Remembering Grandmaster Chen Zhaokui


Grandmaster Chen Zhao Kui, the 18th generation Gatekeeper of Chen style Tai Chi, passed away 22 years ago. His name is very well known and remembered by a lot of Chen style Tai Chi lovers in the world. Indeed, almost every Chen style practitioner has heard about Grandmaster Chen Zhao Kui. In august of 2002 I was appointed by USAWKF (United States of America Wushu Kung Fu Federation) to be the head coach of the USA team competing in the International Tai Chi Festival held in Chen village, city of Jiao Zuo, which is regarded as the cradle of Chen style Tai Chi chuan. When the local people applauded seeing so many Tai Chi lovers coming from the United States we felt proud and accomplished. I deeply believe that if Grandmaster Chen had lived to see this he would have felt the same.

I have learned from both the 18th and the 19th generation Grandmasters. I was Chen’s teaching assistant for many years and a lot of his students were actually brought to him by me. As a matter of fact Chen was very sick and could not walk in his final years (a direct result of persecution suffered during the Cultural Revolution) therefore he taught his students orally, and most of the demonstration and correction was carried out by me. When Chen passed away I was the one who arranged his funeral and cremation. When the Chen Tai Chi Research Society was formed in may of 1985 I was named the Vice Secretary. I feel that I have the responsibility of sharing the story of Chen, and letting it be known.

Before actually getting into the story of Master Chen I must first point out a few mistakes that I made when I wrote my book on Tai Chi (A work that has yet to be translated into English.). I included a chapter on Chen Zhao Kui that has a few minor inaccuracies. First, there were five people on the funeral committee. They were Ran Guang Yue, Zhu Ying Long, Zhang Hsien Zhou, Zhang Hsi Tang, and myself. Secondly, on Sunday when we went to Chen village to spread the news about Master Chen, the ones eating at my house were Shi Chiao Ji, Wei Jing Huan and myself. Thirdly, the one who glanced at me while eating at my house was Shi Chiao Ji , not Zhang Hsi Tang . Because I take my responsibility of being Master Chen’s disciple seriously, I have endeavored to be as accurate as possible when relating his history.

I came to America in 1994 and now I am an American citizen. As a descendant from two famous Song dynasty philosophers: Cheng Yi and Cheng Hao, I have adapted their philosophy. They believed that one must learn something and then practice the little that they learn every day, gradually increasing their knowledge. The progression is as follows: Learn enough to be able to practice. Practice enough to improve. Improve to gain skill. This progression will yield skill in any endeavor. I have used this philosophy in my Tai Chi training to reach ever higher skill levels. Now I am an advisor to the American National Wushu Federation. I am also Master Chen’s personal emissary to the United States having his blessing to spread his art in America. In 1994 I was recognized in China as a well known Master among Chinese people. In 1998 I was included in “Who’ who among Chinese immigrants. December 9th , 2001 was declared Cheng Jin Cai Chen style Tai Chi Development Center day by the mayor of Houston, Lee Brown. Many of my students have gone on to become teachers themselves and others have won tournaments. In fact, in 2002 my students won 118 medals and in 2003 my students won 103 medals in National and International tournaments. I have said enough about myself. Now it is time to talk about the one who trained me and formed me into what I have become.


I started to learn from Master Chen in the fall of 1973. I first learned the Xin Jia Form) from him. Since then I followed Chen, and was his companion until he passed away in 1981. Chen had profound influence in the history of Chen Tai Chi. His Xin Jia is widely practiced in the world nowadays. Before him people seldom heard about Xin Jia. The characteristics of Xin Jia are: low stances, folding of the “Kua” and silk reeling in every movement. In the whole form there is a lot of explosive power (fa jin), jumping and turning. It is a combat oriented form. To beginners it is a very demanding form. Usually one must practice the Old Form(Lao Jia) for several years to prepare and condition the body. However, if one practices Xin Jia seriously, his “Chi” will improve dramatically. However, without the guidance of a good teacher like Chen, it is very difficult to understand the new form and benefit from it.

However, if one is interested in the origin of Chen Tai Chi, one should realize that the so-called “new form” is not new at all. It is related to the Lao Jia (Old Form). Chen would always correct people when they called it the “new form”. He said the new form is actually the traditional form that was passed secretly within the Chen family. If one observes the new form closely, one should discover that Chen’s new form is very different from the Lao Jia (Old Form) passed down from Grandmaster Chen Zhao Pei, another 18th generation Master. Most Chen style Tai Chi practitioners called Chen’s system “new” so as to distinguish it from Chen Zhao Pei’s “old” form.

