Around 1900, after many years of succumbing to the superior military of the West, the Chinese stood up for their country. China was a weak, backwards, country, exploited by the West. They felt that they could counter the foreign domination, but reforms were useless because they needed the West to help with the reforms. But something sparked their confidence, and they believed themselves to be able to conquer any foreign power. This spark was the Society of Harmonious Fists, commonly known as “Boxers.” Combined with unhappy people, and new weapons technology, the Chinese rebelled against the foreign powers.
The first reason of this confidence was the Boxer Society, which formed in North China after the Sino-Japanese war, but wasn’t well known until 1898 in Shantung. This organization was actually a cult, following strange and absurd practices of defense. It had no central leaders, and the practices varied in different locations. Their goal was to rid China of the foreign menace. The boxers were different from most other rebels of their time. They would conduct public physical exercises that were supposed to make a magical shield to protect one against foreign bullets and shells. These looked similar to a boxers training exercises so the westerners nicknamed the members of the Society of Harmonious Fists “Boxers.” Rather then using foreign weapons, they relied on magical spirits and swords, knives, staves, and polearms to drive the foreign devils from their precious home country. The membership of this group consisted of mostly the criminals, poor, and illiterate of China who wore a simple uniform consisting of a red armband, sash, or waistcloth. These people truly believed that magic would protect them, and help remove the foreigners from China. That gave them enough confidence to try to destroy the foreigners. Missionaries were killed, railroads were destroyed, and churches were burned all in the name of independence from foreign rule.
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Another key aspect in the rebellions against the west was a series of natural disasters that swept China during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Famine struck, droughts prevented the planting of crops, and to top it all, the Yellow river flooded, causing the destruction of 1,500 villages and 2,500 square miles of countryside. These disaster lead to unhappiness of the people. In order to keep them from turning on the government, the Dowager Empress, Tsu Hsi, encouraged the peasants to rebel against the foreigners. Some of these angry people joined the Boxers, and others rebelled alone, but they had the Empress behind them, giving them encouragement, and making them feel ready to take on the demons from the West.
The third reason that the Chinese felt ready to face the West, was a new weapons technology. This was the machine gun, which had both physical and symbolic power. It could physically kill many more people then a regular rifle, because of its ability to spray bullets and fire more then one round per pulling of the trigger. Symbolically, it represented a method which the west had used to subdue the Chinese, and now the Chinese were going to use it against the west. This inspired confidence and made the people ready to fight, knowing that they could fight machine gun with machine gun.
The Chinese were tired of being looked down at by the west. The people were unhappy, armed, or bullet proof, and the Queen encouraged them to fight the west. With all this support how could one not feel ready to fight the West?
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