At the dawn of the twentieth century a xenophobic and superstitious popular movement was sweeping through northern and central China. Known in English as the Boxer Rebellion or the Boxer Uprising and initially in Chinese as yihequan (more or less Righteous and Harmonious Fists), by the summer of 1900 its followers had surrounded foreign legations in Peking and were poised for the wholesale slaughter of foreign diplomats, businessmen, and missionaries. The Boxers, as they were called by Westerners, were practitioners of traditional Chinese martial arts who sought to eliminate foreigners and foreign influence in China. The movement was quelled in August 1900 when an allied force of almost 20,000 troops from several Western nations and Japan arrived in Peking and put the Boxers to flight, but not before 231 foreigners in several areas of northern China had been killed by the insurgents, including two medical missionaries educated at Princeton. The subsequent Boxer Indemnity, which became an enormous burden for the Qing dynasty, proved to be one of the factors that led to its overthrow in 1911.
A good portion of the Boxers’ anger was originally directed at the Manchus and their Qing government, which they perceived as incom-