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The Boxer Rising page 2

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The younger son of a family of Christians, whose father had been killed, would not disclose the whereabouts of the rest of his family and he was taken back to his village and tortured. His hands and feet were tied behind him, then burning incense was placed on his hollow back, and a heavy stone on top of it.

The man behind these and a thousand similar outrages was Governor Yu Hsien in whose province 159 foreigners, besides countless native Christians, were massacred. He had been deposed from office in Shantung because of a protest from the German Ambassador, but a few months afterwards he was made Governor of Shansi. This province together with Manchuria and Chihli were the seat of most of the outrages. Because the Powers did not declare war on China but stated that they were only protecting their nationals against the Boxers some of the other provinces remained neutral.

Yu Hsien was a Manchu like the Empress Dowager. Two Germans had been murdered in his province of Shantung in 1898 and when, after his removal from there, he was installed at Shansi, he determined to revenge himself further upon the foreigners. The English Ambassador stated that it was through this Chinese "Nero's" encouragement of the Boxers that all the trouble in China developed. Soon after his arrival in Shansi the Boxers began to appear. Placards were posted and pamphlets were circulated; these declared that foreign vessels seized at the coast had been found to contain large quantities of human blood, eyes and women's breasts. Those who made a copy of the pamphlet and sent it to a friend would thereby become immune from all evil; those who circulated 100 copies would save a whole village.

With the circulation of these deadly pamphlets the terror broke out. The movement spread and everywhere there were killings. Thirteen miles East of Peking there was a massacre of Christians, and the Chancellor of the Japanese Legation was murdered at the gates of the city. The Chinese "Nero" ordered the missionaries in his city of T'ai Yuan Fu to move into another house where they could be under his protecting eye. They protested but he said that they must obey even if it rained swords as they walked along. They did not know that the Governor of Shansi had determined to kill all foreigners in the city that day. Proceeding to the house named, the missionaries found it already occupied by a number of Protestants and Catholics who with them were now ordered to the Governor's Court. They wore taken into the courtyard and surrounded by soldiers. Then the Governor asked them whence they came. Some said "England," some said "France," whereupon the Governor, turning to the soldiers, shouted, "Kill the lot." The soldiers slashed them to pieces.

So eager was the Chinese "Nero" to exterminate the foreigners that he had not waited for another missionary party of seven, whose presence he had commanded, to arrive. They came into the city handcuffed. With them were two little girls. All were made to kneel before the Governor and when they had said they came from England, he gave a derisive laugh, ordering his men to beat them. The two little girls ran to one of the ladies for protection but were beaten with the rest. Then the order to "kill" was given and all seven were taken out to the courtyard and murdered. Their clothes were stripped off them, and their bodies thrown on to a refuse heap.

The terror of those days appears in the reports of many of the missionary societies for the year 1900. But there was another side to the story. When the Allied troops fought their way into Tientsin and Peking, their blood heated by the tales of horrors, summary vengeance was taken on the fanatical Boxers. It was felt by some that speedy death was all too merciful for those who had perpetrated such awful cruelties. The stories that came in showed that the devilries were far worse than those of the Red Indians who, by comparison with the Chinese, were quite humane. Boxers, betrayed for money to the Allies by other Chinese, would be brought in with their pig-tails tied together, given a trial which they only dimly understood, and then led out to be slaughtered. While one of their fierce white captors pulled the prisoner's pigtail taut so as to keep his neck rigid, the executioner would deliver his blow, not always well-aimed, and the head would presently fall. Then the trunk would leap forward, sway slightly, and drop to the ground.

Long before the arrival of the avenging Allies affairs in the Chinese capital had been moving forward to a crisis and the Empress was growing more and more alarmed. Though she admitted, reluctantly enough, three hundred foreign soldiers to the gates of the Imperial Palace, where they would guard the Legations, she declined admission to more. The people muttered curses as they watched the foreign troops march in and the young Boxers returned to their crazy drilling, waiting for that order which would enable them to avenge this fresh affront to the Celestial Empire. Meanwhile a few hundred extra foreign troops could not make much difference; and when the "Celestial Tigers" had been released upon them they would not be able to depart alive.

But the Empress, in the matter of the Boxers, was undecided and vacillating. News came from the provinces that some Boxers were being arrested by departmental magistrates, and orders were immediately sent for their release. But Jung Lu still advised her to stay her hand and refuse recognition to the "Religious Fists." The wise statesman explained that his mistress was peace-loving, for she had had many springs and autumns. She had also had many winters as well, for at this time her rages were awful to witness.

As yet unknown to the Empress, the Boxers had installed themselves inside the Palace for her protection. Some of the high dignitaries of her Court had similarly guarded themselves, but as the Boxers had to be fed, their protection was costly.

By June, 1900, the Boxers had been so busy in the capital that almost every foreign building, except the Legations, had been burned to the ground. But still the Empress vacillated. One day a Manchu sergeant, named En Hei, rushed to the Chinese officials to report that he had obeyed superior orders to kill foreigners wherever met, by shooting two that morning as they were being carried about the city in sedan chairs. When he began to shoot their coolies fled. As one of these two murdered foreigners happened to be the German minister the sergeant trusted that he would be recommended for special promotion. When this piece of startling news was taken to the Empress Dowager she sent hurriedly for the wise Jung Lu to ask his counsel. He explained to her that it was contrary to the law of nations to attack the accredited representatives of foreign Powers or their Legations. But even Jung Lu's words, always listened to with favour, did not sway the Empress at this time. For had she not just been outrageously insulted by the impudent barbarians? It was this insult which caused her at last to come down on the side of the Boxers and to give them authority to do their worst.

