The siege of Legation Quarter Peking in 1900 and 1930s

the siege of legation quarter peking in 1900 and 1930s

The Siege of the Legation Quarter in Peking (now Beijing) occurred in the summer of 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement in China. The Legation Quarter was an area in Peking where many foreign embassies and diplomatic residences were located.

The Boxer Rebellion began in late 1899 and quickly spread throughout northern China. The Boxers, a secret society of martial artists, targeted foreigners and Chinese Christians, whom they saw as threats to China’s sovereignty and culture. In June 1900, the Boxers attacked the foreign legations in Peking, including the Legation Quarter.

Over 900 foreign nationals, including diplomats, missionaries, and their families, were trapped inside the Legation Quarter for 55 days, while Boxer forces and Chinese imperial troops besieged the compound. The foreign residents, aided by a small contingent of marines and soldiers from the Eight-Nation Alliance, fought off repeated attacks and endured shelling and sniper fire.

During the siege, the foreign residents suffered from hunger, disease, and lack of water. They also faced the threat of torture and execution if they were captured by the Boxers. The siege ended on August 14, 1900, when a relief force of 20,000 troops from the Eight-Nation Alliance entered Peking and lifted the siege.

The siege of the Legation Quarter was a turning point in Chinese history. It led to the imposition of harsh conditions on China in the Boxer Protocol, which included indemnities, territorial concessions, and the execution of several Chinese officials. It also fueled resentment towards foreigners and increased nationalist sentiment in China.

In the 1930s, the Legation Quarter once again became the site of conflict during the Japanese invasion of China. Japan had occupied Manchuria in 1931 and had been expanding its influence in northern China. In July 1937, a dispute between Chinese and Japanese troops near the Marco Polo Bridge in Peking led to a full-scale invasion of China by Japan.

Japanese troops quickly advanced towards Peking and occupied the Legation Quarter on July 31, 1937. The foreign residents were evacuated, and the Japanese established their headquarters in the former British embassy. The Legation Quarter became a center of Japanese military and political activity in northern China.

The Japanese occupation of the Legation Quarter was marked by atrocities against Chinese civilians and prisoners of war. The infamous Kempeitai, the Japanese military police, set up a headquarters in the area and carried out brutal interrogations, torture, and executions.

The Legation Quarter was also the site of resistance against the Japanese occupation. Chinese guerrilla fighters and communist forces launched attacks on Japanese targets in the area. One of the most daring attacks was the raid on the Japanese headquarters in the former British embassy in January 1941, which resulted in the death of several Japanese officers.

The Legation Quarter was liberated by Chinese and Allied forces in August 1945, after the Japanese surrender. The area had suffered extensive damage from the Japanese occupation and the fighting during the war. Many of the buildings were in ruins, and the foreign residents had not returned.

Today, the Legation Quarter has been restored and preserved as a historical and cultural landmark. The former embassies and residences now house museums, galleries, and restaurants. The area is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, who come to learn about the history and culture of this unique part of Beijing. The Siege of the Legation Quarter in 1900 and the Japanese occupation of the area in the 1930s are important chapters in this history, reminding us of the complex and often tragic relations between China and the outside world.

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