The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China - David J. Silbey


3.5 stars

To the Victors Go the Spoils

China, in the 1800's, had suffered two Opium Wars which left her devastated and having to yield to the British, who forced upon her their trade of Opium (the price they were willing to pay for all the tea in China).

c.1900 , many global powers were in conflict - the Germans were fighting a genocidal war against the Hehe in German East Africa; the British were losing a war against the Boers in South Africa; the United States was struggling to suppress a Filipino insurgency; Russia was struggling with a widespread anarchists' movement. These major powers, including France and Japan, all had their covetous eyes on China.

"On the decision of the fate of China may, perhaps, hinge the economic supremacy of the next century."

China, already having seen the insidious growth of Western missionaries threatening their traditional beliefs, was fighting to hold on to her Qing dynastic rule, and to deter the rapid progress of modernization by foreign powers. She had been pushed ever more closely to rebellion against these "foreign devils."

Between 1897-1900, the Boxers, an assortment of religious peasant groups known for their sword twirling, ritualistic prostrations and skilled martial arts, were encouraged by the Empress Dowager Cixi to retaliate against the Allied Forces (Germany, France, United States of America, United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy).

~The Boxers armed with obsolete weapons and farm tools~


~The Ip Man was there to lend a fist~

Ok, there is no Einstein moment needed to understand what transpired next.

The end result was a country made vulnerable for the most powerful vultures to snack on.

~Slicing up the China-pie~ courtesy wikipedia

The Last Kowtow

The failure of China to defend herself inevitably led to the desire of her people to reform, and strengthen her belief in a China as a nation, not a possession. The Nationalist Party led by Sun Yat-sen and the Communist Party of Mao Zedong managed that patriotic duty, in a manner of speaking.

Although this was a history lesson dry in some parts, I did get a more rounded picture of the Boxers - their origins, beliefs and motives- than would be otherwise gleaned from the popular online searches. Mr. Silbey provided a good description of the motivations behind the superpowers who inserted their greedy hands in another's cookie jar. I was especially interested in the Empress Dowager Cixi - it was insightful that the author paralleled her rule with the indomitable Queen Victoria.

Most of all, I realized more clearly the violence that China endured at the hands of foreigners for a near century; it was tragically, deadly sinful.


~ Allied Forces~