October 7, 2000

When we left Hoo-yah and Hoo-Lou, better known as Herbert and Lou Hoover, the two honeymooners were on a not-too-slow boat to China, where he would be looking into the workings of the primitive Chinese mining industry.

They arrived in Tientsin in early March, and set up housekeeping. It didn't take long to find out that things weren't too heavenly in the Celestial Kingdom. Foreign capitalists had seen new markets in the emerging giant and were anxious to exploit the situation, while their governments planned how best to slice up the country for their own purposes. Engineers had flocked in from Europe, Russia and Japan, and were building railroad lines and steamship routes, often putting local laborers out of work in a time of poor crops. Missionaries were converting hundreds away from the old gods. Pressures were building rapidly, both social and political. The explosion came out of a peasant movement called the Boxers, for their mystical beliefs that they were indestructible and the martial arts routines they used in their training.

The western devils were the enemy, the imperial government half-wanted the Boxers to succeed. Soon reports began filtering into Peking and Tientsin, reports telling of massacres in the remote areas of the country, of both missionaries and their Chinese converts being shot and hacked to death. Peking promised protection with one hand and encouraged the rebels with the other. By April the foreign enclaves in both cities were under siege. It was a while before word of their plight leaked to the outside world, and then most of the rumors had all the Europeans already slaughtered. A multi-national relief force was turned back when rail and telegraph lines were destroyed. The German minister at Peking, Baron von Ketteler, rashly took a trip outside the legation walls and was murdered. It was going to be a long siege and the outlook was dire.

As shells poured into the cities the inhabitants, including the women and children, tried to maintain an atmosphere of normality. They were the more fortunate; at least they had fairly good food supplies, especially horse meat, with each group creatively coming up with new ways to disguise it. The huge number of native converts did not often share in the relative bounty inside the legations. 7 or 8 children began dying each day. The body count rose rapidly on both sides of the wall, the dead were left unburied, and the summer sun beat down. Through it all Lou soldiered on, taking her turn, rifle in hand, at guard duty, nursing in the makeshift hospitals, and helping to build barricades. Peking's siege was lifted by relief forces after nearly 8 weeks, Tientsin's after nearly 6. To quote Mr. Hoover, "I do not remember a more satisfying musical performance then the bugle of the American Marines entering the settlement playing "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." Hoo-yah and Hoo-Lou left China in August, headed for new adventures including, 28 years later, the White House.

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor

© 2000 David Minor / Eales Byte


Preston, Diana - The Boxer Rebellion (New York, Walker & Company, 1999, 2000)
ISBN 0-8027-1361-0



It was a failed revolution that gave new meaning to the hurry-up phrase "chop, chop". For a brief illustrated rundown of the Boxer Rebellion along with links to maps and other illustrations, as well as the background of the Ch'ing Dynasty (if you saw the film The Last Emperor you already know how the dynasty ended), go to the Small Planet Communications site on the rebellion. There's also a link to a concise history of China.

The Game's Afoot !!