The Boxer Uprising: A Background Study

By Victor Purcell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
'PRO-DYNASTIC' OR 'ANTI-DYNASTIC'? I

In obedience to the decree of 23 May 1898 (K 24/4/4) Chang Ju-mei carried out investigations lasting over a month and reported back to the throne on 30 June (K 24/5/I2).I He began by giving a history of the disturbances on the Shantung-Chihli border. Many of the inhabitants of the region were practising 'boxing', he said, and had established village bands (Hsiang T'uan). Their object was the protection of their persons and property. The name they originally gave themselves was I Ho, which they afterwards changed to Mei Hua Ch'üan (Plum Blossom Fists). In recent years they had changed it back to I Ho, or I Min, but they regarded themselves as a newly established society. Before the building of Christian churches in the region2 they had already organized to protect their homes and families against bandits and the like, but since the arrival of the missionaries friction had developed between the people and the newcomers in which they became involved. The result was that year by year the 'Boxer People' (Ch'üan Min) had grown rapidly in numbers. They formed into private bodies on their own and were not organized or interfered with by the officials. But now the local officials and gentry had been enjoined to transform these private bodies into public ones, to convert 'Boxer Irregulars' (Ch'üan Yung) into 'People's Militia' (Min T'uan). The Provincial Judge, Yü-hsien, had been instructed to investigate further and report.

As a result of their combined inquiries, Chang Ju-mei had ascertained with certainty that the body referred to as the I Min Hui was actually the I Ho T'uan. There was no sign at present, however, of any trouble. When the authorities had established Pao-chia and T'uan‐ fang (neighbourhood constabulary and village militia) in these areas, they intended to include the Boxers in the Hsiang T'uan (village militia units) and to appoint suitable persons to officer them in due course.

It is clear that Chang Ju-mei (prompted, no doubt, by Yü-hsien) wished at this juncture to minimize the danger of the Boxers to good order, although they were already at an early date posting placards declaring their intention to kill the converts.3

-194-

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