Category Archives: boxer rebellion

April 26, 2009, 5:23 am

Boxers: Such is China.

S.M.W. Brooks in
upper right hand corner

The month of April, 1900, started off on a hopeful note. “The Chinese Government,” the Times announced, “has settled the controversy arising out of the murder, December 31 last, of the Rev. Mr. Brooks of the Church Missionary Society on the following terms: Two of the murderers will be beheaded, one imprisoned for life, one for ten years, another for two years, a memorial chapel will be built upon the site of the murder, and a tablet will be placed in Canterbury, England, at the expense of the Chinese Government.” The murder, the Times reminded its readers, had been committed by “the seditious society known as ‘Boxers,’ who had been very active in destroying villages and slaughtering native Christians.” [1] The Great Powers were applying pressure to the Chinese directly:

The American, British, German, and French Ministers have sent a joint note …

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April 22, 2009, 1:31 pm

Say What?

From the “Official Account of the Military Operations in China, 1900-1901″ (PRO WO 33/284) compiled by Major E.W.M. Norie, Middlesex Regiment, page 113:

Between the 21st and 23rd July eleven English and American members of the China Inland Mission were murdered at Ch’u-chou by the local train-bands, which had been organized to defend the town against a rising of the secret society of Vegetarians.

Italics original.

April 9, 2009, 1:14 pm

Enter the Boxers, Stage Right/The Now Accepted Plan of Foreign Encroachment/On the Whole Superior to the Italians and Hungarians of the Lowest Grade

Suddenly, after only sporadic mention of the Boxers in previous months (or “Bozers” as one article called them) the last week in March saw the western world–at least as far as the New York Times saw it–awaken, sort of, to the increasing crisis in China. But it was a crisis that the Times did not seem to know how to handle. They could not conceive, I think, of a genuine popular uprising. So it had to be be a plot of the Empress Dowager Cixi, “an old lady not only of singular malignity but of singular power.” [1] She was encouraging it. She was allowing it to happen. She could not “sufficiently reward the officials who exhibit marked hostility to everything not Chinese.” TheTimes continued:

Hen-Tung, probably the most bitterly anti-foreign official of the empire, has been decorated with the three-eyed peacock feather, which had not been conferred for eighty years; the notorious…

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March 24, 2009, 10:43 am

Boxers: Rebellion and Anarchy Are Expected

The first half of March witnessed three themes mingling in the New York Times coverage of China. First was the “Open Door” policy of Secretary of State John Hay, an attempt to leverage open the Chinese markets for American manufacturers.

Secretary of State John Hay

Second was the continuing imperial rivalries over China itself, most particularly that of Russia and Japan. Third was the growing perception that the Dowager Empress of China was resolutely anti-foreign and trying to do everything she could to break such influence in China. In this latter, the Boxers–or “Bozers” as one unfortunate typo declared in mid-March–were seen as one part of her anti-foreign effort. [1]

Hay’s policy seemed to be on the brink of global adoption, or so the President of the University of California, Benjamin Ide Wheeler (a Cornellian), said in a speech in San Francisco on March 11, 1900:

In the…

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February 25, 2009, 11:32 am

Boxers: The Name of George Washington

More news from China over the ten days from February 15 to February 25, 1900. The most aggressive German missionary to China, Bishop Johnan von Anzer, returned to Europe to meet with the heads of state, including the Pope. His aim, as the Times explained, was to “induce all the European Governments interested to join in an attempt to convince the Peking Government of the necessity of suppressing all combinations and demonstrations against foreigners, and, if necessary to enforce this jointly….” At the end of the article came a brief line that illustrated the closeness between missionary activities and state imperialism, as well as serving as a nifty shot across the bow of the Catholic Church. “Emperor William,” the Times intoned (Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany), “attaches great importance to Bishop von Anzer’s counsels.” [1]

Meanwhile, the Times did not mention the Boxers. Other…

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February 17, 2009, 10:31 am

Boxers: Looting

Though this article in today’s New York Times relates to items taken in a different war, it raises issues connected to the Boxer Uprising as well:

China is stepping up the pressure on Christie’s auction house to withdraw two bronzes from its sale of Yves Saint Laurent’s vast collection next week in Paris, saying they were looted from the imperial Summer Palace near Beijing nearly 150 years ago.

The two Qing dynasty bronze animal heads, one depicting a rabbit and the other a rat, are believed to have been part of a set comprising 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac that were created for the imperial gardens during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century.

