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The Boxer Rebellion

Opposing the Devotion of Missionaries

 


The Sprague house in Kalgan, China. The ruins seen at the front of the photograph are what remain of a previous mission compound destroyed by Boxers in 1900. Courtesy MHC Archives.

 
 
 

The Nature of the Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, or Boxer Uprising, was a period of strong and violent opposition to foreign involvement by Chinese forces that took place from 1899 to 1901.  This opposition touched many aspects of Chinese life, including politics, trade, technology and, most importantly, religion.  Missionaries present in China during the Boxer Rebellion were greatly affected by the Uprising, and violence is mentioned frequently in both the letters of Alice Browne Frame and Viette Brown Sprague. 

“The secret soc. Called '“The Boxers,”or “Big Swords,' are making trouble […] It professes to be for the gov. and against foreigners.  The gov. shows its sympathy by taking no effective means to stop the uprising.  Ms. Burks, Eng. miss. was murdered a few wks. ago and now 2 Eng. officers were killed in Peking and another murdered by soldiers sent to guard them […] We know of no societies nearer than Peking, but they may spring up any day." (8) --March 1900 letter

Struggles and Opposition
The preceeding excerpt is evidence that not only was the Boxer Rebellion in full force while Sprague was in China, but that she was also directly affected by the violence.  Sprague’s Mission Compound was attacked by Boxers in 1900, and in June, they were forced to flee to Mongolia for a few months. (7) One can only imagine the hardships encountered as a result of such strong opposition to foreign involvement.  These hardships were also drastically felt in the way of missionary work; a strong decrease in response by the Chinese was understandably present.  This dramatic change is described in a hand-written report of the Chinese Mission in Kalgan:

"Before the Boxer uprising, we had a church of 250 members, 30 of whom were massacred; some here since died and others fallen away.  Before the troubles, I taught the young girls to read, had a class in Sabbath School, and instructed sewing women in my home, but now (1903) we have no school; one old woman did come to learn to read, but her friends disapproved, and she has given it up.  People are afraid to associate with us; a great change from their former attitude.  Rumors are disquieting and we are a little anxious for the future." (4)

Extinguishing the Rebellion
It is also evident, however, that the Boxer Rebellion came and went without injury to either Viette Brown Sprague or Alice Browne Frame.  In a January 1906 letter, Alice Browne Frame describes what her compound looked like in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion:

"As you walk into our mission compound, lying close outside the south wall of the city, the first buildings you will notice are those of the North China Union College, with its central recitation hall and dormitories lying behind.  All of our buildings are of native gray brick, as you see, built since the Boxer troubles in 1900, when all our buildings were destroyed." (10)

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This page was created by Rebekah Dutkiewicz '09 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 - rsdutkie@mtholyoke.edu