a look at this game.>
("shyang-chee") is the chess of China. A pretty strange
sight if you're used to playing western chess. Little wooden pucks
inscribed with Chinese characters, sitting not on the squares,
but on the intersections of lines, like go stones...
xaingqi, ready to play
the initial array of xiangqi
...The board is divided by a big open space in the middle; there
are strange X's on each side of the board. If you look carefully,
you'll see that some of the weird Chinese characters on one side
don't even match their mirrored counterparts on the other side...
this really chess?
mere foreign appearance of this game has turned western players
— and sometimes scholars — away from learning the
nature of this game...for centuries!
But a small introduction
to this game clearly shows that it is as much a member of the
original family of chess games as the one we know and love.
look at the pieces. The one in the corner moves exactly like the
rook in ancient and modern chess. It's character indicates a wheeled
vehicle (in war, a chariot), just like the rook (rukh)
from the ancient Persian game.
The line-up of pieces, though foreign in appearance,
is similar to that of other forms of chess.
The piece next to it is, of course, a horse. The four little dots
in this character indicate the horse's four feet. It also moves
just like the ancient Persian piece, and like the modern western
piece. One small difference: it can be blocked by a piece in its
next piece is an elephant (as in the Persian game) on one side,
and a minister on the other. It moves like the elephant in the
Persian game (but this piece too can be blocked).
is the familiar advisor, with the familiar move of one space (or
one point) diagonally.
the center is a general or governor (it is said that the king
or emperor does not belong on the battle field — or, symbolically,
on a board game).
the front row, we have two types of foot soldiers, slight variations
from the pawns we know so well.
and one more piece: a cannon. This is an oddity. A sort of a rook
which leaps to capture. It's a more recent innovation...just a
few centuries old.