The Boxers, a martial arts group called the Yihe Quan originated from the Shandong Province. In 1899-1901, this group drastically grew in size, peasants, craftsmen,dismissed soldiers, laborers, and jobless drifters all joined in hopes to relieve anxiety brought on by natural disasters. Supported by the Empress Dowager Cixi the Boxers traveled to Beijing to teach martial arts, as many feared that the Western world was imposing Christianity and western ways of life on them, which angered the gods and resulted in natural disasters like drought.
The Drought Caused Anxiety and the Spread of the Boxer Movement
Drought in China, 1899-1900
During the drought, people became more desperate and anxiety set in, as a result, young farmers who were out of work due to the drought took up boxing to pass the time.
In 1900, the Boxers were on a mission to kill off all foreign and native Chinese contaminated by foreign influence.
It was the drought that is considered the most “explosive” factor for the substantial growth of the Boxer movement.
Mass Spirit Possession
Spirit Possession “jiangshen futi”
A central religious practice by the Boxers where a god was invited down from the heavens, and attached its spirit to the Boxer’s body. The Boxer would experience altered mental states and enhanced physical strength.
Prospective Boxer’s were enticed by spirit possession because they believed they would gain strength both mentally and physically, resulting in better skills on the battle ground.
Magic as a mean of fighting and burning
The lead Boxer commanders in Tianjin, Cao Futian and Zhang Decheng, were able to make their selves disappear. They believed they had the power to be in two places at once.
It was common for the Boxer’s to chant as they were going out on to the battle grounds. If a Boxer was injured, it was believed that the “teacher” only had to rub the injury and it healed in an instant, and if a Boxer was killed, the “teacher” only had to recite an incantation and the Boxer would have his life back.
Women and Boxer’s magic
The Boxer’s believed that women “polluted” magic. If the magic did not have the desired outcome, it was believed that environment was “impure” and women were considered the “most powerful magic inhibitor of all”(p. 129), and if it wasn’t because of a woman, the Boxer was probably corrupt and therefore the gods would not possess him.
Boxer Protocol of 1901
On September 7, 1901, the Qing Court signed the “Boxer Protocol”, this was a peace agreement between the Eight Nation Alliance and China. This protocol suppressed the Boxers, and ordered the execution of 10 high ranking officials, while other officials were charged with slaughter for the killings of the Westerners in China.
Eight Nation Alliance Execution of high rank officials
Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys. Chichester, NY: Columbia University Press, 1997.
“ Boxer Rebellion”. The Free Encyclopedia . Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 8 July 2010. Web. 12 July 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxer_Rebellion