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The Boxer Uprising

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The Boxer Uprising (1898-1901), also known as ‘Yi Ho Tuan’ Movement, was a major peasant uprising marked by anti-Manchu and anti-foreign sentiments. In the period after the Opium Wars, the nature of Sino-Western relations had changed, leading to a scramble for concessions. This had exposed the inefficacy of the Manchus. Simultaneously, it had intensified the socio-economic crisis already prevalent in the 19th century. This essay attempts to analyze the causes, nature and impact of the Boxer Movement.

Causes

1. A study of the traditional Chinese society and economy is imperative to trace the origins of the Uprising. The Chinese society was strictly compartmentalized by the principles of Confucianism. The society was highly stratified and had a rigid and inflexible hierarchical structure. A unique combination of power, wealth and knowledge defined the gentry or the elite class. The peasantry was the ‘exploited’ class, the taxpayers, who despite the theoretical emphasis on ‘career open to merit’ could rarely attain gentry status. The growing tax burden and exploitation caused discontent among them and though they remained placid, the simmering of discontent was always there. However, peasant uprisings, though a frequent occurrence, were spontaneous and scattered and so easy to suppress. The growing unrest culminated into agitation, and found expression in the Boxer Movement.

2. A series of natural calamities in the late 19th century intensified the discontent.
Series of floods, famine and drought between 1880 – 1900. The Manchu government, due to insufficient resources and inefficient administration, was unable to repair the public works, adding to the problem.

3. The late 19th Century also saw a substantial rise in population. This increased the pressure on land and there was greater fragmentation of land, adversely affecting the...

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