Grandmaster Chen Zhao Kui was the youngest son of the 17th generation Grandmaster Chen Fa Ke (pronounced fah-kuh). He went to Peiping (now called Beijing) with his father when he was only 4 years old. He started to learn Tai Chi Chuan from his father when he was 7. Under his father’s strict training his skill improved impressively. When he was only 13 he once fought with a dozen youngsters in school and he tossed them around like rag dolls. After he graduated from the Zhicheng high school in Beijing he could not continue his education due to financial hardship. He stayed home and practiced martial arts full time. Later, Chen got a job with the 5th Construction Company. He practiced Tai Chi very hard day and night. He once told his students that if they wanted to succeed they needed to work harder than an average person. His philosophy was that whatever one does, be it Tai Chi or any other endeavor, one must work very hard. This is what he said to his students: “If you have time to practice, then practice as hard as you can; if you do not have time to practice, then squeeze out some time to practice even if it is only a few minutes.” When Chen worked as a ticket inspector with the Public Bus Company in Beijing he came up with a way to practice his Tai Chi: When he was standing he would bend his knees, relax his “kua” (pelvic region) and his entire body. His body moved as the bus moved. He would adjust his posture to maintain his balance as the vehicle moved along. Nobody could imagine the kind of effort that Chen put in when he was young. Chen would say “ If an average person practices once a day then you should practice ten times; If an average person practices 30 times then you should practice 90 or 100 times. If you put in more effort than average people then your results will certainly exceed those of average people. If you are not prepared to sacrifice and endure this level of pain then you should not consider doing martial arts at all.”

Before I came to the United States I worked in Jiao Zuo. Sometimes I was so tied up with my work that I did not have time to practice; so comparatively speaking I practiced a lot less than before. So I asked Master Chen what I should do to develop better skills with a busy schedule. Master Chen replied: “If you want to develop better skills then you must have persistency. You must practice hard but do not practice without thinking hard. You need to practice the techniques and think about them. Your physical condition(height, weight, speed and strength) is also very important. You should develop one or two special techniques that you are most comfortable with. When these special techniques are part of your second nature then you can use them to overcome your opponent with ease when you fight. I followed Master Chen’s advice and I have put a lot of effort into those complicated techniques. I believe that repetitive practice canmake one perfect.

In 1961, Master Chen was invited by Gu Liu Xin of the Shanghai Sports Committee to teach in Shanghai. He taught Chen style Yi Lu (first routine), Er Lu (second routine) and Chin Na (joint locking) to students in Shanghai. His students were very impressed with his Chin Na techniques. Master Chen’s Chin Na was neutralization oriented. When he executed his grappling, he used his Yi (Mind) to lead the body. Every movement was very fluid yet simplistic. From the moment of contact to the grasp movement his technique was one single continuous movement. There were no broken points in his
circles. Nobody could ever escape from his grasp. According to one student in Shanghai, Wan Man De,
there was a heavyweight weight lifting champion named Chang Guan Qun who once wanted to challenge Master Chen. Master Chen let him try to grab his finger. Every time the challenger almost grabbed the Finger Chen would neutralize his force and escape. Whenever Master Chen would demonstrate a form the audience would fall silent to enjoy his spectacular performance. His movements were so natural. His Yi would flow like a stream flows around and over rocks. There was a famous Qigong master named Tung Shi Zha who challenged Master Chen and later decided to follow Master Chen and learn from him.

In 1964 Master Chen was invited by the Nanking Sports Committee to teach in Nanking. At that time there were a lot of famous martial artists in Nanking because Nanking was one of the Kung Fu centers of the nation. A lot of people were skeptical of Master Chen’s skills. They always found opportunities to test him. Master Chen never refused a challenge and nobody ever beat him. Some of these challengers were so amazed that they converted to Chen style Tai Chi. The Qigong master, Tung Shi Zha mentioned above was one of them.

In 1965 Master Chen decided to go back to his home village to further develop his skills. Master Chen’s father, Chen Fa Ke, taught him that practicing empty hand technique is enough. So Chen never learned weapons forms from his father. Master Chen decided to learn all of the weapons forms from his half-brother, Chen Zhao Pei. The purpose of his trip back home was to complete the learning of weapons. Master Chen left Chen village after learning all the weapons forms from Chen Zhao Pei. Chen Zhao Pei was another very influential figure in the history of Chen style Tai Chi. He learned from his Great Uncle, Chen Fake (Master Chen’s father) Chen Zhao Pei was another 18th generation lineage holder. In 1928 Chen Fa Ke was invited by the famous Chinese Doctors Le You Sun and Le You Tu brothers to teach Tai Chi in Beijing. Chen Fake accepted and took Chen Zhao Pei with him. They accepted numerous challenges and in 17 days of continuous challenges nobody could beat them. This made them famous.
In 1930 the mayor of Nanking, Wai Tao Ming, was attracted by their fame and invited them to teach in Nanking. Grandmaster Chen Zhao Pei became honorary professor of the Central Martial Arts Institute in Nanking. In 1942 he was invited to Xian. In 1946, after the war against Japan was won, he was invited to teach at the Luo Yang Military Center. In 1948 he went to Zheng Chou. In 1960 he was named to the
Martial Arts Hall of Fame by the All China Martial Arts Committee.

