Chen Taijiquan Survival in Chen Village Through the Difficult Years Parts 1 & 2

March 13, 2016 in Articles, Taijiquan Musings by Mo Ling

These are several very informative articles written on facebook by Warmond Fang in response to much misinformation about this fascinating history.  Copyright 2016! Posted here with permission.

Part 1:

(Taiji-guy-X was) claiming that Chen Taijiquan has no broken continuity and that what they call “old frame” in modern times is exactly what was practiced in Chen village since time immemorial and I can assure you this reading of history is incorrect and not supported by historical evidence.

It is true that all Chen Taijiquan started in Chenjiagou but due to a multitude of factors such as economic, political, natural disasters etc. Taijiquan suffered from broken continuity and what is called “old frame” or “laojia” today in Chen Village is not the same Taijiquan that has always been practiced since the advent of Chen Taiji in CJG. More accurately it was the frame that CZP brought back to Chen Village after he retired from the Yellow River Conservancy Commission in 1958 after discovering the fact that the art was near extinction in CJG.

Let’s first look at an original essay written by Chen Ke Shen (Chen Zhaopi’s son) regarding why his father was so adamant on going back to Chen Village in his old age and weathering the harsh living conditions there, instead of joining his son in Henan, Zhengzhou. I will post the original in Chinese and provide a translation after for non Chinese readers:

父亲的一生都在为传播太极拳奔忙着。他1958年退休时已六十五岁,我在郑州水利部黄河水利委员会任财务科副科长,再三恳请他老人家到郑州和我在一起生活,均遭拒绝,坚决要返回老家陈家沟定居,这是因为他知道家乡练拳者日少,担心陈氏太极拳后继无人,才甘愿回乡过着清苦的生活

My father dedicated his life to spreading taijiquan. By the time he retired in 1958, he was already 65 years old. I was at the time the Deputy Chief of Finance for the Zhengzhou Yellow River Conservancy Commission. I begged for him to come live with me in Zhengzhou but my request was flat out rejected. He insisted that he had to return to Chen Village and make his permanent home there because he knew there were few people left practicing and the situation was getting worse with each passing day. He worried that Chen Taijiquan would become extinct and that is why he was willing to go back to his hometown and endure an impoverished life.

Source: http://www.cixitjq.cn/?thread-306-1.html (reposted from Chen Zheng Lei Official site)

Article: My Father Chen Zhaopi
Author: Chen Ke Shen

From this excerpt written by Chen Ken Sen regarding his father we can establish several important historical facts:

1) Chen Zhaopi was genuinely concerned that Chen Taijiquan would become extinct at it’s birthplace in Chen Village because there was very little people practicing. He was so concerned that he gave up spending his retirement years in comfort living with his son in Zhengzhou to go back to an impoverished Chen Village. He just wouldn’t do that if Chen Taiji was totally flourishing back home in Chen Village. This gives credence to the point that there wasn’t unbroken continuity in Chen Village. Chen Zhaopi himself realized this fact which is why he went back to Chen Village to teach in the first place.

2) It establishes that when CZP returned to Chen Village, he was very elderly and 65 years old in Republican Era China is nothing to joke about, it is not the same as being 65 today in modern China. The average life expectancy of that period in China was no more than 35 years old at around the beginning of the1900’s and improving slightly to 45 years old by 1950’s. This is why in China we have a saying that goes 人生七十古来稀 (Ren Sheng Qishi Gu Lai Xi) which translates into “A life to 70 years old is ancient and rare”, by today’s standards CZP at 65 years old in 1958 would be close to 95-100 years old. That is why this old Chinese quote has to be revised for Modern China because everybody lives past 70 years old now. Again the important point here is to put things into historical context and to acknowledge the fact that CZP was well past his prime by the time he returned to Chen Village and that this has a direct bearing in understanding what limitations he might have had in terms of transmitting his Chen Taijiquan to the people in Chen Village.

In the next section, I want to establish and examine just how dire was the situation in Chen Village in terms of Chen Taijiquan going extinct and what was the actual situation on the ground was. Below, I will quote an article published by Chen Zheng Lei’s that gives a a little more detail to the situation on the ground in Chen Village in 1958. I’ve posted the original Chinese and provided a translation after.

1958年春节,陈照丕回故乡探亲。阔别故乡数十载,昔日的太极拳故乡陈家沟已经是物是人非。老一辈的拳师已经凋零殆尽(一代宗师陈发科已经于1957年在北京去世);和陈照丕同辈的拳师,历经多年的战乱,也已经所剩无几。原来陈照丕兄弟、堂兄弟十个,都练就一身太极功夫,也大都死的死,散的散——排行老九的陈发科之子陈照旭在合作化运动中,被扣上一顶反对合作化的帽子,再加上原来的“历史问题”(抗战时期加入过当地的杂牌军),锒铛入狱,1960年去世;排行老十的陈照奎远在北京。在陈家沟,只有陈发科在故乡的一个徒弟王燕还在带着几个人练习太极拳,但也已经呈日薄西山之景。解放以后这些年,一场运动接着一场运动,村里人谁还有心思练拳呀!昔日那种“喝喝陈沟水,都会翘翘腿”的拳乡盛景已成绝响,昔日兴旺的拳社也早已绝迹。

眼看着故乡的太极拳濒临消亡,六十五岁的陈照丕老人潸然泪下。年轻时,为了传播太极拳,他走南闯北,足迹遍及大半个中国,他还著书立说,出版了《陈氏太极拳汇宗》。现在,人到老年,荣归故里,却发现原来自己一生为之奋斗的太极拳事业,在故乡——太极拳的发源地,却后继无人了!这怎能不让他感到伤心?

陈照丕心急如焚。返回郑州后,他毅然做出决定:退休,回到家乡陈家沟去,不惜自己的衰朽之年,拼着自己这一把老骨头,也要把太极拳的薪火传递下去。“咱们家传的拳艺,传了十几代了,不能断在我这一辈手里。”他对儿女们说。当时,陈照丕的儿子也在黄河水利委员会工作,担任财务科副科长,娶妻生子,一家人在郑州过着安逸的日子。见父亲要退休回陈家沟,儿子坚决反对。解放前在南京传拳时,陈照丕又娶了一位南京的太太,被孩子们称为新五娘。老太太跟着陈照丕在陈家沟住了些日子,终究是城市人,习惯不了北方农村生活,现在见陈照丕着了魔似的要回陈家沟,也是坚决反对。
“咱们家成分不好,是地主,您回去肯定受歧视。”儿子说。
“你回去吧。我不去,看你一个孤老头子怎么生活。”老伴儿说。

单位的同事也劝陈照丕,说现在就办退休手续,只能拿百分之四十的退休金;再等几个月,可能会有新政策下来,就能拿百分之六十的退休金。“最好再等等。”同事说。

可是,陈照丕一天也不能等了。“我不是为了钱,不给我退休金,我也要回家。我不能看着陈家沟的太极拳后继无人。”
就这样,1958年春天,陈照丕回到了陈家沟。

During the Chinese New Year of 1958, Chen Zhaopi returned to Chen Village to visit relatives. He had been away for decades. The founding birthplace of Taijiquan was not be found anymore. The older generation of masters were old, withered or dead (Grandmaster Chen Fake had passed away in Beijing in 1957). Those family members that were of the same generation as Chen Zhaopi experienced years of war and chaos and and not many of them remained. Originally, including Chen Zhaopi’s brother and cousins, there were 10 in his generation and all had possessed taiji gongfu skills, the majority of them were either dead or scattered around the country. Ranking ninth in seniority was Chen Zhaoxu, the son of Chen Fake. During the forced collectivization of farmland policy of the Communists, he was charged with being anti-farm collectivization and added with his already historical problems (During the War of Resistance with Japan, he was part of a local militia) he was imprisoned and passed away in 1960. Tenth in seniority was Chen Zhaokui, who was far away in Beijing. In Chen Village, there was only one student of Chen Fake whose name was Wang Yan, that still taught a couple of students in Taijiquan. He however, was already in his twilight years and approaching the end of his days. After the communist victory, there were political movements after political movements, the people in the village no longer had the heart to practice taijquan. The days of the past where Chen Village was known as the place where “If you drank the water in Chen Village, you would know martial arts” had vanished The glory days of a thriving Taijiquan community had become extinct long ago.

Witnessing that Taijiquan in his hometown was on the verge of extinction, the elderly 65 year old Chen Zhaopi shed a tear. In his youth, to further spread the art of Taijiquan, he travelled over half of China and published a book “Chen Shi Taijiquan Huizong”. Now, in his old age returning home with pride and glory, he had discovered that the taijiquan he dedicated his life to spreading had no successors in its hometown and founding brithplace. How could he not be sad?

Chen Zhaopi was desperate and exasperated. He returned to to Zhenghou and resolutely made the decision to retire and return to his hometown of Chen Village. Despite being in his decrepit and twilight years, he was going to single handedly use his “old bones” (metaphor for elderly/senior) to pass on Taijiquan. “He was quoted as saying to his children “Our family art has been passed on for a dozen generations, it cannot go extinct at the hands of my generation”

At the time, Chen Zhaopi’s son was woking as the Deputy Chief of Finance for the Zhengzhou Yellow River Water Conservancy Commission, he was married and with his children lived a happy and stable life in Zhengzhou. When he learned that his father wanted to retire and return to Chen Village, he was adamantly against this. Before the Communist victory, Chen Zhaopi had taken a second wife while teaching in Nanjing whom his children referred to as “wu niang”. She had lived with Chen Zhaopi in Chen Village for a little bit but being an urbanite was not able to adapt to the rural life of northern China. Upon seeing that Chen Zhaopi wanted to return to Chen Village permanently, she was also adamantly against this idea.

His son told him “ Our family background is not good, we are landlords, if you return you will suffer from discrimination”

His wife said ”You can return, but I am not going. Let’s see how you will survive as alone as an elderly man.”

His co-workers at his work unit also tried to convince him not to retire. They said “if you retire now you will only be able to receive 40% of your retirement pension. If you wait a couple more months, there might be a new policy in place and you will be able to get 60% of your pension. your best option is to wait a bit longer”.

Chen Zhaopi could not wait another day. “I am not doing this for money, even if I don’t receive a retirement pension, I still must return home. I cannot watch the Taijiquan in Chen Village go extinct.”

Article Name: The Teacher of the 4 Tigers of Chen Village – ChenZhaopi
Source: Chen Zheng Lei
http://www.czl.cn/html/tjwh/tjdfz/3817.html

Note 1: There’s a famous rhyme that goes “喝喝陈沟水,都会翘翘腿” (He he Chengou Shui, dou hui qiao qiao tui” This translates directly has one who has drank the water in Chen Village will know how to kick a bit. It’s a metaphor to describe that there was a strong martial arts culture in the village and if you were from there, you were fluent in martial arts in some degree.

Note 2: Political Movements after political movements refer to the Anti Rightist Campaign, Anti-Landlord Campaigns, Forced Collectivization which was part of the Great Leap Forward. The Chen family would have been hit in all these campaigns for being landlords and then they would have had all their lands taken from them during the forced collectivization period. Also some Chen family members such as Chen Zhaoxu had ties to the local militia affiliated with the KMT (Guomindang, the previous regime that ruled China and lost to the communist in the Chinese Civil War)This would land him in jail an eventual death in 1960. Chen Zhaohai who is Chen Zhaopi’s brother and Chen Zheng Lei’s father was also executed by the communists for having relations to the militia of the KMT. All in all this was a bad time to be a Chen and it certainly adds to why there wasn’t many people practicing or many people teaching.

Here there are some important historical facts to Note:

1) According to the observations of Chen Zhaopi, upon his return to Chen Village he found almost nobody practicing taijiquan and that many of the old masters were either too old, dead or not present in Chen Village even among his own generation. Only one student of Chen Fake was mentioned by name “Wang Yan” as teaching a couple of students.

2) The communist regime were not friendly to the Chen family and many got disheartened and discouraged with practicing taijiquan as struggling for survival under the new regime took first priority. Chen Zhaopi’s own son was concerned for Chen Zhaopi’s well being for returning to Chen Village because of their landlord background in communist China.

3) Bringing this back to my earlier point. Chen Zhaopi had a real fear about Taijiquan going extinct in Chen Village such that he left his son and his wife in Zhengzhou and went back alone at 65 years old. He also gave up a large chunk of his pension as well to retire and leave his work unit early. If the situation wasn’t as bad as it were, I cannot see why CZP would do this especially since his son had a very good job and comfortable life in Zhengzhou and wanted Chen Zhaopi to stay in Zhengzhou with him.

Furthermore, his son pointed out that he would face political persecution and discrimination if he returned to Chen Village. We can thus surmise from all these factors that in fact Chen Taijiquan in Chen Village was in serious trouble of going extinct and it was these extreme times that caused Chen Zhaopi to take extreme measures to go back to Chen Village. In this context, how can one honestly argue that there wasn’t a continuity problem in the Village line!? I have a lot more to write so I’m going to end this post here for now because there’s just too much material to cover and translating is just too time consuming. But we should all really critically look at this historical context and then think about the delveopment and evolution of Chen Taijiquan and the issue of continuity between the different lines.

Part2:

This is the second article to follow up on the previous one I wrote about Chen Zhaopi’s reasons for returning to Chen Village due to the decline and near extinction of Chen Taijiquan as narrated by his son Chen Ke Sen. I previously also gave an account of the observations Chen Zhao Pi made upon his return to Chen Village as described by Chen Zhenglei.

This article will describe the situation from the point of view of Zhang Weizhen who was then the Village head and Communist Party Secretary of Chen Village. He is an important figure in understanding Chen Village history as he played an important role in in the following ways:

1) Welcoming Chen Zhaopi back to Chen Village to teach Taijiquan

2) Protecting the Chen Family during the period of the destroy the old 4 campaign and up until the Cultural Revolution until he himself was persecuted

3) Post cultural revolution he played a vital role in inviting Chen Zhaokui back to teach in Chen Village and after the death of Chen Zhaokui, he also was instrumental in inviting Feng Zhiqiang back to teach in Chen Village.

There’s a lot of material to cover since this will cover a historical period from Wold War 2 all the way to post cultural revolution (I doubt I will get to the Cultural revolution part, too much material). All original Chinese sources will be posted in original Chinese and translated in English thereafter. Sources and links to source material will be provided.

Taichi Tang, brought up a series of claims which if I have space in this article I will address otherwise I will address them in a separate post. I like your enthusiasm but your scholarship is sloppy, can you please provide evidence to your claims please?

I want to start off by translating sections from an an article published by the Chen Taijiquan Research Academy and Wenxian Martial Arts Association that documents Zhang Weizhen narrating the history and development of Chen Taijiquan in Chen Village. The article is titled “ Zhang Weizhen saves Chen style Taijiquan at a Critical Time”. I have posted the article in it’s entirety but only translated the parts I thought were relevant to the discussion.

“陈式太极拳在过去非常发达兴旺,但是在解放后的一段时间差点断了烟火,如果不是当时方法得当,恐怕陈式太极拳只能成为历史。”今年已经70岁的河南省温县陈家沟村主任张蔚珍提及这段历史,总让人感到一种欣慰。日前,记者在温县太极拳发源地陈家沟采访时候,张蔚珍给记者讲述了陈式太极拳发展历史上一段惊险的而又鲜为人知的故事。

“Chen Style Taijiquan was in the past flourishing, but in the period of time after the communist liberation, it was very close to becoming extinct. If not for the fact that certain actions were taken in time, I’m afraid Chen Style Taijiquan would have become a footnote in history. “When 70 year old Zhang Weizhen, the current Henan, Wenxian, Chenjiagou village director discusses this part of history it gives people a feeling of relief and comfort. Yesterday, when reporters were conducting interviews in the birthplace of Taijiquan, Chen Village, Zhang Weizhen narrated a surprising and little known part of history in the development of Chen Taijiquan.

Article Name: Zhang Weizhen Saves Chen Taijiquan at a Critical Moment
Source: Chen Taijiquan Research Academy And Wenxian Wushu Association
http://www.cntjq.net/article-3843-1.html

“过去,太极拳非常兴旺发达,作为一种武术形式,它随着社会潮流的兴衰而兴衰的。”张蔚珍这样总结太极拳的发展内因。他介绍说,1941年,陈家沟等地区遭受到了严重的蝗灾,加上国民党反对派的扰乱,陈家沟一带形成了横尸遍野甚至人吃人的悲惨景象,由于连吃饭都是问题,陈式太极拳曾一度中断。俗话说,“穷修文、富习武”,当年景逐渐转好之后,先前那些逃荒要饭的群众又回到陈家沟安居乐业,一度中断的陈式太极拳又开始演练了起来。

Zhang Weizhen summarized the development of Taijiquan with the following: “In the past, Taijiquan was flourishing and thriving as a martial art but it thrived and declined with changes in trends in society.” According to him, in 1941, Chen Village and surrounding areas suffered from a severe plague of locusts and disruptions from the KMT (Guomindang). Chen Village and the surrounding area became a desolate area strewn with corpses and even tragic scenes of cannibalism. Because even basic sustenance was a problem, the continuity of Chen Taijiquan was broken in the past. There is a colloquial saying “ The poor study the intellectual arts and the rich study martial arts”. As the situation slowly improved, those who fled Chen village slowly returned and settled down in Chen Village. It was at this time that the broken continuity of Chen Taijiquan was reconnected once again.

Article Name: Zhang Weizhen Saves Chen Taijiquan at a Critical MomentSource: Chen Taijiquan Research Academy And Wenxian Wushu Association
http://www.cntjq.net/article-3843-1.html

Here some things I want to make note of:

1) In the 1940’s, Chen Village suffered from a locust swarm and warfare at the same time. He describes the situation as a desolate area strewn with corpses and even scenes of cannibalism. This brings me back to some earlier points I brought up in my first article. That is, in this type of environment it seems unlikely that any type of practice of taijiquan would be going on given the dire circumstances.

2) This is a pretty straight forward point, people in Chen Village couldn’t feed themselves so teaching and practicing of Chen Taijiquan stopped. The exact Chinese he uses is 陈式太极拳曾一度中断, the key word to take from this sentence is the last two characters “中断“ (zhong duan) which translates into English as discontinue, disconnect, discontinuity. Again this should raise important questions regarding the claim that there was no broken continuity in transmission in Chen Village.

In the next section I want to look at the more factual details of what actually happened on the ground in Chen Village as a result of a deadly locust induced famine and warfare. Again the following is a recount of events by Zhang Weizhen, the communist party secretary and village director of Chen Village.

谈到太极拳,陈家沟人不会忘记“四大金刚”。而“四大金刚”是如何培养出来的,陈家沟只有年龄稍大的人才知道。谈起那一段历史,张蔚珍面色凝重。张蔚珍告诉记者,从1943年开始,太极拳遭遇了一场空前的劫难,几近失传,其中原因只能用天灾人祸来形容。1943年,温县遭受了严重的自然灾害,不仅粮食颗粒无收,而且日寇不断骚扰抢掠,无可奈何的陈家沟人只好外出逃荒。那几年,逃荒成了陈家沟人惟一的出路。据老人们回忆,当年陈家沟有4000余口人,单是逃往西安的就有800多人。村里只剩下一些老人,哪还有心思练拳!仅仅几年工夫,会拳的人日渐生疏,不会拳的人没有机会学拳,太极拳面临失传的危险。

好不容易盼到了解放,外出逃荒的陈家沟人陆续回到了家乡,但在回来的人中几乎没有人会太极拳。当时,陈家沟已经没有几个人知道太极拳了。又过了几年,家乡的情况好了一些,在陆续回来的人中终于有了两个懂太极拳的人,他们是村里的拳师王廷选和陈克忠。虽然两个人的武功不错,但是由于成分不好,不敢出来教这种涉嫌“四旧”的太极拳。1953年,陈家沟学校年轻的教师党运峰、张奎元、王忠士知道王庭选会太极拳,晚上把他请到学校,让他教太极拳。这是解放以后陈家沟最早的学拳、练拳活动。

1957年,太极拳大师陈照丕退休回乡,看到陈式太极拳的现状,心里十分着急。他多次对村里有影响的人说,太极拳是国之瑰宝,决不能丢掉,更不能失传。在他的呼吁下,陈小旺、陈正雷、王西安、朱天才开始跟他学拳。他们的练拳活动引起了村里另一位拳师陈克忠的注意,陈克忠主动出来教他们练太极拳。陈克忠教的是小架,学生主要是陈俊凌、陈柏元等。

In discussing taijiquan, no one in Chen Village will forget the “4 tigers” but only the older generations in Chen Village will know how they came to be cultivated. In discussing this piece of history, Zhang Weizhen’s face turns serious. Zhang Weizhen told reporters starting in 1943, taijiquan suffered an unprecedented catastrophe and nearly became extinct. Among the many reasons for this one can only use the term natural disaster to describe the situation. In 1943, Wenxian suffered a very serious natural disaster. Not only was there a food shortage, the Japanese also were constantly plundering the village. The helpless residents of Chen Village hand no choice but to flee from famine. In those years, fleeing famine became the only option for survival for the people in Chen Village. According to recollections from the older residents, during that time period Chen Village had a population of about 4000 people, of which 800 or so fled to to Xi’an alone (Development of Chen Quanzhong Branch begins here). Inside the village only a handful of elderly people remained, so who would have their minds focused on practicing taijiquan? In just a couple of short years, the number of people who still knew Taijiquan became far and few. Those who did not know taijiquan had no chance of learning Taijiquan and as a result was facing the danger of extinction.

Finally the Communist victory came and those who previously fled the village started to slowly return home to Chen Village but of those who returned, virtually none of them knew Taijiquan. At the time, there were no more than a few people who knew Taijiquan at all. A few more years passed, the situation in Chen Village improved somewhat and from the many returnees, there were finally 2 people who knew Taijiquan. They were masters‘ Wang Ting Xuan and Chen Ke Zhong. While both had decent gong fu skills, they were very reluctant to openly teach taijiquan because their family background was not good. They did not want to go against the prevailing Mao ideology of destroying “The 4 olds”. In 1953, a group of young teachers at the Chen Village elementary school: Dang Yuan Feng, Zhang Kui Yuan, Wang Zhong Shi knew that Wang Ting Xuan knew taijiquan so they invited him to teach them at the school in the evenings. This was the earliest instance of any type of activity in the teaching and learning of Taijiquan since the communist victory in the civil war.

In 1957, Taijiquan master, Chen Zhaopi retired and returned to Chen Village, seeing the current state of Taijiquan he felt very desperate. He told the residents of the village who were of any influence on multiple occasions that Taijiquan was a spiritual treasure of the nation. It cannot be lost and certainly cannot go extinct. At his calling Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenglei, Wang Xi’an and Zhu Tiancai began their study with Chen Zhaopi. Their Taiji classes caught the attention of Chen Ke Zhong another Taijiquan master in the village. He was motivated by their classes to come out and openly teach taijiquan. Chen Ke Zhong taught the Chen Taijquan Small Frame and his primary students included Chen Junling and Chen Bo Yuan etc (Present day master Chen Boxiang is from this lineage).

Article Name: Entering the Birthplace of Taijiquan – Chenjiagou

Source: Chen Taijiquan Research Academy & Wenxian Wushu Association

http://www.cntjq.net/article-3587-1.html

Notes:

1) According to Zhang Weizhen, there was a massive exodus from Chen Village due to famine and warfare. He notes that 800 or so of a total population 4,000 at the time fled to Xi’an alone. That’s 20% of the Chen Village population gone to just one city. While the actual number of people who fled was unknown, he does note that only old people were left and most did not know taijiquan. This means many of the skilled masters fled Chen Village during this time, including the branch that would include Chen Quanzhong. The small frame lineage of Chen Ke Zhong also fled at this time and he did not return until the end of the Chinese Civil war close to a decade later. Chen Quanzhong and Chen Liqing would both make Xi’an their permanent home and did not return to Chen Village. So what we have here are famine, mass starvation, cannibalism, warfare, plundering by both KMT forces and Japanese forces and on top of that a massive exodus from the village to all parts of China. I invite everyone to think about this broken continuity problem in this historical context. The evidence suggests that broken continuity was inevitable all things considered.

2) At the conclusion of World War 2, he notes that few of the returnees from the exodus knew taijiquan in the village and the only ones with any skill were Wang Ting Xuan and Chen Ke Zhong. However, they did not teach because of Mao’s “Destroy the 4 Old” Campaign. According to Zhang, the first sign of any teaching and learning of Chen Taijiquan happened in 1953, when Wang Ting Xuan taught elementary teachers secretly at night inside the school. That’s 4 years after the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War and at least a decade since the beginning of the Exodus from Chen Village in the early 1940’s. Basically we have a situation where there was no taiji being practice for a decade plus because of famine and war. Again think about that in terms of continuity.

3) Zhang notes that Chen Ke Zhong did not start to teach the small frame until 1958 being motivated by Chen Zhaopi’s own efforts to teach. So we can see that even small frame lineage probably had continuity problems inside the village especially in the context where a large portion of the Chen Family packed up and left. Chen Liqing and her family of small frame practitioners would be included in this part of history. Again Chen Liqing never returned to Chen Village and made Xi’an her permanent home.

In the next section I want to translate an article that was published in the Southern Weekly Magazine written by Dai Zhi Yong who was conducting an interview with Chen Zhenglei and republished by Phoenix News Network. In this interview he gives an account about some of the Chen Masters in the 1950’s mainly his own father Chen Zhaohai and that of Chen Zhaoxu (Chen Xiaowang’s father).

1958年,陈照丕回家这一年,陈正雷9岁,陈小旺13岁。陈正雷的父亲陈照海跟陈照丕是亲兄弟,都是陈登科的儿子。陈照海在1945年前是温县保安大队队长,掌兵权,参与抗日,一直到日本投降。共产党在当地成立政府后,陈照海写了一个报告,和手枪一起,交给了一个共产党的地下工作人员,便出门到郑州去经商。

1949年郑州刚解放,陈正雷出生在郑州。“那年阴历十月,我四个月大时,有人去叫我父亲,说你回去到县里把你过去的事说清楚。他说,我已经把枪交了,材料都写得很清楚了。郑州很多朋友都不让他回去,还有人让他去台湾,他说,我又没血债,而且也没参加三年内战,我怕什么?”

没想到一回去就被关进了温县城法院。陈正雷的妈妈听说丈夫回不来了,找了个毛驴,把行李服装一装,包着四个月大的陈正雷就送回了陈家沟。陈父捎话说,要看看孩子。“我父亲大我五十岁,我们家乡有种传说,如果是老来得子,看到后他要咬掉一个手指头。”家里人担心他咬掉小正雷的指头,没送。

陈照海被关进去一年后,赶上大镇反。“当时的政策是,只要保长、宪兵连长以上的,统统枪毙。结果,拉出去就崩了。”回忆这段往事,陈正雷心下黯然:“我对父亲一点印象也没有。”陈小旺的父亲几年后也遭遇不幸。张蔚珍说:“他是1955年被逮捕的,四五年后,死于狱中。

”In 1958, the year Chen Zhaopi returned to Chen Village, Chen Zhenglei was 9 years old and Chen Xiaowang was 13 years old. Chen Zhenglei’s father Chen Zhaohai was the brother of Chen Zhaopi. They were both sons of Chen Deng Ke. In 1945, Chen Zhaohai was the captain of the Wenxian Security Brigade. He had control of the local troops and participated in the War against the Japanese until their eventual surrender. When the Communists established their own local government in the area, Chen Zhaohai wrote a report and together with his handgun handed them to the local communist underground intelligence operative. After that, he left for Zhengzhou to engage in commerce.

In 1949, Zhengzhou was liberated by the communists and Chen Zhenglei was born in Zhengzhou. “It was October of the Lunar Calendar that year, when I was 4 months old a person came to find my father and told him he had to return to Wenxian to explain the events of his past. He said he had already handed in his report prior along with his handgun. Many of his friends in Zhengzhou tried to convince him not to go and some even tried to persuade him to flee to Taiwan. Chen Zhaohai told them “ I don’t have any previous blood feuds and I did not participate in the 3 year Chinese Civil War. What do I need to be afraid of?”

He couldn’t have known that as soon as he returned to Wenxian he would be arrested and locked in the Wenxian courthouse. When Chen Zhenglei’s mother heard that her husband wasn’t coming back she found a donkey, packed her bags and holding a 4 month old Chen Zhenglei returned to Chen Village. My father had sent word that he wanted to see his child. “My father was older than me by 50 years, in our family there is a saying, if you get a son in your old age, when you see your child you have to bite off one of their fingers.” Chen Zhenglei’s relatives were worried his father might bite off Chen Zhenglei’s finger so they did not send him to see his father.

Chen Zhaohai was imprisoned for one year and then the communists initiated the Repress the Anti-Revolution Movement (1950). The policy at the time was anyone who served the previous regime as a Security Captain, gendarme, or company commander or above were to all be executed. As a result, my father was dragged out and executed. When talking about this part of his past, Chen Zhenglei dejectedly said “I have no impression and recollection of my father at all.” Chen Xiaowang’s father (Chen Zhaoxu) would also suffer a similar fate a couple years later. Zhang Weizhen said” He (Chen Zhaoxu) was arrested in 1955 and 4-5 years later died in jail.

Notes:

1) Chen Zhaopi had mentioned that in his 10th generation many Chen members were either dead, missing or not in Chen village. The above account by Chen Zhenglei, indicates that his father Chen Zhaohai was not in Chen Village at the end of world ward 2 and had relocated to Zhengzhou. He stayed there until 1949 where he returned and was imprisoned and subsequently executed in 1950. Therefore he would not have been able to teach anyone taijiquan. Chen Zhenglei was 4 months old at the time so it’s obvious he learned nothing from his father.

2) Chen Zhaoxu was arrested in 1955 and died in jail in 1960. That means that Chen Xiaowang was 10 years old at the time and Chen Xiaoxing was 3 years old. Assuming generously that Chen Xiaowang started his training at 5 years old, he would have only learned from his father no more than 5 years and its unlikely Chen Xiaoxing learned anything because he was 3 years old. This gives a strong indication of how much Chen Zhaoxu passed on to his 2 children which of course wasn’t much at all.

3) We can see based on this precedent and treatment of the Chen Family by the communists, it is not at all surprising that many were reluctant to teach taijiquan at all. We see 2 distinguished 10th generation masters killed by the communists. Again something to think about when pondering this messy continuity issue.

Article: The Inheritance of Chenjiagou Chen Taijiquan: Because Taijiquan was Illegal in the past, no one dare practice.

Source: Chen Zhenglei

http://news.ifeng.com/…/…/detail_2013_09/09/29431578_0.shtml

Basically starting form around World War II, Chen village suffered from famine, warfare and plundering. This led to a max exodus of the population from Chen Village to other parts of China with Xi’an being the biggest destination with about 20% of the Chen Village population moving there. Then even after the Communist victory only 2 renowned masters with skill return namely Wang Ting Xuan and Chen Ke Zhong, but they refuse to teach for fear of persecution and Wang Ting Xuan doesn’t teach secretly until 1953 and Chen Ke Zhong doesn’t start until 1958.

Chen Zhenglei’s father is arrested in 1949 and dies in 1950 before he could teach anyone and Chen Zhaoxu is arrested in 1955 and dies in 1960 also leaving him very little time to teach anything. Again CXW was 10 at the time and assuming he started his training at 5 he couldn’t have learned more than 5 years from his father but starting at age 5, what he could have learned would have been limited. Chen Xiaoxing was 3 when his father was arrested so he probably learned nothing from his father. Including the previously mentioned Wang Yan, in my first article, we have a total of about no more than 3 Chen Teachers teaching by 1958 and many of the skilled teachers were killed or moved away from the village before 1958. The historical evidence is that Chen village had at least a lost decade in its transmission of its family art.

This whole translating business is time consuming but I want to lay out the history with facts and evidence to make my point. I’m really going out of my way, above and beyond the call of duty to share this history of Chen Taijiquan so if you disagree with any parts of what I’m writing, I welcome you to state your opinion and challenge what I wrote. I expect only the courtesy that you please provide factual evidence for your claims and not just make random claims and statements. I find it really tiring and annoying to debate and answer claims that are not supported by historical evidence or facts.

I still have more material to cover that will lead into the period of the Cultural Revolution which gets really interesting as far as the history is concerned but again it will have to wait until I have more time as translating the articles is just time consuming.

Part 3 will follow soon (I believe)