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Military of the Powers during the Boxer Rebellion, with their naval ensigns, from left to right: (Naval ensign of Italy in 1900) Italy

, (Flag of the United States in 1900) United States, (Naval ensign of France) France, (Naval flag of Austria Hungary in 1900) Austria-Hungary, (Naval flag of Japan) Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, and Russia. Japanese print, 1900.


Eight Nations Alliance celebrating the division of China into eight client States in Beijing after the Boxer Rebellion. Immediately identifiable flags in picture: (Naval ensign of Italy in 1900) Italy

, (Naval ensign of France) France, (Naval flag of Japan) Japan, Germany, and Russia, 1900.

The Eight-Nation Alliance, also known as the Eight Power Expedition, was an alliance of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, whose military forces intervened in China during the Boxer Uprising and relieved the siege of diplomatic legations in Peking (Beijing) in the summer of 1900.

History[edit | edit source]

Background and Main Events[edit | edit source]

The Boxers, a peasant movement, had attacked and killed foreign missionaries, nationals, and Chinese Christians across northern China from c. 1899 to 1900. The Qing government and Imperial Army supported the Boxers and under the Manchu general Ronglu, besieged foreign diplomats and civilians taking refuge in the Legation Quarter in Peking.[1] After failing in its initial attempt to relieve the Legation Quarter, in August 1900 the Allied force marched to Peking from Tianjin, defeated the Qing Imperial Army Wuwei Troop in several engagements, and brought an end to the Boxer Rebellion and the siege. The members of the Alliance then occupied Peking and proceeded to loot and pillage the capital.[2][3] The forces consisted of approximately 45,000 international troops. At the end of the campaign, the Qing Imperial government signed the Boxer Protocol of 1901.[4]

Siege of the International Legations and the North Cathedral[edit | edit source]

Locations of foreign diplomatic legations and front lines in Peking during the siege.

The diplomatic compound in Peking was under siege by the Wuwei Rear Troop of the Chinese army and some Boxers (Yihetuan), for 55 days, from June 20 to August 14. A total of 473 foreign civilians, 409 soldiers from eight countries, and about 3,000 Chinese Christians took refuge in the Legation Quarter.[5] Under the command of the British minister to China, Claude Maxwell MacDonald, the legation staff and security personnel defended the compound with small arms and one old muzzle-loaded cannon discovered and unearthed by Chinese Christians who turned it over to the allies; it was nicknamed the International Gun because the barrel was British, the carriage Italian, the shells Russian, and the crew American.[6]

Also under siege in Peking was the North Cathedral, the Beitang of the Catholic Church. The Beitang was defended by 43 French and Italian soldiers, 33 foreign Catholic priests and nuns, and about 3,200 Chinese Catholics. The defenders suffered heavy casualties from lack of food and Chinese mines that exploded in tunnels dug beneath the compound.[7]

Member nations[edit | edit source]

Forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance
Relief of the Legations

Troops of the Eight nations alliance 1900.jpg
Troops of the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900.
Left to right: Britain, United States, Australia,[8] India,
Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Japan
Countries Warships
 Empire of Japan 18 540 20,300
 Russian Empire 10 750 12,400
 United Kingdom 8 2,020 10,000
 French Third Republic 5 390 3,130
 United States 2 295 3,125
 German Empire 5 600 300
 Austria-Hungary 4 296
 Kingdom of Italy 2 80
Total 54 4,971 49,255

Eight-Nation Alliance soldiers and European recruits

Austria-Hungary[edit | edit source]

The Austro-Hungarian Navy sent two training ships, the cruisers SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia, SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth, SMS Aspern, and SMS Zenta, and a company of marines to the North China coast in April 1900, based at the Russia concession of Port Arthur. In June, the Austro-Hungarians helped hold the Tianjin railway against Boxer forces and also fired upon several armed junks on the Hai River near Tong-Tcheou in Peking. They also took part in the seizure of the Taku Forts commanding the approaches to Tianjin, and the boarding and capture of four Chinese destroyers by Capt. Roger Keyes of HMS Fame. The Austro-Hungarians suffered minimal casualties during the rebellion. After the Boxer uprising, a cruiser was maintained permanently on the Chinese coastline and a detachment of marines was deployed at the embassy in Peking (Beijing).

Lieutenant Georg Ludwig von Trapp, made famous in the 1959 musical The Sound of Music, was decorated for bravery aboard SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia during the rebellion.

