The Chinese secret society known as 'I Ho Ch'uan' ('Righteous Harmonious Fists', mistranslated by Westerners as 'Boxers'), had existed in China for centuries before 1900, but they only came to the attention of the world in that year when they attempted to expel or exterminate all 'foreign devils' from their homeland. With a sympathetic Dowager Empress and many members of the court, notably Prince Tuan, elements of the Imperial army joined with the Boxers, though elsewhere in China the Imperial army was being used to suppress them. The story of the siege of the foreign legations in Peking was made famous in the feature film '55 Days in Peking', though in fact fighting also took place elsewhere in China, but this was the first set of figures to depict this short but violent conflict.
As with all Orion sets there is a plethora of poses depicting all aspects of the fighter. Since the set includes both boxers and several types of Imperial infantry, this allows several poses for each type. In general the poses have plenty of action and are well balanced.
We have arranged the figures into their various categories as shown above. The first figures are from the regular Chinese Imperial infantry which, despite attempts at modernisation, was a very mixed bag. The first three men belong to one of the units raised after the disastrous Sino-Japanese war of 1895. They wear a 'Westernised' uniform with a patch of cloth on the chest bearing writing that identified unit and rank, and they carry fairly modern arms. The next few figures wear more traditional Chinese costume, and represent the 'Braves' which were the majority of Chinese troops in and around Peking during the conflict. They wear a baggy jacket with loose sleeves, under which they have a sort of apron which had two long lobes extending down the side of the legs, though in this set these have been interpreted as the skirt of another garment, and so extends round the back of the legs. Though these men were often issued firearms, ammunition was extremely scarce, and many would have resorted to blade weapons as shown here. The final figure on the third row is a Manchu Ten nai, or Tiger-man. Such men were deployed in front of the main army and used as skirmishers, and were intended to break up enemy cavalry with the long sabre and grappling hook that they carried.
The final two rows are the Boxers themselves. Boxers had no uniform as such (in fact many regular Chinese units had only a jacket that was worn over civilian clothing), so these men wear ordinary clothing and use a variety of weapons. Like their compatriots in the army, they wear several different styles of head gear, including flat turbans, silk 'Mandarin' hats and straw 'Coolie' hats. Weaponry is whatever came to hand - mostly swords and a kind of halberd (a pole with a huge blade) - which were the favoured items judging from contemporary photographs. Firearms were usually scorned as 'Western'. In all respects these figures seem completely authentic, although it must be said that these are mostly particularly well-dressed Boxers, which do not give the impression of a predominantly peasant movement.
The final two figures are of particular interest. First there is a woman, running while carrying a baby in her arms. This could be a civilian caught up in one of the battles, or perhaps one of the many Chinese Christians who were attacked by the Boxers. The final figure is a joker, which as can be seen is actually boxing. Joking aside, however, boxing was used to decide who should control small sections of warriors, so the figure is not entirely useless. However it is only included in a limited number of the first run of this set, so will not appear in many copies.
All the figures are very nicely done, and do not display any of the slight roughness of the first sets produced by this company. We found no flash, and nothing to trim, and since all figures come complete with their weapons they are ready to go as soon as they are cut from the sprue. The figures are small, as they should be, and a real effort has been made to show Chinese facial features. This is an unusual and attractive subject, and it has to be said that the figures are equally so. Another excellent product from a company that has established an impressive reputation in a short space of time.