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Keiry Hiraldo

Mrs. Percival

ELA III 2A

24 October 2016

The Boxer Rebellion is known to be the uprising of the chinese organization; the

“Righteous and Harmonious Fists”, also known as the Boxers. Chinese culture revolves around

two main philosophical systems, Confucianism and Taoism. These philosophies were the

fundamental base for their culture and religions. Although Taoism focuses on living in harmony

and connected with the universe, while Confucianism focuses on humans, society and self

improvement; they both play the same role in shaping China, and giving the Chinese something

to live by. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is

strength; mastering yourself is true power.”, This quote is from the book Tao Te Ching by Lao

Tzu. In the book Lao Tzu covers the wisdom of Taoist and the classic Chinese way of life. I

believe this quote reflects back into Little Bao’s personality a lot, and the choices he made

according to the quote is what helped him grow. In Boxers, you’re immediately informed about

how passionate Little Bao is about powerful Chinese gods, and other strong role models around

him. Little Bao wasn't the strongest or toughest, which is why I believed he looked up and

aspired to be like the gods. After Little Bao met Red Lantern Chu, he realized his true wisdom

was learning Kung Fu to help fight for his people. He saw the potential and power within him

when Red Lantern Chu was murdered. This event (104) sparked his desire to become a hero and

therefore he demanded the sword, because he knew he was ready.


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I believe Gene Luen Yang did not fully capture the true meaning of Chinese culture and

beliefs. In the beginning of the book there were various snapshots of the chinese culture,

lifestyle, belief and gods. For example, part of the book takes place in a village fair, where the

villagers sold their goods, watched traditional plays and had the presence of their god there.

These village fairs exhibit both Confucianism and Taoism in many ways. In Confucianism, it is a

principal to interact with each other which is one of the reasons why the fairs are organized. The

villagers interact, embrace their culture and share their products with one another during this

event. Another example of Chinese culture being depicted in the book are all the different earth

and element god's Little Bao looks up to, and the ones present in the plays. In Taoism, it is a

principal for man to be one with nature, be aware of it and to worship it. Having the gods such as

the earth god, water god and fire god present in the book, show that the Chinese worshiped them

and saw the importance of nature. They are used as motivation and are seen as figures they

cannot let down. Most of the time Little Bao uses the presence of these gods to help complete

daily tasks, such as tending to the crops as seen on page 7 in Boxers. The deeper you get into the

book, the less Gene Luen Yang incorporates culture into the story. He goes onto mostly showing

Little Bao’s growth as a leader and the journey of the villagers, Boxers and Red Lanterns.

One may say that Gene Luen Yang incorporated enough of Chinese culture in the

beginning of the book to focus more on the rebellion part during the other half. I believe he did

not fully capture what the true meaning of Chinese culture is, nor what the true meaning of the

Boxer Rebellion was. It seems to be that Yang let his passion for Kung Fu take over the plot of

the story. Pages 140 to 145 consisted of 5 pages of the villages learning Kung Fu and fighting,

which to me seems absurd and unnecessary. There are many other examples where a large
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amount of panels are used to show Kung Fu training and fighting. Someone who didn't have any

background on the Boxer Rebellion wouldn't have gotten a proper understanding of what it was

actually about. In the novel we are given background and information on the Boxer Rebellion

only a few times. One of those times is on page 18 of Boxers, when the Christian foreigner

smashes Tu Di Gong. Here we are shown that the foreigners did not respect the chinese culture.

Another example of when we are given a little bit of background information is on page 27 and

28, here we see that there were foreign armies present who were disrespectful, and abusive to the

Chinese. We are never given a clear understanding of what exactly the foreigners are doing and

how they are affecting the Chinese. The only time we are given a clear explanation is on pages

157 and 158, where the god of war tells Little Bao the foreign devils are destroying China.The

only descriptions we get of the foreigners and what they do is them being devils, that they grind

up eyeballs and drink menstrual blood, which is inaccurate. There are no factual, specific events

such as the Europeans poisoning the Chinese drugs, which lead to the fury of the Boxers. The

reasons of the Boxer Revolution in the book are vague and some are seem like magical realism.

“​Gene Luen Yang is a Chinese American, Roman Catholic author who wanted to tell the

story of the Boxer Rebellion from both perspectives.”, The NY Times stated in a 2013 article,

‘Despite the ostensibly evenhanded way Yang presents opposed perspectives, it’s clear he views

the Boxer Rebellion as a series of massacres conducted by xenophobes who wound up harming

the very culture they had pledged to protect. In order to attack a group of foreigners who had

taken shelter in Beijing, they burned down the imperial library that housed much of the ancient

literary legacy of China" I strongly agree with all the points made in the quote except for the first

one. I do not agree that in Boxers both perspectives are shown. I believe no perspectives are
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shown, and that the story consists of Yang’s point of view through a fictional character. At no

point in the story are we given the perspective of a foreigner, nor the reasoning behind their

actions. The only time in the novel where a foreigner has a verbal input is on page 288. On this

page the foreigner doesn't say much other than the fact he has Chinese working for him.

The story overall is from the point of view of Little Bao, how he has grown into a leader, and

what he faces. In Boxers it is depicted that the Boxer rebellion consisted of mostly massacres and

and physical destruction of property. Yang represents the Boxers as savages who went around

trying to kill everyone. For example, on page 189, Little Bao is convinced to kill inocent women

and children who clearly meant no harm. Their goal was only to kill all the christians who they

saw, even if they didn't intend to do anything. Another example where the Boxers are depicted as

violent savages who are only doing harm to China was on page 310. On this page Little Bao is

convinced by the god of war to burn down China's ancient library because it’ll help China. In no

way is burning a place with all of China's historic, and valuable books a positive impact. Yang

does not include the positive and peaceful actions the chinese took in the Boxer Revolution.

These actions go against their culture, and it isn't right to include these violent events in novel

which claims to be embracing Chinese culture.

Yang picked and chose little events to put into the novel that did not describe the what

fully happened in the Boxer Rebellion. He chose events such as the library burning, that had lots

of action in them. It seems he chose to leave out important informational parts, because maybe

he thought they weren't interesting enough. By reading the novel it is clear that Yang is

passionate about Kung Fu, since that's what is mostly shown. Kung Fu started to form around the

11th century during slavery, and it developed during the feudal society. Kung Fu was used as a
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way of keeping fit, entertainment, hunting and defense. The values Kung Fu is based on does not

embrace the principles of Taoism or Confucianism. These philosophies like I said before, focus

mainly on being one with people, nature and the universe. Kung Fu does not embrace the rules of

these belief systems. Kung Fu was created to defend yourself and fight back if needed. The fact

that this is the main focus of the novel is Kung Fu makes it even less of an accurate

representation of Chinese culture. Referring back to the quote in paragraph 4, Yang represents

the Boxer Rebellion as the chinese being violent, destructive and Kung Fu being their main

interest. He does not at anytime talk about what led up to the revolution, or the point of regular

villagers or the foreigners and their intent of being in China.

Sources

Yang, Gene Luen. ​Boxers​. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

"What Are Some of the Beliefs of Confucianism?" ​Reference​. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

History.com Staff. "Boxer Rebellion." ​History.com​. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 26

Oct. 2016.

"Taoism and Confucianism — Ancient Philosophies." ​Ushistory.org​. Independence Hall

Association, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"History of Chinese Kung Fu." ​, Development of Martial Arts​. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"Taoist Beliefs - ReligionFacts." ​Taoist Beliefs - ReligionFacts​. N.p., 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 26

Oct. 2016.

 
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