124]

During the Boxer Rebellion as a whole, a total of 136 Protestant missionaries and 53 children were killed, and 47 Catholic priests and nuns, 30,000 Chinese Catholics, 2,000 Chinese Protestants, and 200 to 400 of the 700 Russian Orthodox Christians in Beijing were estimated to have been killed. Collectively, the Protestant dead were called the China Martyrs of 1900. [125] 222 of Russian Christian Chinese Martyrs including St. Metrophanes were locally canonised as New Martyrs on 22 April 1902, after Archimandrite Innocent (Fugurovsky), head of the Russian Orthodox Mission in China, solicited the Most Holy Synod to perpetuate their memory. This was the first local canonisation for more than two centuries. [126] The Boxers went on to murder Christians across 26 prefectures. [127]


Occupation, looting, and atrocities

The Russian empire occupied Manchuria while the Eight Nation Alliance jointly occupied Zhili province. The rest of China outside of Manchuria and Zhili were unaffected due to the governor generals who participated in the Mutual Protection of Southeast China in 1900. Mutual Protection of Southeast China.png
The Russian empire occupied Manchuria while the Eight Nation Alliance jointly occupied Zhili province. The rest of China outside of Manchuria and Zhili were unaffected due to the governor generals who participated in the Mutual Protection of Southeast China in 1900.

The Eight Nation Alliance occupied Zhili province while Russia occupied Manchuria, but the rest of China was not occupied due to the actions of several Han governors who formed the Mutual Protection of Southeast China that refused to obey the declaration of war and kept their armies and provinces out of the war. Zhang Zhidong told Everard Fraser, the Hankou-based British consul general, that he despised Manchus in order that the Eight Nation Alliance would not occupy provinces under the Mutual Defense Pact. [128]

French troops execute a Boxer Execution of a Boxer by the French, Teintsin.jpg
French troops execute a Boxer

Beijing, Tianjin and Zhili province were occupied for more than one year by the international expeditionary force under the command of German General Alfred Graf von Waldersee. The Americans and British paid General Yuan Shikai and his army (the Right Division) to help the Eight Nation Alliance suppress the Boxers. Yuan Shikai's forces killed tens of thousands of people in their anti-Boxer campaign in Zhili Province and Shandong after the Alliance captured Beijing. [129] The majority of the hundreds of thousands of people living in inner Beijing during the Qing were Manchus and Mongol bannermen from the Eight Banners after they were moved there in 1644, when Han Chinese were expelled. [130] [131] Sawara Tokusuke, a Japanese journalist, wrote in "Miscellaneous Notes about the Boxers" about the rapes of Manchu and Mongol banner girls. A daughter and wife of Mongol banner noble Chongqi 崇绮 of the Alute clan were allegedly gang raped. [132] Other relatives, including his son, Baochu, killed themselves after he killed himself on 26 August 1900. [133]

During attacks on suspected Boxer areas from September 1900 to March 1901, European and American forces engaged in tactics which included public decapitations of Chinese with suspected Boxer sympathies, systematic looting, routine shooting of farm animals and crop destruction, destruction of religion buildings and public buildings, burning of religious texts, and widespread rape of Chinese women and girls. [20] :212

Contemporary British and American observers levelled their greatest criticism at German, Russian, and Japanese troops for their ruthlessness and willingness to execute Chinese of all ages and backgrounds, sometimes burning and killing entire village populations. [134] The German force arrived too late to take part in the fighting but undertook punitive expeditions to villages in the countryside. According to missionary Arthur Smith, in addition to burning and looting, Germans "cut off the heads of many Chinese within their jurisdiction, many of them for absolutely trivial offenses." [20] :213 U.S. Army Lieutenant C.D. Rhodes reported that German and French soldiers set fire to buildings where innocent peasants were sheltering and would shoot and bayonet peasants who fled the burning buildings. [20] :216 According to Australian soldiers, Germans extorted ransom payments from villages in exchange for not torching their homes and crops. [20] :216 British journalist George Lynch wrote that German and Italian soldiers engaged in a practice of raping Chinese women and girls before burning their villages. [20] :217 According to Lynch, German soldiers would attempt to cover up these atrocities by throwing rape victims into wells as staged suicides. [20] :217 Lynch said, "[T]here are things that I must not write, and that may not be printed in England, which would seem to show that this Western civilisation of ours is merely a veneer over savagery." [135]

