2017 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226


Popular Associations and Late Qing Local Politics: The 1900 Wenzhou “Divine Fist” Uprising Reconsidered

Roger Shih-Chieh Lo

Department of History, National Taiwan University

In the summer of 1900 in Wenzhou, the so-called “Divine Fists” Association (Shen-quan hui) attacked Christian groups and churches. Conventional wisdom has considered this movement an echo of the better-known Boxer uprising in North China and as a part of a nationwide xenophobic movement. Based on close examination of local archives as well as two diaries written by Wenzhou literati, this article attempts to interpret these events from the perspective of local politics, arguing that the Divine Fists Association derived from Wenzhou’s communal religious tradition and was directed by a local ritual specialist from his altar. Due to growing resentment against local Christians as well as support from an overseas Wenzhou merchant since the 1890s, the Association expanded from a mutual aid group to an important political power that provided protection to its members against local elites and their Christian neighbors. According to daily life details from two local literati’s diaries, religious differences can only partly explain the driving force behind this uprising as well as armed conflicts among different interest groups for the financial control of illegal salt sales in southern Wenzhou.


Keywords: late Qing, local politics, Divine Fist Association, popular association, Wenzhou