Boxer Rebellion

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Boxer Rebellion


(Russian, I Ho T’uan Rebellion), an anti-imperialist uprising of peasants and urban poor in northern China between 1899 and 1901. The revolt was begun by the secret religious society I Ho Ch’uan (Righteous Harmony Fists), whose rebel units were later renamed I Ho T’uan (Righteous Harmony Bands), from which the rebellion took its name. Because the original name of the society included the word ch ‘uan (fist), the rebels were called boxers by foreigners, as a result of which the uprising has been given the inaccurate name Boxer Rebellion.

The revolt began in Shantung Province, where the presence of foreign imperialists was especially noticeable. Unrest had also grown as a result of a series of natural disasters in 1899. Early in 1900 the center of the rebellion shifted to the capital province of Chihli. The rebels destroyed railroad and telegraph lines, religious missions, and some government offices, gaining de facto control over a large area. Gradually, the rebellion spread to Shanhsi Province and to Manchuria as well. Efforts of government troops to oppose the rebel forces proved fruitless, and the governor of Chihli, Yii Lu, was forced to negotiate with the leaders of the revolt, Li Lai-chung and Chang Te-ch’eng. On June 13-14, the rebels entered Peking and besieged the legation quarter for 56 days. During the attack, the German minister von Ketteler was killed.

Alarmed, the imperialist powers (Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Japan, the United States, tsarist Russia, and Italy) organized an intervention in China. On June 17 their forces captured the Taku forts. Fearing the rebels, the Ch’ing government declared war on the powers but in fact did nothing to defend the country against the interventionists. Instead, it continued its punitive operations against the rebels outside the capital. The governors of the central and southern provinces harshly repressed participants in the antiforeign outbreaks that occurred in the latter part of the year. In mid-July, the foreign troops overcame the heroic resistance of the rebels and captured T’ientsin; shortly thereafter they began to march on Peking. By this time the interventionist forces numbered about 40, 000. The Manchu government offered only weak resistance, and Peking was captured by mid-August. With the arrival of the foreign commander in chief, the German field marshal von Waldersee, punitive expeditions were begun against various areas of continuing unrest and against the peaceful population. The Ch’ing rulers fled from Peking to Hsian.

The rebellion was suppressed by 1901, although resistance continued in some areas until 1902. The imperialist powers imposed the coercive Boxer Protocol on China. Nonetheless, the I Ho T’uan Rebellion was an important stage in the spontaneous struggle of the Chinese peasantry and urban poor against imperialist intrusion into China.


Lenin, V. I. “Kitaiskaia voina.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 4.
Vosstanie ikhetuanei: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1968. (Bibliography, pp. 250-53, 266-69.)
Giles, L. The Siege of the Peking Legations. [Nedlands, 1970.]


Boxer Rebellion

xenophobic Chinese Taoist faction rebelled against foreign intruders (1900). [Chinese Hist.: Parrinder, 50]

Boxer Rebellion

Chinese rising aimed at ousting foreign interlopers (1900). [Chinese Hist.: Van Doren, 334–335]
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