San José State University
Department of Economics
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The 1900 Boxer Uprising in China

The Boxer Uprising was attempt by the members of a Chinese secret society to expel foreigners and foreign influence from China. The secret society, an offshoot of the Eight Trigrams Society, was called the I-ho Ch'uan, which means literally Righteous and Harmonious Fists. Translators trying express this name in English came up with the name,Boxers. The society members did engage in boxing-like exercises which were supposed to give them special powe including safeguarding them from bullets.

The Eight Trigrams Society had fomented rebellion against the Manchu Qing Dynasty a century before and the Boxers were initially anti-Qing. But when anti-foreign elements in the Qing government won control in 1898 they convinced the Boxers to join forces with the government in driving out the foreigners. The Boxers were recruited into semi-official militia. The government supported the Boxers in the vicinity of Beijing. Thus the Boxer Uprising was not a rebellion against the government but instead was directed entirely against foreigners.

The Boxers resented the Chinese Christian converts as much as they did the foreigners themselves. Attacks against missionaries and Chinese Christians commenced in later 1899. The hostilities against foreigners and Chinese Christians were widespread in Beijing in early 1900 and the the foreigners set up defenses in a section of Beijing which contained the embassies and legations. The Boxers besieged them in this enclave.

A expeditionary force of European and Japanese troops embarked from Tianjin to aid the besieged foreigners in Beijing. The Empress Dowager order Chinese troops to block the expeditions advance, which they did. The Empress Dowager order that all foreigners be killed and many were in Beijing, but in more distant parts of the Qing Empire the officials ignored the order and suppressed anti-foreign actions in their jurisdictions.

In August of 1900 a second, larger expeditionary force captured Beijing and put down the Boxer Uprising. The Empress Dowager and other high level Qing official fled Beijing for the old city of Xi'an in western China. A settlement calling for reparations to be paid to the foreign governments by the Qing Empire government was accepted in September 1901.

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