British Empire[edit | edit source]

British forces, the third-largest contingent in the international alliance, were largely from India, and consisted of the following units: Naval Brigade, 12th Battery Royal Field Artillery, Hong Kong & Singapore Artillery, 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 1st Bengal Lancers, 7th Rajput Infantry, 24th Punjab Infantry, 1st Sikh Infantry, Hong Kong Regiment, 1st Chinese Regiment, Royal Engineers, and other support personnel.[9][10]

Australia[edit | edit source]

Several of the Australian colonies sent contingents of naval and army personnel to support the British contingent, i.e. South Australia sent its entire navy: the gunboat HMAS Protector.[11] While not officially part of the eight-nation alliance, Australia supplied matériel and troops to the eight-nation alliance.[12]

India[edit | edit source]

Britain provided 10,000 troops, of which a large part were Indian troops, made out of units of Baluchis, Sikhs, Gurkhas, Rajputs, and Punjabis.[13][14][15]

Germany[edit | edit source]

German troops of the I. Eastasia Infantry Regiment with captured Boxer flags.

Two German missionaries were murdered in China in 1897. In response, Germany seized Kiaochow with the port of Tsingtao for use as a naval base and trading port. Tsingtao was governed and garrisoned by the Imperial German Navy. The garrison consisted of Naval Artillery batteries and the 3rd Sea battalion of Marine Infantry.

German officers in Qingdao during the boxer rebellion

When the Boxer Rebellion broke out, III. Seebatallione sent a small group of soldiers to Peking and Tientsin to protect German interests, while the majority stayed behind to prevent attacks against Tsingtao. The siege of the foreign legations in Peking soon convinced Germany and the other European Powers that more forces were needed to be sent to China. The first troops to arrive from Germany were the I. and II. Seebatallione, soon followed by the East Asian Expeditionary Corps.

France[edit | edit source]

Indochinese French Forces were dispatched from French Indochina.

Italy[edit | edit source]

Italian forces were initially made up from sailors from warships. However, a larger contingent was later dispatched from Italy, including 83 officers, 1,882 troops, and 178 horses.

Japan[edit | edit source]

Japanese marines who served under the British commander Edward Hobart Seymour.

Japan provided the largest contingent of troops; 20,840, as well as 18 warships. Of the total number, 20,300 were Imperial Japanese Army troops of the 5th Infantry Division under Lt. General Yamaguchi Motoomi; the remainder were 540 naval rikusentai from the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Russia[edit | edit source]

Russian troops during the Boxer Rebellion

Russia supplied the second largest force after Japan, with 12,400 troops, consisting mainly of garrisons from Port Arthur and Vladivostok.

United States[edit | edit source]

American troops during the Boxer Rebellion.

In the United States, the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion was known as the China Relief Expedition.[16] The United States was able to play a major role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion largely due to the presence of American forces deployed in the Philippines since the US annexation of the Philippines in 1898.[17] Of the foreign troops under siege, there were 56 American sailors and marines from the USS Oregon and USS Newark.[17] The main American formations deployed were the 9th Infantry and 14th Infantry regiments, elements of the 6th Cavalry regiment, the 5th Artillery regiment, and a marine battalion, all under the command of Adna Chaffee.[18][19]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

As previously mentioned, troops of the eight aforementioned nations invaded and occupied Beijing on August 14, 1900. Empress Dowager Cixi, the Emperor, and high government officials fled the Imperial Palace for Xi'an and sent Li Hongzhang for peace talks with the Alliance.

In a research article, Kenneth Clark states: "Following the taking of Peking, troops from the international force looted the capital city and even ransacked the Forbidden City, with many Chinese treasures finding their way back to Europe."[20]


Western army squad standing over a street execution of a Chinese civilian.

Atrocities[edit | edit source]

An unknown number of people believed to be Boxers were beheaded both during and after the uprising. This became the subject of an early short film.[21] Despite photographs depicting such actions, there is a widespread denial today of such activity committed upon the Chinese people by western forces.

