Thursday, June 20, 2013
Thoughts on the Boxers
The Boxers, like so many of the secret (and not-so-secret) societies that sprang up throughout Chinese history, always seemed to me to be of rather dubious loyalty. Their battle cry of “Support the Qing! Destroy the foreigner!” sounds admirably patriotic (given that the foreigners were in their country) but it does not hold up to a great deal of scrutiny. Boxer forces attacked and looted the property of those Qing officials who did not support their movement and I am of the opinion that if the Empress-Dowager had not decided to finally back them, they would have turned their anger against the dynasty as well. It did finally happen in the course of Chinese history that, when the revolution broke out, the cry was still to “destroy the foreigner” but, in 1911, the “foreigners” were the Manchus. And, of course, there was the Boxer brutality against the missionaries who were singled out for particular cruelty and against those Chinese who had converted to Christianity. True enough, not all missionaries always behaved well whether in China or in other countries around the world, but cruelty is cruelty. That the Chinese traditionalists were upset at a foreign religion making gains in preference to their own beliefs is understandable, however, mass slaughter should never have been the solution. Those who had been guilty of crimes, as is often the way, usually seemed to be the ones to find a way to save their own skins while the truly innocent amongst them and the converted Chinese Christians were the ones who suffered the most.