The French had demanded that she should surrender the Taku Forts, and that insult she could have swallowed. And perhaps the request that 10,000 more foreign troops be admitted to the capital. And even the demand that the Heir Apparent be degraded. But when they dared to ask that the radical-minded Emperor, whom the Empress Dowager had dethroned, be restored to power, and that the old Buddha herself, who thought first and last of her own authority and safety, be compelled to abdicate, it was not to be surprised that she fell into the biggest rage of her life!

"The insults of these foreigners pass all bounds," she raved. "How dare they question my authority? Let us rise up and exterminate them before we eat our morning meal?"

Her Grand Council declared that at this time she showed tremendous courage; she was the Chinese Boadicea, smarting from the foreign rods. She declared that the Imperial dignity had determined to suffer no more. Yet until the receipt of that insolent dispatch demanding her abdication she had intended to suppress the "Religious Fists." Now there could be no peaceful solution to the Boxer trouble.

Her paroxym over, she threw aside some of her dignity as she dealt with her Grand Council on the supreme question of the hour. She even struck a note of appeal. Had she not done well for them and for the Empire, conferring many benefits upon them all? She had lightened taxation, she had opened the Privy Purse to relieve the people, she had suppressed rebellions, and she had always followed the teachings of the Chinese Sages. Was she not entitled to their combined assistance in crushing the insolent foreigner who trusted in the strength of his arms? Now, she reminded them, the Chinese could rely upon the strength of their brave Boxers to end once and for all the interference of the Barbarians. And if not it would be far better for them all to die bravely in one desperate encounter, than to surrender any more of their just rights.

Having thus declared herself, and invited all to draw near to the Throne, she announced her readiness to receive the advice of her counsellors.

The first statesman to speak advised the immediate proclamation of the decree for the extermination of every foreigner and the destruction of the Legations, for this would prevent spies from returning to their countries and telling the barbarians what had happened. Other statesmen implored the Empress Dowager not to declare war against the World. At a later stage Jung Lu reminded the Empress Dowager that because one little nation, like the Transvaal, had beaten England, that was no proof that China would beat the World. Yuan Ch'ang produced the courage to say that foreigners were usually reasonable and just in their dealings, and that he could not believe that the demand for her abdication was authentic. Whereupon Prince Tuan, bearer of the demand, loudly asked if the Empress Dowager proposed to listen to a traitor.

This reminder of her Imperial dignity caused the Empress to turn on the Prince and to rebuke him for his violent manner in the "Divine Presence." Then she ordered Yuan Ch'ang to leave the Audience Chamber. He was lucky to have escaped with his head. One prince, who had left the Audience Chamber after a stormy interview, had been heard to say, "The thunderbolt fell before my ears had closed." When Yuan Ch'ang had left no other counsellor dared address her Majesty.

Though there was not complete harmony among the Powers their troops were making progress, opposed stoutly by the defenders of Tientsin. The anger of the Germans at the murder of their minister can be understood. When the German contingent was ready to sail the Kaiser went to the quayside to see them off. It was noticed that a tall pulpit had been constructed within speaking distance of the troops and the Kaiser was seen to be mounting it. Speaking in his harsh German voice he reminded his legion of the deeds of the Huns of old, whom they must copy, giving no quarter to their Chinese enemies. An attempt was made by tiie Kaiser's Chancellor to tone down that speech, and he was successful with most of the German papers. But one live reporter sent to this country a transcript of the address as it was delivered, and it is because of that uncensored copy of the Kaiser's rash words that the German Army were called Huns during the Great War.

It was the Japanese who helped the Germans to bring to book the murderer of their minister. They were searching a pawnshop in Peking when they found a pawn-ticket bearing the name En Hei attached to a gold watch on which was inscribed the German minister's monogram. They sought out the sergeant and asked him if he had anything to do with the murder and he proudly admitted being the culprit. He had obeyed orders. But he had been drunk at the time? He laughed at the query. Not for this bold Chinaman to escape the penalty of a blow struck for his country. He asserted that he was perfectly sober. " Now behead me." The Japanese handed the sergeant over to the German troops who escorted him to the place where their minister had been shot and decapitated him.

Even when the Allies had reached the capital the missionaries were still being murdered in come of the Provinces, although here and there a friendly Governor would endeavour to save them. One such was degraded by the Empress during her flight from the capital. At Chaochang there was a mandarin who developed an ingenuity for saving the Christians which was typically Chinese. Knowing that the Christians would not recant he had prepared for them some special tickets bearing the pledge "I promise to repent." He argued that it would be a Christian act to sign such a ticket, but the Boxers would regard it as a recantation and so with both sides all would be well. To a large number of the converts this ticket was regarded as the overruling of Providence for their salvation from martyrdom; but some of those with more sensitive spiritual perceptions refused even to shelter themselves behind this subterfuge. Some of the missionaries did not surrender themselves to torture and beheadal without making a fight for it; for they were brave people living always in danger, aware that hostility to the missionary had always been dormant in the country. The wife of one noted missionary, Mrs. Sam Pollard, like her husband, showed tremendous spirit. One Chinaman had often appeared at her door making unjust demands. He appeared once too often. It happened to be a day when her husband was absent. Instead of turning this rascal from her door she invited him inside and shot the bolts. She told the wondering intruder that she had decided upon his execution. Then she went to her kitchen and brought back a huge carving knife, which she proceeded stolidly to sharpen on the stone floor. These preparations for his future struck such terror into the intruder that when Mrs. Pollard looked up she was amused to see him diving through the window to return no more.

Back in Peking the Old Buddha was now offering rewards for the heads of the Barbarians, at the rate of fifty taels for a man, forty for a woman, and thirty for a child. The decree for the execution of women and cliildren annoyed Jung Lu who asked the Empress what glory could China expect to gain thereby. She would merely become the laughing stock of the world whilst the old Buddha's widespread fame for benevolence would be grievously injured.

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