1953 – She was born on the 4th day of April this year in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. She was the first Chinese woman to receive a Master of Arts (M.A.) in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. She is also a violinist.
1956 – She began studying piano at the age of three, studying the music of Western composers such as Bach and Mozart. Her parents were doctors and musicians; her mother played the piano, and her father the violin. Her older sister was a child prodigy, and even today Chen’s older sister and younger brother work as professional musicians in China.
1966 – Cultural Revolution began in this year, Western influences were severely shunned and the arts were attacked. For ten years, education came to a halt and people were relocated to work in large communes in countryside. Her father and older sister were the first to be sent away, but she managed to hide in her hometown a while longer, and continued to practice music, but with some impediments: she was forced to stuff a blanket inside her piano in order to dampen the sound, and play her violin with a mute.
1970 – At age seventeen, she returned to Guangzhou and began working as concertmaster for the Beijing Opera Troupe.
2006 – Chen lived for many years in New York City, and studied composition with Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky at Columbia University, earning a DMA with distinction. Her husband is the composer Zhou Long. As of this year, both Chen and Zhou are professors of composition at the University of Missouri–Kansas City Conservatory of Music.