The Chinese Boxer Rebellion


Around 1900, after many years of succumbing to the superior 
military of the West, the Chinese stood up for their country. China 
was a weak, backwards, country, exploited by the West. They felt that 
they could counter the foreign domination, but reforms were useless 
because they needed the West to help with the reforms. But something 
sparked their confidence, and they believed themselves to be able to 
conquer any foreign power. This spark was the Society of Harmonious 
Fists, commonly known as "Boxers." Combined with unhappy people, and 
new weapons technology, the Chinese rebelled against the foreign

 The first reason of this confidence was the Boxer Society, which 
formed in North China after the Sino-Japanese war, but wasn't well 
known until 1898 in Shantung. This organization was actually a cult, 
following strange and absurd practices of defense. It had no central 
leaders, and the practices varied in different locations. Their goal 
was to rid China of the foreign menace. The boxers were different from 
most other rebels of their time. They would conduct public physical 
exercises that were supposed to make a magical shield to protect one 
against foreign bullets and shells. These looked similar to a boxers
training exercises so the westerners nicknamed the members of the 
Society of Harmonious Fists "Boxers." Rather then using foreign 
weapons, they relied on magical spirits and swords, knives, staves, 
and polearms to drive the foreign devils from their precious home 
country. The membership of this group consisted of mostly the 
criminals, poor, and illiterate of China who wore a simple uniform 
consisting of a red armband, sash, or waistcloth. These people truly 
believed that magic would protect them, and help remove the foreigners 
from China. That gave them enough confidence to try to destroy the 
foreigners. Missionaries were killed, railroads were destroyed, and 
churches were burned all in the name of independence from foreign 

 Another key aspect in the rebellions against the west was a 
series of natural disasters that swept China during the last decade of
the nineteenth century. Famine struck, droughts prevented the planting 
of crops, and to top it all, the Yellow river flooded, causing the 
destruction of 1,500 villages and 2,500 square miles of countryside. 
These disaster lead to unhappiness of the people. In order to keep 
them from turning on the government, the Dowager Empress, Tsu Hsi, 
encouraged the peasants to rebel against the foreigners. Some of these 
angry people joined the Boxers, and others rebelled alone, but they 
had the Empress behind them, giving them encouragement, and making 
them feel ready to take on the demons from the West.

 The third reason that the Chinese felt ready to face the West, 
was a new weapons technology. This was the machine gun, which had both 
physical and symbolic power. It could physically kill many more people 
then a regular rifle, because of its ability to spray bullets and fire 
more then one round per pulling of the trigger. Symbolically, it 
represented a method which the west had used to subdue the Chinese, 
and now the Chinese were going to use it against the west. This 
inspired confidence and made the people ready to fight, knowing that 
they could fight machine gun with machine gun.

 The Chinese were tired of being looked down at by the west. The 
people were unhappy, armed, or bullet proof, and the Queen encouraged 
them to fight the west. With all this support how could one not feel 
ready to fight the West?


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