Research time period, history professor Ariane Knüsel investigates
Research Question: How significant was religion in causing and heightening tensions in the Boxer Rebellion?Candidate Number: 001023-0014Word Count: 2181Section ISource I:In the article “China’s New Christians”, author Jillian Kay Melchior investigates the effect of Christianity in Chinese society. Melchior argues that after the Opium Wars against the Europeans, the Westerners were allowed to build community buildings in key coastal cities and granted Christian missionaries traveling rights. These treaties were viewed by the Chinese as unequal and humiliating. In addition to these treaties, China’s economic and social conditions gradually depreciated over fifty years from when the westerners first established those treaties. The connection made from colonialism to Christianity is a link that isn’t only found in China but also other colonies, because missionaries attempt to convert those other believers into Western Christianity. However, the Boxer Rebellion was the first violent national demonstration of these attitudes towards Christianity. The article implicitly states that the Chinese were not allowed to become Christian before the treaty after the Second Opium War, for which Melchior states, “The second treaty included, explicitly or implicitly, the right of Chinese to become Christians.” If the Chinese were not allowed to become Christians, then the act of converting to Christ may be an act of heresy towards the Qing Dynasty. Therefore, China may have had an official religion before the introduction of missionaries. However, this article has limited dated material on the Boxer Rebellion because the article is written a hundred years later. We may be able to see all the aspects of colonialism and religion in hindsight, but we won’t be able to determine the effects of religion in Chinese society at that time period just from this article. We cannot judge whether Chinese society actually accepted Christianity as a underground association, like alcohol was in the 1920-30’s, but not looked down upon from the public’s eye. In this way, we cannot really gauge the amount of hate or indifference the general public had against Christians, because the Boxers were only a small sample. Source II:To illustrate the attitude during the time period, history professor Ariane Knüsel investigates 2 American and 2 British political cartoons that were published during the time of the Boxer Rebellion in his article “Facing the Dragon: Teaching the Boxer Uprising Through Cartoons”. Before quickly analyzing these cartoons, we must note the difference Knüsel highlights in Chinese and Western perspectives on the dragon. In Chinese culture, dragons are the most powerful and positive creatures, which exemplify divine power. The dragon was a symbol connected to the second to last emperor, Guangxu Emperor, of the Qing Dynasty. The dragon is displayed in traditional robes and national flags of the Qing Dynasty, which goes to show how important the symbolism behind the creature is (Refer to Appendix A Figure 2). However, the dragon is seen differently in Western society. Matter as fact, the dragon is seen almost directly opposite to the Chinese. The Western legends, specifically in Christianity, the dragon was “presented as an embodiment of Satan or as a demonic power, while in chivalric romances, the act of slaying a dragon became almost a prerequisite for a hero” (Refer to Appendix A Figure 1, Knüsel 5).These differences in both perspectives are not only due to culture differences but specifically in religion. In a Christian majority west, the dragon is viewed negatively. Contrastly, the Chinese views the dragon as a divine being that is correlated with the emperor himself. However, the article does not illustrate the political cartoons from China, which might give us some insight into how well the dragon is viewed in Chinese culture. The evidence does not give us any Chinese perspective towards the western view of dragons or dragons themselves, but is briefly explained by the author. We need more contemporary evidence from the Chinese perspective, instead of just having perspectives from Britain and the United States. The evidence used in the article is good because it’s at the time when the Boxer Rebellion broke out, but the article represents a modern perspective of the rebellion. One must acquire information about contemporaries during the Boxer Rebellion and their views about the Boxer Rebellion and its connection to religion. The political cartoons do not demonstrate any value to the rise of the Boxer Rebellion, because all the political cartoons were reactions to the rebellion.Section IIBefore beginning the investigation, religion needs to be defined as a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects (“religion”). For Chinese society, the connection made between religion and western colonialism was based from the treaties risen from the Opium Wars, wars where China lost its dignity and rights. A false