A new bronze statue is sitting on a velvet cushion in the Tran Library. The one-and-a-half foot tall statue, “Boxer III,” is a careful reproduction of the original Ming Dynasty statue that became Pacific’s mascot. Although it was cast just a few months ago, it is steeped in Pacific lore.
The original Boxer was a bronze incense burner that was probably created in China during the Ming Dynasty. It was a qilin, a mythological creature that symbolizes good luck, prosperity and fertility. Like a griffin or a unicorn, the qilin mixes together the characteristics of several animals: the legs and antlers of a deer; the scales of a carp; the tail of a lion or an ox; the face of a dragon. The original statue had a hinge under its neck so that the head could swivel down, and incense could be placed inside. When it burned, smoke would come out of its nostrils.
A Pacific alumnus named Joseph E. Walker bought the statue in Shaowu, China and brought it to Pacific in the 1890s. It was given a place of honor in the university’s chapel, but it did not reside there for long. Students stole the statue from the chapel as a prank in the fall of 1899. Soon afterwards, the statue acquired the nickname “Boxer,” after the Boxer Rebellion. Abducting the statue from the chapel was the beginning of a long tradition of stealing, “flashing,” hiding and brawling over Boxer by generations of Pacific students. Over the course of decades, the original Boxer was literally ripped apart and welded back together multiple times. When the original was last seen in 1969, it was missing its two front feet, ears, horn, and tail. Some of these fragments have since been returned to Pacific by alumni, and are also on display in the Tran Library.
Boxer’s original body has not been seen in public for fifty years. A replica named Boxer II was created in the 1980s, but it has likewise been missing for over ten years. Though many in the Pacific community hold out hope that these two statues will be found again, this new incarnation, Boxer III, is a new symbol of our old traditions.
To create Boxer III, alumni from the late 1960s called on the same sculptor who created Boxer II, Patrick Costello. The Pacific University Archives supplied him with many high-resolution historic images which he used to recreate Boxer as he appeared in his early days. The Tran Library is proud to be the home for Boxer III on permanent display in the lobby.