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.[6]"
"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.


Patrick Parker said...

"white man's burden", "manifest destiny", and Christian evangelicalism

Whoa! That does sound like a great movie! Thanks for the recommendation, DR ;-)

Sean C. Ledig said...

It was a pretty good movie. But DR, I think you should have set that scene up with a little background.

The Chinese emperor was trying to convince Charlton Heston that the "boxers" were merely street performers. But, things got a little out of hand.

Charles James said...

Was that really Harry Morgan as the Emperor?

Tianshanwarrior said...

This is the best example of what happen when people belives that religion practices will help them to be better fighters. That plus not evolving with the times. The Qing had ,up until 1910, archery as one of the mandatory military skills in the imperial military examinations.


Dojo Rat said...

Harry Morgan is not listed in the cast, but here's a few more nuggets from Wiki:

"The film maintains a certain curiosity value for cinephiles due to its credited director Nicholas Ray. Best known for his 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean, Ray was a tortured individual at the time of the production of 55 Days at Peking, somewhat akin to the Dean persona he helped to create for Rebel. Paid a very high salary by producer Samuel Bronston to direct 55 Days, Ray had an inkling that taking on the project, a massive epic, would mean the end of him and that he would never direct another film again. The premonition proved correct when Ray collapsed on the set, half-way through the shooting. Unable to resume working (the film was finished by Andrew Marton and Guy Green), he never received another directorial assignment. In the final months of his life, he collaborated with Wim Wenders, on the 1979 feature Lightning Over Water aka Nick's Film/Nick's Movie, which recorded his last moments.
The film was shot in the vicinity of Madrid, and most (thousands) of the Chinese residents of Spain, and some from other parts of Europe were hired as extras[1].
The film gives little background of the humiliating military defeats suffered during the Opium Wars, Sino-French War and Sino-Japanese war or the effect of the Taiping Rebellion in weakening the Qing Dynasty. However, situations in which the various colonial powers exerted influence over China (great source of outrage that drove many Chinese to violence) are alluded to in the scene in which Sir Arthur Robinson and Major Lewis visit the Empress after the assassination of the German minister.
Dowager Empress - "....the boxer bandits will be dealt with, but the anger of the Chinese people cannot be quieted so easily. The Germans have seized Kiaochow, the Russians have seized Port Arthur, the French have obtained concessions in Yunnan, Kwan See and Kwantang. In all, 13 of the 18 provinces of China are under foreign control. Foreign warships occupy our harbours, foreign armies occupy our forts, foreign merchants administer our banks, foreign gods disturb the spirit of our ancestors. Is it surprising that our people are aroused?"
Sir Arthur Robinson - "Your Majesty if you permit me to observe, the violence of the Boxers will not redress the grievances of China"
Dowager Empress - "China is a prostrate cow, the powers are not content milking her, but must also butcher her."
Sir Arthur Robinson - "If China is a cow, Your Majesty, she is indeed a marvelous animal. She gives meat as well as milk...."

Dojo Rat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dojo Rat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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