The Origins, Aims and Membership of the Boxers in China

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The ʻRighteous and Harmonious Fistsʼ or the ʻBoxersʼ were a society that formed out of the humiliation China felt that was caused by foreigners. Four main factors influenced their formation, the humiliation they felt due to foreign presence in China, the antipathy towards the Christian missionaries who were a part of this group of foreigners, China was also experiencing economic hardship around the time of the formation of the ʻBoxersʼ and the Northern area of China in which they were formed was also experiencing many natural disasters. The theories of Purcell and Esherick debate whether or not the ʻBoxersʼ were formed to retaliate against the Qing dynasty and the foreigners or if the ʻBoxersʼ aims had nothing to do with the dynasty and in fact the dynasty even supported the ʻBoxersʼ. The members of the ʻBoxersʼ predominantly came from Northern China and were also predominantly of adolescent age. The ʻBoxersʼ were formed out of the feeling of foreign humiliation and were formed with pro-dynastic and anti-foreign aims. The ʻBoxersʼ formed around the beginning of the nineteenth century due to four main reasons, foreign humiliation, antipathy towards Christians, economic hardship and natural disasters. The term ʻBoxersʼ was given to the society by foreigners because of the way that the group would perform public boxing matches. The first official mention of the ʻBoxersʼ was from court officials in 1808. Foreign humiliation was a big factor in the formation of the ʻBoxersʼ. The ʻBoxersʼ felt embarrassment after the opium wars and the unequal treaties was mostly due to their nationalistic pride, China was worried that the foreigners were going to break their country up into a colonial state and the ʻBoxersʼ were angry that China had been taken to that point of fear by the foreigners. It is clear that when the ʻBoxersʼ were formed their main foreign target was missionaries. In the Shandong Boxer attacks the number of attacks by the ʻBoxersʼ on missionaries is generally...
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