A Chinese Christian on the Boxer Rebellion (1900)

Fei Ch’i-hao was a Chinese Christian who survived the anti-foreign and anti-Christian backlash of 1899-1901. Here he describes the growing unrest that led to the Boxer Rebellion:

“The people of Shanxi are naturally timid and gentle, not given to making disturbances, being the most peaceable people in China. So our Shanxi Christians were hopeful for themselves, even when the reports from the coast grew more alarming.

But there was one thing which caused us deep apprehension, and that was the fact that the wicked, cruel Yu Hsien, the hater of foreigners, was the newly appointed Governor of Shanxi. He had previously promoted the Boxer movement in Shantung, and had persuaded the Empress Dowager that the Boxers had supernatural powers and were true patriots.

The wicked Governor, YĆ¼ Hsien, scattered proclamations stating that the foreign religions overthrew morality and inflamed men to do evil, so now gods and men were stirred up against them, and Heaven’s legions had been sent to exterminate the foreign devils. Moreover there were the Boxers, faithful to their sovereign, loyal to their country, determined to unite in wiping out the foreign religion. He also offered a reward to all who killed foreigners, either titles or office or money.

So when the highest official in the province took such a stand in favour of the Boxers, what could inferior officials do? People and officials bowed to his will, and all who enlisted as Boxers were in high favour. It was a time of license and anarchy, when not only Christians were killed, but hundreds of others against whom individual Boxers had a grudge.

Early in June my college friend K’ung Hsiang Hsi came back from T’ungchou for his vacation, reporting that the state of affairs there and at Peking was growing worse, that the local officials were powerless against the Boxers, and that the Boxers, armed with swords, were constantly threatening Christians scattered in the country. Late in July a proclamation of the Governor was posted in the city in which occurred the words, “Exterminate foreigners, kill devils.” Native Christians must leave the church or pay the penalty with their lives.

Li Yij and I talked long and earnestly over plans for saving the lives of our beloved missionaries. “You must not stay here waiting for death,” we said. Yet we realised how difficult it would be to escape. Foreigners with light hair and fair faces are not easily disguised. Then where could they go?”