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Justice on Behalf of Heaven

Henrietta Harrison sees the Boxer Movement through the eyes of an ordinary Chinese man.

On the fifth day of the seventh month of the twenty-sixth year of the Guangxu Emperor, Liu Dapeng, a tutor and diarist, stood at the door of his family home in the village of Chiqiao in Shanxi province and watched an army of a thousand Boxers pass through. Liu was a brave man; some forty years later during the Second World War he was to stand on the roof of that same house watching the bombs falling from Japanese planes on his neighbours’ houses. When the Boxers passed through, most of the other villagers had fled to the hills or were hiding behind the locked doors of their houses in fear that the Boxer forces would loot and extort money and goods.  Liu himself had taken leave from his job as a private tutor in a grand house some twenty or thirty miles away and come home to look after his mother, wife and children because of the crisis. At the head of the Boxers came a young man known as Third Prince, who Liu guessed was less than twenty years old. Two banners before him proclaimed ‘Bring justice on behalf of Heaven!’ and ‘Support the Qing! Destroy the foreign!’ Then came rank after rank of men marching down the narrow street that ran through the centre of the village. There were men of all ages, but Liu reckoned that at least two-thirds were not yet adults. All of them wore red belts and red cloths tied around their heads. They marched in an orderly fashion, divided into companies and brigades, and did not, after all, do any damage in the village.

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