An Anecdotal History of Chen Style Taijiquan

compiled and translated by William Tucker

According to the Wen county chronicles: 'In the Hong Wu reign of the Ming dynasty (sometime after 1368 a.d.) Tie Mu Er of the Yuan dynasty held on to Huaiqing, which is the present day Qinyang, and had jurisdiction over eight counties including Wen County. Ming soldiers repeatedly tried to take it to no avail. In his hurry to bring the country under one rule, the founder of the dynasty vented his anger on the people and there was great slaughter and many of the Wen people died.' Thus there is the saying of the triple cleansing of Huaiqing; “families gone and homes empty”. Settlers were brought in to farm the fields and re-cultivate the land. Of these settlers eight or nine out of ten were from Hongdong in the province of Shanxi. To this day there is still the saying: "Ask me where my ancestors are from, the Hongdong, Shanxi locust-tree."

The originator of the Chen lineage, Chen Pu, whose ancestral home was Zezhou prefecture, Shanxi (which today is called Jincheng) moved from Zezhou to Hongdong County, Shanxi. In 1372 he moved to a small village some thirty kilometres to the south-east of Huaiqing, in Henan. Because Chen Pu was generous, proficient in martial arts and respected by the villagers, the village that he lived in was called Chen Pu village [after liberation in 1949 it was part of Wen County and to this day is called Chen Pu village].

Because the land in Chen Pu village was low-lying and prone to flooding, Chen Pu moved to a village ten kilometres east of the town of Wen. This village of Changyang got its name from the old temple to the west of the village called Changyang.

Behind the village of Changyang was a mountain by the name of Mt. Qingfeng [azure ridge]. At that time the mountain range served as a hide-away for many bandits who robbed people and broke into homes making it difficult for the people to live and work in peace. Chen Pu, The Founder, started a martial arts school in the village to teach the younger generation fisticuffs and weaponry to protect their village and homes. In order to build up the family earnings, they concentrated on farming. At first there were six generations under one roof, and when it got to seven the family divided. They set themselves up well and prospered. With the ascendency of the Chen clan and because of a large ditch running north to south through the village, the name of Changyang village changed to Chenjiagou.

Chen Lin was a third generation Chen. The Founder Chen Pu had five sons: Wei, Shou, Gang, Hong, an. The third son, Chen Gang, had just one son and that was Chen Lin. The people in Chenjiagou today are the descendants of the Chen Lin branch of the Chen clan; thus there is the saying, "the descendants of Pu and the posterity of Lin". According to the Chen family chronicles, Chen Lin, "...was hard-working and frugal. He saved up large amounts of grain so that if someone was in tight straits he could help out. He was generous in relieving people in distress, and people in their neighbourhood relied on each other for safety. He donated large amounts in grain to temples, and was keen on doing good deeds. For such things he was widely known." In times of general prosperity and health, they tended the fields during the busy season and he led his offspring and kin through martial training when they had more leisure and thereby carried out the wishes of his ancestors.

Chen Wangting, whose other name was Zouting, was of the ninth generation of the Chen style and lived at the end of the Ming and beginning of the Ching dynasties. From childhood he was hard-working and diligent in his studies, both in martial and scholastic arts. Not only was he fully versed in all of the mysteries of his family's martial tradition, distinguishing himself by his excellence, he was also a greatly learned man, and so equally adept with pen or sword.

According to the Wen county chronicles, in the year 1632 Chen Wangting served in the "village reserve militia". In the foreword to the family chronicle of 1754, and in the amended chronicle of 1822, the following entry for Chen Wangting was recorded: Wangting, also known as Zouting, passed the civil service examination at the end of the Ming dynasty and the military examination at the beginning of the Ching. (He was) famous in Shandong as having rooted out thousands of bandits. A practitioner of the Chen fighting arts, he was the originator of Chen broadsword and spear. Born with great intelligence and courage, there is evidence he created the Chen broadsword training.

Towards the end of the Ming dynasty, Chen Wangting went to Kaifeng to take the military exam. During the horseback arrow shooting, all nine shots during his three rides hit the bullseye. The man announcing the target results just beat the drum one time as he stared in amazement and failed to sound the drum for the subsequent bullseyes. No beat of the drum meant that the arrow did not hit the target, and in this way he caused Chen Wangting to not pass. Chen Wangting flew into a fury, put the whip to his horse, drew his sword, and killed the man in charge of the drum. He then fled the exam grounds and galloped westwards.

In a haze, he reached the vicinity of Dengfeng. By then he and his horse were both exhausted and hungry, and he sat down next to a cave to rest. Just then a stout man came at him with a sword demanding money for Chen to pass. Chen tried appealing to him, but not only did the man ignore him, he wielded his sword to force the issue. After a few moments of cut and thrust, the man realized he was outmatched and took to his heels. Chen Wangting gave chase on horseback, but the man made it to a stronghold in the hills. Chen Wangting entered the hills on his horse, and then suddenly they (bandits) attacked by rolling down logs and rocks on him. Chen used his spear to parry the logs into a ravine. When they shot volleys of arrows at him, Chen dodged them all and rushed straight up to their stronghold. Someone told the outlaw leader of his approach, and he was happy to hear the news: "I am now gathering soldiers and buying horses; such a soldier as he will be of great use." He then left his seat and hurried down to greet Chen Wangting.

The two met, exchanged formalities and thus did Chen find out that the outlaw leader was none other than the man who led the peasant uprising and held control of Yudai Mountain, Li Jiyu. They had each heard much about the other, and regretted not having had a chance to meet sooner. Li set out a large meal to welcome and refresh his guest. By the third round of drinks they were chatting freely about the corruption of the Ming rule, the domestic disturbances, foreign troubles, violent abuse of power, and widespread poverty. They found an affinity of outlook, and at Li's suggestion they vowed brotherhood.

Just then, the stout man who had accosted Chen at the base of the hills drew aside the curtain, dropped down onto the floor kneeling at the feet of Chen Wangting, and said: "I am Jiang Fa. I lost my parents as a child and have seen much hardship. I am greatly indebted to our leader, Mater Li, who has seen fit to honour me with the office of hill patrol. Meeting you today, Chen Shifu, is the good fortune of three lifetimes. I wish to become your disciple in martial arts in order to annihilate all of the corrupt and greedy officials, and to relieve the people of their suffering." Upon saying this he kowtowed in a heartfelt and moving manner. Only after Li persuaded him did Chen Wangting agree to Jiang Fa's request. They made arrangements for Chen Wangting to go back to Chenjiagou and secretly get the people of the village prepared to help the rebel leader cross the Yellow River and fight towards Beijing.

Chen Wangting went home and followed the plan, but he got no word from them. Later he learned that Li Jiyu's force was defeated and he was killed. Jiang Fa lay low at Chen Wangting's home, and going by an alias he acted as a servant to Chen (A Chenjiagou portrait of Chen Wangting in his later years shows Jiang Fa standing at attention behind him holding a sword).

Chen Wangting lived at the end of the Ming and the beginning of the Ching dynasties, a time of change in rulers and social upheaval, and so his personal aspirations long went unfulfilled. Consequently, later in his life he shut himself away, spending his time reading poetry and practising gungfu for his pleasure and consolation. With his grounding in both literary and martial arts, he combined the experience of his own many years of practise together with the training methods passed down through his family which were his foundation, and added the principle of yin/yang from the Yi Ching, the theory of meridians from Chinese medicine, Daoyin and breathing techniques, and principles of leverage to create a pugilistic exercise which contained a blend of yin/yang, hard and soft, fast and slow, and was relaxed yet snappy. All of this he did while conforming to the principles of human physiology and of the movement of nature, thus the name 'grand ultimate boxing' (Taijiquan). Especially distinctive was the innovation of two-person pushing hands and two-handed adhering stick-work. In real hand to hand combat and spearing they proved effective. After that, the people of Chenjiagou devoted themselves even more to martial arts, the traditions of which they passed to each successive generation, continuing to produce many outstanding boxers.

During his lifetime Chen Wangting wrote many books, but owing to the ravages of time and the eras of turmoil most have been lost. What remain are 'The Comprehensive ode of Boxing', and a single free verse piece which says: " 0 what wondrous years, all arrayed in battle gear, clearing the land of villains, coming through many tight scrapes! Receiving favour though all in vain; for now, old and decrepit, I have but my book 'Huang Ting' to accompany me. When bored I create ‘forms’ and when busy I tend the fields. When I have spare time I teach my disciples and family, letting them develop as they may. The grain payment given me has long been used up, and my debts will soon fall due. Pride and fawning are both useless; the best way is to be yielding and forbearing. People say I am foolish, and people say I am daft. I often hear the laughter of the upper classes. Better to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing life, not anxious for fame and fortune, than to keep your nose to the grindstone. See through the vanity of life, and be as carefree as a fish in water. Prosperity or poverty makes no difference. A peaceful life and good health, days stretching out in same serenity, not bothering with the ups and downs of the world, achievement or failure no matter... if that is not the life of a sage, what is?"

From these words we can see the pessimistic mood that Chen Wangting was in at the time. He had seen through the vanity of the world, and he was indifferent to social status, position, power and wealth. Only through his practise could he enter into a state of grace, as it were, carefree and happy as an immortal.

Chen Ruxin and Chen Suole were tenth generation Chen family practitioners who learned from Chen Wangting and were the most prominent teachers in the generation following Chen Wangting's founding of 'Taijiquan'. With Chen Wangting's Boxing Treatise and improvements, Chen family gungfu reached new heights of refinement and accomplishment.

Chen Suole came from a well-off family who had a large residence in the south part of Chenjiagou. With a large yard, this south-facing complex had multiple stories containing many rooms, halls, and chambers, ornate carving and trim, and a green stone tablet memorial impressively situated near the front gate (torn down around 1967); all and all, it was stately and imposing. There is a saying, the poor study books and the rich practise the martial arts. Because Chen Suole's family was rich and so he need not worry about a livelihood, he established a martial arts school at his house and taught there. He occasionally helped friends as a security guard, though he did it as a favour and not as a profession. He was straightforward and always ready to fight to set right an injustice. Of his many disciples, only his twin sons Shenru and Xunru reached the highest levels of excellence and renown.

Chen Dakun, Chen Dapeng, Chen Shenru and Chen Xunru were the cream of the eleventh generation Chen practitioners, especially Shenru and Xunru about whom many legendary stories were told in Chenjiagou from their youthful exploits.

One story occurred during the Qianlong reign of the Ching dynasty. Eight miles east of Chenjiagou, in a village called Beipinggao, there lived a man called Wang Yuanwai. One day a gang of highwayman carrying bladed weapons wanted to spend the night at Beipinggao, and were forcing Wang to hand over his gold, silver and antiques with the threat of bloodshed. Having no alternative, Wang acquiesced.

While arranging their lodging and meal, he sent someone from his family to Chenjiagou to plead for Chen Suole's help. Wang Yuanwai's family member ran in great haste to Chen Suole's house, arriving out of breath and drenched with sweat, and shouted, "Master Suole, help, help!" After finding out what the matter was, Shenru and Xunru said, "Master Suole was summoned by the county magistrate to discuss some important business and has yet to return." Upon hearing this, the member of the Wang family was like a deflated ball, and fell to the ground in despair. Shenru and Xunru said: "Do not be afraid. The two of us shall go." When Wang looked at the two of them and saw they were just boys of fifteen or sixteen he wondered how they could cope with the situation. He just glanced at them and did not utter a word.

The brothers, angered at his thinking so little of them, reached forward in a flash grabbed him by the shoulder of his clothing and heaved him into the air. Ten feet high he went, and when they saw he was going to fall and get hurt, they caught him and gently put him back down on the ground. Wang was so frightened his face had turned as white as a sheet and just listened to the brothers say, "Hurry back and tell Wang Yuanwai to treat the bandits to some good liquor and that we will be there soon." Wang nodded his head and then ran as fast as he could back to relay the message. After discussing their plan, Shenru and Xunru put their house in order. Seeing the sun had gone down and the moon was shining through the trees, the two of them made their way straight to Beipinggao village. Arriving at the Wang residence, they used none of the main entrances, but rather hopped over a fence in the back garden.

Seeing Wang Yuanwai, they made their salutations and then talked about the situation. The gang of highwayman was in the guest hall in full revelry, the alcohol just starting to go to their heads. Shenru and Xunru instructed Wang Yuanwai to make sure the members of the household were out of the way lest they accidentally get hurt. When the brothers got to the door of the guest hall, they looked in to see more than twenty of (the bandits) shouting and making an awful racket; smooth sailing so far. At the door the brothers each deferred to the other as to who would go in first. Finally, Shenru pushed Xunru into the hall and followed up by taking out a bunch of peas and flinging them which knocked over and extinguished several candles. Then he attacked the bandits. Xunru leaped onto a beam. In a moment all was bedlam in the hall. Someone shouted "Oh no! Someone is attacking us. Get them!" Then there was shouting, yelling and the clatter of weapons bumping and hacking. Some covered their heads as they tried to escape while Shenru stood outside the door attacking whoever came out. Then Xunru, who was still up on the beam, shouted: "So you still will not hand over your weapons and surrender? Gods number one and two are here." When the head bandit heard this he thought, "Tonight we committed blasphemy; we have had it, we are dead for sure. We had best give up."

When the bandits had set out from Shandong, they felt themselves to be invincible fighters, and wherever they went no one could resist them and so they swore to the heavens that no one could stop them and they would only surrender to divine soldiers and divine generals. And so, the head of the bandits upon hearing, "Gods number one and two are here" gave up immediately, and handed over the gang of bandits to the county authorities.

To show his gratitude for the brothers' heroic bravery and defence of justice, Wang Yuanwai had this incident made into an opera called "The Heroic Duo Break the Enemy" which was performed in Chenjiagou for three days and three nights. Shenru and Xunru were thus praised as "Gods Number One and Two".

*Chen Shantong, Chen Shanzhi, Chen Jingbo, and Chen Jixia were all twelfth generation masters about whom there are many legendary stories. For now we shall list only these anecdotes about Chen Jingbo and Chen Jingxia.

There was a story about Chen Jingbo going around Chenjiagou during the Qianlong years in which he was said to have killed "the Black Fox Tiger". That morning in the eastern part of the town of Wenxian, in front of the temple at Guantaishan, a martial artist who went by the nickname Black Fox Tiger set up a place to perform with his weapons. Soon many people gathered round to watch the show. More and more people came as he whipped around his three-section staff making the air whistle. Then, using his feet, he kicked two swords into the air which he then caught with his hands. He slapped the swords twice, and then spoke: "Hello everyone, I have long heard of your honoured land which is known as a fighting village, and has a reputation far and wide for its martial arts. Because of its fame I have come a long way in order to learn these arts. However, I have one requirement before bowing to a teacher."

He then pointed to a bowl of water on the ground and said: "When these swords start moving, nothing can get by them. Whoever can splash a drop of water from this bowl onto me; to him I am willing to bow before as my teacher." Saying this, he flourished his swords, coiling them around his body with a whoosh and a whirl. In the crowd was an old night soil collector from Chenjiagou by the name of Chen Jingbo. Standing at the outer edge of the throng, he was carrying a bucket of night soil and wearing an old tattered straw hat.

Chen Jingbo did not care for Black Fox Tiger's fierce, arrogant posturing. Then just as Black Fox Tiger was performing again with the sword, Chen grabbed an old rag, stepped quickly forward, stretched out his arm and placed his hat right on the head of Black Fox Tiger. He then turned and walked away. Knowing from this that Chen Jingbo was of a high level, "Black Fox Tiger" dropped his swords and chased after Chen Jingbo calling him 'Master' and kneeling down to kowtow. Chen Jingbo quickly pulled him up and admonished him, "Accomplished ones are not wild; the wild are not accomplished, those who practise martial arts value sincerity and should not blow their own horn." Black Fox Tiger said yes, but inside he would not acknowledge defeat. When they parted he said to Chen Jingbo, "See you in three years."

In the blink of an eye three years had passed and Chen Jingbo was already an old man of eighty. Little did he know that in these three years Black Fox Tiger had been busy searching out famous teachers, and his gungfu had progressed considerably. One day Black Fox Tiger made a special visit to Chenjiagou to avenge his public humiliation. Upon hearing that Chen Jingbo had gone to a neighbouring village to collect night soil, he headed west to meet up with him. He saw Jingbo approaching to the west of Changyang Monastery carrying his night soil, and went to head him off.

Chen Jingbo had totally forgotten the lesson he had given to Black Fox Tiger, and thinking this man wanted to know the way, asked: "Where are you going? Who are you looking for?" Black Fox Tiger answered, "Don't play dumb. I came here to find you. Let's go! I will tell you when we get to the temple." When the two entered the temple, Black Fox Tiger bolted the door and put a stone tablet against the door to secure it. He then turned to Chen and said, "Can you remember three years ago at the east of town you embarrassed me, Black Fox Tiger, in front of a crowd of people? Today I have come here to see who is better, and don't even think of leaving until you have given me satisfaction."

Hearing this, everything suddenly became clear to Chen who then clasped his hands in front of his chest in salute, "That time I gave you honest advice because we are both martial artists. I had no intention of embarrassing you. Measuring one's level against others should be for the improvement of skill, and should not be done in anger or to injure. I am a withered old man of eighty, what kind of challenge am I for you?" Not waiting for Chen to finish speaking, Black Fox Tiger shouted harshly, "Quit wasting your breath! I vow to avenge my public humiliation; otherwise I cannot consider myself a man!" He then immediately attacked Chen Jingbo with three moves in quick succession: 'hungry tiger pounces on prey', 'ferocious tiger rips out the heart', and 'black tiger goes for the groin', all of which were avoided by Chen. For his fourth move, Black Fox Tiger went for a lethal throat hold with the intention of killing him.

Chen Jingbo at that point lost his temper and said heatedly, 'I have taken three attacks from you, and we can consider that you have won. You are not satisfied with regaining your lost face? You can only push me so far.' Black Fox Tiger at that moment was incapable of listening to reason. His hands were already near the throat of Chen who, although slow to speak was swift just then; the only thing seen was Chen turning his body and issuing a shake which resulted in his shoulder striking the chest of Black Fox Tiger and sending him flying two meters high through the air. Black Fox Tiger cried out at the impact, and then his head crashed into the stone tablet which was leaning against the door, breaking the tablet in two, and his brains spilled onto the floor where he died. Chen Jingbo was an old man of eighty, after all, and was not up to such exertions. Upon his return home he became ill, and within a few days passed away. Thus there is the story told in Chenjiagou down to the present of beating Black Fox Tiger to death, Chen Jingbo was exhausted to death.

Chen Jixia, whose taken name was Chen Bingnan, lived towards the end of the Qianlong reign of the Ching dynasty and was an expert at Taijiquan. Because he came from a poor family, he worked as a flour grinder. Since he was not able to afford an ox, human power was used to turn the millstone. In his spare time, when not drawing, Chen Jixia practised martial arts. Over time, not only did his artistic skills become excellent, but also his family-passed Taijiquan became excellent. There are wall paintings in Zhaobao and Guandi Temple that come from the hand of Chen Jixia.

A congenial man, his disciples liked joking with him. One day he was at Gusheng temple in the west side of the village painting a Buddhist image. Someone quietly came up to him from behind and pushed down with both hands on Chen's shoulders. Not caring to bother with turning his head to see who it was, he gave a shake with his shoulders using the Taijiquan skill of 'everywhere on the body is a fist' which threw the person into the air where he did a somersault and said 'Wow!' Chen Jixia was thinking that even if he doesn't die, he will certainly get hurt. But to his great surprise the man landed safely. This man turned out to be Chang Naizhou (1724-1783), from Chang village in Sishui county, the founder of Chang family boxing. He learned Shaolin boxing from (?)Yan Shengdao of Loyang and was enormously strong. Unfortunately, he only knew how to use brute force, and had no idea how to use his strength skilfully. It was because of this that he decided to go to Chenjiagou to learn. After getting up off the floor, Chang bowed to Chen Jixia as his teacher. From this time forward they became close friends. Chen Jixia taught Chang how to use the internal strength of Taiji to win through subtlety; Chang taught to Chen Jixia the paired battle-ax form that he created. They practised together daily and both benefitted greatly.

Chen Jixia was especially masterful with his elbows, just as Chen Jingbo was famous for his shoulder strike, and so in Chenjiagou there is the saying, "the elbows of Chen Jixia and the shoulders of Chen Jingbo".

In the thirteenth generation of the Chen lineage, Chen Binqi, Chen Binren, Chen Binwang, Chen Gongzhao, and Chen Yaozhao were all famous masters. Chen Binqi, Chen Binren, and Chen Binwang* were cousins who from a young age studied with their uncle, Chen Jixia. After five years Chen Jixia decided to separate them and individually teach them the different skills of fighting, point striking and bone separating. After receiving his teaching each of them had outstanding skill, and together they were called 'the three Chen champions'.

Chen Yaozhao, who’s taken name was Chen Youguang, had an uncongenial disposition. He was of the thirteenth generation, and although the martial artists of his day benefitted from his teaching, strangely he left no descendants of his art. Born in the reign of Qianlong, he died in the reign of Daoguang at the age of eighty.

Chen Gongzhao of the thirteenth generation had superlative gongfu, and even at the age of eighty had a match with a raging bull. At the Mid-Autumn Festival in 1795 the Gaozong Emperor Aixinjueluo Hongli in order to show his reign as one of peace, order, and prosperity, and to promote respect toward elders, he announced an edict in which people over eighty of merit and property with a full family were invited to the imperial palace in Beijing to attend the Banquet of a Thousand Elders. Amongst the thousand elders were two from Chenjiagou: the eighty-five year old twelfth generation Chen Shanhe, and the thirteenth generation Chen Yuying who was eighty-eight.

While on their way back from the capital, they were met and accompanied by the Henan imperial inspector and the senior official from Huaiqing, and when they got to Chenjiagou there was a ceremony in which a commemorative plaque was hung. The whole village was celebrating as if it were the New Year's holidays. While lighting off firecrackers, a youth accidentally tossed a bunch to the edge of the village where a bull was grazing. This frightened the bull became enraged and charged around the houses, temple, and village square. The youth grabbed a tool and struck at the bull, but the only effect this had was to make the bull even madder. The bull turned, kicked its hooves, arched its head, and showed its horns which were like sharp swords. It then headed straight for where the imperial inspector and the other official were sitting. Into this dire scene leapt an old man from the crowd who got in front of the bull and squatted in a horse riding stance to protect the two officials. Just as the bull neared, he flung out his arms grabbing the horns with both hands and pushing down with all his might. With its great strength, the bull pushed down with its hooves making a big indentation and lurched toward the old man's chest. He eased up on his grip and took a step back to get out of the way, and then twisted with his body and let out a grunt as he crashed into the bull's ribs with his shoulder. Amazingly, the bull was knocked over onto the ground. A disaster was narrowly avoided. The imperial inspector and senior official were rescued. When they recovered from their shock, they were so appreciative they prostrated themselves in front of the old man saying, "What divine power you have!".

This old man was none other than the famous thirteenth generation master Chen Gongzhao who was eighty years old at the time. His Formula for Health has been passed along in Chenjiagou to the present:
13 years uninterrupted practise (determination in training).
13 years of not eating to fullness (avoid overeating and drinking)
13 years of keeping yourself happy (joyful and optimistic state of mind).
13 years of sleeping alone (temperateness).

Fourteenth generation Chen Youheng and Chen Youben were brothers of the same mother. Their father was the man famous as the divine power fighting the raging bull, Chen Gongzhao.

Chen Youheng who’s taken name was Chen Shaoji passed the civil service examinations in the early daoguang years (1820s-30s). He had studied deeply in Taijiquan, but in the prime of his life drowned in Dongting Lake. His younger brother, Youben, whose taken name was Daosheng, passed the civil service exams at the age of thirty-six. His Taijiquan was especially fine. Both his son and nephew were well-accomplished. He stood out for his modest and well-mannered bearing. They were the leading Taijiquan practitioners of the time. The brothers treated each other with kindness and respect, and were close their whole lives. Youben's notable disciples were Chen Qingping, Chen Youlun, Chen Zouzhang, Chen Sande, and Chen Yundong.

Chen Changxing (1771.8.16 - 1853.3.3.), taken name Chen Yunting, got his skill from his father, Chen Bingwang. He wrote The Ten Treatises on Taijiquan, The Taijiquan Book of Fighting, and The Key Points to Taijiquan Application. Using the traditional forms that he learned as foundation, he incorporated the essence, organized the material, and shaped it into the First Form, Second Form (Paochui), which later came to be known as the old form, (or big form) and has been passed down to the present.

Chen Changxing was a bodyguard by profession (which in those days included all kinds of security matters, deliveries, etc. - translator), and which took him to Shandong, and so he became well-known in the martial arts world. While watching an opera in his village, no matter how people crowded, pushed and shoved, his feet were immovable. Those nearby were like water against a rock; they could only go around. His Taijiquan postures were balanced and erect, the whole body moving in harmony, never crooked or leaning, his feet rooted into the ground, his lower body was as stable as a mountain. Thus people praised him with the name the "King of the Tablets". He had a daoguan (dojo) at the home of Chen Dehu. Besides his son, Chen Gengyun, his disciples of note were Chen Huamei, Chen Huaiyuan, and Yang Fukui (Yang Luchan).

Chen Gengyun, taken name Chen Xiacun, was of the fifteenth generation. One of the most skilled of his time, he succeeded his father in his security work in Shandong. He discouraged bandits so much that they fled when hearing of his approach. During the guangxu period (after 1875) the people of Laizhou in Shandong province erected a memorial which read: "For many years bandits and thieves infested the area of Laizhou, breaking into homes, making off with property, harming both passing merchants and local residents, all of whom suffered to no end. The many attempts to root them out by officials and soldiers were to no avail. Fortunately, the martial arts master Chen Gengyun from Chenjiagou in Wen county came here as a security guard. Single-handedly he went into the bandit hideouts, risking life and limb, killing and capturing the villains and their leaders. Thus he relieved the anxiety of the people and the trouble of the merchants. He is a hero with the courage of a tiger, and whose martial skill resounds throughout the world. People from all walks of life in Laizhou are grateful for his service, and although unable to repay him, we collected a special fund to establish this memorial so that he will be remembered to posterity." In 1853 he successfully fought the bandits with Chen Zhongshen. Among his well-known disciples were Chen Yannian and Chen Yanxi.

Chen Qingping (1795-1868), fifteenth generation, received his understanding of Taijiquan from his father Chen Youben. When he was 19 years old he became part of the Wu family of Zhaobao by marrying in. The Zhaobao Taijiquan lineage can be traced to Qingping. Wu Yuxiang of Guangping studied at first with Yang Fukui who held back from teaching him the deeper aspects of the art. Wu then went to Chenjiagou to study with Chen Changxing. However, Chen was already advanced in years, and his son Chen Gengyun was doing his security work far from home, and so he suggested Wu go to Zhaobao and study with Chen Qingping who thus became famous. His top disciple was Li Jingyan.

Chen Huamei, whose taken name was Chen Heqi, studied under Chen Changxing. His skill was highly refined for which he was well-known in his time. His sons Chen Wudian and Chen Wuchang were able to carry on his teachings.

Chen Zhongshen, whose taken names were Chen Zhixun, Chen Yihu and Chen Shichang. Born in 1809, he died in 1871 at the age of 63.

The three brothers Chen Boshen, Chen Zhongshen, and Chen Jishen were born from the same womb, and so resembled each other that neighbours had a hard time distinguishing them. At the age of three Chen Zhongshen accidentally fell into a well. Although the water was more than ten feet deep, his clothes did not get wet. Well-versed in both literary and military classics, there was no aspect of military strategy or tactic in which he was not expert. He could wield an iron spear that weighed about thirty pounds. He was known for his bravery as well as for his refinement; he never quarrelled with people, maintained a high reputation, and passed the military examinations.

In 1853 Yang Fuqing led his troops into Wen, bringing the people trouble and sending the officials into a panic. The county magistrate appeared at the Chen's home appealing to them to dispatch the enemy. Considering the plight of their village, they could not refuse. They prepared their weapons and armour, and made a call to arms for all the brave people of their village. Leading their own students and the village volunteer militia, they made a ferocious attack on the enemy, killing several of their commanders, and forcing them to retreat. Later when the enemy violated the peace again, killing, looting, burning, and leaving desolation in their wake, Chen Zhongshen led a group to fight them. Out-numbered a hundred to one, he laid an ambush at several roads. Chen personally led a group to draw in the enemy, the commanders of which they killed while dealing them successive defeats.

This was the first time a village militia had beaten such a strong enemy, and so their reputation spread far. In 1856, he achieved five straight victories in the battles at Haozhou. In 1857 bandits occupied Liuanzhou, and he led a force that took the enemy fort in three days; thus he was awarded with the imperial military rank of six. In 1858 there was an uprising of bandits in many places. Zhang Lexing encroached on Sishui, but Chen gathered volunteers for a militia and established defences along the river. Afraid of this show of force, the outlaws retreated without a fight and the Wen area was-pacified.

In 1859 Mengcheng and Fuyang were taken over, and so leading-troops he took several of their strongholds, and recaptured the two towns. For this he was awarded a promotion to the rank of five which he adamantly refused. Later he was given another military title. Never motivated by considerations of position or money, he returned to his home to take care of his mother. When she was ill, he cooked the medicine himself, not taking off his belt (not taking time to change his clothes) for more than a year while looking after her. When his beloved mother passed away, mourners came from all around to pay their respects. He was active in teaching and had many disciples. Everyone in his village mourned his passing, and remembered with gratitude his deeds. They honoured him with the title The Righteous Hero.

Chen Jishen, taken name Chen Fangsui (1809-1865), fifteenth generation Chen practitioner. His father was well-known for carrying on the Taijiquan teachings of his ancestors. His uncle had great insights into Taijiquan, and was an innovator who constituted a branch unto himself. He was known as one of the leading masters of his generation, as well as having a reputation throughout China. Influenced greatly by his father as a boy, Chen Jishen was industrious in his youth, studying the classics as well as military books, and practised martial arts. At a young age he passed the military service examination along with his elder brother Chen Zhongshen. Courteous and upstanding, Jishen kept his filial obligations and had many friends. He became famous with his brother Zhongshen.

In the next year when Liuanzhou was occupied by bandits, Jishen took his son Miao when they surrounded the enemy positions and after three days of around the clock fighting they recovered the town. He, together with his brother, was awarded the military rank of six. Of the five battles for Haozhou in 1856, they won all five. In 1858 when bandits were rising up all around and Zhang Lexing encroached on Sishui, the brothers gathered together a militia and set up defences along the river. Frightened by this show of force, the enemy fled without a fight. In 1859 when Mengcheng and Fuyang were lost, he again went to the rescue with his brother Zhongshen. After driving them out of several strongholds, the two towns were recovered. For this they were awarded a promotion to imperial rank five. Later this was changed to another military title, but the brothers refused the positions. Jishen died at the age of fifty-six.

There were many outstanding sixteenth generation masters and they had much experience of war. The literate wrote about their art, and the martial ones were busy securing peace for the country. Examples are: Chen Qi, Chen Sen, Chen Miao, Chen Yan, Chen Yao, Chen Yannian, Chen Yanxi, and Chen Fuyuan.

Chen Miao, taken name Chen Huaisan (1840-1868), was the eldest son of Chen Jishen. He was educated by his father who also taught him martial arts. Diligent and quick to learn, he studied the military books and practised martial arts. He was equally familiar with literary and military arts, and of the Chen sixteenth generation, he was among the best.

In 1853 at the age of seventeen he began accompanying his father and uncle in battle, thus establishing his reputation. In the five battles for Haozhou in 1856, they won all five. When bandits occupied Liuanzhou in 1857, he again went with his father and they surrounded the town which fell after three days and nights of fighting. In 1858 when bandits were rising up all around and Sishui was occupied, they were beckoned to the defence of the town and the outlaws fled without a fight, thereby securing peace for the Wen region, and stability for the people. In 1859 Mengcheng and Fuyang were taken over, and he went to help fight the enemy. After driving them out of several strongholds, the two towns were recovered.

In 4 December 1868, with the outlaws encroaching on Huaiqing, Miao and a force numbering in the thousands took on an opposing force of more than one hundred thousand. In a pitched battle lasting from daybreak until midday, Miao killed countless soldiers, and with severe wounds he was still fighting when his horse's front leg was struck by mortar fire, and thus he died in battle at the age of twenty-eight.

Chen Yao, taken name Chen Kunsan (1841-1926), was the eldest son of Chen Zhongshan, and the second child in the family; he was of the sixteenth generation. He learned martial arts with his father from a young age who held high hopes for his son, and taught him everything he could. Chen Yao practised hard and lived up to expectations. He was accomplished at a young age, and was peerless. At nineteen he passed the military exams. At that time he still practised tirelessly. At twenty he did not slough off and his gungfu continued to make big strides so that he wore a single layer in winter without being cold and wore a jacket in summer without being hot; moreover, flies and mosquitoes did not bother him. One day he came upon a youth who sold coal and who had let his flock graze in such a way as to block the road. Seeing that things were not right, he moved forward to speak up, his right hand holding a walking stick and his left some tofu. The youth suddenly attacked him, and Chen Yao tossed the tofu up in the air and punched his horse's leg causing it to fold to the ground, following which he neatly caught the tofu in mid-air. People recognized him as a prodigy, and in 1853 at the age of sixteen he followed his father into battle and continued for more than ten years taking part in countless battles, never tasting defeat.

Chen Sen, taken name Chen Huaisan (1846-1935), he was the second son and third child of Chen Jishen, and was of the sixteenth generation. Coming from a family of martial artists, he studied martial arts and book learning with his father from a young age. Bright, diligent and gifted, he was adept at martial arts and well-learned, and could write seal-style calligraphy with both hands. Even though his father and brothers were war heroes, a heroic life is often brief, and his mother fearing something might happen, persuaded him to continue his studies and teach for a living. In order to prevent the history of Chen Taijiquan being lost to posterity, in his later years he continued the writing of family history. According to the research of Tang Hao, the entries written by Chen Sen are the most reliable direct historical data for the transmission of Chen Taijiquan history to the present age.

Chen Yan, taken name unknown, was born in 1847, the second son and fourth child of Chen Zhongshen, of the sixteenth generation. Although in gungfu not as good as his elder brother Chen Yao, nor in scholastic ability a match for his younger brother Chen Qi, he was still one of the outstanding sixteenth generation practitioners. Along with his brother Chen Qi he received a local appointment through his scholarship. Chen Yan was loyal, respectful to his elders, magnanimous towards others, kind to his brothers both younger and elder, and equally admired for his virtue and his skill.

Chen Qi, taken name Chen Pinsan (1849-1929), was the third son and fifth child of Chen Zhongshen, of the sixteenth generation. Practising martial arts with his father from a young age, he had a profound knowledge of the art of Taiji, but obeyed his father's decision for him to become a scholar, and eventually received a local appointment. Thus he was accomplished in both martial and literary studies.

In his later years he worked hard at writings that would contribute to passing on the art to future generations. Among his works are: Chen Taijiquan - Diagrams and Explanation (4 scroll volumes); Chen Family Teachings (five scroll volumes); An Initiation Into Taijiquan; and The 336 Boxing Manual. He repeatedly refined and edited 'Chen Taijiquan - Diagrams and Explanation', having spent twelve long years braving the heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter to complete it in his own handwriting. He put a lot into this book, his masterwork, which for the first time gave a comprehensive summary of Chen Taijiquan history. Childless and afraid that his teachings would be lost, he imparted it to his brother's son Chen Zhuangyuan, exhorting him to, 'pass it on to someone if you can, and if you cannot, burn it rather than pass it on to the wrong person.' It was not until three years after his death that the book was published. He came to be known as one of the great masters of theory of his generation, and is held in high regard both in the country and internationally.

The brothers Chen Yannian and Chen Yanxi were sixteenth generation practitioners, and the sons of Chen Gengyun. Following in their father's footsteps, they achieved a high level of skill in the art, taught as they were by their father, and continued the long line of outstanding boxers. In 1900 Yuan Shikai the governor of Shandong saw the plaque in honour of Chen Gengyun and thus came to know the origins of Taijiquan. He then sent someone to visit Chen Yanxi and engage him to come and teach his sons and nephews. Whoever measured themselves against him from all different styles came away convinced. He taught from Shandong to Tienjin for six years, until he went back to take care of his mother in her final illness.

Chen Fuyuan, taken name Chen Xuchu, sixteenth generation, started his practise with Chen Gengyun and later learned the new form with Chen Zhongshen, and so his hands could be as soft as cotton or as firm as steel. His profound attainments in theory were transmitted by his sons. His gungfu was of such a high order that he was never matched in his tens of years of travelling.

Chen Lianke and Chen Dengke, the seventeenth generation, both started practise at a young age and were highly skilled. Dengke spent many years in the Shanxi-Gansu region doing business and teaching martial arts. His son Zhaopi began accompanying him from the age of fifteen from which he gained invaluable experience.

Chen Fake (1887-1957), taken name Fusheng, seventeenth generation. Following in the family tradition, he began learning martial arts as a child, achieving outstanding skill. Representative of Chen Taijiquan, he served as the head of the Beijing Martial Arts Society. Weak and sickly as a child, within three years of practise Chen Fake became strong and free of all illness. He practised (the forms) dozens of times a day and by the age of twenty was already excellent. With continuing diligence he got to a rarefied level.

At first Chen Fake taught relatives and the village youth. After 1926, however, there was a local upsurge in banditry and lawlessness, and so at the behest of the Wen county government, he organized the Chenjiagou Martial Arts Team from a group of ten of his disciples, including Chen Deyu and Chen Zhaopi. Their mission was to take on and capture the gun-toting bandits barehanded, and within a few years they had rid the people of countless numbers of such scourges. Especially noteworthy was their battle with the followers of the Red Spear Association, whose legendary powers are still talked about today. At the time, the Red Spear Association had already captured several towns, and their several thousand members, who claimed to be impervious to bullet or blade, marched on Wen County wearing no armour and carrying spears. Hearing of their approach, the faint of heart fled.

Chen Fake stood at the bridge holding his white waxed staff (not spear -ed.). One of the enemies came forward with a lance and stabbed at the chest of Chen Fake, who deflected it away with so much force that it flew out of the hands of the attacker. Chen then followed up immediately with a thrust to the abdomen which penetrated clean through and out his back, the sight of which caused the enemy to lose courage and run away.

In 1928 Chen Fake was invited to Beijing. Once while on a brick-paved area, he practised with such a jolt that he broke the bricks, causing many people to be amazed. At the time, many famous boxers came to try him out. People such as vice-head of the Beijing Martial Arts Club, Xu Yusheng, Li Jianhua, and others were tossed around and knocked over by his amazing power, which caused a sensation in Beijing. Yang Jizi put it in poetry: "Promoting the venerable art of Taiji in the capital, slow and gentle but good for victory; unexpectedly master Chen makes his mark, spiralling power is especially strong."

Chen Fake taught in Beijing for nearly thirty years. Motivated neither by desire for fame or fortune, he was a man of honour and martial virtue who respected others and cherished the talented. The people of the Beijing martial arts community respected him as one of the top Taiji masters and even presented him with a silver memorial shield. His well-known disciples include Li iianhua, Xu Yusheng, Hung Junsheng, and Feng Zhiqiang.

Chen Zhuangyuan (1877-1949), seventeenth generation. From a young age Chen Zhuangyuan studied with his father, Chen Sen, who was talented in scholarship as well as martial arts. Zhuangyuan was a large man of imposing appearance. In 1929 he went to Hunan to start a martial arts school and do business. After 1929 his uncle, Chen Qi, who was getting on in age and without any sons, called him back to the village. Fearing that his book, "Chen Taijiquan: Diagrams and Explanation" would not be passed on properly, he gave the manuscript to Zhuangyuan asking him to preserve and publish it as soon as possible. In order not to fail in such an important duty, he left his house and school in Hunan to return home where he set up a school in Jiaozuo. He stopped doing business and focussed his energies on preparing the manuscript for publication, in which work he was helped by his brother Xueyuan, his daughter Shuzhen, and his nephews Jinao and Shaodong. Three years later, in 1933, it was published by Kaiming Books of Kaifeng. Only then was genuine Chen Taijiquan passed down to the current age.

Chen Baoju, seventeenth generation Chen practitioner, began studying with his uncles Yannian and Yanxi from a young age, and then later practised with his cousin Fake. An excellent martial artist, his speciality was qinggung (the art of lightness and jumping) so that he could scale an eight or nine foot wall. At the introduction of Chen Zhaopi, he went to Xian, Zhengzhou, Nanjing, and Jiangxi to teach, during which he was challenged often and never failed to impress. Chen Ziming, seventeenth generation, was the son of Chen Fuyuan. Beginning gungfu practise at a young age, he was well-accomplished in his art, as a professional teacher, he was clear about martial art principles. When not teaching, he wrote. His book, 'Chen Taijiquan: A Martial Art for the World' had introductions written by such notables as Zhang Zhijiang, once head of the Nanjing Martial Arts Academy, the Director of Teaching there, Zhu Guofu, Liu Pixian of the Henan Martial Arts Academy, and the famous Jiang Rungjiao of Lunzhou. It was published in Shanghai in 1932, and served to promote Chen Taijiquan.

Chen Xingsan (1880-1942), seventeenth generation, studied first under Chen Yanxi for fifteen years, and then under Chen Qi. He was proficient in both theory and practise.

Chen Zhaopi (1893-1972), taken name Chen Jifu, was of the eighteenth generation. Following the family tradition, he trained in Taijiquan from a young age. He practised hard and reached a high level of skill. In 1914 he began teaching in the provinces of Shanxi and Gansu, and in Zhikang. In 1927 he returned home to be an instructor at the Wen County Martial Arts Academy. In 1928 he was hired to teach in Beijing. While there he set up a platform in the Xuanwu Hall where for seventeen days he accepted challenges, and was never beaten. This caused a sensation in the capital, which led to seventeen different invitations to teach, including the Beijing City Government, Chaoyang University, and the University of China, and wider spread acquaintance with the profundity of Chen Taijiquan.

Chen Zhaopi went to Nanjing in 1930 at the invitation of the mayor, Wei Daoming, where he taught at the city government, and other places as well as having an honorary position at the Nanjing Martial Arts Academy. In 1933 he was a referee at the National Athletic Meet, and was on the judges committee for the second national martial arts examinations. In 1937 when the Japanese invaded Nanjing, Chen Zhaopi was unwilling to teach in an enemy occupied area, and so he decided to return to Wen County. He taught broadsword to the troops under general Fan Tinglan who was fighting the Japanese. In 1940 he went to Loyang to teach in the First Region Headquarters, the Henan Education Bureau, and the Tax Bureau.

In 1942, at the invitation of the head of the Yellow Committee, Zhang Hanying, he went to Xian to teach. After the war he went to Kaifeng with the Yellow Committee, and in 1948 took part in the revolution. After retiring from the Yellow Committee in 1958, he returned to Wen, and in that same year took part in the provincial martial arts competition, winning a first prize in the Taijiquan category. In 1962 he received the accolade Renowned Taijiquan practitioner' from the national martial arts convention, and in 1964 he was elected to the national martial arts commission.

In his later years at home, Chen Zhaopi started a martial arts school to train the next generation of martial artists. Many students, both Chinese and from abroad benefitted from his teaching. A man of broad learning with a deep understanding of martial art theory, he wrote: 'Traditional Chen Taijiquan', 'An Introduction to Taijiquan', and 'Thirteen Treatises on Chen Taijiquan'. Virtuous, honest, and direct, he went through some rough times during the Cultural Revolution, but did not waver; rather, he continued passing down his art to extend the development of Chen Taijiquan.

Chen Zhaokuei (1928-1981), eighteenth generation, was the son of Chen Fake. His training started at a young age with his father, and he became expert at the theory of Chen Taijiquan, Qinna (joint striking and holds), and fighting techniques. His had skills on defence as well as offense, and contributed greatly to the propagation of Chen Taijiquan. Chen Zhaokuei assisted his father with his teaching in Beijing, and in 1960 was invited to Shanghai to introduce his art at the sports palace there, causing quite a sensation. Afterwards, in 1963, he began teaching publicly to enthusiastic reception. Eventually he travelled widely and taught in many places including Nanjing, Beijing, Zhengzhou, Jiaozuo and Shijiazhuang, selflessly giving his time and energy to spreading knowledge of Chen Taijiquan throughout China. His teaching plans and curriculum development have been compiled into a book and published by his disciples. In the 70's on his trips back to Chenjiagou, he often stayed for months at a time to teach the village youth in order to bring them to ever higher levels, setting an unforgettable example.

Chen Zhaoxu (1909-1960), eighteenth generation. He trained with his father from a young age; practising hard, he attained a high level by the time he was twenty. Against others he could easily control his opponent. He was also well-read, conversant in art, and played the erhu (a stringed instrument resembling a fiddle). One time while practising pushing hands with Chen Fake, his father knocked Zhaoxu several feet into the air. He felt so frustrated at the difference in their abilities that he burnt his brushes and erhu; vowing to train harder, he practised the form thirty times a day. After three years of this regimen his qi was abundant, energy brimming over, and his gungfu at a superlative level.

Chen Zhaochi, eighteenth generation, was the third son of Chen Lianke. He trained in martial arts with his father from a young age to a high level. Extraordinarily strong in the arms, his favourite thing was the wooden staff; ten feet long, it would whistle as he shook it and whipped it around. Against an opponent, he was able to knock a pin out of the person's hair without them seeing.

Chen Zhaohai (1899-1950), eighteenth generation, the fourth son of Chen Dengke. As a child he received the traditional training in both weapons and empty hand forms. Bright, talented, and courageous, he also worked hard and thus attained a high level of proficiency. During the war against Japan he fought under the command of Fan Tinglan and Fan Siqin, often single-handedly infiltrating enemy camps and wreaking havoc. Through such deeds he was called the lone, brave hero'.

Chen Jinao (1899-1971), eighteenth generation, was born into the world of martial arts. From a young age he trained with his grandfather and father, Chen Shangyuan. A quiet and straightforward man whose Taijiquan was superb, his rendition of the small frame is considered to be among the best of the eighteenth generation practitioners. In addition, he was one of the editors of the four volume work by Chen Qi, 'Chen Taijiquan: Diagrams and Explanation'. In 1921 he took part in and contributed to the successful pacification campaign against bandits in the western area of Wen County. In 1928 he was hired to teach martial arts at Henan University in Kaifeng. Later, because of social unrest, he made his living in Wuhan, Baoji, and Xian. Wherever he went he began teaching, gaining hundreds of disciples. As a teacher he emphasized morality, and was respected by the young. Although childless, his nephews and disciples held him in such fondness that upon his death they erected a plaque in his memory.

Chen Kezhong, eighteenth generation, studied from a young age with the renowned Taijiquan theorist, Chenqi. Diligent and accomplished, he taught the new generation of Chenjiagou practitioners the small frame.


Chen style tai-chi (Taijiquan) spacer