After reading the first half of Boxers, I personally think that the story has a much more interesting plot despite the two graphic novels sharing related storylines. Boxers references a lot of Chinese folklore which reminds me of the stories my mom would tell me as a kid. Compared to Saints, Boxers contains much more typically “Chinese” symbolism whereas Saints overlooks a lot of rich Chinese history and folklore.
The way religion is treated in China and referenced in Boxers and Saints is rather interesting to me. The western missionaries are not necessarily attempting to convert the Chinese people from atheism, but actually attempt to prevent them from practicing their “heathen” traditions. As we’ve discussed before in class, Confucianism and many aspects of Buddhism are intertwined in the Chinese culture and identity. Although today, many Chinese people consider themselves atheist or agnostic, they still practice traditional holidays with ties to folk religion (myself included) which may seem strange from a Western perspective. Personally, my parents consider themselves Buddhist, but don’t really practice the religion outside of a few traditional holidays.
I believe that Boxers and Saints attempts to demonstrate more than just the role of missionaries in China, but rather the cruelty faced by many Chinese people and the helplessness they felt when faced with great adversity. Instead of simply being a battle between religion and irreligion, the “Big Sword Society” is portrayed as guardians protecting the core identity of China and the missionaries are shown as evildoers attempting to erase this history.