Kaiser Wilhelm II on 27 July, during departure ceremonies for the German relief force, in a speech included an impromptu but intemperate reference to the Hun invaders of continental Europe, which would later be resurrected by British propaganda to mock Germany during the First World War and Second World War:

Should you encounter the enemy, he will be defeated! No quarter will be given! Prisoners will not be taken! Whoever falls into your hands is forfeited. Just as a thousand years ago the Huns under their King Attila made a name for themselves, one that even today makes them seem mighty in history and legend, may the name German be affirmed by you in such a way in China that no Chinese will ever again dare to look cross-eyed at a German. [136]

One newspaper called the aftermath of the siege a "carnival of ancient loot", and others called it "an orgy of looting" by soldiers, civilians and missionaries. These characterisations called to mind the sacking of the Summer Palace in 1860. [137] Each nationality accused the others of being the worst looters. An American diplomat, Herbert G. Squiers, filled several railway carriages with loot and artefacts. The British Legation held loot auctions every afternoon and proclaimed, "Looting on the part of British troops was carried out in the most orderly manner." However, one British officer noted, "It is one of the unwritten laws of war that a city which does not surrender at the last and is taken by storm is looted." For the rest of 1900–1901, the British held loot auctions every day except Sunday in front of the main-gate to the British Legation. Many foreigners, including Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald and Lady Ethel MacDonald and George Ernest Morrison of The Times , were active bidders among the crowd. Many of these looted items ended up in Europe. [135] The Catholic Beitang or North Cathedral was a "salesroom for stolen property." [138] The American commander General Adna Chaffee banned looting by American soldiers, but the ban was ineffectual. [139] According to Chaffee, "[I]t is safe to say that where one real Boxer has been killed, fifty harmless coolies or laborers, including not a few women and children, have been slain." [20] :213

Execution of Boxers by standing strangulation Execution of Boxers after the rebellion.png
Execution of Boxers by standing strangulation

A few Western missionaries took an active part in calling for retribution. To provide restitution to missionaries and Chinese Christian families whose property had been destroyed, William Ament, a missionary of American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, guided American troops through villages to punish those he suspected of being Boxers and confiscate their property. When Mark Twain read of this expedition, he wrote a scathing essay, "To the Person Sitting in Darkness", that attacked the "Reverend bandits of the American Board," especially targeting Ament, one of the most respected missionaries in China. [140] The controversy was front-page news during much of 1901. Ament's counterpart on the distaff side was British missionary Georgina Smith, who presided over a neighbourhood in Beijing as judge and jury. [141]

While one historical account reported that Japanese troops were astonished by other Alliance troops raping civilians, [142] others noted that Japanese troops were "looting and burning without mercy", and that Chinese "women and girls by hundreds have committed suicide to escape a worse fate at the hands of Russian and Japanese brutes." [143] Roger Keyes, who commanded the British destroyer Fame and accompanied the Gaselee Expedition, noted that the Japanese had brought their own "regimental wives" (prostitutes) to the front to keep their soldiers from raping Chinese civilians. [144]

The Daily Telegraph journalist E. J. Dillon stated that he witnessed the mutilated corpses of Chinese women who were raped and killed by the Alliance troops. The French commander dismissed the rapes, attributing them to "gallantry of the French soldier." According to U.S. Captain Grote Hutcheson, French forces burned each village they encountered during a 99 mile march and planted the French flag in the runs. [20] :215

