Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Boxer Rebellion from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Rebellion of 1900 by the Chinese nationalist Boxer society against Western influence. European and US legations in Beijing (Peking) were besieged and many missionaries and Europeans were killed. An international punitive force was dispatched and Beijing was captured on 14 August 1900. In September 1901 China agreed to pay reperations.

Summary Article: Boxer Uprising
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

1898–1900, antiforeign movement in China, culminating in a desperate uprising against Westerners and Western influence.

By the end of the 19th cent. the Western powers and Japan had established wide interests in China. The Opium War (1839–42), which Great Britain had provoked, forced China to grant commercial concessions (see treaty port) and to recognize the principle of extraterritoriality. The concessions to Great Britain were soon followed by similar ones to France, Germany, and Russia. The Ch'ing regime, already weakened by European encroachments, was more enfeebled by Japan's success in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and the subsequent further partitioning of China into foreign spheres of influence. The Ch'ing emperor, Kuang-hsu, attempted to meet the imperialist threat by adopting modern educational and administrative reforms, but he stirred conservative opposition and was frustrated (1898) by the dowager empress, Tz'u Hsi, who, favoring a last effort to expel foreign influence, supported armed resistance.

The dowager empress tacitly encouraged an antiforeign secret society called I Ho Ch'uan [Chinese,=righteous, harmonious fists] or, in English, the Boxers. The Boxers soon grew powerful, and late in 1899 the movement began to assume menacing proportions. Violent attacks on foreigners and on Chinese Christians occurred, particularly in the provinces of Zhili, Shanxi, and Shandong; in Manchuria; and in Inner Mongolia. In those regions, railway building, a visible symbol of the foreigner, was most active; and Chinese Christians, especially Roman Catholics, adherents to the foreigners' religion, were most numerous. Also located there were the majority of territorial leaseholds acquired by the European powers.

In June, 1900, the Boxers (some 140,000 strong and now led by the war party at court), occupied Beijing and for eight weeks besieged the foreigners and the Chinese Christians there. Provincial governors in SE China suppressed the court's declaration of war and assured the powers of protection for foreign interests, thus limiting the area of conflict to N China. The siege was lifted in August by an international force of British, French, Russian, American, German, and Japanese troops, which had fought its way through from Tianjin. The Boxer Uprising thus ended.

The Western powers and Japan agreed—mainly because of U.S. pressure to “preserve Chinese territorial and administrative integrity” and because of mutual jealousies among the powers—not to carry further the partition of China. Nevertheless, China was compelled (1901) to pay an indemnity of $333 million, to amend commercial treaties to the advantage of the foreign nations, and to permit the stationing of foreign troops in Beijing. The United States later (1908) used some of its share of the indemnity for scholarships for Chinese students. China emerged from the Boxer Uprising with a greatly increased debt and was, in effect, a subject nation.

  • See Smith, A. H. , China in Convulsion (1901);.
  • Steiger, G. N. , China and the Occident (1927);.
  • Tan, C. C. , The Boxer Catastrophe (1955);.
  • Fleming, P. , The Siege at Peking (1959);.
  • Purcell, V. W. W. S. , The Boxer Uprising (1963);.
  • O'Connor, R. , The Spirit Soldiers (1973).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Boxer Rebellion Theater (China)
Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media

The Boxer Rebellion was an Anti-imperialist and Anti-Christian movement in China's northern provinces in the period 1899-1901. Mainly from the...

Full text Article Boxer Rebellion (1900)
Encyclopedia of War and American Society

The Boxer Rebellion was a Chinese nationalistic backlash against Westerners in 1900 that endangered Americans and many Europeans. Brief but...

Full text Article Boxer Rising 1900
Reader's Guide to British History

Cohen Paul A. , History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth , New York : Columbia University Press , 1997 ...

See more from Credo