History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth

By Paul A. Cohen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Death

Several thousand Boxers had assembled in Zhangdeng [township in Qingyuan county, Zhili]. It was the eighth day of the fifth month [ June 4, 1900]. At sundown there was a huge commotion along with sounds of shrieking and wailing. It was discovered that the Boxers had burned several dozen Christian families to death. A workman who went to have a look reported that the men of the families had fled, leaving only the women, who were incinerated in their homes. When one young woman escaped from the flames, her belly was cut open with a sword by the Boxers. One could hear the sound of skin separating from bones. Several Boxers grabbed the woman by the thighs and arms and threw her back into the flames. The savagery was unspeakable. The stench traveled for several li.

Ai Sheng, resident of Dingxing county, Zhili1

The Boxers didn't kill people indiscriminately. We killed people with a purpose in mind. . . . When we wanted to kill people we made sure they were secondary hairy ones [Christians].

Li Yuanshan, former Boxer, Tianjin2

On the way [from the capital to Tianjin in late August 1900] we passed villages and scattered farms, all absolutely deserted. The crops were ripening in the fields, but there was no one to look after them or to reap them. They were left to rot. At a season when in ordinary years the country is alive with busy folk, when every field has its watcher's booth, when every threshing-floor is rolled afresh, and men, women, and children, all turn out to bring in the harvest, now not a soul was to be seen. We went into house after house, broken cups and plates lay upon the floor, an evil stench warned the intruder from corners, the water from the wells had a strange taste savouring of disease and death.

Roland Allen, British chaplain, Beijing3

-173-

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History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Part 1 - The Boxers as Event 1
  • Prologue - The Historically Reconstructed Past 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Boxer Uprising- A Narrative History 14
  • Part 2 - The Boxers as Experience 57
  • Prologue - The Experienced Past 59
  • Chapter 2 - Drought and the Foreign Presence 69
  • Chapter 3 - Mass Spirit Possession 96
  • Chapter 4 - Magic and Female Pollution 119
  • Chapter 5 - Rumor and Rumor Panic 146
  • Chapter 6 - Death 173
  • Part 3 - The Boxers as Myth 209
  • Prologue - The Mythologized Past 211
  • Chapter 7 - The New Culture Movement and the Boxers 223
  • Chapter 8 - Anti-Imperialism and the Recasting of the Boxer Myth 238
  • Chapter 9 - The Cultural Revolution and the Boxers 261
  • Conclusion 289
  • Abbreviations 299
  • Notes 301
  • Glossary 375
  • Bibliography 383
  • Index 415
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