When Chen Zhao Pei retired in 1964 he went back to Chen village. When he realized that no one was ready to succeed him for his family art he began to worry that his art would die out. He used his own money to open a martial arts school. Some of his students include the most famous Chen stylists in the world today. For example, Chen Zheng Lei, Wang Xian, Zhu Tin Cai, Chen Xiao Wang and others were all his students. Some people thought that he must be crazy to throw away his money teaching these students. He however, understood the importance of training the next generation to succeed him.

During the Cultural Revolution both Chen and my father were both severely persecuted by the Red Guards. Both had previous ties to the Guo Min Dang ,or “National Party” and were thus treated very harshly, as was my uncle, a former general under the National Party. They were all neighbors of the same village and they were labeled “counter revolutionaries” by the Red Guards. In the winter of 1965 the Red Guards held a meeting to announce the “sins” of all these “counter revolutionaries. All three were brought onto a stage and a 100 kilogram weight was tied around my father’s and Chen Zhao Pei’s necks. They had to stand there with their heads lowered between their legs. Long hours of this torture made them sick. When that day was over my father went home and would have committed suicide if his family had not persuaded him not to. When Chen Zhao Pei went home he jumped into the well at his house to try to kill himself. Fortunately, his clothes got stuck on a hook protruding from the inner wall of the well and he did not die. The weather in Chen village is very cold during the winter but the well kept him warm enough to survive through the night. As a result of long night in the well he fell sick and remained a very sickly man the rest of his life.

On December 30, 1972, the Gatekeeper of Tai Chi, Chen Zhao Pei, passed away. Tradition requires that someone must succeed him as Gatekeeper. After several meetings the members of the Chen family decided to invite Chen Zhao Kui to come back to Chen village to succeed Chen Zhao Pei as Gatekeeper. This invitation was delivered personally by Wang Xian and Chen Mao Shen.

Allow me to recount a story about Master Chen Mao Shen. While I was still learning Tai Chi from Grandmaster Wang Xian I had heard of Grandmaster Chen Mao Shen. Therefore I was longing to learn from Chen Mao Shen also. Because my father was an acquaintance of Chen Mao Shen I pleaded with
my father to introduce me to him. My father knew that I had devoted myself to finding the best teachers
to learn from. So, my father took me to see Chen Mao Shen. When I met Chen Mao Shen I anxiously expressed my wish to learn from him. Chen Mao Shen told my father “Brother Cheng, I have not accepted any students since returning from Beijing. How about this: Let Jincai continue to learn from Wang Xian and I will come by and see how he is progressing. Then I will decide whether or not I want to accept him as my student.” True to his word, Grandmaster Chen Mao Shen went to Wang Xian’s school to watch me practice. At the time I was practicing with other students. Chen Mao Shen watched me for a while and left without saying a word. I told my father what had happened and he went to see Chen Mao Shen. Chen Mao Shen told my father that I could go to his house to learn every month during the time that there was no moonlight. I learned from Chen Mao Shen secretly after that for several years. Even Wang Xian did not know that I was learning from Chen Mao Shen.

Chen Mao Shen was a legendary figure. This is a true story: One day Chen Mao Shen and his best friend went to watch a Chinese Opera in Beiping Kuo. They passed through a wheat field in Chen village. In this wheat field there was a large round stone that weighed about 200 Kg (about 440 lbs) Chen Mao shen rolled the stone alongside him as he walked to the Opera House. The distance from that wheat field to the Opera House was about 3 miles! He rolled the stone back to the wheat field after the opera was over. If one does not have the “Kung Fu” it is very difficult to move the stone at all let alone 3 miles! I tried to roll that stone and I could only roll it 7 to 8 turns.

