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Excerpts from "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan"

by Chen Xin

Biography of Chen Xin

Chen Xin (1849-1929), also called Pinsan, 16th generation descendant of Chen clan, was born in Henan Province Wen County Chenjiagou village. Chen Xin was a grandson of famous Taijiquan master, Chen Youheng; Chen Xin's granduncle, Chen Youben, had not only consummate skill in boxing, but on the basis of original routines created a new frame of Taijiquan (known as Small Frame, Xiaojia). Chen Xin's father, Zhongshen and uncle, Jishen, twin brothers, were both very skilful at Taijiquan. They first learnt from their father, Chen Youheng, but after he drowned in Dongting Lake, they studied with uncle, Chen Youben.

Chen Zhongshen was extraordinary - big and tall - and studied martial arts since the age of three. He passed military examination together with his brother and became Wuxiang (military Xiucai). During the reigns of emperors Xianfeng (1851-1861) and Tongzhi (1862-1874) there were three renowned Taijiquan exponents in Chenjiagou: Chen Zhongshen, his brother Chen Jishen, and Chen Changxing's son, Chen Gengyun. Among them Chen Zhongshen was especially famous for using a 30-pound iron spear on battlefields and his courage.

Chen Xin and his older brother Chen Yao were both studying boxing from their father, Chen Zhongshen.

Chen Yao at the age of 19 passed military examinations at the county level and became Wuxiang; he practiced boxing ten thousand times a year and within 20 years his skill became superb. He was short and thin and people did not believe he was proficient in martial arts. Chen Yao often contested with guards of the local county magistrate (Yamen) and was able to throw six to seven on the ground at the same time.

Chen Xin also learnt martial art since early childhood and understood its principles and methods, but since his father ordered him to study literature,

On this rare picture - Chen Ziming, Chen Xin's student, the first one who popularized Small Frame of Chen Family Taijiquan outside Chenjiagou
Dang Tou Pao (Cannon to the Head) movement of Chen Style Xiaojia (Small Frame) Taijiquan

his skill could not match the one of his brother. When Chen Xin was older he realized how little he achieved in literary studies and how accomplished Taijiquan master his brother was. Chen Xin regretted that he had not focus on martial arts practice and made a firm decision to write books and expound principles and methods of Chen Family Taijiquan.

Chen Xin's most famous book on boxing is "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan" (Chen Shi Taijiquan Tushuo). Chen Xin was writing it by hand for 12 years, from the 34th year of emperor Guangxu's reign (1908) until 8th year of the Republic (1919). There were together four volumes containing 200-300 thousand characters. Based on profound principles of Yijing (Book of Changes), the books were expounding changes between Yin and Yang; the meridian theory was confirmed using physiological points and veins; the applications of all postures were explained, indicating the key points for beginners. The results of many generations of Chen clan Taijiquan masters were written down without keeping anything secret. Silk reeling and neijin (internal strength) are the core ideas of the book. Chen Xin wrote many books that were never published, "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan" was the fruit of many years' of his painstaking work and the most systematic and complete summary of Chen style Taijiquan.

Chen Xin had no children and when he was lying in the bed old and sick he called his nephew Chen Chunyuan and gave him "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan" saying: "this is the fruit of my whole life, publish it and give to those who deserve it, otherwise burn it, be sure not to give it to ignorant and presumptuous people!".

Because of poverty, after Chen Xin passed away, the coffin with his body was kept for many years in his house and was not buried. Chen Chunyuan wanted to gather funds for funeral, so he asked his friends Du Youmei and Liu Yingxian for help in publishing Chen Xin's book.. As the result Chen Panling (president of Henan Province Martial Arts Academy), Han Zibu (president of Henan Archives Bureau), Wang Zemin and Bai Yusheng of Kaiming Publishing House, Guan Baiyi (director of Henan Provincial Museum) and Zhang Jiamou first raised 200 yuan for Chen Xin's funeral. Later they raised 800 yuan and in 1933 the book was published in thousand copies.

In winter 1930 Tang Hao, martial arts historian and researcher, went to Chenjiagou with Chen Ziming to collect materials on Taijiquan's history and appreciated Chen Xin's manuscript very much.

Chen Xin's "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan" (also called "Chen Pinsan's Taijiquan Essentials" - Chen Pinsan Taijiquan Jiangyi) was originally written in 4 volumes with very clear explanations and not divided into chapters. No characters nor sentences were changed during publishing, and annotations were put in unclear places to keep original text intact.

There were many generations of Chen Family Taijiquan practitioners since Chen Wangting. Many of them became very proficient at the martial art but very few books on Taijiquan were written. Seven generations had passed and starting from Chen Xin, more importance to written records was attached. In 1935 Chen Zhaopei, 18th generation descendant of Chen clan, in his "Collection of Chen Family Taijiquan" (Chen Shi Taijiquan Huizong) used many parts of Chen Xin's book. Chen Xin's other books include: "Taijiquan Guide for Beginners" (Taijiquan Yinmeng Rulu) (concise version of "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan") in one volume, "Three-Three-Six Boxing Manual" (San San Liu Quanpu), as well as "Genealogy of Chen Family" (Chen Shi Jiacheng) in five volumes, "Collection of Poems and Literary Works from Calm Fool's Studio" (Anyuxuan Shiwenji; Anyu, Calm Fool, was Chen Xin's literary name) and other.

Excerpts from "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan"

by Chen Xin


Illustrated Explanation of Silk Reeling Essence of Taijiquan

Translated from Chinese by Jarek Szymanski; ? J.Szymanski 1999-2002

In the brackets I either put my own explanations or added certain words for better understanding (if in normal font); or put Pinyin (transliteration) for certain terms (in italics).
Only after I read about the Taiji circular illustration in ancient classics I realized that to practice Taijiquan one has to understand silk reeling essence. Silk reeling is a method of moving Central Qi (Zhong Qi). If it is not understood, then the boxing is not understood either.
The first white path and black path are like Taiji Yin and Yang existing within Wuji (Limitless).

Chinese reprint of Chen Xin's book is available through this site



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