Boxer Rebellion

Boxer forces in Tianjin
Boxer forces in Tianjin

The Boxer Rebellion (Template:Zh-tsp) was an uprising against Western commercial and political influence in China during the final years of the 19th century. By August 1900 over 230 foreigners, thousands of Chinese Christians, an unknown numbers of rebels, their sympathisers, and other Chinese had been killed in the revolt and its suppression.


Anti-Western Movement

The uprising is named for the revolutionary society known as the Fists of Righteous Harmony (in the then current Wade-Giles system of Romanisation of Mandarin Chinese transliteration, I-Ho Ch'an) or in contemporary English parlance, Boxers, a group which initially opposed but later reconciled itself to China's ruling Manchu Qing dynasty.

The uprising was concentrated in north-eastern China (Manchuria) where the European powers had begun to demand territorial, railroad and mining concessions. Imperial Germany responded to the killing of two missionaries in Shandong province (November 1897) by seizing the port of Qingdao. The next month, a Russian squadron took possession of Lushun, in southern Liaoyang. Britain and France followed, taking possession of Weihai and Zhanjiang respectively.

Boxer activity developed in northern Shandong in March 1898, with the slogan "Overthrow the Qing, destroy the foreigner". The movement's emergence was a response to both foreign penetration and the failure of the Imperial court's "self-strengthening" strategy of officially-directed development, whose shortcomings had been shown graphically in China's defeat by Japan in 1895.

The early months of the movement's growth coincided with the "Hundred Days' Reform" (June 11September 21, 1898), during which the Guangxu Emperor sought to improve the central administration, before the process was reversed at the behest of his powerful aunt, the Empress Dowager Cixi.

After a mauling at the hands of loyal Imperial troops in October 1899, the Boxers dropped their anti-court slogans, turning their attention to foreign missionaries (such as Hudson Taylor) and their converts, whom they saw as agents of foreign colonialist influence. The Empress Cixi, who actually believed in the Boxers' claim of being magically impervious to knives and guns, decided to use the Boxers to remove the foreign powers in China. The court, now under Cixi's firm control, issued edicts in defence of the insurgents, drawing heated complaints from Western diplomats (January 1900).

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A Boxer

The conflict came to a head in June 1900, when the rebels, now joined by elements of the Imperial army, boldly attacked foreign compounds within the cities of Tianjin and Beijing. The killing of the German Minister Klemens Freiherr von Ketteler on June 20 brought open war, the court proclaiming hostilities against the powers, who in turn prepared military intervention to relieve the legations, which were under the command of the British ex-soldier and Minister plenipotentiary Claude Maxwell MacDonald.

Eight nation alliance

The insurgents finally fell to an international force, the Eight-Nation Alliance, eventually numbering 45,000 Japanese, American, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, Italian, Russian and anti-Boxer Chinese troops, which captured Tianjin on July 14 and Beijing on August 14. In the United States military, the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion was known as the China Relief Expedition.

Notable exploits during the campaign were the seizure of the Taku forts commanding the approaches to Tientsin, and the boarding and capture of four Chinese destroyers by Roger Keyes.

The United States was able to play a significant role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion because of the large number of American ships and troops deployed in the Philippines as a result of the US conquest of the islands during the Spanish American War (1898) and subsequent Philippine insurgent activity.

German troops were criticized for their enthusiasm in carrying out Kaiser Wilhelm II's July 27 order to "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". This 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.

On September 7, 1901, the Qing court was compelled to sign the "Boxer Protocol", also known as Peace Agreement between the Eight-Nation Alliance and China, undertaking to execute ten officials linked to the outbreak and to pay war reparations of $333 million. So great was the sum that much of the money was later earmarked by Britain and the U.S. for overseas education of Chinese students, forming the basis of Tsinghua University. The British signatory of the Protocol was Sir Ernest Satow.

The court's humiliating failure to defend China against the foreign powers contributed to the growth of republican feeling, 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 opinion were largely cancelled in the 1930s and 1940s.

Russia had meanwhile been busy (October 1900) with occupying much of the north-eastern province of Manchuria, a move which threatened Anglo-American hopes of maintaining what remained of China's territorial integrity and openness to commerce (the "Open Door Policy") to all comers, but paid the concept only lip service. This behavior led ultimately to a disastrous Russian defeat (conflict) at the hands of an increasingly confident Japan (1904-1905), as they maintained garrisons and improved fortifications between Port Arthur and Harbin along the southern spur line of the Manchurian Railway constructed on their leased lands.


The effect on China was a weakening of the dynasty, although it was temporarily sustained by the Europeans who were under the impression that the Boxer Rebellion was anti-Qing. Chinas' defenses were weakened, and the Empress realized that in order to survive, China would have to reform, despite her previous opposition. Among the Imperial powers, Japan gained prestige due to its military aid in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion and was first seen as a power. It's clash with Russia over the Liaodong and other provinces in eastern Manchurian, 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 of 1904. Germany, as mentioned above, earned itself the nickname "Hun". The Russian Lease of the Liaodong (1898) was confirmed. The American 9th Infantry Regiment earned the nickname "Manchus" for actions during this campaign. Current members of the regiment (stationed in Camp Casey, Korea) still do a commemorative 25 mile footmarch every quarter in remembrance of the brutal fighting. Soldiers who complete this march are authorized to wear a special belt buckle that features an Chinese imperial dragon on their uniforms.

In Fiction

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thanks Lucille

Lobby Card for 55 Days in Peking

The events were made into the 1963 film 55 Days at Peking ( The film, which was shot in Spain, needed thousands of Chinese extras, and the company sent scouts throughout Spain to hire as many as they could find. The result was that many Chinese restaurants in Spain closed for the duration of the filming because the restaurant staff - often including the restaurant's owners - were hired away by the film company. The company hired so many that for several months there was scarcely a Chinese restaurant to be found open in the entire country.

In 1975, Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studio ( made a movie ( of the events, giving director Chang Cheh ( one of the highest budgets [1] ( up to that time to tell a sweeping story of disillusionment and revenge. It depicts followers of the Boxer clan being duped into believing they were impervious to attacks by firearms. The fight sequences were choreographed by Liu Chia-Liang (Lau Kar Leung) and it starred Alexander Fu Sheng as well as Wang Lung-Wei.

In the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" it was during the Boxer rebellion that the character Spike killed his first slayer at the time - a Chinese woman.

In the movie, Shanghai Knights the Boxers led by Wu Chow and backed by British Lord Nelson Rathbone kill Chon Wang and Chon Lin's father and attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom in order for their leaders to become King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of China, but they nl:Bokseropstand ja:義和団事変 pl:Powstanie bokserw fi:Boksarikapina sv:Boxarupproret zh:义和团运动


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