Boxer Rebellion placards (1900)

boxer rebel 1900
A Boxer rebel, c.1900
The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-Western uprising in China toward the end of the Qing dynasty. It emerged in German-occupied Shandong province in the late 1890s and culminated with the murder of the German ambassador and a two-month siege of foreign legations in Beijing in mid-1900. The Boxers were opposed to the presence of Western religions in China and the conversion of Chinese to Christianity. These activities offended indigenous Chinese gods, they believed, and brought about devastating droughts and crop failures. There were several anti-Western groups but by far the best known was the Society of Righteous Fists, dubbed the ‘Boxers’ by the Western press due to its focus on martial arts. This Boxer placard, which appeared in northern China in early 1900, calls on locals to reject Western religions and return to Buddhism:

THUS SAYETH LI, THE GOD OF WEALTH AND HAPPINESS:

“On account of the Protestant and Catholic religions, the Buddhist gods are oppressed and our sages thrust into the background. The law of Buddha is no longer respected and the Five Relationships are disregarded. The anger of Heaven and Earth has been aroused and the timely rain has consequently been withheld from us.

But Heaven is now sending eight millions of spiritual soldiers to extirpate these foreign religions, and when this has been done there will be a timely rain. In a short time, there will be an encounter of weapons and the soldiers and people will suffer calamity. People ought to hasten and rejoin the Buddhist faith as soon as possible. The Society of Righteous Fists can protect the government and give peace and protection to the people…

[Those] having seen this notice must make it known to others and thus avoid calamity to their families. Those who fail to publish it will suffer. If the foreign religions are not destroyed, there will be no rain.”

The following attempt to recruit volunteers to the Boxer movement appeared in Tientsin in June 1900. It repeats an unproven but frequently-made claim that foreigners were poisoning Chinese wells. It also threatens those who fail to support the Boxer cause with decapitation:

ISSUED BY THE LORD OF WEALTH AND HAPPINESS:

“The Catholic and Protestant religions, being insolent to the gods and extinguishing sanctity, rendering no obedience to Buddhism and enraging both Heaven and Earth, the rain clouds no longer visit us. But eight million spirit soldiers will descend from Heaven and sweep the Empire clean of all foreigners. Then will the gentle showers once more water our lands. And, when the tread of soldiers and the clash of steel are heard, heralding woes to all our people, then the Buddhist’s Patriotic League of Boxers will be able to protect the Empire and bring peace to all its people.

Hasten then to spread this doctrine far and wide, for if you gain one adherent to the faith, your own person will be absolved from all future misfortunes. If you gain five adherents to the faith, your whole family will be absolved from all evils. And if you gain ten adherents to the faith, your whole village will be absolved from all calamities. Those who gain no adherents to the cause shall be decapitated, for until all foreigners have been exterminated, the rain can never visit us.

Those who have been so unfortunate as to have drunk water from wells poisoned by foreigners should at once make use of the following divine prescription, the ingredients of which are to be decocted and swallowed, when the poisoned patient will recover: dried black plums (half an ounce), solanum dulcamara (half an ounce), encommia ulmoides (half an ounce).”

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