The 20th generation "Chen Dragons", captured in the Chen Village training hall, July 2000.

Back row, left to right: Chen Zhijun, Chen Yingjun, Chen Bing, Chen Jun.

Front row, left to right: Chen Pengfei, Chen Ziqiang

What's the Chen Village School of Tai Chi?

Today Chen Village and the surrounding area contain a plethora of Tai Chi schools. The most famous of these is the The Chen Village School of Tai Chi (Chenjiagou Taijiquan Xuexiao), located in the middle of the village, and currently administered by the brothers Master Chen Xiaowang and Master Chen Xiaoxing.

A list of the people who have studied there and the coaches that have taught them reads like a who’s who of Tai Chi. While I was there, I trained along side a number of potential masters in the making, including:-

  • Chen Bing - Masters Chen Xiaowang & Chen Xiaoxing's Nephew

  • Chen Jun - Master Chen Xiaowang's eldest son

  • Chen Zhiqiang - Master Chen Xiaoxing's eldest son

  • Chen Yingjun - Master Chen Xiaowang's second son

  • Chen Zhijun - Master Chen Xiaoxing's second son

  • Chen Guixiang - Master Chen Zhenlei's niece

  • Chen Pengfei - Master Chen Xiaowangs's youngest son

  • Chen Xiaoyan- Master Chen Xiaowang's youngest daughter

... Plus the other kids in the village and students from elsewhere.

Back in 2000, when I was living in Chen Village, the students number from about 20 during the quiet seasons, to about double that during the busiest times. About half the students are from the village and from the near by town of Wenxiang, whilst the others are from the rest of China and abroad. Overseas visitors often stay at Chen Xiaoxing's house, which has guest rooms with their own bathrooms, air conditioning and central heating - a far cry from what the locals have to make do with.

Since this article was first written, things have changed a lot. The Tai Chi school has a modern facility where visitors from overseas stay. There are now more than 100 full time students at the school, and the school has an academic teacher, so that the students can keep up will their academic studies.

Chen Xiaoxing’s nephew, Chen Bing, and his son, Chen Zhiqiang, as well as another coach from the village, Chen Guoqiang, take care of most of the teaching. You, as an overseas student, will be closely supervised by Chen Xiaoxing.

The school is used by other masters when they need some space to teach their students, and the back yard just won't do. Also, if a big enough coach load of tourists arrives, then all the masters get together to put a display on. It's a world away from the petty politics that goes on in the rest of the martial arts world.

During my stay at the school, the school changed hands became the joint concern of Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing.

Chen Xiaowang

Master Chen Xiaowang is commonly recognised as the head of the current (19th) generation of the Chen family. His father, Chen Zhaoxu, was the number one guy of his generation, and his grandfather, Chen Fake, was the number one guy before that.

A lot of Tai Chi masters consider him to be currently the best example of Tai Chi that exists today regardless of style. Although there are many talented masters in Chen Village, may be Chen Village would not quite have as high a reputation as it has now without him.

As a young child he started learning with his father. After his father died early, he continued his study with an uncle of his extended family, Chen Zhaopei, who himself was a student of his own grandfather, Chen Fake. When Chen Zhaopei passed away, his uncle Chen Zhaokui taught him. He also made a point of visiting all his grandfather's students to learn as much as possible. In his youth he had a reputation for spending every free minute practising Tai Chi.

His achievements in competitions are as follows:

  • 1980 - Shijiazhuangheavy weight champion - National Pushing Hands Competition

  • 1981 - Taiyuan - champion (golden medal) - National Pushing Hands Competition

  • May 1982 - Xi'an - champion (golden medal) - National Pushing Hands Competition

  • September 1982 - Zhengzhou - First Place - Provincial Pushing Hands Competition

  • October 1982 - Xinxiang - First place in heavy weight category - Provincial Pushing Hands Competition

  • 1983 - Shenyang - champion (golden medal) - National Pushing Hands Competition.

Now retired, he spent the 1990s and 2000s travels all around the world teaching Tai Chi.

Chen Xiaoxing

Master Chen Xiaoxing has lived in Chen Village all his life. He knows everyone in the village, and they all know him. He runs the Tai Chi school in the village, which is next to the elementary school. Master Chen has been teaching Tai Chi since 1976. In 1981 the first Japanese students came to Chen Village. In 1982 the Tai Chi school opened, and since 1983 Master Chen worked full time there. He is considered to be the top master in the village, which is a bit like being the tallest person in a basketball team. Although on occasion he has travelled in China and overseas teaching, he plans to stay in the village to make sure that the next generation gets brought up properly.

He is the youngest son of Chen Zhaoxu, and started learning with him when he was very young. His father died early, and he continued his study with his 'House' uncle, Chen Zhaopei, who himself was a student of his grandfather. When Chen Zhaopei passed away, his uncle Chen Zhaokui taught him. After that, he continued under the guidance of his elder brother Master Chen Xiaowang. He is significantly younger than the other 19th generation Masters, so you get a slightly different and refreshing perspective from him.

He won gold medals in the Henan Provincial Tournament for Traditional Forms (1979 & 1986), Pushing Hands (1983) and Sword forms (1986).

He is now retired.