What Is Chinese Chess Game?-Xiang Qi(2023 Updated)

Chinese chess has been one of the most intriguing games and has excited the quizzical for a pretty long time now. The Chinese chess game is known as Xiangqi and pronounced as ‘shiang-chee’. It has existed since time immemorial, and up to date, it is still one of the most popular board games in the world.

Although its rules are similar to the popular western chess game, there are fascinating variations with the Chinese game. It is mostly played in China and across Asia, but you will find a few players in the West as well. Also, you will find several men playing Chinese chess in any Chinatown neighborhood across the world.

Following that background, we will explore the Chinese chess game and how you can play it. Also, we will outline the differences between Chinese chess and chess.

What is Chinese chess game?

Chinese chess history: Chinese chess is a strategy board game that has been played in China ever since 700 AD. Just like orthodox chess, the Chinese believe that it was derived from the popular Indian game known as chaturanga, a 4-player game played with dice. The Chinese chess game is ultimately known as the Elephant Game (Xiangqi), where Xiang means elephant and Qi means chess game.

There are two reasons why it is called the elephant game. The first reason is that the game pieces of pawns and generals in Liubo were made of ivory, and ivory comes from elephants. The second reason was that the Chinese incorporate elephants in their military, which informed how the pieces were arranged in the game.

Aside from that, the Chinese chess game also holds cultural significance among the Chinese people. Because of this, it has become a popular means of intelligent entertainment in the whole of China and Vietnam. Almost everyone in China knows how to play Chinese chess, particularly as a way of associating with one another or a way of passing time.

How to play a Chinese chess game?

Step One: Setting up the board and familiarizing with the line on the boards

The Chinese chessboard has approximately 64 squares, which is similar to any international chessboard. Towards the middle part of the board, there is a river that divides the board between opponents. There are diagonal lines in some parts that clearly identify the boundaries that some pieces cannot cross over to. You cannot make any plays in the river, so you will have to cross it to make any play.

You will find an imperial palace on both sides of the playing board, and the guard and general pieces cannot leave this space. You need to place the pieces on line intersections known as points, instead of the actual board squares. The Chinese chessboard features 9 by 10 points, but you only move in the line intersections.

Step Two: Understanding the pieces

The pieces in the Chinese chess game are no different from those in International chess. Every player in the game gets 2 guards, 1 general (king, 2 chariots (rooks), 2 elephants (bishops), 5 soldiers (pawns), 2 cannons, and 2 horses (knights). Each one of these pieces is a flat white disk with either black or red markings. The markings correspond to the Chinese character that matches the piece.

Step Three: Playing the game

Begin by placing the pieces on the board and ensuring that they are in the correct place. On the row that is closest to you, place the pieces from left to right, that is, chariot, horse, elephant, guard, king, 2nd guard, 2nd elephant, 2nd knight, and 2nd chariot, then on the third-row place the 2 cannons on the intersection you find one space away from the edge of the right and left side of the board. Afterward, place the soldier prices on all the other intersections.  

Your goal in the game is to capture your opponent’s king, so all your other pieces are the ones you use to put the general into checkmate. The player that has the red pieces makes the first move, then the next player with the black ones follows. From there onwards, the two players alternate throughout the game, while making one move per turn.

The term ‘capture’ means to take over the point that your opponent occupies. You put your opponents’ genera in ‘check’ when your next move can successfully capture the piece. If you don’t, your opponent’s next move would protect the general from capture. If you end up in a stalemate situation, then the game becomes a draw. A stalemate situation simply happens when your opponent cannot make a legal move to protect his king. Also, the game becomes a draw when none of the players can call a checkmate or force a stalemate.

What is the difference between Chinese chess and chess?

While Chinese chess and International chess have the same goal of capturing the opponent’s general (king), there are significant differences between the two.

First, only the Chinese chariots are the equivalent pieces of Western rooks. The Chinese horse pieces are almost equal to western knights. However, the main difference is that the horse pieces can be hobbled in specific instances. Also, the Chinese elephants and cannons have jumping properties which make them slightly less useful than the western bishops. There is no equivalent of the western queen with the combined powers of bishops and rooks in the game.

The Chinese pawns are more powerful than the Western ones, but only after they cross the river in the middle of the chessboard. Even so, there is no specific promotion mechanism on the 8th rank, and there are no queens to promote the pawns to. To compensate for this, however, the Chinese king (general) is always confined to the 3 by 3 square palace, whereas the western kings in the international chess game try to achieve that same fortress protection by castling, at least early to mid-game.

what is Chinese chess called?

Chinese chess is called “Xiangqi” (象棋) in Chinese. It is a strategic board game played between two players on a square board divided into a grid of intersecting lines. The game features different types of pieces with specific movements and objectives, and the goal is to capture the opponent’s “General” (帥/將) piece. Xiangqi is a popular traditional game in China and is often played in homes, parks, and competitions.

What does Chinese chess represent?

Chinese Chess, also known as Xiangqi, is not only a game but also a reflection of Chinese culture and philosophy. It provides opportunities for self-reflection, contemplation of life, and the enjoyment of friendly competition. The essence of Xiangqi cannot be fully expressed in words or touched physically, but it exists as a tangible concept that requires personal understanding and realization through practice.

Before a match, players engage in a handshake, signifying respect for each other. Learning to play Xiangqi involves not only mastering the techniques but also demonstrating respect for opponents. While skill level may vary, it is important to compete with one’s own ability and style while practicing courtesy, respecting mentors, and showing consideration for fellow players by serving tea to mentors and serving coffee to fellow students.

Wisdom in Life:

  1. Once a move is made, there is no turning back. This is the most important lesson learned from Xiangqi. In life, progress can only be made by moving forward without regret. Whether playing Xiangqi for entertainment or in formal competitions, the same attitude and dedication should be applied. Each game cultivates and strengthens a sense of prudence.
  2. A mistake in one move affects the whole board. This is a manifestation of the first principle. Regardless of the advantage one holds, even a slight or significant error can lead to extreme disadvantages or even a catastrophic outcome. Life requires constant caution, composure, and careful consideration.
  3. Life is like a game of chess, constantly changing, yet always adhering to its fundamental principles. No two games of chess are exactly the same, just as no two lives are identical. However, just as one can learn from observing others’ chess skills and absorb strategies from ancient texts, one can also benefit from the thoughts of people around us and established knowledge. The underlying principles are similar.
  4. Know yourself, know your opponent, and you will never be defeated. In Xiangqi, winning requires not only focusing on one’s own tactics but also understanding the intentions of the opponent. Success depends on who can think one step further. In life, it is important to consider others’ feelings and intentions in all social interactions, analyze whether the interests align, leverage strengths and weaknesses when competing, and offer help when needed. Additionally, when alone, it is essential to separate oneself into two personas – observer and observed – to gain a clear understanding of oneself and promote personal growth.
  5. Strategic planning outweighs individual moves. While tactical moves can expand advantages, it is crucial to consider how each move contributes to the overall situation, tilting it in one’s favor. In life, it is important not to waste time on scattered “skills” but to first contemplate whether they align with one’s ultimate goals. Each game expands and showcases the inner disposition.

Chinese chess history

Chinese Chess, also known as Xiangqi, is a “mind game” that serves as both a competitive sport and a tool for cultural entertainment among the Chinese population. Its origins can be traced back over two thousand years ago during the Warring States period. Historical records mention the prevalence of a six-pawn chess variant at that time. The famous poet Qu Yuan described the magnificent scene of the Chu King playing chess in his work “Summoning the Soul” from the Chu Ci anthology.

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties, chess was referred to as “xiangxi” or “elephant game.” Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou dynasty, Yuwen Yong, created the “Xiang Jing” (Elephant Classic) and gathered officials in the palace to study and discuss it. He not only invented the game of Xiangqi but also applied precise calculations to every step of his own life. Life is like a game of chess, where each move can be thrilling. He skillfully outwitted powerful ministers, formed alliances between the North and South, defeated formidable enemies with a sword every three years, leaving an unfinished chess game for future generations. Unfortunately, he passed away prematurely due to illness. If given a few more years, it is highly likely that history would have witnessed a heroic figure reminiscent of Emperor Qin Shi Huang or Emperor Han Wu. He was Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou dynasty, Yuwen Yong.

Regrettably, the chess rules and related writings before the Tang dynasty have been lost.

