Our Master Teachers - Grandmaster Chen, Xiao Wang

Grandmaster Chen, Xiao Wang,
19th Generation Inheritor of Chen Family Taijiquan
Grandmaster Chen, Xiao Wang was borne in 1945, into one of the most important families in the development of Chinese Culture. History tells us that his family is the originator of Taijiquan beginning as far back as the 1600’s. Chen, Xiao Wang began training when he was 7 years old under his father, Chen, Zhaoxu and grandfather Chen, Fa Ke. (At dinner one year I asked when he began to understand his importance in his family tradition; Master Chen replied, “I was very young.”) Master Chen continued to train at his family’s school in the Chen Village (Chenjiaogo, Wen Xian, China) through his youth. Master Chen became a carpenter and worked in this field for many years while continuing to train. He inspires us with his stories of practicing the Laojia (about a 15 minute form) at least 27 times each day, along with his standing meditation practice and all the other forms he learned.

Since beginning to teach, Master Chen has cultivated a broad and talented student population throughout the world. He served in the Chinese National People’s Assembly as the sole deputy elected from
Taijiquan circles and was the winner of the gold medal in Taijiquan at the First International Wushu Championship in China in 1985. Master Chen and remained a multiple gold medalist during his competition years. In 1988 he was recognized by the Chinese Government with a special award for contribution to Taijiquan development. In addition to his irrefutable martial prowess, Master Chen is also a talented calligrapher (though he has never received a lesson, his work goes for as much as several thousand dollars). Master Chen is also a distinguished author having written several books on Taijiquan. He a committee member of the Society of Chinese Calligraphy and Literature.

Master Chen Xiao Wang currently resides in Australia but travels over 300 days a year teaching his family’s Taiji to anyone who wants to learn it. Master Chen additionally cultivates teachers on many continents to help him spread high quality Taiji throughout the world - with the goal of health and happiness for all. His brother Chen, Xiao Xing his many family members and community in China continue to work tirelessly to both teach and to renovate his family’s home village & temple so that the birthplace of Taijiquan will remain as a Jewel, in tact for generations to come.
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Grandmaster Chen, Xiao Wang and Embrace the Moon
Kim Ivy met Grandmaster Chen, Xiao Wang in August of 2002 at a Laojia (old frame, first set, “mother form”) workshop in San Francisco. After experiencing his authentic and high level of skill, his kindness and clarity of teaching, and the community of students and teachers he has cultivated, she invited him to Seattle, in hopes of taking a place in the long line of people wanting to host him. About a month later Kim received a call from Master Chen, Xiao Wang; stunningly he had created an opening in his schedule that allowed him to come to Seattle before he left the United States, in 3 weeks! She will never forget him saying, when discussing the short time to promote the workshop, “I can teach 6 or 60, it doesn’t matter.”

Three weeks later, Embrace The Moon hosted Master Chen’s first Seattle workshop (a healthy 40 attendee Chan Si Gong weekend). Since then, Master Chen returns to Seattle and to Embrace The Moon each year to guide us and many of our friends generously through the Chen Curriculum.
Master Chen gifted Embrace The Moon with a stunning Calligraphy (“Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger”) as he said, “to make your dojo strong.”
During the 2005 seminar, Master Chen invited 10 US Students and 17 others from around the world to become disciples. On March 9, 2006, Kim participated in this traditional ceremony at the Taijiquan Temple in the Chen Village. The ceremony marked the formalized direct student relationship with Master Chen and family bond with her Taiji “brothers and sisters.”

Read about it . . .

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The History of Taijiquan
From "Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing" (Sim and Gaffney, 2002) Used by permission - Bill & Allsion Helm
Photos added by Kim Ivy and Allison Helm

The birthplace of Taijiquan is commonly accepted to be Chenjiagou, in Wenxian, Henan province of China. There are many accounts of how Taijiquan came to be, some historical, some fictional, but the most recent and credible findings point to the Chen family.

Chen Bu was the patriarch of the Chen family and lived during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Chen Bu migrated from Shanxi Province to Huaiqing, founding what would be named Chenjiagou in an area north of the Yellow River. The area was prone to flooding from the
Yellow River, and drainage ditches were created to help divert flood waters. Chenjiagou means "Chen Family Ditch".

Some believe that Shaolin Boxing was practiced in the village before the compilation of Taijiquan. The village was quite close to the Shaolin Temple, giving credence to this theory. Historical records did not start until the 7th generation, and detailed records of people, marriages, and martial arts began with the 9th generation.

Chen Wangting

Chen Wangting of the 9th generation was a martial artist and scholar. He had a reputation as a strong fighter and was able to defeat over 1000 bandits, according to records. He was in the military and retired soon after the fall of the Ming dynasty. After his retirement, he began compiling a form of martial art called "The First Method". This method included:

  • Yin Yang Theory
  • Jingluo (energy channel) Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • The "Canon of Boxing" of Qi Jigyang (classic text on strategy and martial arts by a famous general)
  • Tui Shou (pushing hands) training
  • Creation of a basic spear practice routine
The original Taijiquan contained five sets of forms, one set of long fist, and one set of cannon fist, for seven sets total. The emphasis is on whole body relaxation, training the mind, softness progressing to firmness then back to softness, and slow and fast actions. The Chen family relied on their martial skills not only for survival but for their livelihood, and worked as bodyguards and escorts. They kept their secret skills in the family and the village for five generations.

Chen Changxing of the 14th generation is given credit for synthesizing the forms created by his ancestors. The two resulting forms, Laojia Yi Lu and Laojia Er Lu, mutually complement each other and preserve many of the original postures and all of the principles of the original forms of Chen Wangting. This was the biggest change in the complete evolution of Taijiquan. All other forms of Taijiquan today were derived from the original form of Laojia Yi Lu.

Yang Luchan
Chen Changxing was the first of the family to teach the art to an outsider. Yang Luchan went to Chenjiagou to study with Chen Changxing, and through persistence and diligence he was able to convince Chen Changxing to teach him the Chen family style. Yang agreed not to teach the Chen style to the public, and changed the form and gave it his own name to create Yang Style Taijiquan.

Yang Luchan recieving Chen secrets from Chen Changxing
Also of the 14th generation, Chen Youben created another routine he called Xiaojia (small frame), and eliminated some of the more difficult and explosive movements. This style is still known today, but not widely practiced.
In the late 1800s, Chen Xin of the 16th generation began documenting the Chen family's martial art. In his groundbreaking book, Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan, he explained the principles and theories of Taijiquan, and the application of postures and guidelines for beginners. Many of the secrets of the Chen family were revealed in this book. (Translations of passages from this book can be found at Jarek's Martial Arts Pages.)

Chen Fa-ke
The next major development occured in the 17th generation with Chen Fa-Ke (1887-1957), the great grandson of Chen Changxing. Chen Fa-Ke (Chen Xiaowang's grandfather) created the Xinjia (new frame) which is widely practiced in the world today. Xinjia combined the elements of Laojia Yi Lu and Er Lu, added moves, and incorporated more complex silk reeling and explosive discharges (fajing). Chen Fa-Ke wanted to enhance the fighting applications and make the form more efficient in practical use. He applied the same changes to the Er Lu. He taught Chen style Taijiquan in Beijing for nearly 30 years, making more people aware of the style.

The 18th generation included Chen Zhaopei and Chen Zhaokui (Chen Xiao Wang's uncle). Chen Zhaopei is credited with initiating a renaissance of Taijiquan in Chenjiagou and nurtured current masters including Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenglei, Wang Xian and Zhu Tiancai, known collectively as the Four Buddha's Warrior Attendants or Four Tigers of Chen Taijiquan. Chen Zhaokui was the youngest son of Chen Fa-Ke and brought the Xinjia back to Chenjiagou in 1973.

Chen Xiao Wang
Chen Style Taijiquan is enjoying worldwide popularity today, with students from all around the world traveling to Chenjiagou to study with the Chen family. The art is still taught as it was created by Chen Wangting, and the 20th and 21st generation artists still live and teach in the village.
In March 2006 , twenty seven of Master Chen Xiao Wang’s students from all over the world participated in a disciple ceremony in the Chen Village Temple. This group joins the 20th Generation, insuring that Chen Family Taijiquan will be passed on into the limitless future.

US Disciples



World Disciples with "Elder Brothers"

March China Trip Photo Album

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Related Websites of Interest
Chen Xiao Wang World Taijiquan Association Master Chen's website, managed and updated by fellow disciples Betty Dong & Chris Forde (Arizona). Information here includes his world tour dates & locations and resources to purchase study tapes, logo clothing & calligraphy.
Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego Fellow disciples Bill & Allison Helm’s website (California). This site includes great information about Chen Taijiquan, Taijiquan in general and Chinese Bodywork. Updated weekly.
The Bristol School of Tai Chi Fellow disciple Ben Milton (England)
Chinese Boxing Institute International Fellow disciple James Cravens (Tennesse, Florida)
Jarek's Chinese Martial Arts Pages Jarek Szymanski (Poland) has a treasure trove of collected and translated information on the Internal Martial Arts.
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