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6 Deficiency and Sovereignty Hygienic Modernity in the Occupation of Tianjin, 1900–1902 Before us lies a great city, not only deserted, but sacked, looted, and in ashes, by Christian armies. Only a few days before . . . this street and the surrounding houses were a holocaust of human life. A day later that long thoroughfare was a slow-moving line of homeless, weeping human beings—their homes in ashes, without food, friendless , and, in many cases, their kindred left charred in the ruins of their homes. This is not of the imagination; all that I mention I saw. . . . This street was strewn with corpses; those of persons asphyxiated by the fatal gases of the lyddite shells could easily be distinguished by the yellow discoloration of the skin. Lily-feet, which were so expensive at Shanghai, were here the appendages of mangled corpses that had no more consideration than the carcasses of dogs, which also lined the streets; but the camera cannot portray nor the pen describe those heartrending scenes along this narrow street after the battle. Now it is a pathetic scene of desolation. james ricalton (1844–1929), photographer, on Tianjin in July 1900 La seule excuse de la colonisation, c’est la médecine. hubert lyautey (1854–1934), French military officer and colonial administrator In the summer of 1900, thousands of peasant practitioners of martial arts began to attack foreigners and Christians in north China.Together with Qing military forces, these “Boxers” lay siege to foreign outposts in Tianjin and Beijing. In response, six Western nations, together with Russia and Japan, dispatched a massive international relief force to rescue besieged foreigners , annihilate the Boxers, and chastise the Qing court. The bloody suppression of the Boxer Uprising by imperial powers became a major turning point in the history of modern China.In James Hevia’s words, the aftermath of the Boxer Uprising “left a brand” on China, marking it in Western and Japanese discourse as a land boiling over with dangerous superstitions, a place in need of forceful redemption from a backward past. Paul Cohen has described how modernizing Chinese reformers in the early twentieth century adopted this discourse,conceiving of the Box165 ers as “everything in Chinese society [they] wanted destroyed.” The failure of the Boxer Uprising pushed the Qing court to enact destabilizing reforms , redoubled the political demands of local elites, spurred on the activities of anti-Qing forces, and led to the fall of the Qing in 1912. Even in contemporary China, after a period of official praise of the Boxers as antiimperialist revolutionaries,the Boxers have returned,in the discourse of both intellectuals and the state, as a specter haunting China’s attempts at modernization . Myriad social phenomena, including the appearance of millions of peasants streaming into China’s cities (the “floating population”),the rise of qigong sects such as Falun gong, and even the outbreak of riots at soccer matches have caused exasperated intellectuals and nervous government officials to invoke cautionary comparisons with the Boxer debacle.The Boxers have come to symbolize the deficiencies of China’s culture, while the humiliations China suffered at the hands of foreign armies in 1900 serve as a reminder of what might happen if China’s culture is not transformed.1 Although the Boxer debacle had a global effect on the polity and culture of China as a whole, the direct impact of the events of 1900 fell disproportionately on a few locations in the empire. Tianjin was the Qing city most devastated and most changed by the Boxer Uprising and its aftermath.Qing forces, Boxers, and the international relief force fought a month-long siege of artillery warfare over the most populous parts of the city. After weeks of fighting, foreign troops finally blew open the south gate and stormed the walled city.The ensuing combat, followed by the looting and destruction of Chinese homes and yamens by foreign troops, left thousands dead, made tens of thousands homeless, and stripped the city of its wealth. Many Western eyewitnesses to the violence, such as the photographer John Ricalton, were shocked by the savagery that “Christian armies” had visited upon the city. But the sack of Tianjin was not the end of the dramatic effects of the foreign presence. For two years after the capture of Tianjin, the city was administered by a committee made up of representatives from the occupying forces. This body, known as the Tianjin Provisional Government (TPG), brought, in essence, an international...


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