The Boxer Rebellion from 1898 to 1901 was the climax of anti-foreign hostility in China. A secret
Chinese society called the Yihequan, or Society of the Righteous Harmonious Fists, was referred to
as Boxers by Westerners. The Boxers attempted to drive Westerners out of China, but ultimately they
were defeated by an expeditionary force composed of regiments from the United States, Russia,
Great Britain, France, and Japan.
Training intensively in a martial art that they believed would protect them from bullets, the Boxers,
beginning in 1898, were emboldened to attack foreigners to express their frustrations both with the
territorial concessions that the Chinese government had made to the Western powers and with the
natural disasters that had recently plagued northern China. They were particularly hostile to Christian
missionaries and their Chinese converts: they killed thousands of Christians and sacked their
churches. The government of Empress Dowager Cixi professed inability to control the Boxers, though
it was actually inciting and supporting them.
In June 1900, foreign warships began gathering off Tianjin, a major seaport at the mouth of the River
Hai. An allied force detached to Beijing was repulsed, but the Taku forts guarding the passage up
river were taken by landing parties after heavy fighting. Crowds of Chinese in Beijing laid siege to the
foreign legations there and killed the German minister.
By August 4, the allied expeditionary force included 4,800 Russian, 3,000 British, 2,500 U.S., and 800
French troops, with other detachments bringing the total to 18,700. Marching along the river and the
rail lines, that force advanced on Beijing. Beijing fell to the invaders on August 14. European civilians
who had holed up in the British Legation compound for eight weeks were rescued, as were the
priests, nuns, and 3,000 Chinese converts who had sought refuge in the compound of Pei Tang, the
Catholic cathedral. The allied forces then began punitive missions, and the Russians took the
opportunity to occupy Manchuria.
The Chinese defeat brought great dishonor to Cixi, who accepted all allied demands on December
26, 1900. Those demands were formalized in the Boxer Protocol of September 1901, which laid a
crushing burden on China, including an indemnity of approximately $750 million. Repayment of that
indemnity lasted into the 1940s.
Hu, Sheng, From the Opium War to the May Fourth Movement, 1991; Jellicoe, George P., The Boxer Rebellion, 1993;
O'Connor, Richard, The Spirit Soldiers: A Historical Narrative of the Boxer Rebellion, 1973.
CITATION: MLA STYLE
"Boxer Rebellion." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>.