Many Manchu Bannermen supported the Boxers and shared their anti-foreign sentiment. [145] Bannermen had been devastated in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and Banner armies were destroyed while resisting the invasion. In the words of historian Pamela Crossley, their living conditions went "from desperate poverty to true misery." [146] When thousands of Manchus fled south from Aigun during the fighting in 1900, their cattle and horses were stolen by Russian Cossacks who then burned their villages and homes to ashes. [147] Manchu Banner armies were destroyed while resisting the invasion, many annihilated by Russians. Manchu Shoufu killed himself during the battle of Peking and the Manchu Lao She's father was killed by western soldiers in the battle as the Manchu banner armies of the Center Division of the Guards Army, Tiger Spirit Division and Peking Field Force in the Metropolitan banners were slaughtered by the western soldiers. The Inner-city Legation Quarters and Catholic cathedral (Church of the Saviour, Beijing) were both attacked by Manchu bannermen. Manchu bannermen were slaughtered by the Eight Nation Alliance all over Manchuria and Beijing because most of the Manchu bannermen supported the Boxers. [76] The clan system of the Manchus in Aigun was obliterated by the despoliation of the area at the hands of the Russian invaders. [148] There were 1,266 households including 900 Daurs and 4,500 Manchus in Sixty-Four Villages East of the River and Blagoveshchensk until the Blagoveshchensk massacre and Sixty-Four Villages East of the River massacre committed by Russian Cossack soldiers. [149] Many Manchu villages were burned by Cossacks in the massacre according to Victor Zatsepine. [150]

Manchu royals, officials and officers like Yuxian, Qixiu 啟秀, Zaixun, Prince Zhuang and Captain Enhai (En Hai) were executed or forced to commit suicide by the Eight Nation Alliance. Manchu official Gangyi's 剛毅 execution was demanded, but he already died. [151] Japanese soldiers arrested Qixiu before he was executed. [152] Zaixun, Prince Zhuang was forced to commit suicide on 21 February 1901. [153] [154] They executed Yuxian on 22 February 1901. [155] [156] On 31 December 1900 German soldiers beheaded the Manchu captain Enhai for killing Clemens von Ketteler. [157] [158]


After the capture of Peking by the foreign armies, some of Empress Dowager Cixi's advisers advocated that the war be carried on, arguing that China could have defeated the foreigners as it was disloyal and traitorous people within China who allowed Beijing and Tianjin to be captured by the Allies, and that the interior of China was impenetrable. They also recommended that Dong Fuxiang continue fighting. The Empress Dowager Cixi was practical, however, and decided that the terms were generous enough for her to acquiesce when she was assured of her continued reign after the war and that China would not be forced to cede any territory. [159]

On 7 September 1901, the Qing imperial court agreed to sign the "Boxer Protocol" also known as Peace Agreement between the Eight-Nation Alliance and China. The protocol ordered the execution of 10 high-ranking officials linked to the outbreak and other officials who were found guilty for the slaughter of foreigners in China. Alfons Mumm (Freiherr von Schwarzenstein), Ernest Satow and Komura Jutaro signed on behalf of Germany, Britain and Japan, respectively.

China was fined war reparations of 450,000,000 taels of fine silver (≈540,000,000 troy ounces (17,000 t) @ 1.2 ozt/tael) for the loss that it caused. The reparation was to be paid by 1940, within 39 years, and would be 982,238,150 taels with interest (4 per cent per year) included. To help meet the payment it was agreed to increase the existing tariff from an actual 3.18 to 5 per cent, 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 taxes guaranteed the reparation. China paid 668,661,220 taels of silver from 1901 to 1939, equivalent in 2010 to ≈US$61 billion on a purchasing power parity basis. [160] [161]

A large portion of the reparations paid to the United States was diverted to pay for the education of Chinese students in U.S. universities under the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program. To prepare the students chosen for this program an institute was established to teach the English language and to serve as a preparatory school. When the first of these students returned to China, they undertook the teaching of subsequent students; from this institute was born Tsinghua University.

