Taiji History Of the many theories regarding the origin of Taijiquan, one of the most widely accepted is that this tradition originated with the Chen family in the Henan province of China. Here is an excerpt from Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing (Sim and Gaffney, 2002) "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." Looking back through the generations of the Chen family lineage, several important figures rise to the fore in tracing the origins of taijiquan.
Chen Wangting 9th generation of the Chen family, was a martial artist and a scholar. He was renowned for his strength and his fighting skills. Shortly after the fall of the Ming dynasty, he retired from a military career and developed a form of martial art called "The First Method". This method incorporated jinglou yin yang theory, the energy channel theory of traditional Chinese medicine, and Qi Jigyang, the "Canon of Boxing" (classic text on strategy and martial arts developed by a well known general). Chen Wangting's taijiquan contained five sets of forms as well as one set of long fist and one set of cannon fist, for seven sets total. The emphasis was 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. Laojia Yi Lu and Laojia Er Lu are the results of this synthesis, two all inclusive forms that preserve many of the original postures and respect all of the principles of the original forms of Chen Wangting. This was a turning point in the evolution of Taijiquan since all other forms of Taijiquan were derived from the original form of Laojia Yi Lu. Historically, this skill was a closely guarded family secret and Chen Changxing was the first of the family to open the door to this knowledge to an outsider. Yang Luchan a visiting student of Chen Changxing, after persistent requests, gained permission to learn the Chen family style. Yang was instructed to never teach Chen style to the public. Hence, in order to honor his promise, Yang revised the form and named his version of the taiji from, Yang Style Taijiquan.
Chen Fa-Ke (1887-1957), the great grandson of Chen Changxing created the Xinjia (new frame) which is widely practiced in the world today. Xinjia combined the elements of Laojia Yi Lu and Laojia Er Lu, added moves, and incorporated more complex silk reeling (chan si) and explosive discharges (fajing). Chen Fa-Ke enhanced the fighting applications and made the form more efficient in practical use. These same changes were then applied to Laojia Er Lu. Chen Fa-Ke taught Chen style Taijiquan in Beijing for nearly 30 years, bringing Chen family style into public awareness.
Chen Xiao Wang (1946-)19th generation, grandson of Chen Fa-Ke, began training under his father, Chen Zhaoxu, at age 8. He also trained under Chen Zhaopei and Chen Zhaokui, becoming known as one of the four "Buddhas' Warrior Attendants", the four outstanding exponents of the 19th generation in Chenjiagou. In 1980 he won first place in the National Wushu Tournament, beginning a string of first place honors on the national level. He is the creator of two simplified forms, the 19 and 38 posture routines. He is the current standard bearer for Chen family style taijiquan.