City of Mud and Fire
It was in the center that the melodrama and comedy were played -- the rim was nearly all tragedy. -- Herbert Hoover
tHE people of Tientsin had the unenviable reputation of being among the most "quarrelsome and obstreperous" in China. The arrival of thousands of Boxers in the early months of 1900 had compounded this natural truculence. Local malcontents, petty criminals, and boatmen thrown out of their jobs by the Peking-Tientsin railway mingled with young peasants flocking in to escape the droughtravaged countryside. By early June they were swaggering openly through the Chinese City, which they now controlled and which abutted the foreign settlement. Boxer placards plastered over the city's mud walls whipped up antiforeign feeling and preyed on people's superstitions. One placard concluded with an instruction reminiscent of a chain letter: "Those who see this sheet and distribute six copies will deliver a whole family from calamity. If ten sheets are circulated they will save an entire district. If any see this hand-bill and fail to disseminate it they will certainly be beheaded."
The Boxers instructed the population how to do their hair, what to wear, what to eat, and when to burn incense. They even led them in singing a curious little rhyme: "When women don't dress their locks, we can chop off the foreigners' blocks; when women don't bind their kickers, we can kill all the foreigners with snickers." The Tientsin correspondent of the North China Herald