Guide to the Boxer Uprising Souvenir Collection. Collection number: Souvenirs 14




Contains souvenirs relating to Australia's involvement in the Boxer Uprising of 1899-1901.

SERIES 1: General Material, 1899-1901. Description: The series contains souvenirs relating to the Boxer Uprising of 1899-1901.

During the nineteenth century the major European powers compelled a reluctant Chinese Empire to start trading with them. In the Opium Wars of the 1860s the British had forced the Chinese to accept the import of opium in return for Chinese goods, and trading centres were established at major ports. The largest of these was Shanghai, where French, German, British and US merchants demanded large tracts of land in which they asserted ""extra-territorial"" rights, meaning that they were subject to the laws of their own country, not those of China. By the end of the nineteenth century the balance of the lucrative trade between China and merchants from America and Europe, particularly Britain, lay almost entirely in the West's favour. As Western influence increased, anti-European secret societies began to form. Among the most violent and popular of these was the I-ho-ch'uan, which translates as the ""Righteous and Harmonious Fists"". Dubbed ""the Boxers""by western correspondents, they gave the Boxer Rebellion its name. Throughout 1899 the I-ho-ch'uan and other militant societies combined in a campaign against westerners and westernised Chinese. By March 1900 the uprising had spread beyond the secret societies, and the western powers decided to intervene, partly to protect their nationals, but mainly to counter the threat to their territorial and trade ambitions. By the end of May 1900 Britain, Italy and the United States had warships anchored off the Chinese coast and armed contingents from France, Germany, Austria, Russia and Japan were on their way to China. In June, as a western force marched on Peking, the Dowager Empress, T'zu-hsi, sent imperial troops to support the Boxers against them. As the conflict escalated the Australian colonies were keen to offer material support to Britain. With the bulk of their forces engaged in South Africa, they looked to their navies to provide men for the war in China; these provided a pool of professional, full-time crews, as well as reservist-volunteers, including many ex-naval men. The reservists were mustered into naval brigades in which the training was geared towards coastal defence by sailors capable of both ship handling and fighting as soldiers. The first of the Australian contingents, mostly from New South Wales and Victoria, sailed on 8 August 1900, but they had little involvement in significant combat. Instead, they performed police and guard duties and sometimes worked as railwaymen and fire-fighters. Although they took little part in combat, the Australian forces did play a role in the restoration of civil order, and an aspect of this work involved shooting (by firing squad) Chinese caught setting fire to buildings or committing other offences against European property or persons. The Australian troops had expected martial adventure and the opportunity to distinguish themselves in battle, but they had arrived in China too late to take part in significant combat. The entire naval brigade left China in March 1901. Six Australians had died of sickness and injury, none was killed as a result of enemy action.

Contact Senior Curator, Published & Digitised Collections, Australian War Memorial.

Open - Contact Senior Curator, Published & Digitised Collections, Australian War Memorial.

Selected additional and related material available at using the search terms described under 'subject _local'. Copies of many items from the Memorial's collections may also be purchased @


Boxer Rebellion; Boxer Uprising; China; Souvenirs

Coverage Spatial


Coverage Temporal



Related Collections


2012-05-30 23:41

2011-03-07 14:54