This event was, and is to this day, known as the “Boxer Rebellion”. (No, we are not speaking of the shorts here folks!)
China had for years been an isolated country ruled by Emperors, which ruled with an Iron Fist. These emperors did have armies however these armies were barely strong enough to control the populace, let alone more powerful countries such as Germany, the British Empire and America. Even though to us in the West, Japan was considered the Far East, it too was considered the West to the Chinese and as such their presence was also unwanted. It was during this period that the Chinese began taking a “Nationalist” approach to the Western influences invading their country. The Chinese, one must remember, had been pretty much isolated to the world except for the Silk, Opium and Tea market for centuries. With the Western invasion that happened during the 19th Century, many new and unwanted things were affecting the average Chinese citizen. Especially the Chinese peasant, many of which lived in small villages and outlets away from large cities such as Beijing. Including such villages as Master Chens.
The average Chinese citizen was afraid that Western encroachment was going to destroy their way of life and in actuality, make their lives even more difficult than it already was. For instance, China did not have a rail system until Western companies came in and began constructing them in order to speed up the “Rape” China’s natural resources. The peasants that built the rail system constructed it, by hand, yet could not afford to ride the trains that rode on the tracks they laid. In most cases they were even forbidden to ride on them. Certainly, the Chinese Emperors, or Empresses, and the wealthy class were enjoying the Western Expansion as they were only garnering the fruits of their subjects labor.
Not the average Chinese citizen however.
Thus, a Rebellion began amongst the Chinese lower class of which the bulk consisted of peasants, workers, farmers and even Chinese priests, against Westerners living in China at the time. This Revolt became known as the “Boxer Rebellion”. It was named such by the British forces as they noticed that many of those revolting against westerners were using self-defense methods known as “Boxing” in China. (Think Martial Arts here)
A group of these rebels, in 1899, began attacking westerners all over China and this group called themselves “I Ho Ch’uan” which literally translated into “the Righteous and Harmonious Fists”. Sound familiar? On June 20th, 1900 these “Boxers” attacked the Western complex in Beijing, which housed the diplomatic areas and killed many Westerners, including the German ambassador. This “force” of I Ho Ch’uan numbered at around 100,000. As each country occupying the Western Quarter had minimal protection, the “Boxers” burned many churches, buildings and even destroyed the Peking Rail system in Beijing. As this greatly concerned the Western Powers, all these countries, including Japan, Germany, Russia, the United States, France and Great Briton, form a Multi-National Force of which eventually took control of Beijing and suppressed the I Ho Ch’uan all the way to Northern China. In fact, after it was all over, the Emperors/Empresses of China were forced to pay almost $300 million dollars for the damages caused by the I Ho Ch’uan.
This was just the beginning of China becoming a “Subject Nation” under the control of outsiders and in the Peking Protocol, signed in September 1901, China would hence force have occupying armies and groups like the I Ho Ch’uan were disbanded and outlawed.
Thus, this was the beginning of the “Suppression” of the Martial Arts, including but not limited to T’ai Chi Ch’uan, in China, which sadly continues to this day. Tragically, thousands were put to death simply for wanting to protect their culture and families from subjugation.