During the Tang dynasty, some changes were introduced to Xiangqi. It featured four types of chess pieces: General, Horse, Chariot, and Soldier, similar to the international chessboard consisting of sixty-four black and white squares. According to Japanese literature, it is said that “Shogi” (Japanese chess) appeared in Japan during the Heian period, which corresponds to the reign of Emperor Su Zong of the Tang dynasty. This indicates that Xiangqi was prevalent during the Tang dynasty.

Chinese Chess took on its basic form in the Song dynasty. In addition to the introduction of the “Cannon” due to the invention of gunpowder, the “Advisor” and “Elephant” pieces were also added. The chess pieces were named “General, Advisor, Elephant, Chariot, Horse, and Soldier.” The pieces took various forms, including three-dimensional, patterned, and textual designs.

It wasn’t until the late Northern Song dynasty that the modern form of Chinese Chess, which is currently the most popular, was established. Chen Yuanliang’s book “Shi Lin Guang Ji” from the Song dynasty contains the earliest known Xiangqi diagrams, predating the earliest recorded International Chess manuals in the West by over two hundred years.

In the Ming dynasty, for the convenience of recording and memorization, the term “General” for one side was changed to “King.” The Ming dynasty was a period of significant development for Chinese Chess. Cities such as Beijing, Nanjing, and Hangzhou became centers of chess activities, attracting renowned players to compete.

During the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing dynasty, a remarkable group of chess players emerged, known as the “Jiangdong Eight Geniuses” and the “Three Heroes of Hebei,” who dominated various regions.

In the Republican era, the “Chess Column” was specifically established in the Shanghai-based newspaper “Shi Shi Xin Bao” to promote national culture, integrating chess culture with patriotism.

The “intellectual and strategic culture” of Chinese Chess can be seen as a splendid manifestation of the intelligence prevailing over sheer strength in the Chu-Han contention. The two sides of the chessboard represent the red and black armies commanded by each player, strategizing and competing in a battle of wits on the chessboard. Translated into English, Chinese Chess is often referred to as “Xiangqi.”

where did Chinese chess originate?

Xingyang account:

Over 2,200 years ago, during the Chu-Han Contention, Xiang Yu, the Hegemon-King of Chu, and Liu Bang, the King of Han, fought a four-year-long fierce battle with Xingyang as the main battlefield. The Honggou (Hong Canal) in Xingyang became the dividing line, splitting the country in two. The “Records of the Grand Historian” states, “To the west of the Honggou belonged to Han, and to the east of the Honggou belonged to Chu.” Thus, history turned the Honggou into the “Chu River and Han Border.” As the birthplace of Chinese Chess, the Honggou, as the “Chu River and Han Border,” holds great significance.

Laohekou account:

Historical records such as the “Zuo Zhuan,” “Records of the Grand Historian,” “Zizhi Tongjian,” and “Strategies of the Warring States” indicate that during the 800-year period from the founding of the Chu state to its later years, its capital frequently moved along the Han River.

Even today, Laohekou retains the tradition of playing “Bai Di Tu Qi” (a variant of Chinese Chess played on a checkered board made of soil). Many people of all ages and genders still play it. Games like “Dui Guo Qi” (National Chess), “Lang Chi Zu” (Wolf Eats Pawn), “Ha Ma Tiao Jing” (Frog Jumps into the Well), “Tui Xiao Che” (Pushing the Cart), and “Bai Gu Zi” (Arranging the Ancient Pieces) are popular among the people of ancient Zouyang (Laohekou). These games have deep connections with the “Bi Bi Xiang Qi” (a variant of Chinese Chess) described in the “Chu Ci” (Songs of Chu).

The gameplay of Chinese Chess represents a military confrontation, a strategic game between two armies on the battlefield, where soldiers face off against soldiers and generals face off against generals. The ancient Zouyang tradition of the Zouyang gong and drum music, also known as the Battlefield Gong and Drum music, is another form of war game performance, featuring the “Shuai Gu” (General Drum), “Jiang Gu” (Advisor Drum), and “Zu Gu” (Pawn Drum). It shares similarities with Chinese Chess. These war drums and the current form of chess pieces have astonishing resemblances.

when was Chinese chess invented?

There are multiple theories about the origin of Chinese Chess:

  • Originated in the legendary era of the Yellow Emperor. Huang Bu Zhi, a scholar from the Northern Song Dynasty, wrote in “Guang Xiang Xi Ge” (Introduction to Elephant Game Format): “The game of elephants is a game of soldiers. In the battle of the Yellow Emperor, fierce animals were used as formations. Elephants represent the strength of animals. Hence, the game of soldiers was named after elephants.”
  • Originated in the legendary era of Shennong. Monk Nian Chang from the Yuan Dynasty mentioned in “Fozu Lidai Tong Zai” (Historical Records of the Buddha Ancestors): “Shennong used the sun, moon, stars, and constellations as symbols, and Tang State Minister Niu Sengru replaced them with chariots, horses, soldiers, pawns, and cannons.”
  • Originated during the time of Emperor Shun. According to the modern scholar Chang Renxia’s book “Artistic Connections Between China and India,” Emperor Shun had a half-brother named Xiang, who was lazy and fond of playing games. The scholar suggests that Emperor Shun created a chessboard for him to provide entertainment. Since the brother’s name was Xiang, it was called “Xiang Qi” (Elephant Chess).
  • Originated during King Wu of Zhou’s campaign against King Zhou of Shang. Xie Zhaozhi from the Ming Dynasty wrote in “Wu Za Zu” (Miscellaneous Works): “The game of elephants is said to have been created during King Wu’s campaign against King Zhou, or it might have been a trend among military strategists during the Warring States period, as they valued chariot warfare.”
  • Originated during the Spring and Autumn period. The term “xiang” in Chinese Chess means “symbolize” and has no direct relation to animals. Chinese Chess might have been derived from imitating the military system of the Spring and Autumn period. The names of the chess pieces correspond to the military structure of that era, including the general, advisor, chariot, horse, guard, soldier, and pawn. However, it is also possible that Chinese Chess derived its name from the fact that the chess pieces were originally made of ivory.
  • Originated during the Warring States period. “Qian Que Ju Lei Shu” mentions: “Zhou, a scholar from Yong Gate, said to Meng Changjun, ‘When you reside in Yan, you play the game of elephant chess, which is a typical Warring States activity.’ It is because warfare was prevalent during that time that people used the symbol of war for the game of chess.”
  • Originated during the Chu-Han Contention. The chessboard of Chinese Chess has “Chu He Han Jie” (the boundary between Chu and Han) written in the middle, leading many to believe in this theory. It is also said to have been invented by Han Xin. Qing-Liang Tong’s book, “Yuan Shen Hai Kuo Xiang Qi Pu Xu,” mentions: “It is also heard that Chinese Chess originated from Han Xin, and Zhu Zi Yun was highly skilled in the game.” Modern scholar Zhou Jiasen in “Research on the Origin and Development of Chinese Chess” states: “When Han Xin attacked Zhao, he created Chinese Chess and leaf games using soldier and pawn pieces. As the year ended, soldiers and pawns would gather to play, spending all their money, enjoying themselves and forgetting to return.”

Early Chinese Chess consisted of three components: chess pieces, chopsticks (used as dice), and the board. Each side had six pieces: xiao (elephant), lu (chariot), zhi (pheasant), du (calf), and two sao (soldiers). The chess pieces were carved from ivory. The chopsticks were used as dice, and before the game, players would roll the chopsticks. The board was square-shaped. During the game, players would roll the chopsticks and move their pieces accordingly, employing strategic tactics to attack and corner the opponent. The military formation of the Spring and Autumn period, consisting of five people in a group with one leader, also had six people in total, just like the game, where each side had six people. Thus, early Chinese Chess symbolized the battles of that era. Based on this chess system, a variation called “Sai” emerged later, which eliminated the element of luck by removing the dice-rolling component.

who invented chinese chess?

There are various theories about the inventor of Chinese Chess. Some say it was invented by Emperor Shun, while others attribute it to Han Xin or even to the legendary Yellow Emperor. Huang Bu Zhi, a scholar from the Northern Song Dynasty, wrote in “Guang Xiang Xi Ge” (Introduction to Elephant Game Format): “The game of elephants is a game of soldiers. In the battle of the Yellow Emperor, fierce animals were used as formations. Elephants represent the strength of animals. Hence, the game of soldiers was named after elephants.”

According to historical records, Chinese Chess originated during the reign of the Three Sovereigns (Yao, Shun, and Yu). It was said to be invented by Xiang, the younger brother of Emperor Shun. At that time, people lived in peace and harmony, and there were no wars. Xiang drew a square on the ground, with nine vertical lines representing the nine provinces of the world and five horizontal lines representing the Three Mountains and Five Sacred Peaks, with a river separating the two sides.