A U.S. Marine wrote that he saw German and Russian troops bayonet women after raping them.[22] An anti-Catholic libel or Black Legend alleges that, in Beijing, Bishop Pierre-Marie-Alphonse Favier-Duperron allegedly posted a bulletin to the effect that in the first 8 days after August 18, Catholic Christians might steal life necessities, and declared that robbery of within 50 taels of silver needed neither reporting nor compensation.[23] Atrocities were also carried out by the Boxers themselves. A large number of Christians were killed before the rebellion. A group of Orthodox Christians killed are still commemorated today as the Holy Martyrs of China.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Grant Hayter-Menzies, Pamela Kyle Crossley (2008). Imperial masquerade: the legend of Princess Der Ling. Hong Kong University Press. p. 89. ISBN 962-209-881-9. http://books.google.com/?id=sNPFc7kkjwAC&pg=PA88&dq=muslim+dong+fuxiang#v=onepage&q=cracking%20of%20fireworks&f=false. Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  2. O'Conner, David The Boxer Rebellion London:Robert Hale & Company, 1973, Chap. 16. ISBN 0-7091-4780-5
  3. Hevia, James L. 'Looting and its discontents: Moral discourse and the plunder of Beijing, 1900–1901' in R. Bickers and R.G. Tiedemann (eds.), The Boxers, China, and the world Lanham, Maryland:ROwman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009
  4. Eight-Nation Alliance in Section 4
  5. Thompson, 84-85
  6. Benjamin R. Beede (1994). The War of 1898, and U.S. interventions, 1898–1934: an encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 50. ISBN 0-8240-5624-8. http://books.google.com/?id=48g116X9IIwC&pg=PA50&dq=prince+tuan+replaced+prince+qing#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  7. Thompson, 85, 170–171
  8. Example of Australian uniform of the period
  9. Bodin, Lynn (1979). The Boxer Rebellion. Osprey Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 9780850453355. http://books.google.com/books?id=2YleP1OP4HsC&lpg=PA34&ots=MFcL9IIAl_&dq=British%20Regiment%20%22Boxer%20rebellion%22&pg=PA34#v=onepage&q=British%20Regiment%20%22Boxer%20rebellion%22&f=false. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  10. Harrington, Peter (2001). Peking 1900: The Boxer Rebellion. Osprey Publishing. p. 29. ISBN 9781841761817. http://books.google.com/books?id=xxE6rybpvHQC&lpg=PA29&ots=0_iI4RvRup&dq=British%20Regiment%20%22Boxer%20rebellion%22&pg=PA29#v=onepage&q=British%20Regiment%20%22Boxer%20rebellion%22&f=false. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  11. Nicholls, B., Bluejackets and Boxers
  12. "China (Boxer Rebellion), 1900–01". Australian War Memorial. Australian Government. http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/boxer.asp. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  13. Krishnan, Ananth (8 July 2011). "The forgotten history of British India troops in China". Beijing. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/the-forgotten-history-of-british-india-troops-in-china/article2209465.ece?textsize=large&test=1. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  14. Raugh, Harold E. (2004). The Victorians at War, 1815-1914: An Encyclopedia of British Military History. ABC-CLIO. p. 177. ISBN 9781576079256. http://books.google.com/books?id=HvE_Pa_ZlfsC&lpg=PA177&ots=8CE3exdB5z&dq=%22British%20units%22%20Boxer%20rebellion&pg=PA177#v=onepage&q=%22British%20units%22%20Boxer%20rebellion&f=false. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  15. Lee Lanning, Colonel Michael (2007). Mercenaries: Soldiers of Fortune, from Ancient Greece to Today#s Private Military Companies. Random House Digital, Inc.. p. 105. ISBN 9780307416049. http://books.google.com/books?id=bnnIIHaj6LIC&lpg=PA105&ots=H4-GpJbH3G&dq=%22British%20units%22%20Boxer%20rebellion&pg=PA105#v=onepage&q=%22British%20units%22%20Boxer%20rebellion&f=false. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  16. "Documents of the Boxer Rebellion (China Relief Expedition), 1900–1901". Naval History & Heritage Command. United States Navy. 13 March 2000. http://www.history.navy.mil/docs/boxer/index.html. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "The Boxer Rebellion and the U.S. Navy, 1900–1901". Naval History & Heritage Command. United States Navy. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq86-1.htm. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  18. "U.S. Army Campaigns: China Relief Expedition". United States Army Center of Military History. United States Army. 19 November 2010. http://www.history.army.mil/html/reference/army_flag/cre.html. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  19. Plante, Trevor K. (1999). "U.S. Marines in the Boxer Rebellion". United States National Archive. http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1999/winter/boxer-rebellion-1.html. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  20. Kenneth G. Clark THE BOXER UPRISING 1899–1900. Russo-Japanese War Research Society
  21. Beheading a Chinese Boxer at IMDB
  22. Robert B. Edgerton (1997). Warriors of the rising sun: a history of the Japanese military. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 80. ISBN 0-393-04085-2. http://books.google.com/?id=wkHyjjbv-yEC&pg=PA70&dq=sugiyama+akira#v=snippet&q=raped%20woman%20attractive%20marine&f=false. Retrieved 25 April 2011. "Several U.S. Marines, hardly squeamish men, were so sickened by what they saw that they violently restrained some of their more rapacious German allies, leaving at least one wounded." 
  23. 《遣使会年鉴》 1902, page 229-230; Bishop Favier strongly denied the libel.

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Harrington, Peter. Peking 1900: The Boxer Rebellion. Oxford: Osprey, 2001. ISBN 1-84176-181-8
  • Thompson, Larry Clinton. William Scott Ament and the Boxer Rebellion. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. [1]

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