Chen Jinao — An Introduction
By Alan Sims
While looking downstairs in a Chinese bookstore in Flushing Queens N.Y., I happened to notice a book that I had previously seen. It was written by Chen Zi Ming, a Taijiquan student of Chen Xin.
Chen Xin was a practitioner of “Small Frame” Taiji and the author of a book of four volumes or approximately eight hundred pages in English.
Chen Zi Ming’s book consists of photographs of himself in various postures, and was published in 1932. Personally speaking, I wasn’t captivated by the photos and therefore had never purchased the book.
However, I did find something very interesting which would never have caught my interest in the past. There are a couple [if not more], lineage charts in the book and at least one that is not even “Small Frame” [or Xiao Jia]. There is, though, one chart that I found very interesting due to my having purchased a book on the Chen Family’s Small Frame 1st Routine [or form]. The chart as well as the rest of the book is written in Chinese. But in one particular Small Frame chart, the family name of Chen is left out entirely so that we only have the given names listed. But being somewhat familiar with the Chen Family lineage, that presented no problem to me.
I had what I felt at the time was a beautiful surprise while looking casually at this chart and seeing the name Jinao as a student of Chen Yao [without the Chen]. It is interesting because in the book that I have, Chen Jinao is listed [in a chart covering generations], as a student of both Chen Yao and his younger brother Chen Xin, who lived thirteen years longer than Chen Yao. Also listed in the chart in Chen Zi Ming’s book, is the author of the book that I have as being a student of Chen Jinao himself, Zhi Ru Lei.
Chen Jinao is listed as being born in 1900 and I think sometimes [depending on the source], in 1899. He passed away in 1971. Although 1971 is a while back, it is not by any means in ancient times. We deserve to know something about someone who was lucky enough to have studied Taijiquan from Chen Yao, who himself was extremely good, and was the son [along with Chen Xin], of the hero Chen Zhong Xin.
In the book on Chen Family’s Small Frame 1st Routine published in 2014, there are 4 photographs of Chen JInao performing postures which are in the Xiao Jia. In one photo he is slapping the right foot at face level looking straight into the camera and having a lot of fun with a big smile on his face, with the left palm swung downward and to the rear, with the left foot solidly on the ground in a little alley way.
Chen Jinao’s photographs are more spirited than the drawings found later in the book illustrating the form, even though he is older when these photos are taken than in his single picture later in the book.
Chen Jinao was the grandson of Chen Yao and was well versed in Taiji theory when he was very young.
Although most of the photos of myself in Xiao Jia postures that I contributed on line are of postures taken from drawings in Zhi Rulei’s book, I did attempt to illustrate one of Chen Jinao’s original postures.
On the subjects of photographs and surprises, is a picture in Zhu Rulei’s book of someone that I actually recognized, and that is Chen Boxiang. Also included is a picture of his teacher Chen Kezhong. There are nice write-ups on both gentlemen but since I don’t read much Chinese, I want to write what is actually written, which takes time. Perhaps in a future article I will be able to tell you what they say.
Alan Sims lives in New York City, and has been trained under a number of masters, including James Eaton Jr. Goju Karate; Lee Moy Shan- Ving Tsun Kung-Fu; Larry Banks-Tai Chi Chuan. He is a self-taught piannist and composer, and published articles on Tai Chi Chuan and the I Ching. He taught Tai Chi in YMCA Flushing Queens and Greenpoint Brooklyn; Alley Pond Environmental Center, Once Upon A Time Dance Studio; Forest Hills Adult Center. He helped translating some important books in Tai Chi. You may reach him him at firstname.lastname@example.org.