Saturday, April 9, 2011

Boxer Rebellion Part 6: My Conclusions

Final Conclusions
            I do not, as many of the texts I consulted believe, that the Boxer Uprising was unique from a historical perspective.  Was it a fascinating case?  Definitely, and the individual accounts and the grander narrative of the whole affair come off as poetic in many instances.  It is a tragedy on a grand scale fueled by racism, religion, economics, and by the clash of progress and tradition.  It was the first conflict between East and West in the 20th century, and the last great conflict fought by a Chinese Dynasty.  It was the closing out of centuries of a government styled on myth, and the heralding of progress.

            Whenever a society steeped in tradition comes into conflict with an advanced military power their beliefs are challenged, 'why has god forsaken us' could be the sentiment used to describe these groups, and from these groups both violence and new reforms emerge.  The Sioux Indians after being driven deeper into the American continent by Westward United States expansion founded a religion about how one day the White man would be swept away from the world, the Ghost Dance movement believed that through mysticism they could see the future of this day coming and within their ceremonial garments they could not be harmed by gunfire, they like the Boxers' beliefs in their own martial arts, were mistaken.  Local magicians opposing French rule in Algeria claimed that their magical abilities would make them the scourge of white men, the French sent in a magician who put on his own magic shows and then revealed how they were performed, daring local mystics to do better, they were deemed schemers and French rule continued, a rebellion killed before it could walk.

            China had suffered from disaster, and lost faith in the leadership that had brought them there, but sadly rather than change before the tides of the world that beat down their temples with science and foreign ideas they tried to hold firm, banded together and stood against the tide, only to be drowned.  They couldn't have thought they would win, no Boxer truly believed themselves to be invincible, the people wanted miracles to bring back their crops, they wanted someone to blame, and the Boxers gave them some leadership that the Dynasty wasn't, they gave them an enemy, and they told the people that they were the living scions of nature's fury.  It is not unique, but it is certainly tragic.

            I like to look back with this conflict to the Opium Wars, where I believe China was entirely in the right and lost regardless, the British were drug dealers and were undermining the entire country.  Do I believe they had not been treated fairly initially when selling clocks and wool?  Yes, but that does not excuse selling drugs.  Compare that with the Boxer Rebellion, a case when I believe the Chinese were totally in the wrong.  While I do not like that missionaries were arrogant, and that too much foreign influence was causing China to loose identity, the Boxers killed innocent people because they were Christian, they spread lies about cannibalism to discredit orphanages that took in the hungry and the sick, and the Boxers killed innocent people simply because they were different.  That is evil.  And the government was so corrupt that they performed a coup' de tat just so they wouldn't have to reform and confront a world they were woefully unequipped to deal with, they were incompetent and foolish.

            The books I read often would try to make it seem that racism by missionaries on some level justifies the Boxer's sentiment.  Schoppa puts down the words of the German missionary Georg Stenz, "His contempt for the Chinese drips from his description of Shanghai: 'An entirely new world now opened before us.  Crowds of slit eyed Chinese swarmed about the harbor... Cunning, pride, and scorn flashed from the eyes that met our inquiring looks." (Schoppa, pg119)  No offense to Schoppa, but I do not hear the contempt.  This man has come from the other side of the planet in hopes of telling people about Jesus.  I'm not Christian, but I can admire his drive to journey far to help people find what he believes to be a great religion.  And even with the line about "cunning, pride, and contempt" I don't think he was far off, two of his friends were murdered in front of him by Boxers, and he was the target, how he got away I don't know but needless to say that if he saw some sort of anti-missionary vibe in the Chinese people around him, that doesn't make him racist, it makes him observant; even if he was as racist as anyone else in the world, he did not deserve to be murdered in the street because the Boxers blame him for the drought.

            In conclusion, the Boxers were not a unique type of movement in history, but they were most definitely an important terrorist movement in China at the birth of the 20th century.

References Quoted
Eshrick, Joseph W. 1987. "The Origins of the Boxer Uprising"
            I liked this book, I felt I could have easily gotten more passages out of it that would have provided a greater understanding of the material.

Preston, Diana. 1999. "The Boxer Rebellion"
            Good book because of its narrative strength, but I do not think its goal was to be an academic journal and as such gives notice to more sensational aspects of the conflict, fun to read, very informative, tempered by my understanding gathered from reading the other works.

Purcell, Victor. 1963.  "The Boxer Uprising"
            Nothing I couldn't have gotten from the other books, but more writer context on the incident to temper my digestion of the others.

Schoppa, R. Keith. 2002. "Revolution and its Past"
            Surprisingly short bit on this historical incident considering the title of the book, and a little biased in the presentation of some of the players.  Addressed directly in my conclusion.

References Consulted
Bickers, Robert and R.G. Tiedemann. edited 2007. "The Boxers, China, and the World"
            Nothing in here was quotable, though each article had very strong specific focus to an issue within the conflict, if this had been a longer paper I would have quoted from this for several different more focused things.

Spence, Jonathan D. 1990.  "The Search for Modern China"
            The section is a little short on the Boxer Rebellion, though I would have used it for some of its more poignant quotes if I were writing a longer paper.

Waley-Cohen, Joanna. 1999. "The Sextants of Beijing"
            Hardly used at all, I read its small section on the Rebellion, and was disappointed with it.  Generally it is too short a book covering far too large a span of history and comes off as a little glib.

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