Around 1900, after manyyears of succumbing to the superior military of the West, theChinese stood up for their country. China was a weak,backwards, country, exploited by the West. They felt thatthey could counter the foreign domination, but reforms wereuseless because they needed the West to help with thereforms. But something sparked their confidence, and theybelieved themselves to be able to conquer any foreignpower. This spark was the Society of Harmonious Fists,commonly known as “Boxers.” Combined with unhappypeople, and new weapons technology, the Chinese rebelledagainst the foreign powers. The first reason of thisconfidence was the Boxer Society, which formed in NorthChina after the Sino-Japanese war, but wasn’t well knownuntil 1898 in Shantung. This organization was actually a cult,following strange and absurd practices of defense.
It had nocentral leaders, and the practices varied in differentlocations. Their goal was to rid China of the foreign menace.The boxers were different from most other rebels of theirtime. They would conduct public physical exercises thatwere supposed to make a magical shield to protect oneagainst foreign bullets and shells. These looked similar to aboxers training exercises so the westerners nicknamed themembers of the Society of Harmonious Fists “Boxers.
“Rather then using foreign weapons, they relied on magicalspirits and swords, knives, staves, and polearms to drive theforeign devils from their precious home country. Themembership of this group consisted of mostly the criminals,poor, and illiterate of China who wore a simple uniformconsisting of a red armband, sash, or waistcloth. Thesepeople truly believed that magic would protect them, andhelp remove the foreigners from China. That gave themenough confidence to try to destroy the foreigners.Missionaries were killed, railroads were destroyed, andchurches were burned all in the name of independence fromforeign rule.
Another key aspect in the rebellions against thewest was a series of natural disasters that swept Chinaduring the last decade of the nineteenth century. Faminestruck, droughts prevented the planting of crops, and to topit all, the Yellow river flooded, causing the destruction of1,500 villages and 2,500 square miles of countryside. Thesedisaster lead to unhappiness of the people. In order to keepthem from turning on the government, the DowagerEmpress, Tsu Hsi, encouraged the peasants to rebel againstthe foreigners. Some of these angry people joined theBoxers, and others rebelled alone, but they had the Empressbehind them, giving them encouragement, and making themfeel ready to take on the demons from the West.
The thirdreason that the Chinese felt ready to face the West, was anew weapons technology. This was the machine gun, whichhad both physical and symbolic power. It could physicallykill many more people then a regular rifle, because of itsability to spray bullets and fire more then one round perpulling of the trigger. Symbolically, it represented a methodwhich the west had used to subdue the Chinese, and nowthe Chinese were going to use it against the west. Thisinspired confidence and made the people ready to fight,knowing that they could fight machine gun with machine gun.The Chinese were tired of being looked down at by thewest.
The people were unhappy, armed, or bullet proof, andthe Queen encouraged them to fight the west. With all thissupport how could one not feel ready to fight the West?