The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 is one of the most significant events in Chinese history. Also known as the “Boxer Uprising,” this event primarily occurred because of a secret Chinese society named “Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists.” The society was responsible for stirring an uprising in northern China due to the rising Japanese and Western influence in the area.
The members of the society were referred to as “Boxers” because they were physical fighters and took pride in their fitness and exercise routine. They eventually also killed local Christians and foreigners, along with destroying foreign property. In the three months leading to the uprising (June to August), the Boxers besieged Beijing’s foreign district until international troops intervened. Even though the rebellion ended in 1901, China paid over $300 million as compensation.
However, it’s important to understand all the events that led to a rebellion of this caliber. It all started towards the end of the 19th century when Japanese and Western powers had forcefully overtaken the country’s economic affairs. Earlier, in the mid19th century, the Opium and Sino-Japanese Wars had also brought China down to its knees due to a lack of trained military.
Interestingly, the money China paid to America in reparations was also eventually returned on the condition that they’ll use the money to create a university in the Chinese capital. However, things took a turn for the worse when the secret Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists started attacking Christians and foreigners during the late 1890s.
The boxers were mainly peasants from the impoverished Shandong province, which had been in the grip of flooding and famine for years. Their living conditions were also part of the reason the group chose violence against foreigners in the country. The Chinese government giving commercial and territorial concessions to the Europeans might be a contributing factor.
By 1900, the movement had taken its hold on Beijing, where many Christian missionaries were killed and churches destroyed. The siege went on for weeks until Japan and some Western nations decided to intervene through their own forces. Many diplomats also suffered in the war as they survived in hunger to keep the boxers fighting.
According to some estimates, thousands of Chinese Christians and foreigners were killed during the siege. By the 14th of August, international troops from over eight countries came in to rescue the victims.
On September 7, 1901, the war finally ended as the Boxer Protocol was signed. As per the agreement, the members of the group, along with the government officials involved, were to be arrested and punished and foreign embassies were to have personal security in Beijing. As a consequence, China could not import arms for over two years, and during this time, the country paid millions in reparations.
Even though the Boxers weren’t entirely successful, they did manage to bring the ruling Qing dynasty down. As a result, China finally adopted a republic status in 1912.