However, according to the “Lei Yao” written by Yan Shu, Chinese Chess was introduced to China during the Wei Dynasty in the Three Kingdoms period (around the time of Cao Pi and Zhuge Liang). The current form of Chinese Chess was established during the Song Dynasty.

According to Cheng Hao’s “Yong Xiang Qi Ji Lu” (A Record of Singing About Chinese Chess), it was primarily a game of entertainment and strategy. The formations of the game were inspired by the strategies used in war. The chess pieces were named after military ranks and positions from the Zhou Dynasty, and the game adopted elements from both the Wei and Han Dynasties. It wasn’t until the invention of gunpowder and firearms by the Chinese that cannons were incorporated into Chinese Chess.

During the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, Chinese Chess continued to evolve, and its level of sophistication improved. Several works were written during this time, such as “Meng Ru Shen Ji” (Dreams of Divine Machines), “Jin Peng Shi Ba Bian” (The 18 Transformations of the Golden Phoenix), and “Ju Zhong Mi” (Secrets within the Tangerine).

chinese chess game name

There are several different theories about the origin of the name “Chinese Chess” (or Xiangqi). Some believe that it reflects the symbolism of the universe, including the sun, moon, and stars. Others suggest that the chess pieces in ancient times were made of ivory, hence the name “Xiangqi” (which means “elephant chess” in Chinese). Additionally, some argue that the name “Xiangqi” is derived from the presence of an elephant piece in the game.

The multiple theories regarding the origin and name of Chinese Chess reflect the various arguments surrounding its origins. These debates exist not only within China but also internationally. India claims that Chess originated there, while Egypt attributes its invention to their civilization. Iran asserts that ancient Persia is the birthplace of international chess. These differing opinions have led to a variety of interpretations. Only in the past century has the consensus narrowed down to China, India, Iran, or Egypt as the most likely places of origin for Chinese Chess, with China, India, and Iran being the most probable.

In the 1984 reprint of the 15th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the entry on Chess states that it originated in the 6th century or earlier in either India or China. It evolved from an ancient board game, and variations such as Chinese Chess, Korean Chess, Japanese Shogi, Malay Chess, and Burmese Chess are still popular in certain regions. However, the entry only discusses the Indian origin theory, which can be seen as biased.

The theory of Indian origin for Chinese Chess primarily stems from the work of British scholar William Jones. In his article “On the Indian Game of Chess” published in the journal “Asiatic Research” in 1790, Jones pointed out that since ancient China did not have elephants, but India did, the presence of elephants in the game suggests its origin in India and subsequent introduction to China. Some Soviet chess historians went even further and claimed that the Indian Chaturanga was introduced to China around 570 AD. However, these claims lack sufficient evidence. China has had elephants since ancient times, and elephants were even used in warfare. Not to mention the legends of ancient China having Chess, there is clear textual evidence of the term “Xiangqi” appearing in the “Chu Ci” (“Songs of Chu”) dating back more than 2,400 years. How can it be said that Chess was introduced from India?

Chess historians from Britain, former Yugoslavia, and the former Soviet Union have taken a skeptical stance on the theory of Chess’s Indian origin. As early as the 1970s, the renowned British scholar Joseph Needham stated in his book “Science and Civilization in China” that Chess was a creation of the Chinese people, a game they invented to simulate warfare. In the 1980s, Academician Chelevkov, an Oriental scholar from the Soviet Union, wrote in an article in the journal “Soviet International Chess” in 1984 that Chess was invented by the ancient Chinese based on the principles of yin and yang and the Eight Trigrams from the classical Chinese book “Yijing” (Book of Changes).

While the evidence for Chess being introduced to China from India is lacking, there is concrete evidence of ancient Chinese board games being introduced to foreign countries. As far back as the Han and Wei dynasties, Chinese board games such as Go, Six-Part Chess, and Bullet Chess were introduced to India. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the Xiangxi game developed during the Northern Zhou Dynasty was introduced to Japan during the Tang Dynasty and evolved into modern-day Japanese Shogi. The “Baoying Xiangqi” of the Tang Dynasty was also likely introduced to Japan. Chinese Chess of the Northern Song Dynasty was transmitted to Korea and Japan. Tang Dynasty Chess also spread northward to the Central Plains, developing and evolving into Mongolian Chess, while it spread southward from China’s southern regions to Southeast Asian countries, developing and evolving into Malay Chess, Burmese Chess, and Thai Chess.

Development History of Chinese Chess

Chinese Chess, also known as Xiangqi, did not initially have its current form but evolved over time.

Warring States Period: The name of Chinese Chess existed, but it referred to the game of “Liubo” played with ivory pieces. Liubo was popular among the noble class as early as the Warring States Period. It likely originated in the southern regions of China during the Zhou Dynasty (around the 11th century BC). The game consisted of chess pieces, chopsticks, and a game board. Chinese Chess took shape during the Warring States Period as a precursor to the modern game. The earliest written reference to Chinese Chess appears in the poem “Zhao Hun” from the “Chu Ci,” which mentions “Bibi Xiangqi” (chess played with a castor bean shell). Chinese Chess drew inspiration from the military formations of two opposing armies (chariots and infantry), leading to the creation of the game’s imagery. It featured four types of units: “General, Horse, Chariot, and Soldier.”

Qin and Han Dynasties: The game of “Seqi” (also known as “Ge Wu”) was prevalent during this period. Archaeological findings, such as a Seqi game board unearthed from a Western Han Tomb in Yunmeng, Hubei Province, and painted wooden figurines playing Seqi from a Han Dynasty tomb in Wuwei, Gansu Province, provide evidence of the game’s existence. Liubo, Seqi, and Chinese Chess differ significantly in rules, pieces, and the game board, indicating no direct evolutionary relationship.

Northern Zhou Dynasty: Chinese Chess was initially called “Xiangxi,” meaning a symbolic game. The term “Xiangxi” first appeared during the Northern Zhou Dynasty (during the Northern and Southern Dynasties period). Emperor Wu (reigned 561-578 AD) of the Northern Zhou Dynasty compiled the “Xiangjing” (Classic of Chess), Wang Bao wrote the “Xiangxi Xu” (Preface to the Game of Xiangxi), and Geng Xin wrote the “Xiangxi Jing Fu” (Rhapsody on the Game of Xiangxi). These works marked the completion of the second major reform in the form of Chinese Chess.

Sui Dynasty: During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, Chinese Chess activities steadily developed and were frequently recorded in historical texts. An important account is found in Niu Sengru’s “Xuangui Lu” (Record of Marvels) about Cen Shun dreaming of playing Chinese Chess in the first year of the Baoying reign (762 AD).

Tang Dynasty: The claim that Empress Wu Zetian dreamt of playing Chinese Chess with a celestial maiden is a misinterpretation. According to historical texts such as “Tang Guo Shi Bu” (Supplement to the History of the Tang Dynasty), stories like “Liang Gong Jiujian” (The Nine Remonstrations of Liang Gong), “Di Renjie Zhuan” (Biography of Di Renjie), “Tian Zhong Ji” (Records from the Sky’s Center), and “Yuan Jian Lei Han” (Collected Writings on Yuan Dynasty), Wu Zetian dreamt of playing a different game called “Shuanglu” (Double Land Chess). During the Tang Dynasty, Chinese Chess underwent changes, including the addition of the “Cannon” piece. The chessboard, similar to international chess, consisted of 64 alternating black and white squares.

Song Dynasty: The modern form of Chinese Chess was established during the Song Dynasty. Cheng Hao, a Neo-Confucian philosopher, composed a poem praising Chinese Chess, stating, “In the capital, various games are mere entertainment, but Xiangxi is a game that teaches the art of war. The chess tactics from the Zhou Dynasty still remain, while the Han Dynasty officials possess extraordinary divine powers.” During the Northern Song Dynasty, there were two types of Chinese Chess: “Da Xiangxi” (Great Xiangxi) and “Xiao Xiangxi” (Small Xiangxi), both featuring the cannon chess piece. Chinese Chess became popular during this time. The earliest surviving Chinese Chess manual is recorded in the Song Dynasty’s “Shi Lin Guang Ji” (Extensive Records of the Affairs of the Forest).

Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties: Chinese Chess continued to be popular among the people during these dynasties, and its level of play improved. Several theoretical works were written, including “Meng Ru Shen Ji” (Dream Entering the Divine Machine), “Jin Peng Shi Ba Bian” (The Eighteen Transformations of the Golden Peng), “Ju Zhong Mi” (Secrets from the Orange Pavilion), “Shi Qing Ya Qu” (Elegant Pleasures Suited to the Occasion), “Mei Hua Pu” (Plum Blossom Manual), and “Zhu Xiang Zhai Xiangqi Pu” (Xiangqi Manual from the Bamboo Fragrance Studio). During the Ming Dynasty, the term “General” was changed to “Commander,” aligning with the current Chinese Chess terminology.

Establishment of the People’s Republic of China: After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese Chess entered a new phase of development. In 1956, it became a national sports activity. Since then, national competitions have been held almost every year.

The Emergence of Liubo – The Nascent Period of Chinese Chess

Liubo and Go (Weiqi) are the oldest known board games in China and are collectively referred to as “Boyi” games. The existence of Weiqi activities before the Spring and Autumn period cannot be verified, but there are reliable records indicating that it was during this period that people began using the term “Yi” to refer to games. Liubo appeared slightly earlier than Weiqi. According to the records in the book “Mu Tianzi Zhuan,” King Mu of Zhou played Liubo with Duke Jin for three days. By the time of the Spring and Autumn period, gaming had become prevalent. The Analects of Confucius mentions, “The Master said, ‘To eat one’s fill and yet not use one’s mind in anything – this is hard indeed! When not studying, playing Liubo is good.'” This shows that during the time of Confucius, gaming, including playing Liubo and Weiqi during leisure time, was seen as beneficial and entertaining. Liubo was also referred to as “Liu Bu.” In the “Chu Ci” (Songs of Chu), it states, “Playing a game of Liubo, there are six ‘Bu’ pieces.” This is the earliest source linking Liubo and the name of the game. From the pre-Qin period to the Tang dynasty, various gambling games emerged and became popular. Several factors that contributed to the development of Chinese Chess can be found during this period, making it the nascent period of Chinese Chess in its history.

The earliest recorded mention of Liubo is associated with two monarchs, Emperor Wu Yi of the Shang dynasty and King Mu of Zhou. “Shi Ji” (Records of the Grand Historian) records, “Emperor Wu Yi was an unjust ruler and associated with a puppeteer referred to as a heavenly god. They played Liubo, and he ordered people to act accordingly. When the heavenly god was defeated, he was insulted.” The “Zuo Zhuan” (Zuo’s Commentary) records, “King Mu went north and played Liubo with Duke Jing. They played for three days before deciding the winner.” Although these records may not be entirely reliable, they at least indicate that people during the Western Han or Warring States period considered Liubo to have originated earlier than the Spring and Autumn period. Research suggests that Liubo during the Qin dynasty was the precursor to Chinese Chess.

The phrase “Bo Sai Yi You” (playing Bo or Sai for entertainment) in the “Zhuangzi” refers to Bo and Sai games. Cheng Xuanying’s commentary on this phrase explains, “Throwing a piece is called ‘Bo,’ not throwing a piece is called ‘Sai.'” This indicates that the game of Sai developed from Liubo, with the difference lying in whether dice were used for moving the pieces. Based on the Liubo gaming sets unearthed from Western Han tombs, the form of the game board is similar to that of Liubo. Sai games were already popular during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. By the Qin and Han dynasties, Sai games were widespread, and they were also referred to as “Ge Wu” (meaning “Five Pieces”). Sai gaming boards unearthed from the Western Han tomb in Yunmeng, Hubei, and painted wooden figurines of Sai gaming from the Han tomb in Mozizui, Wuwei, Gansu, confirm the descriptions of the form of Sai gaming in the “Sai Fu” by the Han poet Bian Shao.

Xiangxi – The Embryonic Period of Chinese Chess

During the Three Kingdoms period, the form of Chinese Chess underwent continuous changes and had already established connections with India. It was during the Northern Zhou dynasty of the Northern and Southern Dynasties period that Emperor Wu (reigned from 561 to 578) compiled the “Xiang Jing” (Classic of Xiangxi), Wang Bao wrote the “Xiang Xi Xu” (Preface to Xiangxi), and Geng Xin wrote the “Xiang Xi Jing Fu” (Rhapsody on Xiangxi). These works marked the completion of the second major reform in the form of Chinese Chess. The first recorded mention of Xiangxi can be found in the Twenty-Four Histories. Volume Ten of the “Book of Northern History” states, “In the fourth year of Tianhe, on the ji-chou day in May, the emperor compiled the ‘Xiang Jing’ and gathered the hundred ministers to explain it.” The same event is recorded in Volume Five of the “Book of Zhou.”

During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the activities of Chinese Chess steadily developed. In the mid-Tang dynasty, Xiangxi further approached the form of modern Chinese Chess. Historical records frequently mention Chinese Chess, and among them, the most important are the accounts of Empress Wu Zetian’s dream of playing Chinese Chess with celestial maidens in the “Nine Admonitions to the Prince of Liang” in the “Shi Li Ju Cong Shu” and a story in Niu Sengru’s “Xuan Guai Lu” about Cen Shun dreaming of Chinese Chess in the first year of Baoying (762 AD). According to the “Nine Admonitions to the Prince of Liang,” Empress Wu Zetian dreamt of playing Chinese Chess with celestial maidens, and she was even defeated by one of them. This dream left her puzzled, and she wondered if it was auspicious. The story of Cen Shun states that one night in the first year of Baoying, Cen Shun, a person from Runan, dreamed of the armies of the Kingdom of Golden Elephants and the Kingdom of Celestial Naga engaged in battle and invited Cen Shun to observe. The military advisor of the Kingdom of Golden Elephants reported their battle plan to the king, saying, “The heavenly horse flies diagonally, covering three squares; the top general moves horizontally, controlling four directions. The supply wagons go straight without turning back, and the six divisions follow in order.” After waking up from the dream, Cen Shun’s family discovered an ancient tomb in their house, and in front of it was a golden bed with a chessboard, weighed down by horses, all made of gold and copper. Only then did they realize that the military advisor in Cen Shun’s dream was referring to the moves of the chariot and horse pieces in Chinese Chess. From this story, it can be inferred that during the Baoying period, Xiangxi already had pieces such as the general, chariot, horse, and soldier, and the movements of the chariot, horse, and soldier were not much different from those in modern Chinese Chess, while the general could move freely across the board, similar to the king in international chess.

The form of Chinese Chess during the Tang dynasty had many similarities to early international chess. The popularity of Chinese Chess during that time can be glimpsed from numerous records in poetry and legends. The chess manual “Chu Bo Xiang Xi Ge” in three volumes is a possible work from the Tang dynasty. Chinese Chess underwent significant changes in the Tang dynasty, with the existence of four types of pieces: general, horse, chariot, and soldier, arranged on a 64-square board with alternating black and white squares. Later, influenced by the Chinese game of Go, the board was expanded to 90 points. This version of Chinese Chess came to be known as “Baoying Xiangqi,” with Xiangxi becoming a synonym for Chinese Chess.

Song Dynasty Xiangqi – Development and Standardization Period of Chinese Chess

During the Song Dynasty, Chinese Chess reached its basic form. In addition to the introduction of the “cannon” due to the invention of gunpowder, the game also included the addition of the “guard” and “elephant” pieces. Based on a chessboard with a nine-palace layout, the game absorbed and borrowed from other chess variants, upgrading three soldiers into one guard and two cannons to cater to the tastes of the time. Additionally, Song Chao Wujiu’s “Guang Xiangqi” featured 32 pieces, the same number as modern Chinese Chess, although it is unknown if there were boundary lines on the board. The “Shi Lin Guang Ji” during the Song and Yuan dynasties recorded the complete moves of two Xiangqi games. The Song Dynasty witnessed a significant transformation in the popularity and form of Chinese Chess. During the Northern Song period, notable works on Xiangqi were published, such as Sima Guang’s “Qi Guo Xiangxi,” Yin Zhu’s “Xiangxi Ge” and “Qi Shi,” and Chao Buzhi’s “Guang Xiangxi Tu.” The folk also enjoyed a variant called “Da Xiangxi.”

In the Ming Dynasty, perhaps for the convenience of playing and memory, one side’s “general” was changed to “king.” Xiangqi experienced significant development during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and many chess masters and treatises on Xiangqi were produced. Notable Xiangqi treatises of the Ming Dynasty include “Jin Peng Shi Ba Bian,” “Meng Ru Shen Ji,” and “Ju Zhong Mi.” Xu Zhi’s selected work “Shi Qing Ya Qu” is the most systematic, complete, and practical ancient Xiangqi manual. The “Ju Zhong Mi” includes many stalemate positions and some discussions on ancient Xiangqi rules, utilizing tactics such as “check” and “kill” to achieve a stalemate. It is evident that during the Ming Dynasty, the development of Xiangqi techniques and theoretical knowledge began to move towards refinement, and players and enthusiasts had higher requirements beyond the cleverness of position arrangements and exciting killing methods. The integration of theoretical development and tactical strategies took an important step forward.

