Certificate Medal of the Leader of the K’an Trigram (Group) of Righteous Harmony Society, in silver
On the front side of the medal are four Chinese characters “I Ho Shen Ch’uan”, with one of the Eight Trigrams “K’an” engraved in the middle. On the back side is the slogan of the society, “support the Qing, destroy the Foreign”. Based on the organization of Righteous Harmony Society and the material of the medal, the item is the certificate medal of the leader of the K’an Trigram (Group) of Righteous Harmony Society. The medal has never been catalogued in museums including those in China nor private collections, which makes it extremely rare.
The Boxer Movement broke out in China in the late 19th century. Under the slogan of “support the Qing, destroy the Foreign”, it was a mass campaign of violence confronting Chinese Christians and westerners in China including western missionaries. Causes of the movement were manifold. Major reasons included humiliation resulting from imperialist military invasion in the 19th century, conflicts of concepts and beliefs due to differences between Chinese and Western cultures, the one-time inclination of the Qing government to take advantage of mass power to expel foreign influences and the impact of natural and man-made disasters on the livelihood of people in Shantung and Chihli, where people were keen on joining superstitious civil societies.
Righteous Harmony Society evolved from the Righteous Fists of Harmony. It was a popular traditional secretive civil society in Shantung and Chihli (today Hopei). There is no consensus regarding its origin, however there are three common claims:
1. Righteous Harmony Society evolved from White Lotus Society. Lao Nai-hsuan with his Research on the Origin of Righteous Harmony Society supports this origin.
2. Big Swords Society was the origin of Righteous Harmony Society. Big Swords Society was mainly composed of poor peasants in North China during the Qing Dynasty. Members of society practiced a martial art called “Golden Shield” which they believed would defend them from swords and bullets.
3. Martial arts clubs were the predecessor of Righteous Harmony Society. There were various civil martial art clubs in the Qing Dynasty, such as Righteous Fists of Harmony and Fists of Plum Blossom.
In 1897, villagers of Liyuan Village, Kuan County, Shantung Province clashed with the church over historical land disputes. Martial arts master Chao San-to of Fists of Plum Blossom in Wei County came to help at the request of a villager named Yen Shu-ch’in. Later, Chao San-to renamed Fists of Plum Blossom to Righteous Fists of Harmony. In October of the same year, Chao San-to and some others started an uprising in Chiangchia Village, Kuan County, upholding the slogan of “support the Qing, destroy the Foreign”. In June 1898, Provincial Governor Chang Ju-mei of Shantung Province presented a petition to the Qing Court, stating that Righteous Fists of Harmony was a village group and it was better to “reorganize martial arts clubs into civil corps”. In the meantime, he explicitly stated that Righteous Fists of Harmony was Righteous Harmony Society. This was the first time that a Qing officer used the name Righteous Harmony Society. In 1899, when Chinese Bannerman Yu Hsien, who bought his official post, took office as Provincial Governor of Shantung Province, he suggested that “people should be used, groups be placated, bandits be eliminated”. Thus, Righteous Harmony Society should be placated and reorganized into a civil corp. This was how Righteous Fists of Harmony evolved into Righteous Harmony Society while its slogan changed from “overturn Qing Dynasty and reinstate Ming Dynasty” to “support the Qing, destroy the Foreign”.
According to the introduction given by Ch’en Kuei-tsung in Organizations and Tenets of Righteous Harmony Society, the organization was mainly divided as follows:
1. Altar, the base unit of Righteous Harmony Society, of which First Brother serves as the leader.
2. Head Altar, a unit at the next higher level of Altar.
3. Trigram or Group, a unit at the next higher level of Head Altar. Righteous Harmony Society was divided into eight Trigrams (Groups) according to the Eight Trigrams, such as “Kan Trigram (Group) of Righteous Harmony Society” and “K’an Trigram (Group) of Righteous Harmony Society”.
4. Righteous Harmony Society was a loose organization composed of all Boxers.
It was further divided into an official society, a private society and a fake society. In addition, the society also included female organizations such as “Red Lamp” and “Blue Lamp”.
In January 1900, Empress Dowager Tz’u-hsi issued edicts defending the Boxers despite of complaints from foreign diplomats. On May 27th, three thousand Boxers seized Chochou. On May 28th, having predicted the danger confronting the Legation Quarter, Envoy Plenipotentiary Claude Maxwell MacDonald asked 17 foreign warships anchored in Taku Fort for reinforcement. On May 31st, an allied escort composed of 79 British, 79 Russians, 75 French, 53 Americans, 39 Italians and 24 Japanese arrived in Peking by train for the defence of the Legation Quarter. On June 3rd, 51 German marines and 32 Austria-Hungary soldiers arrived at the Legation Quarter in Peking. On June 10th, Empress Dowager Tz’u-hsi appointed Prince Tuan Tsai I as Minister of Tsungli-Yamen. It was then that Boxers flooded into Peking. From that day onward, foreign embassies in Peking remained under siege, with external communication cut-off.
On June 11th, an allied contingent of 2,066 officers and soldiers from Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Austria-Hungary under the command of the British Vice-Admiral Edward Seymour was dispatched by train from T’ienchin to Peking to reinforce 11 foreign embassies in Peking. As the railway had been severed by the Boxers, Seymour and his troops could not make further advancement and were stuck somewhere between Yangts’un and Langfang. There the contingent was defeated by Boxers and Qing troops. On June 26th, the reinforcement fled in defeat to Concessions in T’ienchin. This resulted in the failure of the allies’ first attempt to lift the siege on the embassies. However, the confrontation was considered by the Qing government and Boxers as a major victory in resisting foreign invasions and was given the name “Langfang Victory”.
On June 17th, the allied forces captured Taku Fort. On June 20th, when German envoy Klemens Freiherr von Ketteler was on his way to Tsungli-Yamen as a representative to ask for protection, he was ambushed and killed by Qing troops. This was the leading cause of the confrontations that followed. Since the death of Klemens Freiherr von Ketteler, foreign embassies in Peking became targets for attack.
On June 21st, on the order of Empress Dowager Tz’u-hsi, the Qing government declared war against Western powers on behalf of Emperor Kuang-hsu. This finally evolved into an international military conflict. The Eight-Nation Alliance which was composed of about 45,000 soldiers from Japan, the United States, Austria-Hungary, the United Kingdom (whose forces included a Chinese camp called “Chinese Braves” trained by the United Kingdom in Weihaiwei), France, Germany, Italy and Russia entered into war with Qing troops and Boxers. On July 14th, the allied forces took T’ienchin and established the “T’ienchin Tutung Yamen”, exercising military control over T’ienchin, Chinghai, Ningho and some other regions. In the early morning of August 14th, the allied forces gathered outside of Peking and gradually occupied various city gates after two days of intense fighting. Then street fights engaged between Qing troops and the allied forces inside Peking. In the evening of August 16th, the Eight-Nation Alliance almost had the whole city under control. After the fall of Peking, Empress Dowager Tz’u-hsi and the royal family fled to hsi’an. In the end of the Boxer Movement, the defeated Qing government was forced to sign the Boxer Protocol on September 7th, 1901 and was fined war reparations of 450,000,000 tael of fine silver. This was referred to as the Boxer Indemnity in history.
In American historical documentations, this military removal of the siege on legations was known as the China Relief Expedition. However, China used the name Eight-Nation Alliance Invasion of China.
During and after the Boxer Movement, various medals and memorial medals were manufactured by governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals. Theyse medals were awarded to related persons and to commemorate the event.
[article source: China Qing Dynasty Medals 中國清代徽章 ISBN: 978-0-9781539-3-9]
A Boxer Rebel.