CHAPTER 28Massacred in Business

Our memories are short‐lived, and this gets us into trouble. Who among us is even aware that the Chinese killed some 120,000 foreigners—Arabs and Persians mostly—in 879 AD? Or that during the reign of Henry the Eighth, hundreds of Portuguese traders were killed on direct orders from the emperor himself?

The nineteenth century saw many instances of violence against foreigners, but only a handful were recorded: the Juye Incident involved the killing of two German missionaries in 1859; ten years later, a French consul and his assistant were dispatched amid rioting; in 1870, the Tianjin Massacre took the lives of another French consul and his assistant; in 1891, antiforeign attacks took place “up and down the Yangtze River.” We will never know the full extent of atrocities committed because most instances of violence went unreported. Christian missionaries were the most common targets, and they were in the habit of playing down attacks, even hiding cases of murder, because they feared making too much noise might lose them the opportunity to “win China for Christ.”

By far, the most spectacular attack against foreigners in modern times took place in 1900 when a ragtag army of bare‐chested, sword‐wielding thugs known as the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists—also known as the Boxers—murdered four hundred foreigners, mostly missionaries from the United States and England. China's head of state at the time, the Empress Dowager Cixi, was said ...

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