Series (History): The Cultural Revolution

Chapter 2: The Boxer Rebellion

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.

Chapter 2:
The Boxer Rebellion

Mao was six years old when the Boxer Rebellion broke out, in the year 1900. He probably had no interest in it at that time, but it must have influenced him later in life as he became more politically aware.

At that time, China was in danger of being broken apart by foreign imperialism. It was loosely held together by the Qing dynasty, but popular support for this dynasty was weak, due to its ineffectiveness at resisting foreigners.

These foreigners included Americans, British, French, Germans, Italians, Russians, and Japanese. Yes, us imperialist pigs were at it again, messing around with a part of the world that couldn’t resist our bullying. And we did things that left many Chinese feeling angry and upset.

The British were the first to mess with China. They forced the Chinese to accept the import and sale of opium. Before the British came along, there was no drug problem in China, and opium was practically unheard of. But now, widespread addiction ravaged the populace, leading to many personal and family tragedies.

Two Opium Wars had been fought in the 19th century by the Qing dynasty against the British and French, in order to rid the nation of the opium trade. But they were defeated by superior military technology. This greatly weakened the Chinese government, and made the country more vulnerable to foreign influence.

The Chinese had proudly followed three different religions for thousands of years, prior to the arrival of foreigners. These were Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. But such faiths appalled Christian foreigners, and they insisted upon establishing missions to convert the Chinese to Christ and save their souls. This was highly resented by traditionalist Chinese.

And the foreigners had greedy eyes out for the ownership of territory. All of the foreigners competed against each other, jockeying for position, while planning to carve China up into separate colonies. Many Chinese felt wary and worried about this, and wanted to avoid being at the mercy of foreign rule.

A resistance organization formed in North China, called the “Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists.” It was a spiritual and martial arts movement started by ordinary villagers, that practiced magic and propagated the belief that their magic could make them impervious to bullets and other weapons.

They called themselves Yihetuan, or “the militia united in righteousness.” But the foreigners just called them Boxers, which was the British term for anyone who practiced martial arts. In June 1900, the Boxers spontaneously rose up against foreign legations in Beijing. This would become known as the Boxer Rebellion.

Boxers executed in neck towers, where stones beneath their feet were slowly removed, causing strangulation.

These fuckers meant business. Their goal was to exterminate all foreigners in Beijing, as well as the rest of China. They massacred thousands of foreigners, including many missionary families, and nearly succeeded with their rebellion. But they were finally driven back when reinforcements arrived to rescue the remaining besieged foreigners.

It’s certain they would have succeeded had they actually been impervious to bullets, as they imagined they were. But they weren’t, and many died from gunshot wounds. Many more were rounded up and executed after the rebellion was put down.

But although they failed, the rebellion helped solidify Chinese nationalism. It encouraged would-be revolutionaries, and signaled the beginning of the end of thousands of years of imperial Chinese rule.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 3: Consequentialism.

15 replies »

    • I guess that depends on how you define “innocent.” They were considered invaders by many Chinese, who were colonizing and exploiting their resources, while trying to force Christianity on them.

      That doesn’t justify killing them, in my view, but it does help explain the sentiment behind the Boxers. And, by the way, thousands of Boxers were executed in retaliation. Sometimes entire villages were wiped out. Both sides were brutal toward each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Much of the Japanese shift from isolationism to imperialism arose from observing what was happening to China. In effect, either you exploit others, or you get exploited yourself.

    That idea of spiritual armor also seems to be a common theme in many cultures: the Lakota Ghost dancers and “Ghost shirts” that were thought to protect from bullets, and the protective Thai “Yantra” or “Sak Yant” back tattoos created by Buddhist monks come to mind. Regardless, seems like the best strategy is to just stay out of harm’s way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seems so much of history is intertwined. China’s situation would certainly help explain the direction Japan took.

      Good point about the spiritual armor. I guess a lot of cultures have tried this, but it doesn’t seem to be very effective against physical bullets.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I never understood this need to conquer and convert other people and places. Can’t you just be happy with what you’ve got?

    And not too many history books have the phrase “These f***ers meant business.” That’s probably why I am enjoying your version so much!

    Liked by 3 people

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