The Qing Dynasty was the golden age of Chinese Chess, with numerous renowned players and famous game records. Notable works on Xiangqi include “Mei Hua Quan,” “Tao Yuan Ji Lue,” “Xin Wu Can Pian,” “Zhu Xiang Zhai Xiangxi Pu,” and “Bai Bian Xiangqi Pu.” Among them, Wang Zaiyue’s “Mei Hua Pu” is a groundbreaking Xiangqi manual with abundant game examples and intricate variations. It pioneered the historical chapter of “the dominance of the horse and cannon” that has lasted for over three hundred years. Moreover, the four famous Xiangqi game setups, namely “Seven Stars Gather,” “Wild Horse Treads the Field,” “Lone Horse Crosses a Thousand Li,” and “Worm Ascends the Dragon,” were all developed during the Qing Dynasty. These setups have their own characteristics but revolve around the coordination of chariots, horses, cannons, and soldiers. They are still recognized as the most challenging and complex setups to date. It can be said that the Qing Dynasty was a historical stage where the development of ancient Xiangqi theories and the level of technical and tactical skills reached their peak.

Modern Xiangqi

After undergoing the influence of feudal society, Xiangqi, as a form of “art,” developed its unique community known as the “Jianghu.” Especially during the period of the Republic of China, many Xiangqi masters made a living by playing “gambling chess” in teahouses and taverns. This “gambling chess” involved winning some “prize money” through chess games to sustain their livelihoods. There were various forms of gambling chess, such as handicap games, giving away pieces, and even handicaps involving two horses or guards and elephants. The process of playing chess also concealed mysteries, and some people traced the origins of this cultural phenomenon back to ancient witchcraft, medicine, and various performing arts. The profession of Xiangqi also encompassed a wide range of activities. Compared to other Jianghu factions, the Xiangqi community possessed mobility and deception. Mobility can be explained by the fact that Xiangqi players in those days gained fame by seeking renowned teachers, challenging skilled players, and forming factions based on geographical regions. Deception, on the other hand, involved players intentionally concealing their true skill level, commonly known as “fishing,” and only revealing their true ability once the prize money reached a satisfactory level. There were also instances of cooperation and collaboration, where people on the streets would set up “challenging endgame” displays, using seemingly simple but actually complex chess positions to entice enthusiasts to place bets and deceive them for money. These methods were generally considered dishonest and unsuitable for reputable venues, but due to the ever-changing world and the reliance on a chessboard for their livelihoods, it was inevitable for Xiangqi players to be “fallen heroes” in the Jianghu.

During that time, the regions with the highest level of Xiangqi and the most flourishing chess style were North China, East China, and South China. Among them, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou became the core regions of activity. Hong Kong’s Xiangqi masters often gathered in Guangzhou, and teahouses were a common venue for chess matches. During the Republic of China era, Beijing produced renowned players such as Zhang Dekui and Na Jianting, while Shanghai was influenced by Xie Xiazun, and Guangdong was represented by Huang Songxuan, Zhong Zhen, and Zeng Zhanhong, known as the “Three Phoenixes of Yue Dong.” Chess players at the time often had nicknames, such as the “Three Heroes of Yangzhou,” the “Zhao Zilong of the Chess World,” the “Twenty-Eight Constellations,” and the “Invincible Central Cannon,” among others. These names were labels based on regional factions or chess style, and Xiangqi masters unconsciously formed a relatively fluid yet fixed small environment. The reputation of the Xiangqi Jianghu was well-deserved, and it had a certain social influence. Although the social value and status of chess players were not effectively recognized, the vitality of the Xiangqi industry demonstrated its unique resilience even in challenging circumstances. During this stage, Xiangqi tournaments were primarily conducted in the form of challenge matches and round-robin tournaments, laying the foundation for the competitive format of Xiangqi after the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

how did Chinese chess invented?

The exact origins of Chinese Chess, also known as Xiangqi, are not well-documented, and its invention is attributed to legend and folklore. According to popular folklore, Chinese Chess was invented during the reign of King Yao (2356-2255 BC) in ancient China. The legendary inventor was a military strategist named Wu Wen. The story goes that King Yao wanted to train his sons in the art of war, so Wu Wen created a game based on military strategies and formations. This game eventually evolved into what is now known as Chinese Chess.

Another legend attributes the invention of Chinese Chess to the philosopher and military strategist Han Xin during the early Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 9 AD). Han Xin was known for his brilliant military tactics, and it is said that he created the game of Chinese Chess as a way to teach his soldiers strategic thinking and tactics during their leisure time.

While these legends provide intriguing stories about the origin of Chinese Chess, it is important to note that they are not supported by historical evidence. The true historical origins of Chinese Chess remain uncertain. The game likely developed over time, influenced by various ancient board games and military strategies. As it evolved, Chinese Chess incorporated elements from different games and military formations, eventually forming its distinct rules and structure.

It is worth mentioning that the game of Chinese Chess bears some similarities to Indian Chess (Chaturanga), suggesting a possible cross-cultural exchange of ideas and game mechanics between ancient China and India. However, the precise details of this exchange and its influence on the development of Chinese Chess are not well-documented.

Overall, while the exact circumstances and individuals responsible for inventing Chinese Chess are unclear, the game’s origins can be traced back to ancient times in China, evolving through centuries of cultural exchange and refinement.

why was Chinese chess invented?

During the Spring and Autumn period, the Warring States period, and even the Qin and Han dynasties, China was plagued by frequent warfare and conflicts. It was in this backdrop that Chinese Chess, or Xiangqi, emerged. In comparison to military warfare, there are many obvious similarities between military strategy and sports competition. Both aim to achieve victory, and the process involves the manifestation of skills and tactics. They both encompass strategic objectives and tactical means. Chinese Chess, as an intellectual game simulating ancient warfare, portrays the scenes of armies and battles on the small chessboard. The pieces on the board, such as the chariot, horse, cannon, and soldiers, symbolize ancient war chariots, cavalry, cannons (or catapults), and soldiers. Compared to other sports, Chinese Chess has the most direct inherent connection with ancient military practices, and its strategic thinking and tactical features have been influenced by ancient military thoughts.

As time passed, Chinese Chess continued to evolve, staying true to the principles of military warfare and the art of war. Many chess compositions and combinations exhibit ingenious tactical ideas, which resonate with military strategies. In ancient chess manuals such as “Yuan Shen Hai Kuo,” “Mei Hua Pu,” “Ju Zhong Mi,” and “Shi Qing Ya Qu,” many chess setups are named after military strategies, the Thirty-Six Stratagems, Three Kingdoms anecdotes, and historical war events. Not only are these setups intricately designed, but their names also align perfectly with the historical allusions they represent.

There are different theories about the origin of Chinese Chess, and scholars hold varying opinions. Some claim that Chinese Chess originated in ancient times, while others attribute its creation to Liu Bang. Some suggest that it dates back to the Warring States period. However, the most common belief is that Chinese Chess originated in ancient times, with the legend that it was invented by Emperor Shun as a pastime. However, due to limited conditions at the time, the game was not as refined. The name “Xiangqi” does not refer to the presence of elephants in the game pieces; rather, it symbolizes the division between the Chu and Han rivers. The chessboard is likened to a battlefield, where victory or defeat is determined through strategic moves. This is why it is called Xiangqi.

The invention of Chinese Chess as a pastime:

Chinese Chess is beloved by the Chinese people because it encompasses many principles. Despite being a game, it carries philosophical meanings, and many individuals can derive insights from it. In various films and television dramas, we often see ancient emperors who have a particular fondness for playing Chinese Chess. They would have a chessboard in their chambers for entertainment and deep contemplation about life. In ancient times, Chinese Chess was a pastime for monarchs and emperors.

The Chu and Han rivers in Chinese Chess symbolize the complexities of life:

The most widespread theory about the origin of Chinese Chess dates back to the time of Emperor Shun. It is said that Emperor Shun had a brother who frequently sought to usurp power. Reluctant to kill his own brother, Emperor Shun imprisoned him but worried that his brother would become bored during confinement. Thus, he invented Chinese Chess, allowing his brother to sharpen his mental faculties through the game. Many people say that life is like a game of chess, where a wrong move can lead to a chain of mistakes. Once a flag is moved in a certain direction, it cannot be retrieved, just like the steps taken in life. It is challenging to turn back once a wrong step is taken, and Chinese Chess serves as a warning to individuals.