American troops during the Boxer Rebellion BoxerAmericanTroops.jpg
American troops during the Boxer Rebellion

The China Inland Mission lost more members than any other missionary agency: [162] 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 and gentleness of Christ to the Chinese. [163]

The Belgian Catholic vicar apostolic of Ordos, Msgr. Alfons Bermyn wanted foreign troops garrisoned in Inner Mongolia, but the Governor refused. Bermyn petitioned the Manchu Enming to send troops to Hetao where Prince Duan's Mongol troops and General Dong Fuxiang's Muslim troops allegedly threatened Catholics. It turned out that Bermyn had created the incident as a hoax. [164] [165] Western Catholic missionaries forced Mongols to give up their land to Han Chinese Catholics as part of the Boxer indemnities according to Mongol historian Shirnut Sodbilig. [166] Mongols had participated in attacks against Catholic missions in the Boxer rebellion. [167]

The Qing government did not capitulate to all the foreign demands. The Manchu governor Yuxian, was executed, but the imperial court refused to execute the Han Chinese General Dong Fuxiang, although he had also encouraged the killing of foreigners during the rebellion. [168] Empress Dowager Cixi intervened when the Alliance demanded him executed and Dong was only cashiered and sent back home. [169] Instead, Dong lived a life of luxury and power in "exile" in his home province of Gansu. [170] Upon Dong's death in 1908, all honours which had been stripped from him were restored and he was given a full military burial. [170]

The indemnity was never fully paid and was lifted during World War II. [8] :14

Long-term consequences

The occupation of Beijing by foreign powers and the failure of the Boxer Rebellion further eroded support for the Qing state. [8] :14 Support for reform decreased, while support for revolution increased. [8] :14 In the ten years after the Boxer Rebellion, uprisings in China increased, particularly in the south. [8] :14 Support grew for the Tongmenghui , an alliance of anti-Qing groups which later became the Kuomintang. [8] :14

Cixi was returned to Beijing, the foreign powers believing that maintaining the Qing government was the best way to control China. [24] :273 Within the Qing state, the dynasty made some further efforts to reform. [8] :14 It abolished the Imperial Examinations in 1905 and sought to gradually introduce consultative assemblies. [8] :15 Along with the formation of new military and police organisations, the reforms also simplified central bureaucracy and made a start at revamping taxation policies. [171] These efforts failed to maintain the Qing dynasty, which was overthrown in the 1911 Revolution. [8] :15

French 1901 China expedition commemorative medal. Musee de la Legion d'Honneur French China medal 1900 1901.jpg
French 1901 China expedition commemorative medal. Musée de la Légion d'Honneur

Japan replaced the European countries as the dominant foreign power their lopsided involvement in the war against the Boxers as well as their victory in the First Sino-Japanese War. After replacing Russian influence in the southern half of Manchuria as a result of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan came to dominate Asian affairs militarily and culturally with many of the Chinese scholars also educated in Japan, the most prominent example being Sun Yat-Sen, who would later create the Nationalist Kuomintang in China.

In October 1900, Russia occupied the provinces of Manchuria, [172] a move that threatened Anglo-American hopes of maintaining the country's openness to commerce under the Open Door Policy.

Japan's clash with Russia over Liaodong and other provinces in eastern Manchuria, because of the Russian refusal to honour the terms of the Boxer protocol that called for their withdrawal, led to the Russo-Japanese War when two years of negotiations broke down in February 1904. The Russian Lease of the Liaodong (1898) was confirmed. Russia was ultimately defeated by an increasingly confident Japan.

Foreign armies assemble inside the Forbidden City after capturing Beijing, 28 November 1900. Within historic grounds of the Forbidden City in Pekin, China, on November 28 celebrated the victory of the Allies., ca. - NARA - 532582.jpg
Foreign armies assemble inside the Forbidden City after capturing Beijing, 28 November 1900.

The historian Walter LaFeber has argued that President William McKinley's decision to send 5,000 American troops to quell the rebellion marks "the origins of modern presidential war powers": [173]

McKinley took a historic step in creating a new, 20th century presidential power. He dispatched the five thousand troops without consulting Congress, let alone obtaining a declaration of war, to fight the Boxers who were supported by the Chinese government.... Presidents had previously used such force against non-governmental groups that threatened U.S. interests and citizens. It was now used, however, against recognised governments, and without obeying the Constitution's provisions about who was to declare war.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., concurred and wrote: [174]

The intervention in China marked the start of a crucial shift in the presidential employment of armed force overseas. In the 19th century, military force committed without congressional authorisation had been typically used against nongovernmental organisations. Now it was beginning to be used against sovereign states, and, in the case of Theodore Roosevelt, with less consultation than ever.