China views the relics as a significant part of its cultural heritage and a symbol of how Western powers encroached on the country during the Opium Wars. The relics were displayed as fountainheads at the Old Summer Palace…

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February 13, 2009, 9:45 am

Boxers: A Ministerial Speaking Tour

The Chinese minister to Washington, Wu Tingfang, continued on what seems to have been a sustained wooing of the American elites, attempting to make his (and his wife’s) personal charm strengthen China’s international weakness. After his late January appearance at the American Asiatic Association dinner, he appeared again at Delmonico’s steakhouse, but this time for the 28th Anniversary dinner of the 475626. New York Public Library Silk Association. [1]

Then, it was announced in the Times that he and his wife would attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans. “Rooms will be engaged for the party,” the Times announced, “which will consist of the Minister, his wife, and a retinue of thirty servants, at the St. Charles Hotel.” The article then moves from a straightforward account of the Minister’s future plans to a rhapsodic account of his and his wife’s popularity in Washington:

Minister Tingfang, of whom much has been said,…

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February 7, 2009, 9:20 am

Boxers: Christian Forgiveness

From W.A.P. Martin, a minister and participant in the siege of Beijing:

“On reaching New York in the actual costume which I wore during the siege, I called a boy to carry my packages, my son Newell having gone to the wrong station to meet me.

As I was carrying a gun, the lad remarked: ‘You must have been hunting somewhere?’

‘Yes,’ said I, “in Asia, beyond the sea.’

‘What kind of game?’ he inquired.


February 6, 2009, 4:58 am

Boxers: Served with Ball Cartridge/The Shape of Internal Convulsions/The Wheat of the Platte, the Cotton of the Carolinas, the Steel of Pennsylvania and Alabama

The China on display in late January 1900 had two faces. It was a country wracked by “internal convulsions” and political intrigue, and yet the “greatest potential market of the world.” The New York Times wrote of both Chinas in the ten days to the end of January. To the Times both Chinas were mysterious and unknowable and the paper wrote in a way that made its feeling palpably clear. Stories were full of hedges, that revealed the editorial confusion: it was “almost safe to predict” something about China, or “members of the imperial household…are practically unknown.”[1]

One of the results of this was a certain credulity on the part of the paper, a willingness to accept or write things that were self-evidently silly without thinking through them. Thus, the Times wrote that in 1898 the rumors of the Emperor of China’s death had been proven “unfounded” but immediately the paper…

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January 29, 2009, 4:58 pm

Mr. Darwin, Come Here, I Need You.

Simply too good not to share:

Let those who are inclined to cavil at the new role of the country in the world’s affairs remember that the moment is rapidly approaching, if it has not already arrvied, when the future of the world’s civilization will be at stake. Will it be a world in which the English-speaking, with its high standard of life and liberty, will prevail; or a world in which the despot and the slave–shall we leave out the ‘e’ and call it Slav?–will dictate the future of the spheres?

From Leslie’s Weekly, August 11, 1900. Quoted in William Duiker, Cultures in Collision: The Boxer Rebellion (San Rafael, Calif. Presidio, 1978): 92.

January 23, 2009, 12:22 pm

Boxers: Paid Her to Subdue Savages, The Stiffening of China’s Backbone, A Nest Upholstered with Bayonets

In the second ten days of January 1900, the news from China that reached New York was all of matters military and diplomatic. There was no further mention of the Boxers and, in fact, mentions of China occupied themselves almost entirely with the aggressive (if not thuggish) maneuverings of the great powers and China’s shifting ability to resist them. China was not so much being conquered as it was being organized by the western powers, if organized by violence, by intimidation, and by edict. Or, at least, that’s the way the New York Times presented it.

China—to use a technical term—was not even an other. It was a bare playing field on which others warred in sporting matches that went back and forth but were never quite ended.

Thus the Times declared, on January 17, 1900, that “any power which chooses may, according to our contention, maltreat the Chinese as much as it choose and…

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January 13, 2009, 12:49 pm

Boxers: Missionary Murdered in China

For an explanation of the following, see this.

In the New York Times in early January 1900, China appeared several times, in a number of roles. There was China, the state, much fought over by the imperial powers of the world, ancient, decayed, helpless to resist, and ripe for exploitation. There was China, the nation, a subject of fascination and dismay, whose people lived lives of squalor amid the elegant splendor of thousands of years of history. There was the actual China, in some ways the least interesting of all from the Times’ perspective, where real things happened to real people.

The Chinese state emerged as a helpless pawn which the western powers moved back and forth to suit. China itself became a stage in which plays not of its writing were acted out. Thus on January 13, 1900, an article appeared talking of war between Russia and Japan over Russian influence in northern China…

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