Friday, July 2, 2010
The Boxer Rebellion
Thanks to James Keating at MAAJAK for the tip on the historical website with detailed pictures of Peking.
The Boxer Rebellion was a fascinating and terrifying event as Western colonial powers clashed with populist nationalist movements. Here's what Wikipedia says about it:
"In 1900, the great powers had been chipping away at Chinese sovereignty for sixty years. They had defeated China in several wars and imposed unequal treaties under which foreigners and foreign companies in China were accorded special privileges and immunities from Chinese law. Thus, by 1900, the Qing dynasty that had ruled China for more than two centuries was crumbling and Chinese culture was under assault by powerful alien religious and secular culture."
"Another cause was the land grabs of the Western countries. France, Japan, Russia, and Germany carved out spheres of influence and by 1900 it appeared that China would likely be dismembered with Western powers each ruling a part of the country. The British and Americans wished China to remain intact, while retaining their privileges and treaty ports. The British dominated trade with China, including the important opium trade. Opium addiction was a major problem in China."
As a result, Westerners and Christians were attacked and killed in a bloody uprising.
Western diplomats and some Chinese Christians held out for 55 days in fortified buildings with little ammunition. The Boxers held spiritual beliefs that their martial skill and occult powers would protect them from rifle and cannon fire, which proved wrong with deadly results.
Finally, "“The Eight-Nation Alliance was an alliance made up of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States whose military forces invaded China while putting down the Boxer Uprising in August of 1900."
Foreign Troops Enter Peking
Buildings Burn In Wake Of Rebellion
55 Days At Peking
Again, from Wikipedia:
"55 Days at Peking is a dramatization of the Battle of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion which took place in 1900 China. Fed up by foreign encroachment, the Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi uses the Boxer secret societies to attack the foreigners within China, culminating in the siege of the foreign legations' compounds in Peking (now Beijing). The film concentrates on the defense of the legations from the point of view of the foreign powers, and the title refers to the length of the defense by the colonial powers of the legations district of Peking."
"The large cast was headlined by Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven. In addition to directing, Nicholas Ray plays the minor role of the head of the American diplomatic mission in China. This film is also the first known appearance of future martial arts film star Yuen Siu Tien. The acclaimed Japanese film director Juzo Itami, credited in the film as "Ichizo Itami", appears as Colonel Goro Shiba."
(D.R.)- Of course the film is from a Euro-centric point of view, "white man's burden", "manifest destiny", and Christian evangelicalism drive the plot. It appears many of the actors are not even Chinese.
However, this is a great movie. It does capture the elements of suspense and bloody terror brought about by this event, despite the obvious problems associated with colonialism. It's long, at 2 hours 40 minutes, but a great movie none-the-less.