In Boxers, we see the origins of the Chinese Boxer rebellion through the eyes of Bao, who becomes one of its leaders. Bao grows up in rural China at the end of the 19th Century. He lives for the spring every year when travelling troups perform operas, full of drama, excitement and ancient stories of heroes and gods. The stories stay with him throughout the rest of the year when he performs his chores and is teased by his older brothers. His life changes irrevocably the day one of the foreign white men, one of their priests, come to the village and smashes the idol of the village’s local earth god, Tu Di Gong. Bao’s father and the village constable go to try to complain about the actions to the local magistrate, but never reach their destination. Along the way, they ran into a troop of foreign soldiers, who beat them badly and stole all their tribute to the magistrate. Bao’s father survives, but is never the same. He spends his days staring out the window, mumbling incoherently.
In Saints, the companion volume to Boxers, we see the impact the Boxer rebellion had on some of the “secondary devils”, the converted Chinese, and discover why some of them may have chosen to convert to the foreign religion. Four-Girl is the unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter in her family and doesn’t even warrant a proper name. She feels like an outcast in her own family, and decides that since she is clearly evil and twisted, her face should represent this. She sets her features in a hideous grimace every time someone looks at her, until her mother drags her to see the local acupuncturist, who also happens to be a Christian.