Controversies and changing views of the Boxers

"Boxers" captured by the U.S. 6th Cavalry near Tianjin in 1901. Historians believed they were merely bystanders. Boxer Prisoners Captured By 6th US Cavalry, Tientsin, China (1901) Underwood & Co (RESTORED) (4072872709).jpg
"Boxers" captured by the U.S. 6th Cavalry near Tianjin in 1901. Historians believed they were merely bystanders.

From the beginning, views differed as to whether the Boxers were better seen as anti-imperialist, patriotic and proto-nationalist, or as "uncivilized" irrational and futile opponents of inevitable change. The historian Joseph Esherick, comments that "confusion about the Boxer Uprising is not simply a matter of popular misconceptions" since "there is no major incident in China's modern history on which the range of professional interpretation is as great". [175]

The Boxers drew condemnation from those who wanted to modernise China on Western models of civilisation. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China and of the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party), at the time worked to overthrow the Qing but believed that government spread rumours that "caused confusion among the populace" and stirred up the Boxer Movement. He delivered "scathing criticism" of the Boxers' "anti-foreignism and obscurantism". Sun praised the Boxers for their "spirit of resistance" but called them "bandits". Students studying in Japan were ambivalent. Some stated that while the uprising originated from the ignorant and stubborn people, their beliefs were brave and righteous and could be transformed into a force for independence. [176] After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, nationalistic Chinese became more sympathetic to the Boxers. In 1918, Sun praised their fighting spirit and said that the Boxers were courageous and fearless in fighting to the death against the Alliance armies, specifically the Battle of Yangcun. [177] Chinese liberals such as Hu Shih, who called on China to modernise, still condemned the Boxers for their irrationality and barbarity. [178] The leader of the New Culture Movement, Chen Duxiu, forgave the "barbarism of the Boxer... given the crime foreigners committed in China" and contended that it was those "subservient to the foreigners" that truly "deserved our resentment." [179]

Qing forces of Chinese soldiers in 1899-1901
Left: two infantrymen of the New Imperial Army. Front: drum major of the regular army. Seated on the trunk: field artilleryman. Right: Boxers Chinese soldiers 1899 1901.jpg
Qing forces of Chinese soldiers in 1899–1901
Left: two infantrymen of the New Imperial Army. Front: drum major of the regular army. Seated on the trunk: field artilleryman. Right: Boxers

In other countries, views of the Boxers were complex and contentious. Mark Twain said that "the Boxer is a patriot. He loves his country better than he does the countries of other people. I wish him success." [180] The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy also praised the Boxers and accused Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany of being chiefly responsible for the lootings, rapes, murders, and "Christian brutality" of the Russian and Western troops. [181] The Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin mocked the Russian government's claim that it was protecting Christian civilisation: "Poor Imperial Government! So Christianly unselfish, and yet so unjustly maligned! Several years ago it unselfishly seized Port Arthur, and now it is unselfishly seizing Manchuria; it has unselfishly flooded the frontier provinces of China with hordes of contractors, engineers, and officers, who, by their conduct, have roused to indignation even the Chinese, known for their docility." [182] The Russian newspaper Amurskii Krai criticised the killing of innocent civilians and charged that "restraint", "civilization" and "culture," instead of "racial hatred" and "destruction," would have been more becoming of a "civilized Christian nation." The paper asked, "What shall we tell civilized people? We shall have to say to them: 'Do not consider us as brothers anymore. We are mean and terrible people; we have killed those who hid at our place, who sought our protection.'" [183]

Even some American churchmen spoke out in support of the Boxers. In 1912, the evangelist Rev. Dr. George F. Pentecost said that the Boxer uprising was a:

"patriotic movement to expel the 'foreign devils' – just that – the foreign devils". "Suppose", he said, "the great nations of Europe were to put their fleets together, came over here, seize Portland, move on down to Boston, then New York, then Philadelphia, and so on down the Atlantic Coast and around the Gulf of Galveston? Suppose they took possession of these port cities, drove our people into the hinterland, built great warehouses and factories, brought in a body of dissolute agents, and calmly notified our people that henceforward they would manage the commerce of the country? Would we not have a Boxer movement to drive those foreign European Christian devils out of our country?" [184]

The Indian Bengali Rabindranath Tagore attacked the European colonialists. [185] A number of Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army sympathised with the cause of the Boxers, and in 1994 the Indian military returned a bell looted by British soldiers in the Temple of Heaven to China. [186]

A Boxer during the revolt Boxer1900.jpg
A Boxer during the revolt

The events also left a longer impact. Historian Robert Bickers, noted that for the British government, the Boxer Rebellion served as the "equivalent of the Indian 'mutiny'", and the events of the rebellion influenced the idea of the Yellow Peril among the British public. Later events, he adds, such as the Chinese Nationalist Revolution in the 1920s and even the activities of the Red Guards of the 1960s were perceived as being in the shadow of the Boxers. [187]

In Taiwan and Hong Kong, history textbooks often present the Boxer as irrational, but in Mainland China, the central government textbooks described the Boxer movement as an anti-imperialist, patriotic peasant movement that failed by the lack of leadership from the modern working class, and they described the international army as an invading force. In recent decades, however, large-scale projects of village interviews and explorations of archival sources have led historians in China to take a more nuanced view. Some non-Chinese scholars, such as Joseph Esherick, have seen the movement as anti-imperialist, but others hold that the concept "nationalistic" is anachronistic because the Chinese nation had not been formed, and the Boxers were more concerned with regional issues. Paul Cohen's recent study includes a survey of "the Boxers as myth", which shows how their memory was used in changing ways in 20th-century China from the New Culture Movement to the Cultural Revolution. [188]

In recent years, the Boxer question has been debated in the People's Republic of China. In 1998, the critical scholar Wang Yi argued that the Boxers had features in common with the extremism of the Cultural Revolution. Both events had the external goal of "liquidating all harmful pests" and the domestic goal of "eliminating bad elements of all descriptions" and that the relation was rooted in "cultural obscurantism". Wang explained to his readers the changes in attitudes towards the Boxers from the condemnation of the May Fourth Movement to the approval expressed by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution. [189] In 2006, Yuan Weishi, a professor of philosophy at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, wrote that the Boxers by their "criminal actions brought unspeakable suffering to the nation and its people! These are all facts that everybody knows, and it is a national shame that the Chinese people cannot forget." [190] Yuan charged that history textbooks had been lacking in neutrality by presenting the Boxer Uprising as a "magnificent feat of patriotism" and not the view that most Boxer rebels were violent. [191] In response, some labelled Yuan Weishi a "traitor" (Hanjian). [192]


The name "Boxer Rebellion", concludes Joseph W. Esherick, a contemporary historian, is truly a "misnomer", for the Boxers "never rebelled against the Manchu rulers of China and their Qing dynasty" and the "most common Boxer slogan, throughout the history of the movement, was 'support the Qing, destroy the Foreign,' where 'foreign' clearly meant the foreign religion, Christianity, and its Chinese converts as much as the foreigners themselves." He adds that only after the movement was suppressed by the Allied Intervention did the foreign powers and influential Chinese officials both realise that the Qing would have to remain as the government of China in order to maintain order and collect taxes in order to pay the indemnity. Therefore, in order to save face for the Empress Dowager and the members of the imperial court, all argued that the Boxers were rebels and that the only support which the Boxers received from the imperial court came from a few Manchu princes. Esherick concludes that the origin of the term "rebellion" was "purely political and opportunistic", but it has had a remarkable staying power, particularly in popular accounts. [193]