Many people like to say that life is like a game of chess, where the strong eliminate the weak, reflecting the dynamics of our society. There are numerous rules we must adhere to, and many profound philosophies we need to comprehend. Behind a game of chess lies the intellectual battle of wits, which is why Chinese Chess continues to be a carrier of culture even today.

are chinese chess popular

Xiangqi Overseas

Xiangqi has also been widely spread among overseas Chinese and foreign Chinese communities, particularly in Southeast Asia. Many overseas Chinese, Chinese nationals, and Hong Kong and Macau residents see Xiangqi as a bridge and bond connecting them with their homeland. They consider engaging in Xiangqi activities as a way to inherit and promote their ethnic culture as descendants of the Chinese nation.

In recent decades, with the continuous development of trade and cultural exchanges, Xiangqi has gained numerous enthusiasts in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Canada, Germany, and others. Xiangqi is spreading from its place of origin, passing through Asia, and reaching every corner of the world.

Looking at Asia, not only is Xiangqi thriving in Hong Kong, Macau, and other regions, but it is also widespread among overseas Chinese and foreign Chinese communities in Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and other countries. These regions and countries hold annual Xiangqi competitions and have established Xiangqi associations or federations.

Chinese chess set


The playing field for chess pieces is called the “chessboard.” It consists of a square plane formed by nine parallel vertical lines and ten parallel horizontal lines intersecting them, creating a total of ninety intersections where the chess pieces are placed. The middle section between the fifth and sixth horizontal lines, where no vertical lines are drawn, is known as the “river boundary.” The central squares on both ends, between the fourth and sixth vertical lines, form a square pattern with diagonal intersecting lines, called the “palace” or “nine palaces” (as it contains nine intersections). The entire chessboard is divided into two equal parts by the “river boundary.”

For the convenience of recording games and studying chess manuals, the current rules stipulate that the vertical lines of the red side are represented by Chinese numerals one to nine, from right to left, while the vertical lines of the black side are represented by Arabic numerals “1” to “9.” Before the start of a game, both red and black sides should arrange their chess pieces in the designated positions. When a piece moves, “forward” is used for advancing, “backward” for retreating, and “horizontal” for moving sideways like a chariot.

Straight Lines:

The longer parallel edges on the chessboard are called straight lines, and there are a total of nine of them. Seven of these lines are separated by the river boundary. The straight lines of the red side are represented by Chinese numerals one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine, from right to left. The straight lines of the black side, facing the red side, are represented by Arabic numerals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, also from right to left.

Horizontal Lines:

The shorter parallel edges on the chessboard are called horizontal lines. There are ten horizontal lines in total. The horizontal lines of the red side are numbered one to ten, starting from the red baseline and moving upward, using Chinese numerals. The horizontal lines of the black side start from the black baseline and are numbered one to ten using Arabic numerals, from bottom to top.

Intersection Points:

The points where the straight and horizontal lines intersect are called “intersection points.” There are a total of 90 intersection points on the chessboard, where the chess pieces are placed and move.

River Boundary:

The area in the center of the chessboard where no straight lines are drawn is called the “river boundary.” It represents the boundary between the opposing forces and defines their respective territories.

Nine Palaces:

The areas on both ends of the chessboard, marked by diagonal intersecting lines, are called the “nine palaces.” The generals (kings) can only move within the nine intersection points of their respective nine palaces.

The phrase “Chu River, Han Border” refers to a gorge on Mount Guangwu, located on the southern bank of the Yellow River in Xingyang City, Henan Province, China. The gorge has a width of approximately 800 meters and a depth of up to 200 meters, making it a strategic military location in ancient times. During the Chu-Han Contention in the early Western Han Dynasty, the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang, and the Chu general Xiang Yu fought a series of major battles in the Xingyang area. Eventually, due to various reasons, Xiang Yu agreed to a peace treaty with Liu Bang, which divided the territory, with the Yellow River gorge serving as the boundary. Today, remnants of the opposing armies’ campsites can still be found on both sides of the gorge. The Xiang Yu’s campsite is located on the eastern side, known as the “City of the Hegemon,” while the Liu Bang’s campsite is on the western side, known as the “City of the Han Emperor.” The Han Hegemon City is currently at risk of collapse, and relevant departments are working to preserve this ancient battlefield.

Chess Pieces

There are a total of 32 chess pieces, divided into two sets: red and black, with each set containing 16 pieces. There are seven types of chess pieces in each set, with the following names and quantities:

Red Pieces: General (1), Chariots (2), Horses (2), Cannons (2), Ministers (2), Guards (2), and Soldiers (5).

Black Pieces: General (1), Chariots (2), Horses (2), Cannons (2), Elephants (2), Advisors (2), and Soldiers (5).

how many pieces in Chinese chess?

In Chinese chess, also known as Xiangqi, there are a total of 32 chess pieces. These pieces are divided into two sets: red and black, with each set containing 16 pieces. The composition of the pieces in each set is as follows:

Red Pieces:

General (1)

Chariots (2)

Horses (2)

Cannons (2)

Ministers (2)

Guards (2)

Soldiers (5)

Black Pieces:

General (1)

Chariots (2)

Horses (2)

Cannons (2)

Elephants (2)

Advisors (2)

Soldiers (5)

The red and black pieces have similar roles and movements, but they are distinguished by their different names and designs.


The red side has a piece called “General,” while the black side has a piece called “General.” The General is the leader in the game and the ultimate objective for both sides. It can only move within the “palace” area, vertically or horizontally, one step at a time. The Generals cannot directly face each other on the same file, as it would result in a loss for the moving side.


The red side has pieces called “Advisors,” while the black side has pieces called “Advisors” as well. They can only move within the palace area. Their movement is limited to diagonal lines within the palace. An Advisor can only move one diagonal step at a time.


The red side has pieces called “Elephants,” while the black side has pieces called “Elephants” as well. They move by crossing two points diagonally, which is commonly referred to as “elephant flying over a field.” Elephants are restricted to their own territory and cannot cross the river. Additionally, if there is a piece blocking the central point of the diagonal path, the Elephant cannot move, which is known as being “blocked by the opponent’s eye.”


Chariots are the most powerful pieces in Chinese chess. They can move horizontally or vertically, without limitations on the number of steps, as long as there are no obstructions. They are commonly referred to as “chariots traveling straight roads.” A Chariot can control up to seventeen points, leading to the saying “a chariot can freeze ten opponents.”


Cannons move similarly to Chariots when not capturing pieces. However, when capturing, they must jump over one piece, either friendly or enemy, which is referred to as “cannon jumping over a barrier” or “turning a mountain.”


Horses move in an “L” shape, which means they move one step orthogonally and then one step diagonally. This is commonly referred to as “horse stepping like the character for ‘sun.'” Horses have the potential to access eight possible positions around them. However, if there is an obstruction in the intended direction, the Horse cannot move, which is known as being “blocked legs.”


The red side has pieces called “Soldiers,” while the black side has pieces called “Soldiers” as well. Soldiers can only move forward, not backward, and before crossing the river, they can only move vertically. Once they cross the river, they gain the ability to move horizontally as well, but only one step at a time. Despite their limitations, Soldiers become more powerful once they cross the river, leading to the saying “a Soldier crossing the river can block a General and defeat a Chariot.”

Piece Value:

During gameplay, both sides inevitably engage in piece exchanges. The values of the following pieces are as follows (excluding the General/General, which is not exchangeable). Taking the Chariot (worth 9 points) as an example:

Chariot: 9 points

The Chariot is the most powerful piece and serves as the primary force in combat. It has the highest value, rated at 9 points. It is advisable to develop the Chariot early in the game, as there is a saying, “If the Chariot doesn’t move within three moves, it is certain to lose the game.”

Horse: 4 points

The Horse has a curved movement and possesses control over a wide area, making it a medium-range combat piece. It is valued at 4 points.

Cannon: 4.5 points

The Cannon is a long-range combat piece with strong mobility and striking capabilities. During the opening phase, the Cannon demonstrates greater flexibility compared to the Horse. It is valued at 4.5 points. Cannons should be used strategically and not wasted, and in the endgame, they should be positioned near the home rank.

