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Chen Wang Ting



Chen Wangting: (1600 – 1680) was part of the 9th generation of the Chen family and originator of Tai Chi . In his early life he served in the army and defeated over 1,000 bandits.

During the Ming Dynasty, Chen served as Commander of the Wen County garrison, and was distinguished for his protection of merchant caravans in Henan and Shandong. After the Ming Dynasty ended and the reign of the Qing Dynasty began, Chen's military career was effectively over, and he retired to the family settlement.

He was codifying the pre-existing martial arts training of his Village, Chen Wang Ting created Tai Chi by integrating the skills of different martial art styles with elements of Chinese philosophy, key principles of Yin and Yang (complementary opposites), Dao Yin (leading/guiding energy) techniques, as well as theories drawn from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

His complete work contained five smaller sets of forms, a 108-move Long Fist routine, and a Cannon Fist routine, Chen Broadsword, Chen Spear, and push hands. Chen is also credited with the invention of the first push hands exercises.

Major Contributor

The special nature of Tai Chi Chuan practice was attributed to the ninth generation Chen Village leader, Chen Wangting (陳王廷; 陈王庭; 1580–1660). He codified pre-existing Chen training practice into a corpus of seven routines. This included five routines of tai chi chuan (太極拳五路), 108 form Long Fist (一百零八勢長拳)and a more rigorous routine known as Cannon Fist (炮捶一路). Chen Wangting integrated different elements of Chinese philosophy into the martial arts training to create a new approach that we now recognize as the Internal martial arts. He added the principles of Yin-Yang theory (阴阳; the universal principle of complementary opposites), the techniques of Daoyin (leading and guiding energy), Tu na (expelling and drawing energy), the Chinese medical theory of energy (气功) and Chinese medical theory of the meridians (经络). Those theories encountered in Classical Chinese Medicine and described in such texts as the Huang Di Nei Jing (《黃帝內經》; Yellow Emperor's Canon of Chinese Medicine). In addition, Wangting incorporated the boxing theories from sixteen different martial art styles as described in the classic text, Ji Xiao Xin Shu(繼效新書; “New Book Recording Effective Techniques”; ~ 1559–1561) written by the Ming General Qi Jiguang (戚繼光; 1528–1588).

Also see: Chen Bu, Chen Chang-Xing, Chen You-Ben.

Compiling Taijiquan

Please see original article at

In the middle period of emperor Wanli (1573-1620; his other name was Zhu Yijun) Chenjiagou's Chen clan, counted from the first ancestor, Chen Bu, reached already ninth generation. Just at this time, a shining star on the sky of martial arts was born among nine generation descendants - it was Chen Wangting, later famous for compiling Taijiquan.

Chen Wangting (1600-1680) was also called Qinting. His grandfather, Sigui (Chen Si-gui), held a position of Dianshi (Dianshi was an official position established during Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and later kept during Ming Dynasty as continuation of old tradition; Dianshi was a low-rank official under authority of county magistrate; for many dynasties there was a position of Wei who was responsible for catching bandits, however Ming Dynasty abolished Wei and (…) Dianshi was responsible for tax collecting; since again during Qing Dynasty Dianshi was mainly responsible for county jail and police tasks, so Dianshi was often referred to as Wei) in Shaanxi Province Didao County (in today's Gansu Province). Chen Wangting's father, Chen Fu-min, held a position of Zhengshilang (well-educated person nominated to official position through imperial edict). Wangting was the second of Chen Fu-min's four sons.

Chen Wangting was very talented and diligent, and studied hard since early childhood, practicing martial arts in the mornings and studying literature in the evenings. He not only received true transmission of family boxing, stand out of the common run, but was also well acquainted in classics of various traditional schools of thought, had great learning. When he grew up he became a man well versed in both martial arts and literature, exceptionally skilful in boxing and weapons, with extraordinary consummate skill of Qinggong (Light Skill, climbing high walls and walking on roofs). In his youth he escorted merchants' caravans in Shandong Province and defeated crowds of bandits; thieves and robbers were trembling with fear on hearing of his name. Since Chen Wangting had red and solemn face, long beard, used to ride a dark horse and hold halberd, his friends from martial arts circles gave him a nickname of “Second Master Guan” (e.g. Guan Yu, a hero from a novel “The Romance of Three Kingdoms”). During the reign of Ming Dynasty emperor Chongzhen (1628-1644) Chen Wangting was promoted by county magistrate and was in charge of township garrison.

At the end of Ming Dynasty, Chen Wangting, already a Xiangsheng (military Xiucai, a person who passed imperial examination at the county level) went to the township to participate in Wuju examinations (imperial examination at the provincial level). During the examination his extraordinary archery skill, “Phoenix seizes the nest” (shooting arrows one by one into the red circle inside the target so that each next one pushes out and replaces the former one), put out other participants.

However since Chen killed a person during the examination he had to flee the examination ground and went to Dengfeng to join the leader of peasant uprising Li Ji-yu and avoid misfortune.

Later Chen Wangting went back to his home village to live in seclusion. After the uprising was defeated and Li Ji-yu and his family were sentenced to death, one of Li's high-ranking officers, Jiang Fa, disguised himself and went to Chenjiagou as a servant. In order to deceive the outsiders, everybody in Chenjiagou was calling Jiang Fa “Jiang Bashi” (Bashi was in older times the name for long-term and seasonal laborers). Chen and Jiang were publicly known as master and servant, but actually they were bosom friends, everyday exchanging boxing skills, ploughing and teaching children. There are many stories that have been passed up to now in Chenjiagou, like “The heroes from Yudai Mountains became friends”, “Chen Wangting accepts Jiang Fa as his brother”, “Master and disciple from Mumenzhai demand the cow”, “Jiang Fa puts down evil spirits at Yanghaiwa”.