Chen Mao Shen was appointed by the village to watch the wheat field. His responsibility was to protect the wheat from being eaten by chickens. When any chicken got close to the wheat field Chen Mao Shen could always catch the chicken. If any chicken came within 100 meters of him he could always catch it. Chicken Farmers were always getting fined because Chen Mao Shen would always catch their chickens in the wheat field. Everybody knew that Chen Mao Shen’s Kung Fu was extremely good, but nobody had ever seen him practice in public. Some people tried to test him. One day 5 or 6 well seasoned Tai Chi practitioners attacked him suddenly, hoping to catch him off guard. They all rushed in to grab him. What they could not see was how he folded his chest and dantian, releases his energy with “fa jin” and threw the all to the ground.

At that time Wang Xian was the Civil Military Officer. He used to patrol the village every night. He knew that Chen Mao Shen was good but had never seen him practice. So he was very curious. He always stopped by Chen Mao Shen’s house and looked inside. Chen Mao Shen’s house situated at the south end of Chen village, on the east side of the street. There was a cliff behind his house. At about 3:00 in the morning Wang Xian stopped by Chen Mao Shen’s house and saw Chen practicing his “new form”. Finally Wang Xian decided to ask Chen Mao Shen what he was practicing. Chen said he wasn’t practicing anything he was just stretching. Since then Wang Xian paid close attention to Chen Mao Shen. One night Wang Xian climbed up on to Chen Mao Shen’s roof to watch him practice. Chen walked out of his house and in to the courtyard, looked around to make sure no one was watching, and started to practice Xin Jia. When Chen noticed he was being watched he did a few random movements to confuse Wang. Wang then jumped down and introduced himself. He asked a lot of questions. Chen was moved by the sincerity and enthusiasm of this man and from that time on Chen taught Wang Xin Jia. Chen also agreed to teach Xin Jia to the entire village. Therefore when Chen Zhao Pei died Chen Mao Shen suggested bringing Chen Zhao Kui back to Chen village to serve as Gatekeeper. So Wang And Chen Mao Shen went to Beijing together.

Sometimes Master Chen wanted to let his students experience the feel of “jin”. He would demonstrate on his students. When he taught “kuo tan ma” he turned his body used his palm to push Ma Hung.Ma Hung lost His balance and fell into a bucket of water. We had to clean the house before we could continue the lesson. Later Ma Hung invited Master Chen to teach in Shi Jia Zhuang from 1977 until 1979.

In 1973 Chen Mao Shen and Wang Xian successfully invited Chen Zhao Kui to return to Chen village. We arranged for him to stay at his sister-in-law’s house. The daily training routine consisted of a 15 minute warm-up followed by Master Chen demonstrations of movements. When he demonstrated he always paid a lot of attention to details. He would always talk when he demonstrated. He had over a hundred students at that time. The students always lined up in rows to watch his demonstrations. The first row always included Chen Tak Hwang, Chen Xiao Wang, Wang Xian, Zhu Tin Cai and Chen Zheng Lei. I always took the third position from the right in the third row. When we were almost half way through Xin Jia, Chen Mao Shen’s nephew invited Master Chen and Chen Mao Shen to teach in Cheng Chau. After they left we had to suspend our class for about 2 weeks.

Many people, including Chen’s own students, wanted to challenge Master Chen. When he first came back to Chen village most people were curious about just how good his Kung Fu really was. But nobody dared to be the first to challenge him. Chen tak Hwang was bold enough to be the first to challenge him. In answer to Chen Tak Hwang;s challenge, Master Chen sat on a bench and told Chen Tak Hwang to come forward. Chen Tak Hwang delivered a punch to Master Chen’s abdomen. At that moment Master Chen withdrew his dantian and the sprung it out forcefully in a split-second. Chen Tak Hwang was thrown like a ball. He landed about 10 yards away. Chen Tak Hwang injured right leg when he landed and it was a week before he could walk again. Later people would ask him how it felt to receive Master Chen’s energy. He said that when he hit Master Chen it was like hitting cotton, but Master Chen’s reaction was lightning fast.