correlation, or coincidence, was made between religion and economic status of China, because when the foreigners (westerners) came to China, its economical conditions worsened (Goldfinger 1). The connection between the two is essential because the missionaries that spread Christianity were the ones at highest risk of being attacked. Missionaries utilized their extraterritorial rights and were allowed to travel deep into China, which meant they usually were the first foreigners that were seen. The Chinese already feared religious faith because of the previous rebellions that made religion their central point of hatred, for example the Taiping, White Lotus and Yellow Turban rebellions. By spreading Christianity, missionaries had brought new ideas and culture to Chinese society, which the Boxers considered toxic and destructive to Chinese culture (Military History 14-15).Not only did western missionaries bring their religion, the Boxers originated from a secretive society that was based on a spiritual form of martial arts, akin to religion (McGuffin 7). They believed that doing rituals beforehand gave them a supernatural protection against cannons, bullets, and possibly the ability to fly. Often times, demonstrations were used to trick the Chinese masses to believing that such abilities were possible. Nonetheless, the Boxers had grown in size since the 1890s because of a popular, irrational reaction against the foreigners because they were often indirectly connected to recent droughts and floods. With the aforementioned definition of religion in mind, one can claim that the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists was indeed a religion and their practices were meant to gear their members towards a fight against the foreigners. Their belief that magic could be performed to stop bullets gave them confidence in revolting against the foreigners. In this society, its members consisted of mostly peasants that suffered from the aforementioned natural disasters and sought to accuse outsiders, which fermented the negative correlation aimed at westerners. Although people are quick to blame the Boxers for the Boxer Rebellion, Chinese Christians are also at fault for intensifying Boxer reactions by glorifying martyrdom. In a quote from Missionary Herald, a missionary periodical written in 1900, “Now, as always, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” one can see that the martyrdom during the Boxer crisis became a centerpiece for the periodicals (Smith 462-463; Wu 394-398; Klein 402). They justified the deaths of missionaries and Chinese Christians with the continuation of the holy mission. In connection to forgiveness, Christians are taught not to feel hate towards their enemies, in that sense allowing the Boxers to commit atrocities. However, when the Boxers reached Beijing, where most of foreign diplomats were staying, an international force of the Eight-Nation Alliance was sent to stop the Boxers (Wert 40). Even before the rebellion, Christian missions were attacked by Chinese mobs in the belief that they were kidnapping children, showing that the religion in China was viewed negatively. The missionaries also insulted the average Chinese and by doing so added to the negative connotation towards Christianity (Xiang 112). In terms of religion, the existence of missionaries and Christianity in China angered the Boxers to the point of action because the missions were always the face of foreigners that they first encountered. Political cartoons circulating in the West and China demonstrate the frustration found in the Boxers and the different views that stem from religion. Firstly, the cartoon called “The Crucifixion of Christ” is commenting on the anti-Christian attacks led by the Boxers and depicts Jesus as a pig being shot by Chinese archers (Bryant 2; Refer to Appendix B, Figure 3). One clearly sees the perspective that the Boxers had against the Christians. Christianity was viewed as part of the problem with foreigners and became a symbol of hate for the Boxers. In order to display how divided China was, the cartoon also shows Chinese Christians being decapitated for supporting the foreigners. Since the Boxers were made up of rural Chinese, they were not used to outsiders, especially the Western missionaries with extensively different values from their own. Small communities in rural China did not view their own culture lightly because they often identified with their own specific community. For example, many different towns in China speak different dialects of Chinese, so often times these bonds within the community strengthen local relationships, but can foster xenophobia. Going back to religion, these missionaries pushed their faith upon these closely knitted communities, so missionaries were viewed as annoying or unwanted. Unfortunately, German missionaries were very aggressive about converting these people to Christianity (Gittings). To summarize the behavior of such missionaries, American missionary and sinologue S. Wells Williams once argued that