Biography of Master Zhang
Zhang Xue Xin (1928 - 2023) Chen Style Taiji 19th Generation Master
Updated on Feb 25th 2023 by Justin Meehan
Master Zhang was born Oct. 17, 1928 in the city of YanTai, in the north eastern part of Shandong Province near the coastal city of Qingdao and both the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea. He had a real love for the ocean and enjoyed both swimming and basketball. He injured his right ring finger which is still bent outward slightly playing basketball.
Master Zhang was a very active boy in his childhood, often stood up to bullies or bullied kids older than his age. He then was found by a teacher in his village to learn Martial Arts at age of eight. His first Martial Arts teacher was also member of underground communist resistance, operating in his village which was a hub to transport resistance members and communication information.
Later Japanese Army bombed and burnt down his family home along with the village. Japanese flew over his home and dropped 3 bombs close to his home and one direct hit. While homeless and young, he and his brother joined the army to fight against the Japanese invader. Master Zhang joined the quasi government alliance army led by the communist party in 1944. His brother made his way from Korea to Hong Kong and finally the US where he opened a restaurant near San Francisco. After the end of WWII and the China civil war between Nationalist and Communist and Communist take over of China in 1949, Master Zhang worked in a airplane mechanics factory for the Army as a type of procurement officer, which allowed him to travel.
Master Zhang always had a passion for Chinese Martial Arts and had learned Shaolin style, and later Mongolian Wrestling. In the mid 60s, when he traveled to Beijing on Party business trips, he often went to a special square (Tian-Qiao) where wrestlers and martial arts teachers performed on the street to make a living. He played with and challenged a few of them, including some Taichi teachers. Finally one time he played with a Taichi practitioner and was convinced that the TaiChi practitioner's Kungfu level is above his. Upon asking, the TaiChi practitioner told him that what he practiced was Chen Style Tai chi
So he was on a mission to learn Chen Style Taijiquan . In 1963, he went to Tian-Tan park, start to learn Chen Style TaiChi from Li, Rui-Yuan. Ms Li was a step daughter of then TaiChi Grand Master Chen, Fa-Ke. He learned the 83 YiLu form from Ms Li. Ms Li was a good teacher. While studying with Ms Li less than a year, he was never satisfied on the push hands practice. He also went to different public teaching places in Beijing to watch and observe the other Chen TaiChi teachers that were students of Grand Master Chen, Fa-Ke. In 1965 he then found Lei, Mu-Ni, another well respected student of Grand Master Chen, Fa-Ke, who was known for his dedication to forms, but not a martial artist. He finished the 83 Yi Lu form and 71 Pai tui and 48 straight sword form (see on YouTube) from Master Lei. But he again expressed dissatisfaction with his push hands practice and accomplishments.
One day in 1966, Master Lei told him that Master Chen Zhaokui (1928-1981), the son of Grand Master Chen Fake, had just came back from Shanghai and thought he would be a great teacher to Master Zhang, who was a good student by then but mostly interested in martial proficiency. He brought Master Zhang to visit Master Chen, Zhaokui in the evening. He bought a pound of candy with him. They took a picture together. Upon their first meeting, Master Chen, Zhaokui asked Master Zhang to perform the 83 form, and demonstrate his Push Hands and Qin-Na skills . After comparing his skills Master Zhang immediately realized that he had finally found a great and high level teacher. Master Zhang studied with Chen Zhaokui from 1966-1970
At that time, the Cultural Revolution movement was getting started and Grand Master Chen, Zhaokui was forbidden to teach Tai-Chi as an occupation. This was because the Communist government wanted to maintain control of the society and did not want people teaching privately and be paid independently. Also Chinese Martial Arts were condemned by the Communist Government as one of the “Olds” that had to be avoided. Everyone in China needed a work permit from a neighborhood as identification. As a result private instruction had to be done secretly, so he lived in with Grand Master Chen Zhaokui in his house and shared 1/3 of his salary to Grand Master Chen, who was supporting his mother. He studied with Chen Zhaokui privately for 3 years. He learned Qin-Na, Staff, Spear, 83 YiLu form and 71 Paotui form privately inside the courtyard of Chen Xiaokui’s home.
