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The Origin and development of Chen's Style Taijiquan  

Chen zhenlei

Chen Bo was the primogenitor of Chen's family, whose ancestral home had been in Zezhou County (it is named Jincheng now), Shanxi province. Then his forebear moved to Hongton County in the same province. In Hongwu 7th in Ming Dynasty (1374), the family was moved to Huaiqing (Xinyang now) Prefecture, Henan Province. Since the first village where Chen Bo lived was of low hypsograpy, and often suffered from waterlog, Chen Bo moved to Changyang Village, where was in Wenxian County and 5 kilometers from the county seat. There is a deep gully running from south to north in the village. With the growth of the population of Chen's family, Changyang Village was changed to Chenjiagou (the gully of Chen's family).

After Chen Bo's settled down at Wenxian County, he established a school of Wushu in the village to safeguard the villagers and taught his sons, nephews and grandsons to practice Wushu. As there was no record about Chen's family until 1711, the history of Chen's family was passed from mouth to mouth. In 1711, Chen Geng, the 10th generation put up a stele for Chen Bo, in which simply recorded the story of Chen Bo.

Chen Wangting (1600-1680), alias Zhouting, experienced the end of Ming Dynasty and the beginning of Qing Dynasty. He was excellent in civil and military, and good at boxing and weapons, with deep accomplishments. Since turbulence of the politic situation, he could not get a chance to achieve his ambition. When advanced in ages, he lived a hermit life, and developed a set of Taijiquan which combined softness with hardness, made Yin and Yang be coincident and which was the combination of the boxing passed from the ancestors, and the essences of various schools of Wushu, the theory of Taiji, Yin and Yang, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Channels, Qigong including Daoyin and Tuna (regimen of regulating the breath by one's will). The boxing and weapon techniques passed by Chen Wangting are Taijiquan from the first to the fifth routines, a set of Cannon Boxing, 108 forms of Long Boxing, push hand, and techniques of weapons including broad sword, spear, sword, staff, maces, and sticky-spear etc. Among them, push hand and sticky-spear are of unique style that had not been seen before.

With the passage of time, most of Chen Wangting's works had lost. The only existence is The General Boxing Classic and poetry Chang Duan Ju. In the first part of the poem, it says: "Recalling the past years, I sign with emotion, when I was young, I had swept the enemies with firm loricae and sharp weapons, facing the dangers of killing many times! Although I had got favor from the upper leaders, I am still in poverty and illnesses. Now what companies me is only a copy of Huangtingjing (a classic of Toism). In the busy season, I go to the field to work; if not, I compose boxing. In the spare time, I teach the youths. However, whether they would be dragons or tigers (persons with ability) depends on themselves."

From Chen Wangting, the ethos of practicing Taijiquan in Chenjiagou was getting more popular. Every one practiced it whatever who were old or young, men or women. There was a saying "Anyone who has drunk the water of Chenjiagou, can raise his leg." "Anyone whether he has learnt Wushu, can play Buddha's Warrioor Attendant Pounds Mortar.", which reflected how the villagers liked to play Taijiquan in certain extent. The ethos has been passing generation to generation, and has never failed. For that reason, many famous masters came from Chenjiagou in the history.

Chen Changxing (1771-1853), alias Yunting, was the fourteenth generation of Chen's family, who wrote the books The Ten Dissertations on Taijiquan, The essential of Taijiquan in practice, and On combat of Taijiquan. Based on the old routine passed by the ancestors, he developed the first routine of Taijiquan and the second routine of Taijiquan (Paochui Boxing), which is unchanged until now; they are creative outcomes that Chen Changxing extracted the essentials from the old ones. This set of Taijiquan is called Old Frame of Taijiquan (Big Frame). The career of master Chen Changxing was a master of safeguarding the goods for merchants, running around in Shandong Province for more than ten years, enjoying high reputation in Wushu circle then. At that time, if an opera was played in the countryside, there was no theater or seats, just a stage in the open air. Only the people who were young and strong enough could stand near the stage, otherwise the people who wanted to go near the stage would jostled him backward. Once he watched an opera near the stage, being surrounded by hundreds of crowded people. He kept feet not leaving his place any more, whatever he was pushed, crowded, crushed. The people who were approaching him felt that they could not touch him, as water touched the stone, it withdrew naturally. Thus, he was called "the king stable as a stone tablet". During he worked in Shandong Province for more than ten years, most of the bandits and gangs disappeared, as was recorded in a tone tablet that the local people put up for remembering him. Both of his two sons, Yannian and Yanxi were famous masters of Taijiquan. The most famous of his disciple was Yang Luchan.
Chen Youben, the fourteenth generation, made some revisions based on the original routines, and abnegated some difficult and applying force movements. The frame was as wide as the old one, then it was called new frame (small frame).

