Chen Zhen was from Nanyang Commandery. When Liu Bei became Governor of Jing Province, Chen Zhen was hired to serve as a local officer and was stationed in various commanderies. When Liu Bei entered Shu, Chen Zhen remained in his service, where he progressed in rank and soon became Prefect of the Masters of Writing at the capital. When Sun Quan declared himself emperor, Liu Shan sent Chen Zhen to offer his congratulations and to form an alliance, which he did, and they also fleshed out their countries’ borders. When he died in 235, his son Chen Ji succeeded him.
Chen Zhen first appears in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a subordinate of the warlord Yuan Shao.. His actions under Yuan Shao are not unlike his duties with Liu Bei, where he performs diplomatic tasks such as delivering Liu Bei's letter to Guan Yu in Luoyang, and meeting with Sun Ce to request aid against Cao Cao. Also in the novel, it was he who suggested to Liu Bei that he meet with the seer Li Yi (李意) while mourning the deaths of his brothers.