In 1974 Chen Zhao Kui came back to Chen village again. This time both he and Chen Mao Shen stayed at Chen Tin Yang’s home. As before, he always woke up early and started to teach at 6:00 a.m. His routine included Xin Jia. One night when only Chen Mao Shen, Chen Zhao Kui and myself were alone talking about different things I took the opportunity to ask Chen Mao Shen to talk Chen Zhao Kui into accepting me as his formal indoor student. Chen Mao Shen asked Chen if he still remembered a person called Cheng Fa Lin. Chen said he still remembered. Then Chen Mao Shen told him that Cheng Fa Lin was my grandfather. My grandfather and Chen’s father went to Beijing together in 1928. It was also my grandfather who took Chen and his mother to Beijing in 1932. At that time they were still living at the Beijing Vegetable Market. Chen’s father and my grandfather had been good friends for a long time. Also my grandfather was the person who took of Chen’s father’s personal matters. When Chen Mao Shen’s entire family arrived in Beijing, Chen Mao Shen went to work at Chiu Bao. He was responsible for tax collection there. My father has three brothers and a half brother who was a general with the Nationalist Government. They also knew Chen Zhao Pei and Chen Zhao Kui very well. Since my uncles were acquaintances of Chen’s brothers for years, Chen Zhao Kui readily accepted me when Chen Mao Shen spoke on my behalf. Here is a story about my father, Cheng Shu Tao. My father had the temperament of a modern day Robin Hood. Whenever people quarreled he would always intervene and be the moderator. When he saw people in need he would always give them money. Everyone wanted to be his friend. Since Chen Mao Shen was the tax collector, he sometimes went to the village with My father, Cheng Shu Tao. When people saw my father with Chen Mao Shen they would pay their taxes because they did not want to give a good man a hard time. This “giving face” to my father was undoubtedly a factor contributing to Chen accepting me as his indoor student. Chen Mao Shen even asked me to call Chen Zhao Kui “uncle ten” since Chen Zhao Kui was the tenth son in the family. Chen Zhao Kui treated me very well . He never treated me as an outsider. He would talk to me about anything. We formed a committee to the daily operations of teaching classes. Since Chen and I could communicate so well I was responsible to act as liason between the committee and Chen. Chen Zheng Lei told me that he noticed Chen smile whenever he saw me. He told me that he noticed that Chen treated me differently.

Chen taught in many different places in China but always came back to Chen village. In 1976, while teaching in Chen village, he corrected all of his student’s Xin Jia because they had drifted a little in his absence. As he taught he explained the applications of the movements. When he was invited to teach in Jiao Zuo in 1978, he stayed at the home of Chang Xian Chou. He taught Xin Jia and Chin Na in the evening in a city park. Chen did not talk much during these classes but he was very patient. In order to help the students learn the movements correctly, he repeated each movement as many times as necessary. We formed a committee to take care of the daily needs of Chen Zhao Kui. We even hired a cook for him. The committee consisted of 5 people: Cheng Jin Cai (myself), Chang Xian Chou, Zhu Yin Lung, Gong Wei and Chiu Feng. We met every Saturday to plan the details for the coming week. Then we would present our plan to Chen Zhao Kui for his opinion. Usually it was up to me to communicate with Master Chen. After several months the number of students was so great that we decided that we needed to find a bigger place for classes and residence. At that time 2 of his students ,Zhu Yin Lung and Shi Chao Ji, were working at the city hotel so we were able to make arrangements for Chen and the committee to live there. Master Chen was assigned room on the west wing. At 7:00 p.m. one evening I accompanied Master Chen to teach in the backyard of the Staff Club, which was situated on the north side of the hotel. I was his teaching assistant. After class I walked back to the hotel with Master Chen. Originally I stayed in room 31 with Master Chen but one night Shi Chao Ji asked me to sleep in room 29 so that he could sleep in room 31 with Master Chen and I agreed. Room 29 was usually reserved for staff but it was seldomly used. Shi Chao Ji was a member of the staff of the hotel but he never stayed in room 29. At about 3:00 that night all of a sudden I saw a woman dressed in white flying down from the wall with her arms stretched out to choke me. I woke up in a cold sweat. I told myself it was just a nightmare. I sat up, took a drink and went back to sleep. However I had the same dream again. I got scared and ran to Master Chen room to tell him I did not want to stay in room 29 any more. Shi Chao Ji then admitted knowing that the room was haunted but asked me to sleep in there to see if I was brave enough to do it. Shi Chao Ji told me that nobody ever dared sleep in that room because almost everybody who did had the same nightmare. According to legend an Englishman built this hotel and a woman hanged herself in that room.That room has been haunted ever since. Master Chen said that he did not believe in ghosts and he would sleep in that room to catch the ghost. That night Shi Chao Ji and I slept in room 31 and Master Chen slept in room 29. It was a very quiet night and the next morning Master Chen said that nothing happened. Master Chen said that he remained awake all night so that he could catch the ghost if and when she came in. We asked him to go to sleep in the room instead of staying awake and he agreed. Again nothing happened. I guess that Master Chen’s “chi” was so strong that even ghosts were afraid of him. Shi Chao Ji and I were both embarrassed.

One night Chang Xi Tang introduced a young man named Yang Yang to Master Chen. That was the first time I met Yang Yang. At that time Yang Yang was studying at the Shanghai Textile College. He lived in Jiao Zuo and stayed there during summer vacation. Therefore during summer vacation he studied Tai Chi with Master Chen in the evenings.

In September of 1978 we received a notice from the hotel that we must move out. That was because a lot of the students gathered together after class and stayed late talking loudly. The hotel usually locked the main gate at midnight and some of the students were still there and they made a lot of noise when they could not get out. When this happened several times the hotel management asked us to move elsewhere. So I contacted several other students to find a place for Master Chen.Very soon a man named Chung Jun allowed us to use his house. Although the new house was far from the training facility we were able to take the bus back and forth. As before, Master Chen and I taught at the staff club of the city hotel.

In November Master Chen had a stroke. From then on he could not live the life he had led before. I and several other students sent him to the Second People’s Hospital. Mao Luk Jun, one of Chen’s students, and his friends worked at the hospital and they offered to help Master Chen find the best doctors to diagnose and treat Master Chen. After he recovered about two weeks later, Master Chen became very quiet
and did not want to talk.

One day Master Chen took my hand in his and with much emotion told me: “Jin Cai, I have some TaI Chi manuscripts that I have put all of my heart into writing. They are my life’s work and they are all I have to pass on to future generations of Tai Chi practitioners. As I have observed you and become familiar with you, I believe that you are my most trusted disciple. Therefore I have decided to entrust these manuscripts to you for safekeeping. Study these manuscripts diligently and practice hard and you will surely improve.” I then extended both of my hands and very reverently accepted Master Chen’s manuscripts. I was deeply moved and I was very honored. It was a very emotional moment for both of us. When I returned home I took great care to insure that nothing would ever happen to those manuscripts. I always kept them close. When I came to America in 1994 I brought the manuscripts with me. After many years of constantly reading and rereading these manuscripts I have made gradual improvement. Every time I make a new discovery I reach a new level of understanding of not only the usage of the form but also a greater appreciation of the knowledge that Master Chen possessed.

Master Chen spent the Spring Festival in Chung Jun’s house in 1979. About six months later we helped him move to the Jiao Zuo light bulb factory with Gong Wei’s help. Gong Wei’s wife was a Muslim and she invited us to their house to eat. Our lives improved a bit because Master Chen’s health improved a bit. The good times were short-lived however because in the winter of 1980 Master Chen became very depressed. It is important to remember that Master Chen had been a very powerful practitioner of Tai Chi for a long time and now infirmity had taken it’s toll on him. When first got sick he would talk very little and when his feet deteriorated to the point that he could barely move his feet he got even more depressed. At that point all of his students stopped coming to his classes. Now Master Chen had no income and this added further hardship to a man already overburden with more than his share of misfortune. There were times when Master Chen was alone at night with no one to look after him. In Master Chen most dire days I was his faithful companion even though my wife was pregnant. I figured that it was my duty and privilege to keep him from getting lonely. I will never be able to forgive myself for the one time that I did not go to his house at the usual hour. Master Chen was expecting me, and he would not leave the main gate of the light bulb factory even though it was very cold outside. I had a lot of work to do and I told myself that it was important to finish the job I had to do. When I found out that Master Chen had waited so long for me I decided that I would never again disappoint Master Chen. I spent that New Year’s holiday with him instead of with my family.

One day Master Chen told me: “Go see Chen Xiao Wang, I have something to ask him.” Master Chen told me that Chen Xiao Wang was staying at the city hotel. When I went to the hotel I did not find Chen Xiao Wang there. Master Chen was disappointed and asked me to go again. I then asked Master Chen if there was anything I could do if I could not find Chen Xiao Wang. Master Chen finally told me: “ I want Chen Xiao Wang to return my photograph of Chen Fa Ke. When I finally found Chen Fa Ke he told me that the photograph was in his house and he did not have it on him. When I relayed this news to Master Chen he said: “ We are going to see Chen Xiao Wang at the hotel tomorrow. When we arrived at the hotel the next day, Chen Xiao Wang had already left the hotel. Ever since then Master Chen and his nephew never spoke to each other. ( Translator’s Note: According to Cheng Jin Cai the photograph is a very rare picture of Chen Fa Ke performing Xin Jia. This was the only photo of Chen Fa Ke that Chen Fa Ke had given his only son, Master Chen. The photo was the rightful property of Master Chen but Chen Xiao Wang wanted it for himself so he simply “borrowed” it and never returned it.)

At this time I felt that the best thing to do was to take care of Master Chen’s feet. I was trying very hard to find doctors that knew how to cure Master Chen’s feet. We had tried many different medicines and none had any effect. He could barely walk, let alone teach Tai Chi. It was especially disheartening that we did not hear from our friends and relatives anymore and that his students did not come to class anymore. Finally I found a recipe for some herbal medicine that might help remove the ganglions from Master Chen’s feet. The recipe only called for two ingredients: Ma Ti and Buckwheat Bran. Ma Ti was readily available in the market but it took a while to find the Buckwheat Bran. Once I found the Buckwheat Bran I followed the recipe to make a paste to apply to Master Chen’s feet. I applied the paste and bandaged Master Chen’s feet every night for a month. Finally Master Chen’s feet did recover and Master Chen was showed me his feet saying: “Look, my feet are better!” Once his feet recovered I quickly contacted his students.

In the spring of 1981 I contacted one my students, Tang Yiu Fu, to appoint him as liason between myself and Master Chen’s former students. His responsibility was to contact the former students and inform them that Master had begun to teach again. He went to Feng Ying Kuang (the name of a place) twice to contact the former students. Finally, after a long hiatus, Master Chen began to teach again.

After Master Chen’s feet recovered he became more ambitious. One day he asked us if there were any opportunities to teach in Cheng Chou. He asked me to go with him to Cheng Chou to see if it were feasible to teach there. I told him that I would be busy for the next few days, but I did ask Wang Wing Seng, another of Chen’s students, to go with him. When they arrived in Cheng Chou they were able to find accommodations in the national cotton factory, but they were told that finding students would be very difficult. When Wang Wing Seng called me and told me this news I told him to bring Master Chen back home. After that Master Chen seldom went out.

About two weeks later, as we were eating sweets in a dessert shop (Master Chen liked sweets very much), Master Chen asked me about going with him to teach all over the country. I told him that I would have to discuss this with my family. After much discussion it was finally decided that the best thing for me to do was to accompany Master Chen all over the country wherever Master Chen wanted to go. That afternoon I went to Feng Ying Kuang to tell Master Chen that I had decided to go with him. We decided that the first city we would go to would be Xi An. I reasoned that since we knew people in Xi An it would be easier to start there. Master Chen told me that he also had some students in Yan An. At the end of April that year, Master Chen asked a tailor to make some clothes for him to take with him. He said he would wait until the new clothes were ready before leaving. I also had to say my goodbyes to my family and submit my resignation to my work unit. Chen Zheng Lei also dropped by Jiao Zuo to visit for a while: that would be the last time he would ever see Master Chen.

Spring in Jiao Zuo tends to be very dry and in May it starts to get hot. Everybody in Jiao Zuo was preparing for dry season of 1981. On May 2, at about 3:00 p.m. Master Chen woke up from his nap and went outside to take a walk. When bent over to tie his shoes he fainted. Someone called an ambulance and he was taken to the 2nd District Hospital. I went to the hospital as soon as I heard the news. When Master Chen saw me he said: “ Send a telegraph to my son.” Those were the last words that Master Chen would ever say. When Master Chen saw his only son, Chen Yu, at the hospital his eyes filled up with tears. He was not able to say one word. Chen Yu was only 19 years old and he was forced to watch as his father passed away in a hospital bead. On May 7th ,1981 at 11:46 a.m. Master Chen passed away.

I and several other students took care of his funeral. Basically, the ones involved in the funeral arrangements were myself, Ran Kwung Yue, Zhu Yin Lung, Chang Xian Chou and Chang Xi Tang. We decided that I should go back to Chen village to spread the news. The other 4 students stayed behind. Shi Chao Ji and I found Wei Jing Huan in Bei Shan. I told him that master Chen had passed away and asked him to help me find a vehicle to go back to Chen village to spread the news. Wei’ superior, Mr. Liu was a very nice man. He arranged for a driver to take Shi, Wei, and myself back to Chen village.

As we neared Chen village I asked the driver to drop by my house so that I could get something to eat. When we arrived at my house I noticed that my mother was still preparing dinner. I asked her why she was still cooking at that late hour. She said “ Your wife has just delivered a baby; you are a father!” I asked her if the baby was a boy or a girl and she said that the baby was a girl. Then I asked her what time the baby was born. She said the baby was born on May 7th at 11:46 a.m. What a coincidence: My daughter was born just as Master Chen passed away. I spent a little time with my wife and daughter and then rushed to Chen village to spread the news about Master Chen. First we went to Chen Xiao Wang’s house but he was not home. Then we went to Master Chen’s immediate family’s house but they said that they were not responsible for Master Chen. We then went to Jiao Zuo to see Ran Kwung Yue. We had a heated discussion. We decided that since his family seemed to not care about Master Chen that we should ask all of Master Chen’s former students to contribute to a fund designed to pay all of Master Chen’s final expenses. It was not easy finding all the students, but the students were very generous and some of them contributed as much as 10 Yuen (An average person earned about 120 yuen a month at that time.) In order to spread the word quicker we had the student ride their bicycles to the homes of all former student who had not yet been notified. After we had about 20 students riding bicycles around spreading the news we decided that we should wait for Master Chen’s family to make a decision regarding Master Chen’s funeral.