Chen Xin, (1849-1929) the sixteenth generation, alias Pinsan, realized that in the history, the Chen's Style of Taijiquan was mainly passed by mouth to mouth, and that there were few written works on Taijiquan. He made a determined effort to explain and develop the theory of Taijiquan passed from his ancestors. Spending 12 years, he completed his four volumes of The Illustrated Chen's Style Taijiquan to introduce the experiences of practicing Taijiquan accumulated from generation to generation. In this book, he explained the theory of boxing by I Ching, the twining silk power and internal power by the theory of Channels. It is the most important works in the treasury of the theory of Chen's Style Taijiiquan. His other works are The History of Chen's Family, and The Boxing Compose of Three, Three, Six.

Chen Fake (1887-1957), alias Fusheng, was the representative figure of the current Chen's Style Taijiquan, having made great contribution in spreading Taijiquan. He had been teaching Taijiquan in Beijing from 1929 to 1957. His fighting techniques were excellent, combining hardness and softness, and various techniques simultaneously, including Cai (grap), Lie (yank), Zhou (elbow), Kao (lean against), Na (hold), Die (drop down), Zhi (throw), Da (beat). When fighting hand to hand with an opponent, he did not care of the individual movements, but controlled the opponent, often beat the opponent down by his superb skill. He was very popular by the people in different circles because of his honesty and noble moral of Wushu. He had many disciples, such as Shen Jiazhen, Gu Liuxin, Hong Junshen, Tian Xiuchen, Lei Muni, Feng Zhiqiang, Li Jingwu, Xiao Qinglin etc. His sons Chen Zhaoxu and Chen Zhaokui, and daughter Chen Yuxia have very good boxing skills. Chen Zhaokui has taught Taijiquan in Beijing, Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Jiaozuo (83 forms of new frame mainly), and has many disciples, made a great contribution in popularization of Taijiquan.

Chen Zhaopi (1893-1972), alias Jipu, was invited by the brothers Yue Youshen and Yue Dutong, who were the boss of the famous drug store Tong Ren Tang to teach Taijiquan in Beiping (the name for Beijing then) in 1928. Yue's brothers entrusted Du Shenxing, who lived in Xinyang, Henan Province to invite a master of Taijiquan, being out of admiration for Taijiquan in Chenjiagou. The clansmen in the village recommended him. After he arrived in Beiping, Li Jingzhuang, one of his countrymen, wrote an article in Beiping Evening Paper (October, 1928) to air Taijiquan. It said: "The aim that we advocate Wushu is for strengthening and protecting our nation, preventing the aggressions from foreigners, reoccupying the lost lands. " Chen Zhaopi was of high accomplishments in the theory of Taijiquan. He wrote the books The Collection of Chen's Style Taijiquan, ABC of Taijiquan, Illustrated Chen's Style Taijiquan, and 13 Chapters of the Theory of Chen's Style Taijiquan, which came from his experiences for several decades. The representatives of his disciples are Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenlei, Wang Xian, Zhu Tiancai, etc. He made a huge contribution to spread Chen's Style Taijiquan, being admired by all the circles domestically and internationally, because of his noble moral and the spirit of being tiredness in teaching. He was a great master carrying forward the cause of Chen's Style Taijiquan and forging ahead into the future.

Now the routines boxing being practiced in Chenjiagou include: the first routine of Old Style, the second routine of old style (Cannon Boxing), the first routine of new style, the second routine of new style (Cannon Boxing), the first and second routines of small frame, and five kinds of push hand. The routines of weapons include: Taiji Single Broad Sword, Double Broad Sword, Single Sword, Double Swords, Double Maces, Pear Flower Spear plus White Ape Staff, Long-hilt Broadsword Scimitar, Three Pole, Eight Pole, Thirteen Pole, etc. These routines basically maintain the traditional style, from the angle of style and application of beating technique.

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