On 6 June 1900, The Times of London used the term "rebellion" in quotation marks, presumably to indicate its view that the rising was actually instigated by Empress Dowager Cixi. [194] The historian Lanxin Xiang refers to the uprising as the "so called 'Boxer Rebellion,'" and he also states that "while peasant rebellion was nothing new in Chinese history, a war against the world's most powerful states was." [195] Other recent Western works refer to the uprising as the "Boxer Movement", the "Boxer War" or the Yihetuan Movement, while Chinese studies refer to it as the 义和团运动 (Yihetuan yundong), that is, the "Yihetuan Movement." In his discussion of the general and legal implications of the terminology involved, the German scholar Thoralf Klein notes that all of the terms, including the Chinese terms, are "posthumous interpretations of the conflict." He argues that each term, whether it be "uprising", "rebellion" or "movement" implies a different definition of the conflict. Even the term "Boxer War", which has frequently been used by scholars in the West, raises questions. Neither side made a formal declaration of war. The imperial edicts on June 21 said that hostilities had begun and directed the regular Chinese army to join the Boxers against the Allied armies. This was a de facto declaration of war. The Allied troops behaved like soldiers who were mounting a punitive expedition in colonial style, rather than soldiers who were waging a declared war with legal constraints. The Allies took advantage of the fact that China had not signed "The Laws and Customs of War on Land", a key document signed at the 1899 Hague Peace Conference. They argued that China had violated provisions that they themselves ignored. [70]

There is also a difference in terms referring to the combatants. The first reports which came from China in 1898 referred to the village activists as the "Yihequan", (Wade–Giles: I Ho Ch'uan). The earliest use of the term "Boxer" is contained in a letter which was written in Shandong in September 1899 by missionary Grace Newton. The context of the letter makes it clear that when it was written, "Boxer" was already a well-known term, probably coined by Arthur H. Smith or Henry Porter, two missionaries who were also residing in Shandong. [196] Smith says in his 1902 book that the name:

I Ho Ch'uan... literally denotes the 'Fists' (Ch'uan) of Righteousness (or Public) (I) Harmony (Ho), in apparent allusion to the strength of the united force which was to be put forth. As the Chinese phrase 'fists and feet' signifies boxing and wrestling, there appeared to be no more suitable term for the adherents of the sect than 'Boxers,' a designation first used by one or two missionary correspondents of foreign journals in China, and later universally accepted on account of the difficulty of coining a better one. [197]

Media portrayal

U.S. Marines fight rebellious Boxers outside Beijing Legation Quarter, 1900. Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer. Marines fight rebellious Boxers outside Peking Legation, 1900. Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer., 1927 - 1981 - NARA - 532578.tif
U.S. Marines fight rebellious Boxers outside Beijing Legation Quarter, 1900. Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer.
British and Japanese forces engage Boxers in battle. Boxer Rebellion.jpg
British and Japanese forces engage Boxers in battle.

By 1900, many new forms of media had matured, including illustrated newspapers and magazines, postcards, broadsides, and advertisements, all of which presented images of the Boxers and the invading armies. [198] The rebellion was covered in the foreign illustrated press by artists and photographers. Paintings and prints were also published including Japanese woodblocks. [199] In the following decades, the Boxers were a constant subject of comment. A sampling includes:

See also

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  79. 清·李希聖庚子國變記》:「尚書啟秀奏言,使臣不除,必為後患,五臺僧普濟,有神兵十萬,請召之會殲逆夷。曾廉、王龍文,請用決水灌城之法,引玉泉山水灌使館,必盡淹斃之。御史彭述,謂義和拳咒炮不燃,其術至神,無畏夷兵。太后亦欲用山東僧普法、余蠻子、周漢三人者。」
  80. 清·高樹《金鑾瑣記》:「尚書啟秀函請五臺山普淨,來京攻西什庫教堂。僧言關聖降神附其身,攜青龍刀一柄、《春秋》一部,騎赤兔馬往攻,入陣便中炮亡,惟馬逃歸。」
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Further reading

General accounts and analysis

In addition to those used in the notes and listed under References, general accounts can be found in such textbooks as Jonathan Spence, In Search of Modern China, p. 230–235; Keith Schoppa, Revolution and Its Past, p. 118–123; and Immanuel Hsu, Ch 16, "The Boxer Uprising", in The Rise of Modern China (1990).

Missionary experience and personal accounts

Allied intervention, the Boxer War, and the aftermath

Contemporary accounts and sources