Elephant/Advisor: 2 points

The Elephant and Advisor are defensive pieces that protect the General/General and, under certain circumstances, can assist in attacks. There is a saying, “Support the elevated Advisors, not fearing attacks from the Horses.” Elephants should be positioned in the center and connected to create a structured formation.


Non-crossed-river Soldiers (can only move forward): 1 point

Crossed-river Soldiers (can move forward and sideways): 2 points

Soldiers on the bottom rank (can only move sideways): 1 point

The central Soldiers are particularly important as they serve as barriers in the center. Three and seven Soldiers are crucial in restricting the opponent’s Horse. Remember the chess proverb, “Soldiers can control Horses.”


The value and principles of utilizing the General/General:

The General/General is the center of the entire board and the determining factor for victory or defeat. Except during the endgame phase, it generally lacks direct combat capabilities and should adhere to a “quiet” approach within the overall strategy.



The Elephant and Advisor are defensive pieces. The Elephant protects the territory, while the Advisor protects the General/General. Hence, their values are relatively equal.

The Cannon has mobility similar to the Chariot during the opening phase but is inferior to the Horse. However, in the endgame, the Cannon becomes weaker due to its limitations, making it slightly inferior to the Horse.

The Horse is initially restricted due to “blocked legs” in the opening phase, making it weaker than the Cannon. However, in the endgame, such restrictions are minimal, making the Horse stronger than the Cannon.

how does Chinese chess work?

Chinese Chess, also known as Xiangqi, is a two-player strategy board game played on a square board divided into a grid of 9 lines by 10 lines. Each player controls 16 pieces, which are placed on the intersections of the grid lines. The goal of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s general (also known as the king).

Here are the basic rules and piece movements in Chinese Chess:

General (Shuai/Jiang): The general is positioned in the middle of the back rank. It can move one step horizontally or vertically within the palace (a 3×3 area in the center of the board).

Advisors (Shi): The advisors are placed on either side of the general. They can move one step diagonally within the palace.

Elephants (Xiang): The elephants are positioned beside the advisors. They move two steps diagonally but are limited to their own side of the river. They cannot cross the river.

Chariots (Ju/Rook): The chariots are placed at the corners of the board. They can move horizontally or vertically any number of steps until blocked by another piece.

Horses (Ma/Knight): The horses are positioned next to the chariots. They move in an L-shape: two steps forward (or backward) and then one step sideways in any direction. If there is a piece at the landing point of the horse’s move, it is considered blocked.

Cannons (Pao): The cannons are located in front of the chariots. They move like chariots but can only capture an opponent’s piece by jumping over exactly one piece (friend or foe) on the way to the target.

Soldiers (Zu/Pawns): The soldiers are placed on the second and seventh lines. They move one step forward (upward) and can capture diagonally forward after crossing the river.

The game is played alternately, with each player making one move per turn. The players aim to capture the opponent’s pieces and ultimately checkmate their general. The game ends when one player successfully checkmates the opponent’s general, or when a stalemate (a position where neither player can make a legal move) occurs.

These are the basic rules of Chinese Chess, and there are additional rules regarding special moves and restrictions for certain pieces in specific situations. However, the overall objective remains the same: to outmaneuver the opponent and protect your general while attempting to capture theirs.

Chinese Chess Rules:

Chinese Chess is a two-player game where players take turns making moves. The strategic concept of “subduing the enemy’s army without fighting” from the ancient military treatise “The Art of War” is applied in the gameplay. The objective is to achieve a checkmate or to corner the opponent’s General/General (also known as the King) for victory. The game ends when a win, loss, or draw is determined. The player with the red pieces (Red side) moves first, and then the players take turns making moves until the game is concluded. The game of chess enhances strategic thinking by exploring the complex relationships between offense and defense, feints and real threats, and the overall situation versus local considerations.

Rules of Movement:

Before the game starts, the pieces are set up on the board as shown in the diagram on the right.

During the game, the player with the red pieces (Red side) moves first, and then the players take turns making one move each.

On a player’s turn, they can move one of their pieces from one intersection to another intersection or capture the opponent’s piece and occupy its intersection, counting as one move.

Each player’s move is referred to as a “move” or a “turn.”

If a player’s piece can move to a position occupied by the opponent’s piece, the player can capture the opponent’s piece and occupy that position.

When a player’s piece threatens the opponent’s General/General and prepares to capture it on the next move, it is called “check” or “checking the General/General.” It is not necessary to announce “check.” The player whose General/General is under threat must immediately respond to the check by resolving the checkmate situation with their move. If a player is unable to respond to the check and resolve the checkmate situation, it is considered a “checkmate.”

who is the best Chinese chess player?(2022)

The Chinese Chess Association has announced the latest ranking of chess players based on the Elo rating system, as of December 31, 2022. In the traditional slow chess rating list, Wang Tianyi continues to hold the first position with a rating of 2773. According to the regulations, any competitions held between January 1, 2023, and May 31, 2023, will follow the new ranking. The participation deadline for inactive players in 2022 has been extended to December 31, 2023. If a player in 2022 does not have enough valid games, their results will be accumulated with the games played in 2023.

In the latest ranking list, Wang Tianyi remains at the top with a rating of 2773, followed by Zheng Weitong at 2755. These two players are the only ones with a rating above 2700. Meng Chen ranks third with a rating of 2643, followed by Shen Peng, Hong Zhi, Xu Yinchuan, Wang Yang, Jiang Chuan, Hao Jichao, and Zhao Xinxin in the fourth to tenth positions. The ratings of the top ten players are all above 2600.

In the women’s chess player rating list, Tang Dan holds the first position with a rating of 2579, followed by Wang Lina at 2506. These two players are the only ones with a rating above 2500. Chen Xinglin ranks third with a rating of 2447.

Additionally, the Chinese Chess Association has also announced the latest ranking of blitz chess players based on the Elo rating system, as of December 31, 2022. Zhao Xinxin ranks first with a rating of 2620.2, followed by Wang Tianyi at 2595, and Zheng Weitong at 2584. In the women’s blitz chess rating list, Wang Lina holds the first position with a rating of 2422.7, followed by Tang Dan at 2403.7, and Chen Xinglin at 2375. According to the regulations, any competitions held between January 1, 2023, and September 30, 2023, will follow this ranking.

is Chinese chess older than chess?

According to historical records, Chinese chess is believed to have originated earlier than international chess. Chinese chess, also known as Xiangqi, has its roots in ancient China, although the specific time period of its invention cannot be accurately determined. The earliest written record of chess is found in the work called “Chu Ci” during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China. This indicates that the invention of Chinese chess occurred during the Spring and Autumn period. On the other hand, international chess originated in ancient India and was known as “Chaturanga” in the 2nd to 4th centuries AD.

is Chinese chess the same as chess?

When I first encountered international chess, I had mixed feelings. At first glance, it seemed very similar to Chinese chess, but upon closer inspection, I realized that there were significant differences between the two. On one hand, the rules of the two chess variants differ greatly, and on the other hand, there was some visual adjustment required. As I delved deeper into my studies, I had a sense that the relationship between Chinese chess and international chess was neither intimate nor completely unrelated. The following paragraphs briefly discuss their similarities and differences.


According to legends, Chinese chess is said to have originated during the Han Dynasty and was invented by the famous military strategist Han Xin. The most direct evidence is the presence of the phrase “Chu River, Han Border” in the chessboard. However, it is somewhat speculative to attribute the invention solely to Han Xin based on these four words. After all, various dynasties after the Han Dynasty could have potentially invented Chinese chess, and associating it solely with the Han Dynasty and Han Xin might be somewhat arbitrary.

Some people also claim that chess was invented by the brother of the legendary Chinese ruler “Shun,” who was known for his combative nature. As Shun ascended to power, bringing peace and stability, he asked his brother “Xiang” to create a game that simulated warfare to keep people engaged. This game was subsequently named “Xiangqi,” which means “elephant game” in Chinese.

International chess also has a long history. Around the 2nd century AD, an ancient Indian chess variant called “Chaturanga” emerged, which had only four types of pieces: chariots, horses, elephants, and soldiers. According to the ancient Indian epic “Mahabharata,” there is a mention of “the four divisions of troops.” The four divisions represented the main military units of ancient India, which included infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. Thus, “Chaturanga” is considered as the precursor of international chess. Starting from the 10th century, “Chaturanga” spread from Central Asia and the Middle East into Europe. It became popular across the European continent during the 12th and 13th centuries. After its introduction to Europe, it underwent modifications and incorporated elements of European knightly and aristocratic traditions. It took another three hundred years for international chess to become standardized.

