History of Chen (3)
The next episode in the saga of the Chen clan occurred during the Southern Dynasties period, 420-587AD. During this period there were many struggles of successions and inter-state rivalries.
Chen Shi’s (陳實) 18th generation descendant was Chen Baxian (陳霸先) and was the 28th generation descendant of Chen Zhen (陳軫) who fled to Yingchuan (穎川) after the destruction of Qi Guo (齊國) by Qin Shihuangdi (秦始皇帝).
In 557AD during the latter part of the Liang Dynasty (梁朝) the emperor Xiao Fangzhi (蕭方智) titled Liang Jingdi (梁敬帝) was forced to surrender his throne to one Chen Baxian, who in turn founded the Chen Dynasty (陳朝). He assumed the title of Chen Wudi (陳武帝) with a territory smaller than the former Liang Dynasty and he had considerable problems with the remnants of the Xiao family who were constantly contesting for the return of the throne.
The Chen Dynasty was short lived and only survived for a mere 31 years until its conquest by the powerful Sui Dynasty (隋朝) under Yang Jian (楊堅) in 589AD. It was a very weak dynasty at its inception after the turmoil in the Liang Dynasty and was destined to failure. They had their capital in present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu Province (江蘇省南京).
The second and third emperors were my forefathers.
From the Northern Song Dynasty (北宋朝) to the Southern Song Dynasty (南宋朝) periods saw the exodus of a major portion of the Chen clan southward, from Kaifeng in Henan Province (河南省開封) to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province (浙江省杭州) as the Song’s power base waned. It was from Zhejiang that the Chen clan migrated to Fujian Province (福建省) where they established themselves and eventually some ventured further afield inland into Guangdong Province (廣東省) via Jiangxi (江西) through the Nanling mountains (南嶺) by way of the Plum Pass/Meiguan (梅關).
A 6th generation descendant of Chen Bozong (陳伯宗) or Fedi (廢帝), the 3rd emperor of the Chen Dynasty, was an official by the name of Chen Hu (陳瑚). In 960 he fled south due to war and wound up in Longxi (龍溪)(today Zhangzhou 漳州) in Fujian Province.
Later, Chen Hu’s 6th generation descendant, Chen Wen (陳文) was sent into exile. He left Longxi via Ganzhou in Jiangxi Province (江西省贛州) and entered the northern part of Guangdong Province through the Plum Pass/Meiguan (梅關) into Nanxiong County (南雄縣). He and his family settled down at a place further south called Shashuicun (沙水村) in Pearl Lane/Zhujixiang (珠璣巷).
There the Chen clan prospered. After 1272 during the latter part of the Song Dynasty there was a major incident involving one of the emperor’s concubines by the name of Hu Fei (胡妃) who had absconded from a nunnery in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province (浙江省杭州). She became the concubine of a businessman, changed her name and lived in Zhujixiang for a period of time. However, she was betrayed by a servant, and thereafter, there were rumors of soldiers from the Song court heading toward Zhujixiang and punishment would be meted out to all officials involved. In those days, guilt by association was a severe form of punishment which meant most of the officials in Zhujixiang would be implicated. It was this fear that precipitated an en-masse migration of population from the nearby Zhen River (湞江) to Shaoguan (韶關) and down the North River/Beijiang (北江) to Guangzhou (廣州), called Nanhai (南海) in those days. From there these families scattered all over the Pearl River Delta Region (珠江三角洲) and settled the rich farm lands.
However, our Chen clan migration took place earlier, around 1225 during a chaotic period in Zhujixiang when the 9th generation descendant of Chen Hu, a high government official known as Daifu (大夫) by the name of Chen Hui (陳輝), style name Fengtai (風台), together with his younger brother, Chen Wei (陳煒), his seven children and all their families fled south to the Pearl River Delta Region.
From there this Chen family eventually populated most of the southern part of Guangdong Province and Chen Hui was thereafter designated the forefather of the Chens of Guangdong Province (廣東省陳氏始祖). To learn more about him refer to my new book Journey to Chen 陳氏淵源.
Chen Hui married his first wife surnamed Kuang (鄺氏) who bore him four sons:
1. Chen Mo (陳謨) settled in Taishan (台山)
2. Chen Xuan (陳宣) settled in Heshan (鶴山)
3. Chen Ying (陳英) settled in Taishan (台山)/Xinhui (新會)
4. Chen Kai (陳愷) settled in Wencun area of Taishan (汶村)
His concubine was surnamed Hou (侯氏) and she bore him three sons:
5. Chen Run (陳閏) settled in Chaozhou (潮洲)
6. Chen Tu (陳圖) settled in Qingyuan (清遠)
7. Chen Ren (陳仁) settled in Heshan (鶴山)
My branch of the Chen clan came from the third son, Chen Ying (陳英) and his descendants are found in the Xinhui (新會) and Taishan (台山) areas.
Although my Chen lineage came from southern Guangdong Province (廣東省), nonetheless, the clan also had roots in the southern part of Fujian Province (福建省), centered around Xiamen (廈門, known as Amoy in the local dialect) and Quanzhou (泉州, known as Chuan Chew locally).
This area deserves particular mention as it was a major contributor of Chen clan emigres who populated many countries in South East Asia as well as across the straits in Taiwan (台灣) (which was once a part of Fujian Province) and as far south as Australia.
During the Tang Dynasty (唐朝) there was unrest in the south and in 669 the royal court dispatched an officer by the name of Chen Zheng (陳政) to the southern part of Fujian Province called Xianyou county (仙游縣) to quell the unrest. Chen Zheng was a 12th generation descendant of Chen Shi (陳實) of Yingchuan (潁川), Henan Province (河南省), and he was later designated the forefather of the Chen clan of Fujian Province. He died 8 years later in 677 and was succeeded by his son Chen Yuanguang (陳元光). To learn more about them refer to my new book Journey to Chen 陳氏淵源.
Chen Zheng (陳政) and his son Yuanguang (元光) became important personages in the Longxi (龍溪) (present-day Zhangzhou 漳州) area. It was their descendants who later ventured forth from the port of Xiamen to work overseas. So, if you are a Tan from any of the South East Asian countries, you are most likely a descendant of Chen Yuanguang (陳元光).
In their lifetimes, both Chen Zheng and Chen Yuanguang also extended their clan influence southward into northeastern Guangdong Province (廣東省) to the present-day Chaozhou (潮州, known locally as Teochew) region centered around the port of Shantou (汕頭 known locally as Swatow) from whence many Tan clan workers migrated overseas. By far, the largest concentration of Chaozhou people is found today in Thailand.
From the hinterland of Chaozhou also came the Kejia (客家 better known world-wide as Hakka) people centered around their ancestral heartland of Meixian (梅縣, present-day Melizhou 梅州) who also ventured overseas to South East Asia, the Indian Ocean islands, Australia, the South Pacific islands, Central America and the Caribbean islands, particularly Jamaica and Cuba.
For a more contiguous historical narrative of the Chen Clan (陳氏) dating from its founding in the Zhou Dynasty (周朝) to the demise of the Southern Song Dynasty (南宋朝) please refer to my book Journey to Chen 陳氏淵源.