Women bring 'their own perspective'
Updated: 2015-11-12 07:49
By James Healy(China Daily)
Among the many changes that Chenjiagou has seen in recent years, one in particular reflects how the village has embraced modernity: Women now stand alongside men as leaders in the new generation of Chen tai chi masters.
"Nowadays, more and more females learn tai chi," said Master Chen Juan, the eldest daughter of Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. "In fact, females' bodies are more flexible than males', so I think it is very suitable for females to learn it."
"Women also have their own perspective of tai chi. It is a trend that more and more women are developing a deep love for tai chi, making it more rich and colorful," she added.
Chen, age 38, is a lineage master, or inheritor, of the family art, which would have been unheard of in the not-so-distant past, when Chen tai chi was taught only to first-born sons of Chen family members.
But with Chen Village's opening to the world, Chen Juan has followed in the footsteps of her aunt, the late Chen Liqing, a trailblazing female tai chi master.
"I was born into a tai chi family, and as a female descendant, I have the duty to spread tai chi culture," she said. "When I was a girl, I wondered why I couldn't choose my own path in life. I love fashion, clothing and food. If I did not become a tai chi teacher, maybe I would choose to be a tailor, designer or chef. However, many people have said that of the three siblings, I am the most like my father. He is the most influential person in my life."
And so, like her father, she has embarked on a mission to spread Chen tai chi far and wide.
"I have taught in Europe, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong and other places for many years. These experiences have helped me to understand the learning habits, interests and physical characteristics to help me develop teaching plans for foreigners," Chen said.
"Tai chi is indeed a Chinese cultural treasure, and its practice is producing a strong interest in our culture, and building good bridges for cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries," she added.
In Chen's family, counting her siblings and parents, women outnumber men three to two. However, she said, "There is no competition. We have a complementary relationship. We are all affected by tai chi's charm."
Chen, the mother of a 4-year-old daughter, said tai chi has taught her "to balance career and family. I also hope to bring this balance to my students and community, which I think might even be more important than any teaching activities."
A foreign student follows her teacher's instructions in Chenjiagou in 2013. Tai chi is increasingly popular among women. Xu Hongxing / for China Daily
(China Daily 11/12/2015 page6)