Chunjen C. Chen, 81, a retired assistant professor of Chinese at the University of Maryland, died Tuesday at his home in College Park. He had suffered from cancer.

Mr. Chen joined the university's Bureau of Business and Economic Research in 1952 as a research associate. He was named assistant professor and chairman of the Chinese section of the department of foreign languages in 1954, and professor-emeritus on his retirement in 1967.

Mr. Chen was born in Shanghai, China. He first came to this country to attend college and was a 1919 graduate of Cornell University. He earned a master's degree in agriculture at the University of Maryland in 1920.

He returned to China where he worked as an associate professor of biology and agriculture at Tsing Hua University in Peking from 1921 to 1928. He later worked for the Bank of China as an agricultural economist before moving to Hong Kong in 1949.

Mr, Chen returned to this country and the University of Maryland in 1952.

He was a member of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in College Park.

He survived by his wife, Eva, of the home; four sons, Ping, of Washington. Ming, of Stony Brook, N.Y., Yi. of Gaithersburg, and Kong, of McLean, and three grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.