It is worth mentioning that since Jiang Fa had certain contribution when Chen Wangting was creating Taijiquan and was Chen's good friend and disciple, later Jiang Fa's name was also recorded in Taijiquan boxing manuals. On the picture of Chen Wangting, which is still kept in Chen Family Shrine, Jiang Fa is the person who stands behind Chen and carries halberd. Chen Xin-lan, 76-years old (the book was published in 1992) lady from Chenjiagou, tells the following story:

Chen Wangting and Jiang Fa (holding the halberd) (to see the image please visit the original article at

“I remember my grandfather saying, there was a place called Xiao Wu Chakou (“Crossing of Five Little Roads”) on the way to South Zhangqiang at the north-west of our village, around that place there were only old graves, eight poplars grew there, the place was low-lying, so people used to call it Yanghaiwa (Sea Depression among Poplars). There was a lot of trees there and the place was overgrown with weeds, very secluded, and ghosts and goblins, demons and monsters were appearing there and harming people. No matter if that was true or not, no people dared to pass through that place at night; even if somebody had an urgent necessity, he would still prefer to take a longer way around. After Jiang Fa passed away, since he did not belong to the family and could not be buried at the old Chen clan cemetery, some people suggested that he should be buried at Xiao Wu Chakou. Since Jiang Fa was very skillful at martial arts and upright, he certainly could put down wandering souls. As a result, people from the village burried Jiang Fa at Xiao Wu Chaokou. It was really strange, but since then the whole place became peacefull and quite. When I was a child the grave was still there and there was a stone tablet erected in front of it. Grandfather told me that this was the grave of Jiang Bashi. Since I could not read at that time, I do not know what was written there. The tablet was still there in 1958, later it disappeared. When older brother Ziming was still alive (Chen Zi-ming, ?-1951, famous martial artist from Chenjiagou, who wrote a book “Chen Family Taijiquan Method passed Through Generations”) he often pointed at the western (two) rooms of Chen Wangting's old courtyard and was telling me: “Jiang Fa passed away in these rooms”. Only after these two rooms collapsed they were pulled down, about thirty years ago; this is the courtyard Chen Tang lives now. Although Jiang Fa's grave was leveled later, but I still remember its approximate position.”

Bio from Chen Zi-Ming's book

By Chen Zi-Ming as translated by Paul Brennan.

Chen Wangting, called Zouting, lived during the reigns of Emperor Chongzhen [1627–1644] and Emperor Kangxi [1662–1722]. By the end of the Ming Dynasty [1644], both natural and man-made disasters were occurring, and local government officials had ceased to care about the hardships of the people, who were being taxed severely and for every little thing. In Dengfeng County, the people had no ability to pay for grain. Feeling oppressed by the government, they thus rose up in rebellion, appointing Li Jiyu, a successful candidate in the provincial military examinations, as the head of their cause. Chen, who was Li’s friend, was sent to stop him. He did his best to persuade him, but Li would not listen, however he did promise not to violate the borders of Wen County. Later at the Manchu capital [Beijing], Li was defeated and his whole family was executed with him.   There was a man named Jiang who became a servant to Chen. One day, Chen ordered his horse saddled so he could go hunting beside the Yellow River. A rabbit suddenly appeared and bolted away. Jiang then chased it and caught it before he had even gone a hundred paces. Chen remembered that Li had an officer under his command who was able to walk so quick that he seemed to be flying, who even horses could not catch up with. He asked Jiang if he was indeed that man. Chen left behind a portrait of himself with a man standing next to him holding a halberd. It has been said that this man is Jiang Fa.   Brilliant in both literary and military affairs, Chen thus created Taiji Boxing. He has left us a free-verse poem, through which we can catch a glimpse of his life:

I sigh for years past, oh those days of battle [“donning armor and brandishing a weapon”], vanquishing hordes of bandits, so many moments of risk and danger. I was bestowed with imperial favor – meaningless. Now I am old and weary, and I have ended up with only a copy of the Daoist Yellow Courtyard Classic as my companion.   When boredom sets in, I create boxing sets. When busy, I plow the fields. In my free time, I teach some students and grandkids, then I leave it to them to become dragons and tigers in their own time.   I spent all my pension long ago, and still I have debts to pay. To be either arrogant or flattering won’t work. To be stoic and humble is the key.   Everyone says I’m naïve. Everyone says I’m backward. I often hear these things, but I make no effort to clean up my act.   I laugh at every household of nobility. All their finicky concerns do not compare to my heart that hasn’t a care. I seek neither fame nor wealth. I see through their little intrigues and know all about their compulsion to imitate the fashion [“Handan’s Learning-to-Walk Bridge”].   I am content [fishing on the waters]. I feel at home [among the mountains and rivers]. [To be prosperous is of no importance. To be destitute is of no importance.   Imagine a world at peace, where indifference for getting more stuff was the norm, no envy, no greed. What’s the point of worrying about the ways of this world and its snobbery for arbitrary appearances? Success is of no importance. Failure is of no importance.   Is this not what is means to be an “immortal”? If not, then is anyone?

taiji/chen_wang_ting.txt · Last modified: 2019/04/27 05:00 by serena