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From Boxer Bombs to the Rock of Ages

Image is of an execution of three Boxers during the 1900 Rebellion. (London Stereoscopic Company)

The Boxer Rebellion, a bloody uprising in China at the turn of the 20th century against foreigners, is a relatively obscure historical event with far-reaching consequences that nevertheless is often remembered because of its unusual name. Who exactly were the Boxers? They were members of a secret society made up mostly of peasants in northern China known as I-ho-ch'uan ("Righteous and Harmonious Fists") and were called the "Boxers" by the Western press; members of the secret society practised boxing and callisthenic rituals that they thought would make them impervious to bullets and attacks, and this led to their unusual but memorable name.

Beginning in the late 1890s, the Boxers began attacking Christian missionaries, Chinese Christians and foreigners in northern China. These attacks eventually spread to the capital, Beijing, in June 1900, when the Boxers destroyed railroad stations and churches and laid siege to the area where foreign diplomats lived. It is estimated that that death toll included several hundred foreigners and several thousand Chinese Christians.

The Qing Dynasty's Empress Dowager Tzu’u Hzi backed the Boxers, and the day after the Boxers began the siege on foreign diplomats, she declared war on all foreign countries that had diplomatic ties with China. 

Meanwhile, a multinational foreign force was gearing up in northern China. In August 1900, after nearly two months of the siege, thousands of allied American, British, Russian, Japanese, Italian, German, French and Austro-Hungarian troops moved out of northern China to take Beijing and put down the rebellion, which they accomplished.

The Boxer Rebellion formally ended in September 1901 with the signing of the Boxer Protocol, which mandated the punishment of those involved in the rebellion and required China to pay reparations to the countries affected.

Source : ThoughtCo.

Nestled in a bosky section of Ladywell cemetery lies the flattened headstone of a former Methodist missionary to China, close to a pocket of graves of other divines whose missionary zeal serving in the Far East is well documented.* Born in Ireland in 1852 John Hinds devoted forty three years of missionary endeavour in mainland China as part of the Methodist New Connexion. Married in Shanghai in 1882 to Linda Ellen Cooke d.1935 (also interred here) many effulgent obituaries followed his death in Forest Hill in 1928. He survived an accident crossing an ice bound river and during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 a shell fell close to the room he was in, narrowly avoiding death. The generous tributes below attest to a life of unstinting and single minded devotion to promoting the Christian gospel at a time of rapid and at times violent social and revolutionary change in China which exploded in the aforementioned events that opened the new century at the heyday of European Colonial hegemony in China.

The above excerpt is from the United Methodist of March 1928.

A fuller account of the Reverend John Hinds life and missionary work can be found here

The popular Christian hymn 'Rock of Ages' was sung at the graveside as the coffin was lowered into the ground.

In his book Hymns That Have Helped, W. T. Stead, British newspaper editor and a pioneer of 19th century investigative journalism ( who attended a funeral in the cemetery in 1888)  reported "when the SS London went down in the Bay of Biscay, 11 January 1866, the last thing which the last man who left the ship heard as the boat pushed off from the doomed vessel was the voices of the passengers singing "Rock of Ages"

The photo of the Hinds headstone in Ladywell cemetery (it is the scrolled embellished one) was taken by Phill Barnes-Warden.

* Charles Stedeford (1864-1953) was born in Bristol. He entered the Bible Christian ministry in 1883 and served as President of the United Methodist Conference in 1928 and as Secretary of the Missionary Society for twenty-eight years.

Source : United Methodist July 1929. He gave the funeral oration for the Rev. John Hinds.

His son John Britton Stedeford, born 1857, entered the ministry in 1878. He was General Sunday School Secretary 1899-1904 and was President of the BC Conference in 1906 and of the UM Conference in 1915. He wrote a Guide to Church Membership (1917) for the UM. He died in Oxford in October 1929. He is interred in Ladywell cemetery.

The Reverend John Innocent d.1904 was another prominent Methodist missionary to China who is buried in Ladywell cemetery - His life story was told in this 2013 post