FAMILY SMALL CIRCLE TAI JI QUAN
family small circle Tai
Some say that the old
original Chen village Tai Ji Quan was like what today is called “small
circle” Tai Ji Quan and that the now popular “old style” is actually a
later creation after the son of Chen Changxing (1771-1853) named Chen Gengyun.
What is called “old style” today by most people is called “big circle”
in the Chen village. There has never been anything called old or new style until
recently when the group after Chen Fake came out with what they call the “new
Some people lists teachers with generation numbering but unfortunately they
often mix up Chen family genealogy and teachers of Chen family boxing and
non-Chen family teachers.
Entering Chen village
Chen Gongzhao (1715-
after 1795). He is the one mentioned as having saved an official from a raging
bull, frightened by fire crackers, he is said to have struck the bull to the ground
at the age of 80 in 1795. He had two sons that he taught, Chen Youheng and
Chen Youben. Chen Youheng, the older brother died at an early age when he
drowned at Dong Ting lake. Both sons learned their Tai Ji Quan from their father.
Youben (1780-1858), was born in Chen village and had an older brother named Chen
Youheng who died early leaving two identical twins with Chen Youben. The twins
were Chen Zhongsheng (1809-1871) and Chen Jisheng (1809-1865). They also had a
third brother named Chen Bosheng.
the death of his older brother Youben closed himself up in the house and
practiced hard. Chen Youben is said to have been the most skillful boxer
in the village. It is mentioned in some articles, by Gu Liuxin and others,
that he took away the
difficult moves from the original form but that the moves were left in the difficult way
in the Tai Ji Quan form of Chen Changxing lineage. This is pure fabrication and far
from the truth. Probably made up by some people from that lineage to push their
own style. The moves in the small circle form are maybe in some respects even
more demanding then the moves in the big circle form.
taught, apart from the above mentioned two twins, the son of Chen Changxing named
Chen Gengyun and fellow clansman Chen Qingping
(1795-1868) from the Chen village. Chen Qingping taught in Zhaobao village where
he had many students.
Chen Gengyun is said to have spent years with Chen Youben to improve his skill
as his skill was not considered good enough to take on protection of caravans.
In order to have a quick development of Chen Gengyun's skill Chen Youben made
changes in Chen Gengyun's already existing form.
Zhongsheng (1809-1871) studied with his uncle as his father died early. All his
skill came from Chen Youben. He was famous for wielding an iron spear weighing
30 "jin" freely while practicing.
the third year of the Emperor Xianfeng (1853) the Taiping army while heading north
passed through Wen county where they stayed on the shores of Huang River at the Willow
village (Liu Cun). There was an army officer with the nickname of
“Da Tou Wang” (the great leader King, or Big Head King) and with the
family name of Yang. While they were roaming around they came to Chen village and a skirmish came about. The two
brothers Chen Zhongsheng and Jisheng led the villagers in the fight with the
band of “Da Tou Wang” where they cut his head off and the rest of the band ran
towards Zhaobao village.
his students were his sons Chen Yao (1837-1916), Chen Yan (1847-1918)
and Chen Xin (1849-1929). The sons of his brother Chen Jisheng were also
very skilled, Chen Miao (1834-1868) and Chen Sen (1843-1926).
Chen Xin, styled Pinsan (1849-1929)
claims in his book[i]
that his ancestor Chen Bu
, the first generation, brought
this art with him when the Chen family
moved from Da Huai Shu
to Wen county
in Henan. According to history Chen Bu
followed the move of the people first to Henan, to Henei county
(today’s Qinyang county
) Chen Bu Zhuang
(today this village still exists, it
belongs now to Wen county), but due to that the village was in a marsh area and was
often flooded, they moved again to the east of Wen county city ten li to
on Qingfeng ridge. In the village there is a trench
(ditch) “gou” going from north
to south. After the Chen members became numerous the name was changed to Chen
family village “Chen Jia Gou”.
Chen Xin wrote in
his preface to his book:
“in the 7th of
in the Ming period
. The ancestor Bu when not studying
(and tilling the fields), used the Yin Yang
opening and closing movement of the
whole body, teaching his children and grandchildren the method of digesting what
had been eaten, based on the theory of Tai Ji, for this reason it was called Tai
never stated who created the art
In this case we are not sure if the meaning of Tai Ji Quan as mentioned with
Chen Bu is actually boxing or if it is to be seen in some other way.
In some cases it could refer to a form of gymnastic exercises more than to the
boxing art with hand forms and weapons. What is meant here is difficult to say.
I will not discuss the story of Chen Wangting (1600-1680)
and if he created the Tai Ji Quan or not. Originally this was not an idea put forward by
the Chen family and certainly not by Chen Xin. Chen Xin has a part about
Chen Wangting saying something like “when busy I am tilling the fields, when
bored I make boxing” but not referring to Tai Ji Quan. The first time we see
Chen Wangting referred to as the creator of Tai Ji Quan is in articles by Tang
Hao. This idea was also put forth by Gu Liuxin in his books and also by later
authors on the Chen style of Tai Ji Quan.
Xin taught Chen Kezhong (1908 -1966) . Chen Kezhong was given the “Sansan liu
quanpu” to keep.
Chen Ziming (? -1951)
Xin also taught Chen Ziming (?-1951), Chen Chunyuan[iv]
(1877-1949 also studied with is father Chen Sen), Chen Jinao (1899-1971), Chen Xingsan(1880-1942) and Chen Kedi
(1905-1984) and others.[v]
Kezhong (1908-1966) taught according to the old way, the way that he was taught by Chen Xin. In some
articles there has been writings by the misinformed that Chen Kezhong should be
the student of Chen Chunyuan[vi]. The family descendants of Chen Kezhong as well as his
students states that he was
indeed a student of Chen Xin[vii]
for over ten years and nobody else.
1932 and 1936 he was employed together with Chen Xingsan by the county school to teach
Tai Ji Quan. After that he was employed to Jiaozuo to teach. Around
1940 he went to Xi’an but never lightly taught anyone. After 1949 he returned
to the Chen village working the fields and teaching students.
is said to be the person actually saving the style from becoming extinct by
teaching a lot of people in the village. Among those who are representative are
Chen Boxian (1920-1989), Chen Boxiang, Chen Qinglin.
of Chen Kezhong and a representative of the small circle style at different
levels as well as “da shou” and various weapons. Never ever deviating from
the traditional way when teaching. In other words, a strict and demanding
teacher loved by his students.
(Chen boxiang with students from Lianyungang and author.)
photos of teacher Chen Boxiang taken while visiting me at my home in Shanghai.
, “Chen shi Tai Ji Quan
tu shuo” (1933).
, “Shi chuan Chen shi Tai Ji Quan
”(1985) p.1 states that it was in 1372
, p.7 in no.12 Wu Lin (1992) states that Chen Bu
created Tai Ji Quan
. Chen Shaodong is one of the editors of Chen Xin’s book and 1992 he was
93 years old.
Chen Chunyuan taught Chen
Honglie who taught Chen Liqing (female) and Chen Lixian.
Chen shi tai ji quan xie
hui zong by Chen Zhenglei (1992)
This stated by some
websites and also in the book by Chen Liqing.
Chen Kezhong stated as
student of Chen Xin. See Chen shi tai ji quan xie hui zong by Chen Zhenglei
(1992) and Chen shi tai ji quan zhi volume 1 (1996).