At the turn of the 20th century, intense social pressure due to increasing foreign influence in Qing China led to an upsurge of participation in the Righteous Harmony Society Movement (Yihetuan), called the "Boxers" by foreign observers.
From their base in drought-ravaged northern China, the Boxers spread across the country, attacking foreign missionaries, diplomats and traders, as well as Chinese Christian converts. By the time it ended, the Boxer Rebellion had claimed almost 50,000 lives.
Background to the Boxer Rebellion 1807: First Protestant Christian missionary arrives in China from London Missionary Society 1835-36: Daoguang Emperor expels missionaries for distributing Christian books 1839-42: First Opium War, Britain imposes unequal treaty on China and takes Hong Kong 1842: Treaty of Nanjing provides extraterritorial rights to all foreigners in China - they are no longer subject to Chinese law 1840s: Western Christian missionaries flood into China 1850-64: Christian convert Hong Xiuquan leads bloody Taiping Rebellion against Qing Dynasty 1856-60: Second Opium War; Britain and France defeat China and impose harsh Treaties of Tientsin 1894-95: First Sino-Japanese War, former tributary Japan defeats China and takes Korea Nov. 1, 1897: Juye Incident, armed men kill two Germans at missionary home in Shandong Province, northern China Nov. 14, 1897: German Kaiser Wilhelm II sends fleet to Shandong, urges them to take no prisoners like Attila and the Huns 1897-98: Drought followed by flooding strikes Shandong, causing wide-spread misery
The Boxers Rebel 1898: Young men in Shandong form Righteous Fist groups, practicing martial arts and traditional spiritualism June 11-Sept. 21, 1898: Hundred Days Reform, Emperor Guangxu tries to quickly modernize China Sept. 21, 1898: On the verge of handing over sovereignty to Japan, Guangxu is stopped and goes into internal exile. Empress Dowager Cixi rules in his name. Oct. 1898: Boxers attack Liyuantun village's Catholic church, converted from a temple to the Jade Emperor Jan. 1900: Empress Dowager Cixi rescinds condemnation of Boxers, issues letter of support Jan-May, 1900: Boxers storm through countryside, burning churches, killing missionaries and converts May 30, 1900: British Minister Claude MacDonald requests defense force for Beijing foreign legations; Chinese allow 400 troops from eight nations into capital
The Boxer Rebellion Reaches Beijing Jun 5, 1900: Boxers cut railroad line at Tianjin, isolating Beijing June 13, 1900: First Boxer appears in Beijing's Legation (diplomatic) Quarter June 13, 1900: Pro-Boxer General Dong Fuxian's troops kill Japanese diplomat Sugiyama Akira June 14, 1900: German Minister Clemens von Ketteler arrests and summarily executes a young boy he suspects of being a BoxerJune 14, 1900: Thousands of angry Boxers storm Beijing and burn Christian churches in response to boy's murder June 16, 1900: Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu hold council meeting, decide to fully support Boxers June 19, 1900: Qing government sends messengers to offer foreign legation members safe passage out of Beijing; instead, the foreigners shoot the messengers dead June 20, 1900: Manchu Bannerman Captain En Hai kills Minister von Ketteler in a melee to avenge the murdered "Boxer" boy
Siege of the LegationsJune 20-Aug. 14, 1900: Boxers and Chinese Imperial Army besiege legations sheltering 473 foreign civilians, 400 foreign soldiers, and approximately 3,000 Chinese Christians June 21, 1900: Empress Dowager Cixi declares war against the foreign powers June 22-23, 1900: Chinese set fire to parts of Legation district; priceless Hanlin Academy library burns June 30, 1900: Chinese force Germans from position atop "Tartar Wall" overlooking legations, but Americans hold position July 3, 1900: 56 US, British and Russian soldiers on Tartar Wall launch 2 am surprise attack, kill 20 Chinese soldiers, and drive survivors from wall July 9, 1900: Outside of Beijing; Shanxi Province governor executes 44 missionary families (men, women and children) after offering them asylum at Taiyuan. Victims of "Taiyuan Massacre" become martyrs in eyes of Chinese Christians July 13-14, 1900: Also 120 km (75 miles) outside Beijing, Battle of Tientsin (Tianjin); Eight-Nations relief force besieges Boxer-held city, 550 Boxers and 250 foreigners killed. Foreign troops (especially Germans and Russians) rampage through city afterwards, looting, raping and killing civilians, while Japanese and Americans try to restrain them July 13, 1900: In Beijing, Chinese set off a mine under French Legation, force French and Austrians to shelter in British compound July 13, 1900: Advancing Chinese drive Japanese and Italian troops to precarious last defense line at Prince Su's palace July 16, 1900: Australian journalist George Morrison injured and British Captain Strouts killed by Chinese snipers July 16, 1900: London Daily Mail publishes report that all legation besieged had been massacred, including mercy killing of women and children, Russians boiled to death in oil, etc. Story was false, fabricated by reporter in Shanghai July 17, 1900: Eight-Nations relief force lands on coast, begins march to Beijing July 17, 1900: Qing government declares cease-fire on legations August 13, 1900: Chinese end cease-fire, bombard legations as foreign "rescue" force approaches capital August 14, 1900: Relief force lifts siege on legations, forgets to relieve besieged Catholic North Cathedral until August 16 August 15, 1900: Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu escape Forbidden City dressed as peasants, go on "inspection tour" to ancient capital of Xi'an (formerly Chang'an) in Shaanxi Province
Aftermath of the Boxer RebellionSept. 7, 1900: Qing officials sign "Boxer Protocol," agree to pay huge war reparations over 40 years Sept. 21, 1900: Russian troops seize Jilin and occupy Manchuria, moves that will spark 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War Jan. 1902: Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu return to Beijing from Xi'an and resume control of government 1905: Empress Dowager Cixi abolishes imperial examination system for training bureaucrats in favor of western-style university system, part of an attempt at sweeping modernization Nov. 14-15, 1908: Emperor Guangxu dies of arsenic poisoning, followed the next day by Empress Dowager Cixi Feb. 12, 1912: Qing Dynasty falls to Sun Yat-sen; formal abdication by Last Emperor Puyi
For more detailed information, see the Boxer Rebellion in Photographs, and the Boxer Rebellion Editorial Cartoons.