It is curious how Master Chen’s family was reluctant to have anything to do with Master Chen’s funeral. Myself and the other students decided that we should have his body cremated. We desperately wanted someone from Master Chen’s family to attend the cremation ceremony, but none seemed interested in attending. Finally, we persuaded Chen Xiao Wang’s brother, Chen Wing Ho, to attend the ceremony.

Originally the cremation ceremony was scheduled to take place on May 11th. Therefore, on May 11th we met at the Yi Sin cinema so that we could all go together to the crematorium. However there was a power outage that day so we had to reschedule the ceremony for the 12th. This time Chen Yu, Master Chen’s son, attended the ceremony as did Chen Wing Ho. Chen Xiao Wang was still nowhere to be found. The ceremony started at 1:30 and at 2:30 the ceremony was over. To this day it still saddens me to think that all that remains of this great man is an urn filled with ashes. The sudden finality of my loss of not only the best teacher that could be found but also my companion that was as close to my heart as my own family hit me like a ton of bricks.

After the ceremony we decided to spread the news about Master Chen to the entire country. We decided that the best way to do this was to send telegrams to everybody that had ever studied under Master Chen. This is what the telegraph said:


We regret to inform you that Mr Chen Zhao Kui passed away at 11:46 a.m. on the morning of May 7th, 1981. He had a stroke on May 2nd was under the care of of the Second Hospital of the Mining District in the city of Jiao Zuo. Master Chen’s funeral arrangement were made by his students, namely Cheng Jin Cai, Zhu Yin Lung, Ran Kwung Yue, Chang Chou, Chang Xi Tang and 23 other students. All hospital and funeral fees were collected from donations. Master Chen’s body was cremated on the afternoon of the 12th. His son Chen Yu, his nephew, Chen Wing Ho, and all of the students in the committee attended the ceremony. His ashes we be taken to Chen village by Ran Kwung Yue, Chen Yu and Chen
Win Ho. Since we do not know your address we hope this notice will suffice.

Chen Zhao Kui Funeral Committee
May 12th , 1981.

We sent this telegraph all over the country. Many people responded and sent us their condolenses. Even after Master Chen passed away we decided that the committee should meet once a month because we wanted to make Chen Tai Chi shine.

Several Months after Master Chen passed away Ran told me that Master Chen’s ghost came to his house. I asked him what happened and Ran told me that Chen’s ghost came every night asking for his clothes. When I heard that I understood what Chen’s ghost was talking about. I informed Ran that Master Chen had hired a tailor to make some clothes for him for the impending sojourn around the country teaching Tai Chi. I then told Ran that since Master Chen had listened to me when he was alive his ghost might listen to me now. Ran set a night for me go up on the roof of his house and shout in the direction that Master Chen had been facing when he passed away. I then shouted: “Master Chen, this is Jin Cai. Originally we decided to teach all over the country, but you left me behind in such a hurry. When you left us you had no chance to wear the clothes that the tailor made for you. I was I who let his children take your new clothes. Please do not blame them. You listened to me when you were alive please listen to me one more time and do not bother Ran’s family. Then Ran and I bowed. Ran told me that since then he has not experienced anything.

In 1983, Master Feng Zhi Xiang came to Chen village from Beijing. He stayed at the Tai Chi school dormitory. I went to see him at the dormitory. I told him the story of Master Chen and how he came to Chen village and his ensuing sickness. Master Feng was deeply moved. He took my hand in his and said: “Jin Cai from now on you are my student.” Now I go to Beijing every year to visit Master Feng.
On May 20th, 1985 we established the Jiao Zuo Chen Tai Chi Research Institute.

Since it was Master Chen’s last wish to teach Tai Chi across the country I have been carrying it out ever since Master Chen passed away. I departed China, the motherland of Tai Chi , and brought the treasure of Tai Chi with me to the New World. I left Jiao Zuo and arrived in North America in 1994. I have been teaching Tai Chi in America ever since. Master Chen wish is my wish. I have already sowed the seeds of Chen Tai Chi in the soil of North America. Nowadays I can see the fruit of my cultivation. My students are performing well in Regional and National level competitions and some have gone on to become teachers themselves. And I hope this lineage will be continued on this continent, and this great treasure of China will be shared by everyone.

This document was last updated in Houston, TX on June 13, 2004