( Originally Published 1902 )
THE continued confiscation of Chinese territory by foreign nations, and the singular friendliness of the Emperor of China to Western ideas and institutions, produced a reaction which expressed itself in an increased bitterness toward foreigners and in the uprising of the Boxer movement. The Boxers claimed superhuman wisdom and power. Prince Tuan and the Empress Dowager, having witnessed some of their athletic and religious performances, yielded to their claims of supernatural energy, and believed what they said—that the gods would protect and fight for them and that they would drive the barbarians into the sea. The Empress Dowager, in taking the long sword and the torch in one hand, came near letting the sceptre slip out of the other.
The Boxers appealed to the selfishness as well as to the religious instinct of the Chinese people. They recruited the lumbermen and boatmen who had lost employment through steamboat navigation, the cartmen who were sup-planted by the railroads, and the artisans who were thrown out of employment by improved machinery. They made the farmers believe that the presence of the foreigners caused the drouth and famine, and that their death alone would bring rain and harvests. Circulars like the following were scattered over the troubled districts :
" SACRED EDICT ISSUED BY THE LORD OE WEALTH AND HAPPINESS.
" The Catholic and Protestant religions being insolent to the gods and destructive of holy things, rendering no obedience to Buddhism and enraging both Heaven and Earth, the rain clouds no longer visit us, but eight million Spirit Soldiers will descend from, heaven and sweep the empire clean of all foreigners. Then will the gentle showers once more water our lands ; and, when the tread of soldiers and the clash of steel are heard, threatening woes to our people, then the Buddha's Patriotic League of Boxers will protect the empire and bring peace to all. Haste, then, to spread this doctrine far and wide ; for if you gain one adherent to the faith your own person will be absolved from all future misfortunes. If you gain five converts your whole family will be absolved from all evils ; if you gain ten adherents to the faith your whole village will be absolved from all calamities. Those who gain no adherents shall be decapitated; for, until all foreigners have been exterminated, the rain can never visit us."
That such fanatics and murderers should so swiftly capture the throne and rudely shock the unsteady empire was a surprise to the civilized world, and to none more than the members of the legations of the allied Powers. The eight million Spirit Soldiers were, however, on the other side. It was Elijah's God, and not Baal, who sent the rain.