Similarities between Saints & Swordmen in “Saints” by Gene Luen Yang

Due to his Catholic background, perhaps author Gene Luen Yang felt obligated to give a second opinion to the Catholics instead of outright just demonizing them in his previous novel, Boxers. 

“As expected, the invader will think it rude for the invaded to retaliate—although that is reasonably what is supposed to happen.”

Striking Contradiction

This page struck me as odd..or more comical.

boxers and saints 2 115

“Foreign invaders seized our lands…”

“Claimed [the land] for their own!”

And the war has “restored to us [the French] what is rightfully ours.”

Hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me. As mentioned in the last post, it’s all about perspective. From a Christian/European perspective to fight for one’s country is an honorable thing, but when it comes to the “heathen” Chinese the same grace somehow does not apply. As expected, the invader will think it rude for the invaded to retaliate—although that is reasonably what is supposed to happen. Till this day, I have never heard of a nation of people willingly undergoing subjugation without even a word of protest.


This panel baffled me for a moment. I thought the eyes symbolized enlightenment, or at least “the third eye,” but upon examination I realized that it looks more like the Hand of Hamsa.


The Hand of Hamsa

These were all over the place when my family and I went to Isreal– the “origin” or Christianity if you will. The Hand of Hamsa is meant to protect someone from jealousy, envy,  hexes, and other malignant forces known collectively as the evil eye. It appears to be purely superstitious, but Christianity also also prone to superstition–saints appearing to a convert (i.e. Joan of Arc).


The original/main purpose of the gods in Boxers & Saints is protection. After the first book, it becomes apparent that the Chinese gods Boa is appealing to are starting to lose popularity amongst some Chinese. This is implied by the mass of converts that flee to the Catholic fortress, and supposed military superiority of the European invaders. In their natures, the gods may not be different, and as far as functionality..they essentially serve the same purpose. Making the people feel slightly secure.

Evil Eye

Each culture sees the other’s god as evil. The Christians see the Chinese gods, like poor Tu di Gong, as an offense to their own and visa versa. Both above images of the gods do not look threatening at all. So the evil each god carries with him or her is assigned, not necessarily innate. I think this was purposeful of Yang in order to showcase more cultural relativity, and be overall evenhanded in his portrayal of both Boxers (“sinners”) and Saints.

Other honorable mentions: such as the priest’s inhaling similarly to the warriors, the presence of warriors (Joan, obviously, and the warriors in Boxers), and the greedy nature of the invading soldiers (Saints 168) and the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist (Boxers 152-3, Saints 150).

The addition of this second book was warranted. Yang does not make it so easy to decide who is a saint and who is a sinner, which makes for a much more interesting read.




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