The Boxer Rebellion

The Boxer Rebellion

The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners That Shook the World in the Summer of 1900

Book - 2000
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In the final years of the 19th century, China was in grave danger of becoming a colony of the West. While various powers bickered over how to slice the pie, their very presence in China, like their new technologies and Christian missions, undermined the people's traditional ways. A strange, reactionary movement--mystical, nationalistic and virulently anti Christian--began to spread like wildfire among the Chinese peasants. The contemptuous foreigners, snickering at their martial-arts routines, nicknamed them "The Boxers." Few could imagine that the Boxers would receive backing from China's Empress Dowager, herself eager for a showdown with the foreigners, and would soon terrorize them and the world.
The Boxer Rebellion is a panoramic chronicle of the uprising and ensuing two-month siege of the 11 foreign ministries in Peking (now Beijing), and of the foreign community in Tientsin (now Tianjin) during the summer of 1900--an event whose repercussions have echoed throughout the intervening century. It left tens of thousands of Chinese dead, precipitated the end of dynastic rule in China, and has tainted China's relationship with the wider world to this day. It is also a richly human story.
Relying on the diaries, letters, and memoirs of the defenders, and on her own extensive research from both Chinese and western perspectives, Diana Preston portrays the dramatic human experience of the Boxer rising: in the diplomatic district of Peking, cut off from the outside world during the desperate weeks of the siege; behind the high, byzantine walls of Peking's Inner City, where decisions were made that forever changed Chinese society; among the allied relief forces struggling to lift the siege; in the aftermath when the great city was savagely looted and despoiled. Here is young Herbert Hoover, then a mining engineer, patrolling the barricades of Tientsin at night on bicycle; British admiral Sir Edward Seymour, whose aborted rescue mission became itself a survival story; Polly Condit Smith, the observant young Boston guest of American first secretary Herbert Squiers, who was besieged in Peking; the French Bishop Auguste Favier, whose successful defense of Peking's Peitang Cathedral was nothing short of a Christian miracle; and Tzu Hsi, the fabled Empress Dowager who had held power for nearly forty years, fighting to preserve her own throne and a dynastic way of life that had lasted for centuries.
Placing readers squarely in the middle of events as they unfolded, Diana Preston proves herself a master of narrative history, a writer who brings the past alive with style and freshness. Offering a view through the lens of the rapid changes in society and culture at the time, The Boxer Rebellion broadens our knowledge of the 20th century.

Publisher: New York : Walker, 2000.
ISBN: 9780802713612
Branch Call Number: 951.035 P926
Characteristics: xxvii, 436 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Preston, Diana 1952- Besieged in Peking.


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Sep 20, 2017

In the summer of 1900, an obscure Chinese religious sect - known as Boxers after their belief that certain martial arts rituals could render them invulnerable to bullets - grew into a major movement. The Boxers demanded that the foreigners who had polluted and despoiled China be exterminated along with all those Chinese who followed their alien ways - especially the hundreds of thousands of Chinese Christians. Soon, the Boxer movement exploded into violence, with Boxers torturing, raping, and murdering their way across northern China. The Empress Dowager allied herself with the movement, and the foreigners resident in the capital of Peking found themselves besieged in their legations by a combination of Boxers and imperial troops. The defenders - Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese - held out through months of desperate if sporadic fighting until relieved by a multinational expeditionary force.

Preston admirably sifts through a mass of diaries, papers, and memoirs left behind by the Europeans trapped in Peking, which provide a wide range of sometimes conflicting perspectives. Unfortunately, the upheavals of the twentieth century have destroyed most of the primary sources on the Chinese side, and this means that the Chinese experience of the Rebellion remains largely a mystery. Dramatically, this is satisfying, as it places the reader in the shoes of the besieged, but it is devastating historically.


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