“The Empress and the Boxers: China and the World in 1900”

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine, where he edits the Journal of Asian Studies and holds courtesy affiliations with the Law School and the Literary Journalism Program. He has written five books, including China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (2010 and 2013 editions), and Eight Juxtapositions: China through Imperfect Analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo (Penguin, 2016). He has edited or co-edited several others, including, most recently, The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China (2016). In addition to writing for academic journals, he has contributed to many general interest venues, among them the New York Times,Time, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as the Financial Times, for which he has written reviews of, among other things, a biography of the Empress Dowager.
He is currently completing work in a book about the upheavals that convulsed China in 1900, the year when anti-Christian militants, whose use of martial arts fighting techniques led Westerners to dub them "Boxers," held foreigners captive in Beijing for almost two months, until an army made up of soldiers from many different parts of the world defeated them.

This illustrated talk will explore the dramatic events of the summer of 1900, which have inspired everything from detailed scholarly histories to the Hollywood film "55 Days at Peking" to comic books, focusing on the complex role played by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who at the time was the most powerful member of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), alternately treated the Boxers as bandits to be suppressed and a loyalist militia to be backed, and was driven into temporary exile when foreign troops lifted the siege of the capital and took control of the Forbidden City. Issues raised will include how the Empress Dowager was seen in the West before, during, and after the crisis; the fact that the foreign troops in China as well as the Boxers and soldiers of the Qing committed atrocities in 1900; and the ways that, as different as China's weak position then is to its strong position now, some things about the events of the era of the Cixi find eerie echoes in the troubling events that are unfolding around us in different parts of the world today.

Location: Norma Kershaw Auditorium 

Ticket info: Member or with paid museum admission $15 | General $20


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Event details

February 11, 2018 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm