History of Chen Taijiquan

Early years

The history of the Chen family extends back to Chen Bu. Chen Bu lived during the reign of Emperor Hongwu and was the first generation and founder of the Chen family. He moved from Zezhou in Shanxi and established Chen Jiagou on the site of Changyang in Henan. He brought with him the martial art of Tong Bei Chang Quan.

Chen Wangting

Chen Wangting (foreground) and Jiangfa

Chen Wangting:
(1600 – 1680 alias Zhouting) was part of the 9th generation of the Chen family and originator of Chen Taijiquan, Chan Si Jin, Chen Broadsword, Chen Spear, and push hands. In his early life he served in the army and defeated over 1,000 bandits.Chen Changxing

Chen Changxing

statue of Chen Changxing on Chen Village

Chen Changxing: (1771 - 1853 alias Yunting) was the 141h Generation Standard Bearer. In the history of Chen Taijiquan Chen Changxing is regarded as a monumental master and was known by the nick name of 'Mr Ancestral Tablet' because of his firm rooting and upright posture. He was the son and student of Chen Binwang. Chen Changxing worked most of his life as a bodyguard and his skill with weapons was famed. Chen Changxing combined Chen Wangting's empty hand forms into the two Laojia (old frame) routines that we have today - Yi Lu and Er Lu (Pao Chui). He wrote three books on taijiquan – ‘10 essentials of Taijiquan’, ‘Key Elements to Display One’s Talents in Taijiquan’ and ‘Taijiquan Fighting’. His famous students include: his son Chen Gengyun, Yang Luchan (founder of Yang Style), Chen Humei and Chen Huaiyuan.

A pdf of the Chen family tree for the 20th Century

A pdf showing the teacher student relationships of the Chen family in the 20th Century

Seventeenth Generation

Chen Fake

Portrait of grandmaster Chen Fake

Chen Fake: (1887 - 1947 alias Fusheng) 17th Generation Standard Bearer, son of Chen Yanxi and grandson of Chen Changxing. Chen Fake learned his taijiquan primarily from his grandfather Chen Gengyun (who had fought alongside Chen Zongshen against the Taiping rebels), but also studied with his uncle Chen Yao. In 1928, at the request of Chen Zhaopei, Chen Fake moved to Beijing, to teach. Chen Fake was a famous lei tai fighter, throughout his career he took many challenges and was never defeated. In Beijing he became known as Chen Fake 1,2,3 because that was the maximum number of moves that he needed to defeat his opponents. Chen Fake is regarded as perhaps the greatest Chen family master of the twentieth century. It was Chen Fake who  created the Xin Jia (new frame), which was the most comprehensive revision of Chen taiji as a martial system, since Chen Changxing created the Yilu (first form) and Erlu (second form). Chen Fake was close friends with Hu Yaozhen, one of the most famous Xingyiquan and Neidan (internal alchemy) teachers of that era. Together, in 1953 they formed the Capital Martial Arts research Society with Chen Fake as President and Hu Yaozhen as Vice-president. Supported by loyal students like Feng Zhiqiang they were able to deepen and refine the internal alchemy of taijiquan. Chen Fake’s best known students are: Chen Zhaoxu (son), Chen Zhaokui (son), Chen Yuxia (daughter), Chen Zhaopei (nephew), Hong Junsheng, Gu Liuxin, Yang Xiaolou, Xu Rusheng, Lei Muni, Li Jianhua, Pan Yongzhou, Li Jingwu, Xiao Qinglin, Tian Xiuchen, and Feng Zhiqiang.

Although there is no film or video footage there are photos of Chen Fake performing his Xinjia yilu form.

There are however videos available of some of his students. Here are some examples that can be found on youtube:

Although we will probably never see Chen Fake in action, by watching some of his students we can get an impression of how the great man might have moved.

Eighteenth Generation

Chen Zhaoxu

photo of Chen Zhaoxu

Chen Zhaoxu: (1911 - 1960 alias Xiaochu) 18th Generation. Oldest son of Chen Fake (17th Generation Standard Bearer) and father of Chen Xiao Wang (19th Generation Standard Bearer) and Chen Xiao Xin (Head Coach at Chen Village Taijiquan School). Chen Zhaoxu was famous for his fajing (issuing power) and an jing (hidden jing). He was also a famed practitioner of the Laojia. He had the potential to be one of the great masters of the twentieth century, but died in prison during the cultural revolution.

Chen Zhaokuei

Chen Zhaokuei in the Lan Zha Yi (Lazy about tying the coat) posture

Chen Zhaokuei:
(1928 - 1981 alias Taibo) 18th Generation Standard Bearer. Son of Chen Fake and father of Chen Yu. Chen Zhaokuei began learning taijiquan from his father when he was just eight and Feng Zhiqiang was his close friend and sparring partner. Chen Zhaokuei was famous for his Xinjia (new frame) and chin na (joint locking skills). He taught with his father in Beijing and in 1960 he was invited to Shanghai to teach, where his teachings and curriculum were turned into a book by his students. Between 1973 and 1980 he returned to Chen village over ten times to teach, ensuring that the nineteenth generation received the Xinjia and reached the highest of levels of martial skill. Chen Zhaokuei developed the 32 Fa jing form (later revised to 42 postures) which was demonstrated by Chen Xiao Wang, Chen Zhenglei, Chen Dewang, Wang Xian and Zho Tian Cai at the 1975 Wenxian Wushu Tournament. Chen Zhaokuei died of a stroke in 1981. His well known students include: Chen Xiao Wang, Chen Zhenglei, Wang Xian, Zhu Tian Cai, Chen LI Zhou, Ling Zhian, Cheng Jin Zhai, Ma Hong and Wu Xiou Bou.

Chen Zhaopei

Chen Zhaopei

Chen Zhaopei: (1893 - 1972 alias Jifu) 18th Generation. Chen Zhaopei was the son of Chen Den Ke, grandson of Chen Yannian, and great grandson of Chen Changxing. He learned his taijiquan from his father but also studied with Chen Yanxi and his uncle Chen Fake in Beijing. He also studied taiji theory with the sixteenth generation teacher Chen Pin San. He travelled widely with his father from the age of fifteen and began teaching in 1914 in Shanxi, Ganshu and Zhikang. In 1927 he became the instructor of Wen County Martial Arts Academy and in 1928 he was hired to teach in Beijing, where he set up a platform in front of the Xuanwu Hall and accepted all challenges without being beaten. In 1930 he was invited to teach at the Nanjing Martial Arts Academy and invited Chen Fake to replace him in Beijing. In 1937 Chen Zhaopei returned to Wen County to avoid living under Japanese rule. He taught broadsword to the troops under General Fan Tinglan who were fighting against the Japanese. In 1940 he went to Loyang to teach and then in 1942 he went to Xian to teach for the Yellow Committee. In 1948 he took an active part in the revolution and in 1958 he retired and moved back to Wen where he took first place in the county Taijiquan competition. Chen Zhaopei was one of the most famous and well loved Chen family teachers of the twentieth century. As a result of the political situation during the 1960s he suffered greatly and is largely credited with ensuring that Chen Taijiquan did not die out in Chen Village during the Cultural Revolution. He published a number of books on Chen Taijiquan including -  ‘Chenshi Taijiquan Hui Zong’ (Compendium of Chen Style Taijiquan) and ‘Taijiquan Ru Men’ (Introduction to Taijiquan). He also created the double straight sword form and expanded the broadsword to the 23 posture form that is taught today.

Feng Zhiqiang

Feng Zhiqiang

Feng Zhiqiang: (1928 - ) 18th Generation. One of the closest students of 17th Generation Standard Bearer Chen Fake and grand master Hu Yaozhen (of Liuhe Xinyi Quan). Feng Zhiqiang is renowned for his da fa (striking skills). Feng Zhiqiang worked with Chen Fake as secretary of the Chen Taiji Research Association. He is recognised as a Grand Master in his own right and he is the creator of the Chen Style Xinyi Hunyuan Taiji System, a style of Taijiquan that combines Chen Style with qigong training. He is also the co-author of 'Chen Style Taijiquan' probably the best respected book on Chen taijiquan available in English.

The official web site of Feng Zhiqiang's Hun Yuan Tai Chi

Nineteenth Generation

Chen Xiao Wang

photo of Chen Xiao Wang

Chen Xiao Wang: (1946 - ) 19th Generation Standard Bearer, and one of the Four Jingang (high level masters of the 19th Generation). He studied first under his father Chen Zhaoxu, and then under his uncles Chen Zhaopei and Chen Zhaokuei. In 1980 Chen Xiao Wang won first place in the heavy weight division of the push hands competition of the Chinese National Wushu Tournament. He went on to win gold medals at the national push hands competitions in 1981 (Taiyuan), 1982 (Xian), and 1983 (Shenyang) as well as winning many other first place honours at a provincial level. Between 1980 and 1982 Chen Xiao Wang won three gold medals at a national level. In 1982 he attended the ‘Famous Taiji Masters’ Gathering’  organised by Gu Liuxin in Shanghai. In 1989 China instituted new recognition for the martial arts and created a number of ‘Guojia Gaoji Jiaolian’ (Senior National Coach) positions, Chen Xiao Wang was given one of the two positions for Henan. Chen Xiao Wang has four children who are carrying on his tradition: three sons – Chen Jun (the oldest), Chen Yingjun, Chen Pengfei and one daughter Chen Xiaoyan. Chen Xiao Wang has created a set of Chan Si Gong (Silk reeling Exercises), the 19 and 38 posture short forms. He is largely responsible for spreading Chen Taijiqaun to the rest of the world through his relentless worldwide teaching seminars throughout the end of the twentieth and start of the twenty first centuries. 

Chen Xiao Wang has an extensive teaching dvd and video series available. Many of these are available direct from his web site: www.chenxiaowang.com/

Chen Xiao Xing

photo of Chen Xiao Xing

Chen Xiao Xing: (1952 - ) 19th Generation. The younger son of Chen Zhao Xu and the brother of Chen Xiao Wang. Chen Xiao Xing was the student of Chen Zhaopei and Chen Zhaokuei. He is generally regarded as the highest master in Chen Village and from 1979 to 1985 he won seven first-prize titles in national and provincial martial arts tournaments in Taiji push hands and weapons. Chen Xiao Xing is the Head Coach at Chen Village Taijiquan School where he has been teaching since 1976 and is now ably assisted by his two sons Chen Ziqiang and Chen Zijun. Chen Xiaoxing was awarded the title of the title of International Taiji Master in 1998.

The official website of Chen Xiao Xing

Chen Yu

Chen Yu: (1962 - )19th Generation. Son and student of Chen Zhaokuei. He started to study with his father when he was just seven years old practicing the forms at least ten times every day. He first performed publicly in 1976 at the age of fourteen when his father took him to the Henan Province National Taiiquan competition. This performance of the two new frame forms excited all those who saw it. Chen Yu began teaching full time in 1989. He currently teaches in Beijing and is recognised as a high level master of the Xinjia and chin na.

Chen Zhenglei

photo of Chen Zhenglei

Chen Zhenglei: (1949 - ) 19th Generation. Son of Chen Zhaohai and father of Chen Xiao Bin. Along with Chen Xiao Wang, Zhu Tian Cai and Wang Xian he is one of the Four Taiji Jingang (high level masters of the 19th Generation). In 1996 he was voted to the rank of Da Shi - one of thirteen taijiquan grandmasters in China. Chen Zhenglei is known as one of taijiquan's most active and eloquent advocates. He has published many books on taijiquan, some of which are available in English ('Chen Style Taijiquan, Sword and Broadsword'), and was the first master of his generation to embrace multimedia with a comprehensive video, vcd and dvd archive.