In 1965, Wen County invited Grand Master Chen back to Chen Village to teach and although he returned to visit his home village he did not begin teaching until his 3 visits to the Chen Village during the 1970s. It was a difficult time for Chen Xiaokui as he and his father, Chen Fake, were landowners and therefor considered “class enemies” of the people by the Chinese Party. He had to travel from place to place in order to support himself and his family and stay a step ahead of the Red Guard. Before leaving Beijing, in 1970, Master Chen introduced Master Zhang to Grand Master Feng, his senior Martial Arts brother, and senior closed door student and assistant instructor of Grand Master Chen, Fa-Ke. Upon their first meeting, Master Zhang was convinced by Grand Master Feng's great pushing hands skill. He started to practice and further his learning with Grand Master Feng, until the day he came over to US in 1990 briefly in order to visit his brother and then again in 1991, after his retirement, to start his teaching career in the US. He was accepted by the US under the category of USCIS O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability Or Achievement. When leading US Master George Xu discovered Master Zhang he gave up his own classes and began studying with Master Zhang, even inviting him to stay in his home. He also accompanied Master Zhang and served as interpreter when he was invited to teach seminars outside California, He taught in Rockford, Il. and Whitefish Bay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for Jim and Angie Criscimagna; St. Louis, Mo., for Justin Meehan group; Colorado, one time for Mike Sigman, who publicly acknowledged Master Zhang as the best Taijiquan teacher in America; Columbus, Ohio with Jeff Radcliff; Tallahassee, Fla.with Michael Kirsch; and in Ireland, England and Costa Rica as well.
Master Zhang was the first teacher outside China to present the Chan Szu Chin system of Spiral Training exercises compiled by Grand Master Feng; The short stick (bang) exercises created by Chen Zhao kui for developing internal power; and Chin Na applications as well as the Taiji Qigong Ruler exercises; and the entire 24, not 12 movement HunYuan QiGong system.
Master Zhang married his wife, Li, Zonglian, who had the family name of Li, sometime around 1946, and they have been together for over 70 years, now residing back in China, with their 4 (2 boys and 2 girls) children. She was born in Dalian City, a port city also near the ocean in Liaoning Province and was a daycare/early education teacher. One thing she said was that they had a “happy marriage” and that Master Zhang “never raised a hand to her”. We all know that her careful monitoring of Master Zhang and his diet (no more drinking) has insured his health and long life (over 90) . They had 4 children: 2 sons and 2 daughters all, except his daughter, Jiling Zhang, of whom are living in China. He taught his oldest son, Zhang Xin Ze the 83 YiLu form he learned from Chen Xiao kui and his younger son, Zhang Zin Bo, the HunYuan form of Feng Zhiqiang, then became a disciple of Chen Xiang, to continue his studies while Master Zhang was living in the US . Master Zhang and his wife returned to China in 2020 (?) to live in their family homes in Shanghai and Nanjing where he passed peacefully of Covid related illness surrounded by his loving family on Feb 24th, 2023. leaving behind many well known disciples in both the US and in China to carry on his legacy.
There is a Chinese curse that says “may you live in interesting times” . Master Zhang lived at a time when Putin, the “last emperor” was still alive. He lived through the war lord era , the Japanese Invasion which marked the beginning of WW II, the civil war between the Communists and Nationalists, the Great Leap Forward and subsequent famine, the Cultural Revolution, the death of Mao and US and China rapprochement, and studied with the two most famous Chen Fake students, Feng Zhiqiang and Chen Zhaokui, travelled to the US and even while speaking little or no English established the Feng Zhiqiang US Academy. It is truly the passing of the world’s “Last Dragon”.
张学信 （1928 - 2023） 陈式太极第十九代宗师
张学信老师是公认在美国的陈式太极大师。张老师自九岁开始练外家拳。于1963年开始, 张老师便跟从多方名家学习陈式老架与新架太极拳， 包括李瑞元, 雷蒙尼， 与及陈照奎 （陈发科之子）。 1970年，张老师定居北京，便拜在冯志强老师门下，成为冯老师的入门弟子。 1990年，张老师迁居美国旧金山。
陈照奎老师注重擒拿与缠丝功。冯志强老师注重内劲，推手与散打。张老师合并两家之长, 注重缠丝功, 套路的用法, 和内劲的增长. 另外, 张老师也传授学生气功, 帮助学生们培养先天与后天元气.
张老师在中国教了十年太极, 持有陈式太极拳研究会所发的教练证书. 迁居美国后, 张老师继续教拳。在2013年退休前，张老师在加州三藩市有大群学生, 并在世界各地巡回主持研习班.