As the Western powers advanced into China in the late 1800s and carved it up into “spheres of influence,” China lost much of the territory it had acquired during the previous two centuries, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Korea. These humiliating losses led to a series of rebellions against the Qing dynasty, and it ultimately collapsed. While Secretary of State John Hay and the Americans described an Open Door Policy which would ensure equal trading rights for all nations within China, the Chinese rebel “Boxers” marauded through the countryside, slaughtering missionaries and attacking Christian missions. Encouraged by the Empress Dowager Cixi to drive out “foreign devils,” they soon attacked foreigners in Beijing and the Forbidden City. The Boxer Rebellion was finally quelled in 1900.
During her audience with the Empress Dowager, Alice Roosevelt described the impressive and cruel power of the tyrannical ruler contrasted with the young emperor who huddled in a drug-induced stupor, devastated by an opium addiction then ravaging the country since the drug’s arrival through trade with the British. Eight bearers carried Miss Roosevelt through the imperial gardens in a yellow tasseled chair. In 1905 some groups in China were engaged in an active boycott of American goods in an effort to change discriminatory U.S. immigration laws.
After taking a transport to Hong Kong, the Taft party attended a ball at the Hong Kong Club. At the race track, they watched riders mounted on native ponies. Aside from regular races, the party viewed a rickshaw-race, egg-and-spoon races, and other gymkhana events.
From Hong Kong to a brief interlude in Canton, Taft attended meetings on the Chinese boycott of American goods, but none of the women in the party were allowed off a gunboat due to the magnitude of anti-American feelings. Back in Hong Kong, the delegation split up. Alice Roosevelt, Nicholas Longworth, Harry F. Woods, and others went to Beijing. The rest of the party with Secretary Taft sailed to Shanghai on the Korea. While in Shanghai, Taft received news of riots in Tokyo which he attributed to dissatisfaction with the Japanese ministers who negotiated the Portsmouth Peace Treaty and excessive police interference with the protestors.
On a transport through the Yellow Sea, the remaining group including the Newlands, Nicholas Longworth, Bourke Cockran, and Harry Fowler Woods landed at Tientsin and went directly to Beijing. Alice Roosevelt and her group drove by rickshaws to the Temple of Heaven and then to the summer palace where they had an audience with the Empress Dowager.
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