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Brief Analysis of Chen Family Boxing Manuals

The article below was based on books by Tang Hao "Free Notes from Xingjian Studio" (Xingjian Zhai Sui Bi, Shanghai 1937) and "The Study of Texts on Martial Arts" (Wuyi Tiji Kao, Shanghai 1940) as well as articles by Wu Wenhan ("Wuhun 1997/3), Jin Rensen ("Wuhun 1997/4) and Lu Dimin and Zhao Youbin ("Wudang 1994/12).

Photos come from books "Taizu Long-range Boxing from Shaolin Temple" (Shaolin Si Taizu Chang Quan, Beijing 1999) by Zhang Liuqing and Diao Huiyin; and "Chinese Chen Family Taiji" (Zhong Guo Chen Shi Taijiquan; Xi'an 1997).


There are four boxing and weapons manuals of Chen clan from Chenjiagou (village in Wen County Henan Province, hometown of Chen clan) that are known today:

"Boxing and Weapons Collection - Chen's Notes from Liangyi Hall" (Quan Xie Zongji - Chen Liangyi Tang Ji); hereinafter called "Liangyi Version" (Liang Yi Tang Ben)

"Book of Wenxiu Hall" (Wenxiu Tang Ben) - hereinafter called "Wenxiu Version" (Wen Xiu Tang Ben)

"Sanxing Version" (San Xing Tang Ben)

"Boxing and Weapon Collection of Chen Family Passed Through Generations" (Chen Shi Shichuan Quan Xie Huibian) - hereinafter called Chen Ziming's[1] Collection (Huibian)

Besides, there is also "Illustrated Manual of Long-range Boxing" (Chang Quan Tu Pu).

"Liangyi Version", "Wenxiu Version" and "Chen Ziming's Collection" were recorded in Xu Zhen's[2] "The Study of the Truth of Research on Taijiquan" (Taijiquan Kao Xin Lu). Xu Zhen received these manuals from Chen Ziming in Nanjing in 1935. "Sanxing Version" was copied by Tang Hao[3] in January 1932 in Chenjiagou - Tang received it from Chen Xingsan (1880-1942); "Illustrated Manual of Long-range Boxing" Tang Hao bought in Wenyunge in Beiping (today's Beijing). The book was not complete (several pages at the beginning and in the end were missing) and only 54 postures of 108 could be found there.


According to these texts Chen clan empty hand boxing techniques can be divided into two cathegories:

Long-range Boxing - thirty names in the first cathegory are same as those described in "Qi Jiguang's Boxing Canon"[4]; several sentences in the text are also identical with those in Qi's book; the techniques belonging to the first cathegory include: "Taizu[5] Xia Nan Tang", "Long-range Boxing" (Chang Quan), "Thirteen Postures" (Shi San Shi), etc.

"Sanxing Version" contains "Long-range Boxing Register" (Chang Quan Pu). At the end of the text containing classical boxing formulas (Gejue) for each posture , there is a note composed of eleven characters saying "This is Long Fist (Boxing) that can be passed only to those who are diligent at practice".

After examining the Chen clan writings and comparing them with "Qi Jiguang's Boxing Canon" and "Taizu Xia Nan Tang", Tang Hao found out that twenty nine postures of "Long-range Boxing" can be found in "Qi Jiguang's Boxing Canon" and eleven in "Taizu Xia Nan Tang"; for "Cannon Boxing" and five sets of "Thirteen Postures", twenty can be found in "Qi Jiguang's Boxing Canon" and nine in "Taizu Xia Nan Tang". Hence Tang Hao suspected that "Taizu Xia Nan Tang" was, together with "Qi Jiguang's Boxing Canon", the basis for Chen clan empty hand martial art. In Tang's opinion all other techniques were created by Chen Wangting, excluding spear and staff (which, according to "Wenxiu Version", were not original Chen techniques).

"Cannon of Striking Hand" (Ji Shou Pao) movements from Taizu Long-range Boxing (Taizu Chang Quan) practiced nowadays in Shaolin temple (performer: Diao Huiyin):

For comparison - "Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar" (Jin Gang Dao Dui) movement from Chen style Old Frame Taijiquan routine (performer: Chen Zhenglei):

Xu Zhen believed that Chenjiagou's "Long-range Boxing" had been developed from "Taizu Long-range Boxing" (Taizu Chang Quan), while Tang Hao claimed it was based on "Qi Jiguang's Boxing Canon" (which was a compilation of sixteen styles, "Taizu Long-range Boxing" being one of them). Since twenty nine postures from Qi's manual can be found in Chen's Long-range Boxing, so if all of them came from "Taizu Long-range Boxing" (as Xu Zhen suggested), then would it be possible that remaining three postures in Qi's book are from other fifteen styles? Tang Hao found it difficult to accept.

Regarding "Thirteen Postures", there are five sets (actually six) recorded in Chen clan boxing manuals.

"Sanxing Version" in the chapter "Thirteen Postures" (Shi San Shi) lists: "First Set" (Tou Tao), "Second Set" (Er Tao), "Third Set - its name is Big Fourth Boxing Set " (San Tao - Ci Ming Da Si Tao Chui), "Fourth Set - its name is Red Fist" (Si Tao - Ci Ming Hong Quan; the last two sentences of its boxing formula say: "If you want to know where this martial art comes from, the answer is "Taizu Xia Nan Tang"); "Cannon Boxing Postures" (Pao Chui Jiazi; below the list of names set, a ten-character long note says: "Fifteen Fists (and) Fifteen Cannons, use heart (mind) in boxing practice").

"Wenxiu Version" lists: "First Set of Boxing" (Tou Tao Chui Quanjia), "Fourth Set of Boxing" (Si Tao Chui Shi), "Fifth Set of Boxing" (Wu Tao Chui Quanshi), "Cannon Fist Postures, Fifteen Red Fifteen Cannons, use heart in practice" (Pao Chui Jiazi Shiwu Hong Shiwu Pao Zou Quan Xin Yong); besides, there is a note saying that Second Set (Er Tao Chui) and Third Set (San Tao Chui) were both lost.

"Liangyi Version" contains following contents: "Boxing Song of First Set (in) Thirteen Postures" (Tou Tao Shi San Shi Quan Ge; its list of postures is almost identical with "First Set of Boxing" of "Wenxiu Version"), "Second Set Cannon Fist Fifteen Red Fifteen Cannons, practice boxing" (Er Tao Pao Chui Shiwu Hong Shiwu Pao Zou Quan); "Third Set" (San Tao), "Fourth Set, also called Red Set" (Si Tao Yi Ming Hong Tao), "Boxing Song of Fifth Set" (Wu Tao Quan Ge), "Taijiquan also called First Set or Thirteen Postures, that is Thirteen Folding (techniques) (Shi San Zhe) or Thirteen Twists (Shi San Zhe)". The list of postures of this last set (Taijiquan) is almost identical with the First Set.

According to "Liangyi Version" the Second Set is called "Cannon Boxing" - "Pao Chui", but "Wenxiu Version" and "Sanxing Version" do not mention this; besides, as already mentioned above, "Wenxiu Version" has a note saying that Second Set and Third Set were both lost. If we assume that "Cannon Boxing" does not belong to five sets of Thirteen Postures, than all texts miss these two sets and none of them can be considered complete.



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