The Boxer Uprising: A Background Study

By Victor Purcell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
'PRO-DYNASTIC' OR 'ANTI-DYNASTIC'? II

The correspondence summarized in the last chapter would seem to establish that the Boxers in 1899 consisted both of out-and-out anti‐ Manchu rebels and of ordinary people who had joined the sect as a rallying-point against the universally hated foreigner. The motive of the first element was to remove the Ch'ing and the foreigner simultaneously, and of the latter to remove the foreigner purely and simply. The out-and-out rebels the local mandarins would obviously have to suppress; the others might be brought under control by absorbing them into the militia or Pao-chia (as proposed by Chang Ju-mei). The question was how to discriminate between the two kinds of Boxer. Those of Li Ping-hêng's and Yü-hsien's school of thought clearly believed that this could be effectively done, and that the widespread resentment against intolerable economic and social conditions could be diverted from the government and directed exclusively against the foreigner. On the other hand, mandarins of Yüan Shih-k'ai's school of thought saw the grave danger of allowing any popular direct action which might easily get out of hand and would almost certainly be diverted against the Manchus and the mandarinate once the rebels were powerful enough.

At least a section of the movement was anti-government as shown by some of the Boxer posters even after the Boxers in general were definitely committed to the support of the dynasty. Here is one which is not precisely dated, but presumably belongs to the early months of 1900:

The Chinese Empire has been celebrated for its sacred teaching. It explained heavenly truth and human duties, and its civilizing influence spread as an ornament over rivers and mountains. But in an unaccountable manner all this has been changed. For the past five or six generations bad officials have been in office, bureaus have been opened for the sale of offices, and only those who have money to pay for it have been allowed to hold positions in the Government. The graduation of scholars has become useless, and members of the College of Literature (Hanlin Academy) and scholars of the third degree remain in obscurity at home. An official position can be obtained as the price of silver. The Emperor covets the riches of his Ministers, these again

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