Boxer Uprising Martyrs

Mary Zhu Wu (1850-1900): A Wife & Anna Wang (1886-1900): A Daughter

The Wife

The summer of 1900 saw Hebei swept with two waves of suffering during the Boxer Uprising. The first wave was inflicted by the Boxers on Christians, the vast majority Catholics. The second wave was inflicted on ordinary citizens by the foreign armies who pillaged the countryside while marching to rescue their countrymen under siege in Beijing and Tianjin. All told, the Boxers killed about 32,000 Chinese Christians, including 5,000 in Hebei. One of the greatest massacres took place in Hebei’s Jing County, Zhujiahe Village, where more than 2,000 Catholics were slaughtered in a three-day siege from July 18-20. On the third day, a force of 10,000 Boxers and Imperial soldiers entered the town and set fire to a church building filled largely with women and children. Mary Zhu Wu’s husband had been killed trying to defend the town. She was shot down in the church as she stood between the soldiers and priests with her arms outstretched in the shape of a cross.

The Daughter

Two days after the Zhujiahe Massacre, a Catholic teenage girl named Anna Wang was one of many killed in Majiazhuang, Hebei. Her story is told by Catholic historians: “When the Boxers came to Majiazhuang on July 21, 1900, they began rounding up the Christians and issued their typical ultimatum: ‘The government has banned the practice of western religions. If you renounce your religion you will be set free. If you refuse we will kill you.’ In fear, Anna’s stepmother decided to renounce Christianity, and she urged Anna to do the same. Anna refused, proclaiming boldly, ‘I believe in God. I am a Christian. I do not want to renounce God. Jesus save me!’ She was taken with two other Christians and locked up in a room. They spent the night in prayer. The next morning, they were taken to a field and witnessed the cruel executions of several Christians, included five women with their children, as young as ten months. When the Boxers turned to Anna, she was on her knees in prayer. One said to her, ‘Give up your faith and you will live.’ She continued praying aloud with her eyes turned heavenward, and made no reply. When the Boxer pressed Anna, she said, ‘Do not touch me; I am a Christian. I prefer to die rather than give up my faith.’ The Boxer cut off her right arm with a stroke and ordered her again to deny her faith. Anna did not answer him and the Boxer struck her again, but Anna continued to worship. She said, ‘The door of heaven is open,’ and began to call on Jesus. When she had said his name three times, the Boxer struck off her head.”

The Harvest

In addition to the 32,000 Chinese Christians who were killed by the Boxers, 235 foreign Christians, mostly Protestants, were also martyred. God honored the sacrifice of His children by bringing a new era of church growth to China. China’s leaders recognized that they could no longer close their country off from the rest of the world, and for two decades there was a time of openness to the gospel not seen in centuries. The pendulum did swing back, and persecution again fell upon the church in the 20th century, which saw more Christian martyrs than all previous centuries combined. Nonetheless, it may well be said that those who died in the Boxer Uprising laid the foundation for the Chinese Revival that is even now re-making the face of the world.

  1. The Newly Canonized Martyr-Saints of China (The Chinese Regional Bishops Conference Taiwan, 2000).
  2. Headland, Isaac T. Chinese Heroes: Being a Record of Persecutions Endured by Native Christians (Eaton & Mains).
  3. Royal, Robert. Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive Global History (Crossroad, 2000).