Chen Peiju - Qiao Fengjie

Comments on the graphic explanations of Chen-style Taijiquan

Book review by Nabil Ranné (CTND) published in Taiji & Qigong Journal (TQJ 4-2016)

The 'Comments on the Graphic Explanation of Taijiquan of the Chen Clan' is a joint work in the best sense of the word. The book was originally written by Chen Xin (1849 - 1929), who wrote it over a period of eleven years and completed it in 1919. The German edition took six years to complete and includes the translation of the original work, together with extensive comments and explanations by Chen Peiju, who is a member of Chen Xin's family tradition, and Qiao Fengjie, an expert in martial arts and Chinese philosophy, as well as the translator Hermann Bohn, who is also at home in the field of Chinese martial arts and an expert in the Yijing. In addition, the editor Dietmar Stubenbaum, the only German representative of Chen Xin's tradition, who initiated and realised this project, has contributed a great deal of information.

The German edition is a work that goes far beyond a mere translation of the original text and that shows how much love and effort has gone into it. The external form corresponds to the high-quality content and so the book has been elaborately produced from cover to text layout and printing, justifying the price, which should not deter enthusiasts. Anyone who has written a book knows that the production costs are high and that you can be happy if such projects are realised at all and cover their costs. Furthermore, to my knowledge, Chen Xin's work has only been translated into a Western language once, namely into English. However, the English translation - despite a genuine effort to produce a solid work - is nowhere near the quality and scope of the German version now available.

The original text is an extremely comprehensive work that is often referred to as the 'Bible of Taijiquan of the Chen Clan'. Chen Xin belonged to the 16th generation of the Chen Clan and was a direct descendant of the family that founded Taijiquan. Nowadays, the Chen style is usually divided into two directions: a 'small frame' (Xiaojia) and a 'large frame' (Dajia). The latter is in turn divided into a frame according to Chen Zhaopi and one according to Chen Fake and Chen Zhaokui. Chen Xin is assigned to the 'small frame'. In addition to his initial military training, he later attended university and was therefore considered particularly knowledgeable in both martial and civilian matters. It should be kept in mind that most martial artists of the 19th century were still illiterate.

The book consists of three parts: the first on the philosophical foundations, the second on the meridians and acupuncture points of Chinese medicine, and the third with general notes and explanations of terms related to Taijiquan. Chen Xin's original work contains a fourth part, which mainly contains detailed explanations of the movement patterns of the 'small frame'. The fact that this part has been omitted is a shame, as it would have clarified the connection between the previous parts and the practice. However, the absence of this fourth part fuels the hope for a sequel that will complete the translation of Chen Xin's work.

Overall, this book is a treasure trove of classical knowledge on the topics of Chinese philosophy, Chinese medicine and Taijiquan. As a profound and scientific work, it stands out from all the popular books on Taijiquan that are so common today. The 'Comments on the Graphic Explanations of Taijiquan of the Chen Clan' may not be easy reading, but it is highly recommended as a lifelong reference and reading book for practitioners and lovers of Taijiquan.

(Nabil Ranné)