This Sunday, I went on a boxer rebellion walking tour to the old Legation Quarter – where the embassies used to be. The boxer Rebellion, an anti-imperialist uprising by a group of mythical rebels, took place during the end of the Qing Dynasty. In the dreadful summer of1900, the legation quarter was under siege for 55 days by the boxers, armed with swords (they believed that they were invulnerable to foreign weapons!) and Qing troops. Some 4000 foreigners, missionaries, diplomats and business people and their families as well as Chinese Christians, all gathered here. Danish sinologist Lars Ulrick from Beijing Postcards Thom led the tour. He explained the background, the aggression of the foreign powers, the growing anti-foreign sentiments and the drought as we walked past the tree-lined former embassy land where some colonial buildings still stand and he vividly recounted – sometimes acted out – some of the colorful stories: the murder of the German ambassador, the bombing of the French embassy; and how 200,000 bullets flew into the air without hitting one target and how some westerners ate their horses, washed down by plenty of alcohol – the only food item abundance.
The impact of the Boxer Rebellion was profound. It sped up the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and pushed China into a modern world.
I personally found the Boxer Rebellion fascinating as it is one of the historical events that got dramatically different interpretations. At school, we learnt it was a patriotic movement while many western academics regarded it as a barbaric uprising: many missionaries were brutally murdered. Well, it all depends on who’s point of view. The truth may lie somewhere in between.
What an enjoyable history lesson. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.