History–How the Boxer Rebellion Changed Modern China

The Boxer Uprising, 11 years before the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty, was portrayed in Western accounts as a savage outburst of primitive xenophobia directed at the West and its civilising religion, Christianity. The northern Chinese peasants with their red headscarves, who believed in a magic that protected them from foreign bullets and in the power of ancient martial arts that could defeat the industrial world’s most powerful armies, were described with a mixture of fear and racist scorn. But in China the Boxers are officially remembered as somewhat misguided patriots. In the countryside south of Beijing where they burned churches, killed foreign missionaries and slaughtered tens of thousands of “secondary hairy ones”, as Chinese converts to Christianity were known, some call them heroes. The missionaries they attacked had it coming, having trampled on China’s sovereignty. Their converts were no more than local ruffians who exploited foreign protection to ride roughshod over their countrymen.

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