So-called "Boxers," like this man, violently opposed what they interpreted as unfair Western influence on Chinese government, economy, and religion. This image was taken at the height of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

Photograph courtesy U.S. Army, Chief Signal Officer; courtesy National Archives

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  • On June 21, 1900, China’s Empress Dowager Cixi declared war on the Eight Nation Alliance—the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, United States, Germany, Italy, France, and Austria-Hungary. The declaration was the height of the Boxer Rebellion, a violent anti-Western movement that was crushed a year later.
    Members of the Militia United in Righteousness (Yihetuan) were nicknamed “Boxers” by Westerners because of their practice of martial arts and vigorous calisthenics. The Boxer movement resented what it interpreted as a growing and unfair Western and Japanese influence in China—the expansion of Western businesses, the outreach of Christian missionaries, and the privileged treatment of Western residents. The Boxers and their supporters attacked and burned businesses and churches, and assaulted and killed individuals. Christian missionaries were especially targeted.
    The Boxers were ultimately defeated. Troops from the Eight Nation Alliance stormed the Forbidden City, took control of the Chinese capital of Beijing, forced the imperial court (including the empress) to flee, and imposed a treaty that devastated the Chinese economy
    The failure of the Boxer Rebellion led to a leadership crisis in China. This, in turn, contributed to the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, in which a republican government replaced the 2,000 year-old Chinese empire.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    assault Noun

    violent attack.

    Boxer Rebellion Noun

    (1898-1901) anti-Western, anti-Christian movement in China.

    calisthenics Plural Noun

    repetitive exercises (such as sit-ups or jumping jacks) performed to promote physical fitness, usually conducted without special equipment.

    capital Noun

    city where a region's government is located.

    Encyclopedic Entry: capital
    Christian Noun

    people and culture focused on the teachings of Jesus and his followers.

    court Noun

    monarch or other noble person and the group of people who serve, advise, and consult with them, or the place where this group meets.

    declare Verb

    to state clearly, in formal terms.

    defeat Verb

    to overcome an enemy or obstacle.

    devastate Verb

    to destroy.

    dowager Adjective

    widow who has inherited property or titles from her husband.

    economy Noun

    system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

    empire Noun

    group of nations, territories or other groups of people controlled by a single, more powerful authority.

    expansion Noun

    process of enlarging.

    flee Verb

    to run away.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    immunity Noun

    condition of being resistant to disease or liability.

    imperial Adjective

    having to do with an empire.

    impose Verb

    to force or set out rules to be followed.

    influence Verb

    to encourage or persuade a person or organization to act a certain way.

    interpret Verb

    to explain or understand the meaning of something.

    martial arts Plural Noun

    forms of self-defense and combat that do not usually use weapons.

    militia Noun

    group of armed, ordinary citizens who are called up for emergencies and are not full-time soldiers.

    privilege Noun

    benefit or special right.

    republic Noun

    system of government where power rests in citizens who vote and representatives who stand for those citizens. The United States is a republic.

    resent Verb

    to reject or dismiss due to a sense of injury or insult.

    treaty Noun

    official agreement between groups of people.

    ultimate Adjective

    final or maximum.

    vigorous Adjective

    active or energetic.

    West Noun

    having to do with the developed nations of Europe and North America.