the Chinese “would grant nothing unless fear stimulated their sense of justice for they are among the most craven of people, cruel and selfish as heathenism can make men, so we must be backed by force, if we wish them to listen” (Esherick 75). Basically, the missionaries had a bad reputation for using force in order to get the Chinese to do anything. The connotation that these missionaries gave off were condemning and they were very conceited while attempting to persuade the Chinese to convert. Consequently, other missionaries were also viewed in a bad light because of this connotation, so even if another foreign missionary came with peace in mind, they would be hated upon. Since they violated the dignity and privacy of the Chinese, missionaries and Christianity, the religion that they symbolized, were viewed as evil and disrespectful institutions. Such frustrations towards the missionaries was built up over the years and eventually funneled into the Boxer Rebellion, hence the aforementioned cartoon depiction of xenophobia. As mentioned in an earlier section, political cartoons in Britain and America depicted the dragon as China and could be an insight into why Christianity could not find its place in China at the time. Christianity, a western religion, depicted the dragon to be an evil existence and is incompatible with Chinese culture. The dragon is viewed positively in Chinese culture as a heavenly being, so the Christian teachings do not fit well with them. Because of this, missionaries that try to persuade the Chinese to convert have a harder job and may lead to aggression. In Asian culture, aggression, especially with strangers, is seen as impolite and disrespectful to the receiving end (Sugirtharjah). In addition to different views, missionaries also were not following proper etiquette in bringing in their beliefs to the Chinese. Ultimately, the combination of contradicting religious views, inadequate respect, and failing Chinese economy all go towards hating foreigners, who were represented by the missionaries and Christianity.Section III The investigation has shown me different types of research material and challenges that a historian would face because of the consequential variety and limitations. Within my investigation of the Boxer Rebellion, there was a difficulty in accessing resources that better illustrated the point of view among the Chinese. Although there was primary sources such as the contemporary political cartoons and journals from the Christian Chinese, there was no dialogue found between the Boxers. Just like how history is written by the victors, most of the sources did not view the situation from the Boxers’ point of view, so I found it difficult to assess the context in which the Boxers may have justified their rebellion. The sources are limited in that they are mostly coinciding with the view of the foreign countries and not much into the view of the Boxers. In scientific and mathematic sources, the authors are unbiased in their findings, rather they only state the facts and use them to prove their point, however history does not have that layer of bias removed nor does history have experiments to prove certain points, because history is akin to a story, written from one subjective perspective. In that sense, the story can be written different ways although the same event had happened. Due to the variety of sources, source selection became a challenge because secondary sources tried to peer into the Boxer’s minds, however I was aware that those authors were not part of the movement. For example, I chose the analysis of Boxer Rebellion political cartoons by Knüsel because the author offered the most unskewed view by giving the point of view of both sides. Another problem was that most sources on the Boxer Rebellion stated the same idea, because of the apparent bias found in the sources. Ultimately, my investigation had developed my empathy for historians by experiencing the difficulties in determining bias in sources and selecting sources. In that sense, I find that historians have to deal with this layer of bias and evaluate history using sources where the victor is the writer.Appendix AFigure 1. “The Avenger!” by Sir John Tenniel in Punch (July 25, 1900)Figure 2. The Qing Dynasty’s flagAppendix BFigure 3. “The Crucifixion of Christ” , c. 1900BibliographyBryant, Mark. “Knocking out the Boxers.” History Today, vol. 58, no. 12, Dec. 2008, p.56. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aqh&AN=35697261&site=ehost-live.”David Silbey: China’s Boxer Rebellion.” Military History, vol. 29, no. 1, May 2012, p. 14. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aqh&AN=72455041&site=ehost-live.Esherick, Joseph, et al. Yi he tuan yun dong de qi yuan = The origins of the Boxer Uprising. Jiangsu ren min chu ban she, 2010.Esherick, Joseph W. “The Origins of the Boxer War: A Multinational Study. By Lanxin Xiang. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Xvii 382 Pp. $80.00. 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