The Boxer Rebellion was the by-product of Western trade, imperialism, and economic development in China during the final years of the 19th century. By August 1900, over 230 foreigners and thousands of Chinese Christians had been killed by Chinese terrorists, known as the "Boxers." Journalists captured the violence in drawings created for American newspapers.
The violence was located in northern China where European investors
had built railroads and developed mining operations. To protect the Chinese
empire from Western take-over, a secret society called the "Fists
of Righteous Harmony" aimed to exterminate all "foreign devils."
Thousands of Boxers targeted Christian missionaries in December 1899 and
escalated their rampage in the spring of 1900. By June, the Boxers
had been joined by elements of the Imperial
army and boldly attacked foreign compounds within the cities of Tientsin
Inside the walled compound in Tientsin was a young mining engineer
named Herbert Hoover, who had settled in China with his wife, Lou. For
the Hoovers, the siege was an occasionally harrowing but often adventurous
experience because it was of short duration. The foreign relief troops
reached Tientsin by the end of June and drove the Boxers off by mid-July.
Further inland, Peking was in greater peril. A force of 400 Marines
and 100 volunteers defended 900 people in a space intended for 60 individuals.
The siege lasted for 55 days with 66 casualties. When the Europeans finally
emerged from the Peking compound, they found its streets littered with
the bodies of Chinese Christians. No individuals were ever charged with
the murders, but the Imperial government would be forced to pay for the
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|--Artifacts on loan, courtesy of the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts as well as from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts|
The events of 1900 in China created an unusual opportunity
for artists. Even though photography was coming of age, most newspapers
and magazines still relied on drawings to depict and interpret contemporary
events. Editors attempted to forecast the outbreak of meaningful events
in far-off places, so that artist and reporters could be sent to these
places in advance of breaking news.
This forecasting was not always possible, however. The
Boxer Rebellion in China in June of 1900, for example, erupted so suddenly
that most publications were unable to get artists to China in time for
In other cases, military officers (such as Francis Gordon Poole) sketched, wrote, or even photographed what they were observing in the heat of battle, and found a ready market for their work in New York and London publications. Staff artists then developed these amateur sketches or eyewitness accounts into finished, publishable artwork. Additional artwork was prepared in studios in various western countries and in Japan by studio-based professional artists.
Queue (pigtail, or Chinese man's braid) - of a
man executed for murder and looting, the day after Webb Hayes arrived
in Peking. Chinese men were forced to shave the front and top of their
heads, and wear the rest of their hair in one long pigtail after the Manchus
conquered China in the 1640s and founded the Ch'ing Dynasty. This was
a Manchu tribal hairstyle, and was seen by the rulers of the new dynasty
as Chinese acceptance of Manchu rule. By the time of the Boxer Rebellion,
the queue had become a symbol of shame to the Boxers and Chinese nationalists
in the late 19th century.
Imperial Soldier's Uniform - from the Ch'ing Dynasty,
collected by the Hoovers.
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