Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2014


beitang, boxer uprising, china, Alphose Favier, Jesuit, seige


By 1879 the Shanghai Jesuit, Li Wenyu, SJ, 李問漁 (1840-1911) had distinguished himself as one of Shanghai’s leading writers and editors; he had established both Yiwenlu, 益聞錄 Shanghai’s third newspaper, and the Gezhixinbao, 格致新報 the area’s most popular scientific journal. Less famous, though habitually consulted by historians of China’s turbulent Boxer era (1898-1900), was his protracted and hagiographic narrative of Boxer violence, the Quanhuoji 拳禍記. Li’s meticulous collection of witness testimonies and documentary materials recounting Boxer incidents remains an often-cited source in present historical research; this paper examines the historical reliability of his Quanhuoji, first published in 1905. Careful scrutiny of Li Wenyu’s narrative account of the Boxer siege of Beitang 北堂 demonstrates that his narrative, which he claimed was derived from the journal of the Lazarist bishop, Alphonse Favier, SJ, (1837-1905) was either highly embellished, or was based largely on unknown – and identified – sources. Few incidents in 1900 Beijing have attracted so much attention as the attack against Beitang (North Church), and this paper seeks to sift through the prevalent textual variances and apparent accretions that are discerned when Li’s narrative is compared to other primary sources.


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