The Boxer Bonds

11 May 2014 of IBSS Webmaster

(by Howard Shakespeare, published with additional illustrations in ‘Scripophily’ in Winter 1999)

China in the 1890s was a very disturbed land. Central government, never very effective, had more or less broken down in many areas and, both economically and militarily, the country was weak. War in 1895 led to a victorious Japan occupying part of Manchuria (northeast China). Foreign powers took advantage of China’s weakness to give themselves « areas of influence », « treaty ports » and all types of concessions, much more to their advantage than China’s. France had influence in the south, Britain in the Yangtse valley, Germany in the Shantung peninsula, and Russia in the rest of Manchuria.

Ordinary Chinese were angry, and blamed the « foreign devils ». Although popular opinion was xenophobic generally, not specifically anti-Christian, the most accessible foreign targets were missionaries, and many missions were destroyed and missionaries killed. By 1898, much of the resentment had coalesced into one of China’s many secret societies, the Yihetuan (variously translated as « The Armies of Justice and Peace » or « The Society of the Righteous Fist »), whose symbol was a clenched fist. They were linked to the White Lotus Society, who practised a form of sacred boxing. On account of all this, its members became known to the west as the Boxers.


The Boxers’ main area of activity was northeast China, from Shantung to the Peking region (now Beijing), although sympathisers caused trouble elsewhere. Sporadic attacks on missions, in late 1898, grew into a campaign by an army of up to 200,000 men, mostly peasants and boatmen displaced by the use of steamships. The climax of the rebellion was an attack on Peking in 1900, when a Boxer army, helped by some Imperial troops, besieged the diplomatic quarter. The story of the desperate defence of the foreign legations is well-known, and told in the film 100 Days in Peking. The legations were relieved, just in time, by an army from eight nations, led by the German General von Waldersee, which had fought its way from the sea at Tientsin.


The Imperial Government was held by the European powers to have permitted, or even encouraged, the Boxers.  Under the « Boxer Protocol », China was forced to make valuable trade and railway concessions, and was subjected to a huge compensation indemnity of 450 million Haikwan taels (£67,500,000), payable with interest over 39 years. The indemnity was granted to the various nations, as follows :

Russia           28,7%       £ 19,372,500
Germany       20,0%       £ 13,500,000
France          15,7%       £ 10,597,500
Great Britain 11,0%       £  7,425,000
Japan             7,7%        £  5,197,500
USA                7,3%        £  4,927,500
Italy                5,9%       £  3,982,500
Belgium          1,9%        £  1,282,500

The other 1,8% was shared amongst Austria-Hungary, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Norway and Sweden. China entered World War I, against Germany, in 1918, and a waiver of five years’ repayments was granted as a result. Moreover, after the end of that war, balances due to Germany and Austria-Hungary were cancelled.


special boxer

Unique piece of the US boxer loan: This one is signed by some 20 directors of the Banque Industrielle de Chine. Sold for 9.500 GBP by Spink in London (June 2013).

Bond issues

Although the majority of the Boxer indemnity was to pay for damage and losses caused to foreign interests during the rebellion, a part related to funds for building the embankments of the Whangpu and Peiho rivers. The total amount of the indemnity was divided into five payment series, payable by China over different periods, starting from 1902 to 1932, but all to be completed in 1940. These inter-government obligations were probably not printed as bearer bonds.

However, several of the creditor nations later made bond issues against the indemnity due to them, so as to raise cash in advance of the Chinese payment dates. Russia, France, Belgium and Great Britain have left such « Boxer Bonds » known to collectors today. A fifth, Italy, issued a loan in 1933 for $4,400,000, but these bonds have not been seen by scripophilists, and may not have been sold to the public.

Much of our financial and scripophily detail are from China’s Foreign Debt by Wilhelm Kuhlmann, Hanover 1983.



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