The official website of Chen Zhenglei

Wang Xian

photo of Wang Xian

Wang Xian: (1945 - ) 19th Generation. Along with Chen Xiao Wang, Chen Zhenglei and Zhu Tian Cai he is one of the Four Taiji Jingang (high level masters of the 19th Generation). He studied under Chen Zhaopei and Chen Zhaokuei. Wang Xian was the leader of Chen village during the difficult times of the Cultural revolution. He was the first of the Jingang to be invited to Japan and then Europe. In 1996 he was voted to the rank of Da Shi - one of thirteen taijiquan grandmasters in China. He also wrote the well received books: ‘Application Secrets of Chen Style Old Frame Routine One’ and ‘Pushing Methods of Chen Style Taijiquan’ This is available to read online at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/22997736/Chen-Family-Taijiquan-Tuishou-by-WANG-XI-AN )

The official website of Wang Xian (in Chinese)

Zhu Tian Cai

photo of Zhu Tian Cai

Zhu Tian Cai: (1945 - ) 19th Generation. Along with Chen Xiao Wang, Chen Zhenglei and Wang Xian he is one of the Four Taiji Jingang (high level masters of the 19th Generation). He studied under Chen Zhaopei and Chen Zhaokuei. Zhu Tiancai rose gradually through the ranks of wushu, working as a coach and competition judge. In 1991 he was awarded the title of Gao Ji Jiao Lian (Senior National Coach). In 1996 he was voted to the rank of Da Shi - one of thirteen taijiquan grandmasters in China. Zhu Tian cai is rresponsible for developing the 42 Fa Jing form from the 32 Fa Jing form of Chen Zhaokuei.

The official website of Zhu Tian Cai

Twentieth Generation

Chen Bing

photo of Chen Bing

Chen Bing: (1970 - ) 20th Generation Standard Bearer. He began studying taijiquan when he was six years old and has studied under both Chen Xiao Wang and Chen Xiao Xing. He has already achieved great success in competition:

1993, 1998, 2000 the 1st place - Wenxian International Taijiquan Tournament

1995, 1996, 1997 the 1st place (Push Hands) - Henan Province Taijiquan Tournament

1996, 1998, 2000 the 1st place (Push Hands) - China Wushu Taijiquan Championship

1996 the 1st Place (Push Hand 70Kg) - Wenxian International Taijiquan Tournament

1997 the omnipotence 1st place Taijiquan - Henan Province Wushu Tournament

Chen Bing has established his own Taiji Academy and now teaches internationally.

The website for Chen Bing's Taiji Academy

Chen Jun

Chen Jun: (1962 - ) 20th Generation. The oldest son of Chen Xiao Wang.

Chen Ying Jun

Chen Ying Jun: 20th Generation. Second son of Chen Xiao Wang.

Chen Peng Fei

Chen Peng Fei: 20th Generation. Chen Xiao Wang’s Youngest son

Chen Xiaoyan

Chen Xiaoyan: 20th Generation. Youngest daughter of Chen Xiao Wang.

Chen Ziqiang

photo of Chen Ziqiang

Chen Ziqiang: (1977 - ) 20th Generation. Oldest son of Chen Xiao Xin. He won his  first gold medal in 1996 in the 56kg category of push hands. He went on to win the Henan Province Taijiquan sword and 56kg push hands competition for five consecutive years between 1997 and 2002. In 2001 he won gold medal in the national push hands competition. Chen Ziqiang has been a key figure in extending the Chen Village Taiji Academy to other countries including: Taiwan and America. There is a long article on Chen Ziqiang at Kung Fu Magazine.

The official Chen Jiagou (Chen Village) Tai Chi School website (in Chinese)

Chen Zijun

Chen Zijun: 20th Generation. Youngest son of Chen Xiao Xin.

Chen Xiao Bin

Chen Xiao Bin: (1979 - ) 20th Generation and son of Chen Zhenglei. State level senior coach, he began studying with is father at the age of five.

Ren Guang Yi

Ren Guang Yi: 20th Generation a senior disciple of Chen Xiao Wang, although formally listed as a student of Chen Zhaopei.

Ren Guang Yi's official website

Absolute tai chi,
16 Feb 2012, 01:18
Absolute tai chi,
16 Feb 2012, 01:13