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The Chinese Boxers Rebel (1900)

**Discussion Topic**

Boxer Rebellion

Abstract: In 1900, militia units called Yihe Quang (I-ho-Ch'uan), or righteous harmony of fists, moved to rid all foreigners from China. This radical movement, begun in 1898 and encouraged by Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi led to the killing of foreigners including Chinese Christians and Chinese with ties to foreigners. The Yihe Quang were given the name "Boxers" by the foreign press. The Boxer Rebellion ended the Qing or Manchu Dynasty, which was founded in 1644 when warriors from Manchuria came down from the North and conquered China.

The following abstract was written by Carol Hepburn, 2005. Source: What Everyone Should Know About the 20th Century: 200 Events that Shaped the World by Dr. Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips, published by Adams Media Corporation, 1995; 1998.

Background Information

By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States maintained an "open door" policy with regard to China. Secretary John Milton Hay sought political endorsement from our foreign allies: France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia. Japan refused to accept this policy but the European powers said they would comply so long as they all did. In truth, none of the nations involved actually considered adhering to this policy and for the most part the interests of China were neglected. This lack of interest climaxed during the spring of 1899 when the Militia units in the north of China known as Yihe Quang spearheaded a rebellion to forceably remove all foreigners from Chinese soil. During this violent rebellion, which was endorsed by Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi, many foreigners were killed along with Chinese Christians and Chinese who had ties to foreigners. Foreigners in Peking (now Beijing) were held hostage and international force was required to end the conflict. British, French, German, Japanese, and Russian troops entered Peking in August of 1900.

Secretary Hay, fearful that the European troops would use the Boxer Rebellion to divide China after their own interests, issued a letter seeking to settle the situation in an effort to bring about the permanent safety and peace to China. Despite Hay's intentions, the Empress Dowager agreed to settle by paying a punitive damage estimated at $333 million dollars with $25 million set aside for the United States.

The Open Door Policy with China did very little to support the integrity of the Chinese people. The ensuing political engagements by Japan and the United States continued to cause resistence within China's fragile Republic. In 1932, the Japanese invaded Manchuria which was one of the starting events of World War II. Moreover, the unrest by the Chinese people, propagated by over 250 years of Manchu resentment continued to grow following the destructive civil wars of the mid-nineteenth century and opened the door to a new revolutionary movement, known as Communism.

Major Events

1899 - Secretary Hay creates the "Open Door Policy" with China

1900 (Spring) - Boxers Rebel

1900 (August) - European powers invade Peking to end seige

1901 (September) - Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi agrees to pay $333 million in punitive damages ($24.5M to USA)

1905 - Taft-Katsura Memorandum allows for the Japanese protectorate of Korea

1911 - Chinese resentment against the 250 year rule of the 'foreign Manchus" becomes increasing intense

1917 - Lansing-Ishii agreement acknowledges Japan's special interest in China and sets the stage for the 1932 invasion of Manchuria

1932 - Japan invades Manchuria, leads to the onset of WWII

Political Outcome

The Boxers Rebellion ended the Manchu or Qing Dynasty which had ruled China for over 400 years. The result led to the formation of the Republic of China. However, political unrest within the country and the growing threat of Japanese invasion, set the stage for the beginning of World War II. The ensuing international conflict coupled with the fierce distrust of 'foreigners' led China to adopt their own form of Communism.

Key Words and Definitions

Open-door policy n : the policy of granting equal trade opportunities to all countries

Communism : A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.

Republic : A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them. A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.

Manchuria : A region of northeast China comprising the modern-day provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning. It was the homeland of the Manchu people who conquered China in the 17th century and was hotly contested by the Russians and the Japanese in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chinese Communists gained control of the area in 1948.

Key People (for further research)

Websites with more information on this topic

Reference (Encyclopedias and Dictionaries)

Other Resources

  • Watch the Academy Award Nominated film, Inn of the Sixth Happiness, (1958 20thC. Fox) with Ingrid Bergman and Curt Jurgens (a few chilling scenes exploring the ancient custom of foot-binding otherwise a wonderful film) Review from
  • Read About Real-Life Missionary, Gladys Aylward, 1904-1970, who served in China's Inland Mission. Heroic tale of faith in God. Aylward fled the Japanese invasion of China in 1938 and rescued and led 100 orphaned children (another 100 children were taken by a collegue) inland to safety across the Yellow River.

If you know of any other books, videos, websites or articles that cover this topic and you think they would be appropriate for a Year 5 student, please contact the webmaster with details!



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Copyright 2005. Carol Hepburn. All rights reserved.