June is the time of the year in Beijing for hot, humid weather, the arrival of peaches, apricots, and cherries, and the anniversary of one of the lower points in the relationship between East and West: The Boxer Uprising of 1900.
In June of that year, with the tacit support of the Qing court, disparate groups of local militia and secret societies began a series of violent attacks against the foreign communities in North China, besieging the legations of Beijing and the concessions of Tianjin. Finally, in August an allied army made up of soldiers from eight foreign powers forced their way to Beijing, lifting the siege and crushing the Boxer Uprising.
Today, the Boxers are celebrated in China as patriots who used extreme measures to deal with the problem of foreign imperialism. In the rest of the world, they are the antagonist in a very old movie starring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven.
But like any great patriotic story, there are a number of myths and misconceptions about what went down in Beijing that summer. And since historians like nothing better than replacing one myth with another, I’ve asked another boxer, Rocky Balboa, to assist me in dispelling some of the rumors and semi-truths surrounding the history of the Uprising.