Chen Zhi was born in Lujiang (today’s Hefei, Anhui province). He participated in the Provincial Exam in the Zhizheng period of the Yuan dynasty but failed to pass. In the Hongwu period, he became a clerical officer (zhushi) in the Department of Evaluation and Selection (wenxuansi) in the Ministry of Personnel (libu). He also served as Governor (zhifu) of Hejian county and Administration Vice Commissioner of Shanxi. He became Junior Vice-President of Ministry of war in the second year of the Jianwen period (1400). Two years later (1402) during the Jingnan Rebellion, Chen was assigned to supervise the army as Junior Vice-President of Ministry of war but was assisnated by his subornates in an attempt to surrender to Zhu Di.