Although Chinese chess and international chess originated in different geographical regions and cultures, they share a commonality in that both were inspired by warfare and the ancient practices of marching and fighting.

Structural Design:

In terms of the constituent elements, the most significant similarity between Chinese chess and international chess is the total number of pieces, which is thirty-two for both variants, with each side having sixteen pieces. However, the difference lies in the composition of the sixteen pieces. Chinese chess includes seven types of pieces: General, Advisor, Elephant, Horse, Chariot, Cannon, and Soldier. International chess, on the other hand, includes six types of pieces: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, and Pawn. Chinese chess lacks the concept of a Queen, while international chess does not include Cannons. The arrangement of the pieces is also different, with Chinese chess employing symmetry for most of its pieces.

Furthermore, the design of the chessboard is significantly different. Chinese chess emphasizes the concept of “nine vertical lines and ten horizontal lines,” resulting in ninety intersection points created by nineteen intersecting lines. In contrast, international chess is played on an “eight by eight” board with sixteen intersecting lines, resulting in sixty-four squares. This distinction determines that Chinese chess is based on point placement and uses lines as references for movement, while international chess is based on grid placement. Chinese chess also has the restriction of the “Chu River, Han Border” in its structure, while international chess has no such barriers.

Rules of Movement:

In terms of gameplay rules, Chinese chess is generally considered to be more challenging than international chess, primarily due to the movement rules of the pieces. For example, in Chinese chess, the basic rule is that the Elephant can only move within its own territory in a diagonal pattern, forming a “field” shape, and it cannot cross the “Chu River, Han Border.” The Cannon can only take action when there is a piece in between itself and the target. The Horse has to move in the shape of a “day” character. In international chess, there are fewer restrictions on the movement of pieces like the Bishop and Knight, and they can move relatively freely without the constraint of “blocking the horse’s leg.”

Another difference between the two chess variants is the power of the Pawn in international chess. Although there is a saying in Chinese chess that a Pawn crossing the river can become a Chariot, it can only move one step forward. In international chess, the Pawn has more power at the start, as it can choose to move one or two steps forward and can even capture diagonally. Furthermore, if a Pawn reaches the opponent’s baseline in international chess, it must promote to any other piece except the King and Rook. This rule is known as “pawn promotion.” In Chinese chess, when a Soldier reaches the baseline, it can only move back and forth horizontally or vertically.

Chinese chess in feng shui

The naming of Chinese chess is closely intertwined with the theory of Xiangshu (象数), which is derived from the Book of Changes (周易). The most representative piece in the chessboard that embodies the eight trigrams of the innate hexagrams is the black Elephant (象). This Elephant represents the abstract concept, while the red Elephant (相) represents the acquired trigrams, which means the transformation of the abstract into concrete form. The abstract is called Dao, and the concrete is called Qi (器).

From the perspective of chess pieces, different pieces represent different hexagrams:

The General (将) and the Advisor (士) correspond to the Qian (乾) hexagram. Qian represents heaven, and the General and Advisor, as the leaders of the two armies, reside in the central palace, strategizing and determining the outcome from afar. Therefore, the Qian hexagram is used.

The Chariots (車) correspond to the Li (离) hexagram. Li represents fire, civilization, and thoughts, symbolizing future prospects and official careers. The strategists provide advice and strategy, hence the Li hexagram is used.

The Soldiers (兵) correspond to the Kan (坎) hexagram. Kan represents water and danger. Soldiers on the battlefield are the bravest, charging into perilous situations without retreating. Therefore, the Soldiers represent the Kan hexagram.

The Elephants (象) correspond to the Gen (艮) hexagram. Gen represents stillness and mountains. The Elephants must remain immobile like mountains, and their main role is defense. Therefore, the Elephants represent the Gen hexagram.

The Horses (馬) correspond to the Xun (巽) hexagram. Xun represents wind. On the battlefield, cavalry is the swiftest, as fast as the wind, sometimes slow like a forest, raiding like fire, and immovable like mountains. Therefore, the Horses represent the Xun hexagram.

The Cannons (炮) correspond to the Zhen (震) hexagram. Zhen represents thunder and movement. Cannons on the chessboard can be seen as catapults and their main role is to attack and breach fortifications. The movement of cannons shakes the earth and moves mountains, thus representing the Zhen hexagram.

The Rooks (车) correspond to the Dui (兑) hexagram. Dui represents joy and smoothness, allowing things to go as desired, striking wherever one wishes. Additionally, Dui represents a vacancy. On the battlefield, the main role of the Rooks is to divide the battlefield and tear apart enemy formations. Therefore, the Rooks represent the Dui hexagram.

The Chessboard itself corresponds to the Kun (坤) hexagram. Kun represents the earth and receptiveness, signifying the role of carrying. The chessboard is like the Kun hexagram, with the virtue of benevolence carrying all things. This represents the eight trigrams within the chess pieces.

For example, in Chinese chess, the pieces are divided into red and black, symbolizing the concept of Yin and Yang in Yi (易) philosophy. The interactions and exchanges during the game represent the interplay of the six Yao (爻), the changes between strength and flexibility, and the opposing sides represent the Taiji and Liangyi principles. It is often said that life is like a game of chess, and chess is like life. The way of chess is, in fact, the way of humanity, so we must proceed step by step, making moves without regrets.

Chinese chess in Taoism

The Taoist philosophical ideas in Chinese chess originate from the Book of Changes, with its core concept of the unity of opposites, Yin and Yang. In Chinese chess, the red and black sides correspond to the opposing Yin and Yang poles. The strategies of offense and defense, as well as the intricate movements on the chessboard, reflect the mutual transformation of Yin and Yang. The Taoist philosophy in chess theory is highlighted through the constant changes and dynamic balance of power between the red and black sides. Furthermore, the chessboard presents an ever-changing landscape, and thus, one cannot adhere rigidly to predetermined moves but should make reasonable judgments based on the actual situation in the game. This aligns with the Taoist principle of “adaptability” or “the way of flexibility.” As the saying goes, “The soldiers have no fixed formation, and water has no constant shape,” similarly, “chess has no fixed formation.” The naming of the chess pieces is also closely connected to Taoist philosophy.

Chinese Chess and Buddhism

Chinese Chess, also known as Xiangqi, has a historical and cultural connection with Buddhism in China. While Buddhism is primarily a religious and philosophical system, its influence extends to various aspects of Chinese culture, including art, literature, and games.

In the case of Chinese Chess, the influence of Buddhism is evident in certain aspects:

Moral and Ethical Teachings: Buddhism emphasizes values such as compassion, non-violence, and the pursuit of wisdom. Although Chinese Chess is a strategic game involving battles between opposing armies, the ethical principles of Buddhism can be seen in the emphasis on respect for opponents, fair play, and the application of strategic thinking rather than sheer force.

Mindfulness and Concentration: Buddhism places great importance on cultivating mindfulness and concentration. In Chinese Chess, players are required to focus their attention and think deeply about their moves. The game encourages mental concentration, strategic planning, and the development of a clear and focused mind – qualities that align with Buddhist practices.

Philosophy of Impermanence: Buddhism teaches the concept of impermanence, the understanding that all things are in a constant state of change. Similarly, in Chinese Chess, the game board and the positions of the pieces are in a constant state of flux, reflecting the impermanence and transitory nature of existence.

In summary, Chinese Chess and Buddhism share a cultural connection in China, with Buddhism influencing certain aspects of the game, such as its iconography, ethical teachings, emphasis on mindfulness and concentration, and reflection of the philosophy of impermanence.

Chinese Chess and Confucianism

Chinese Chess, or Xiangqi, embodies several key principles of Confucianism, a philosophical and ethical system that has profoundly influenced Chinese culture. The game reflects the Confucian values of harmony, order, hierarchy, and virtue.

Chinese Chess is a game that upholds the Confucian principles of moderation and order. The chess pieces, including the General (or King), Advisors, Elephants, Chariots, Horses, Cannons, and Soldiers, correspond to different ranks. The outcome of the game depends on the General, while the other pieces serve the purpose of protecting the General and capturing the opponent’s General. Each piece has a specific position and unique moves, with varying degrees of influence that can significantly impact the outcome of the game.

Since Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty declared Confucianism as the dominant ideology, Confucian culture has deeply influenced all aspects of Chinese society. It has become the mainstream thought of traditional Chinese culture and has permeated every corner of social and cultural life, including Chinese Chess. Confucianism advocates for a social order that distinguishes between high and low, emphasizes the order of seniority, and recognizes the distinction between the noble and the humble. This concept is reflected in Chinese Chess, with the “General-King, Chariots-Horses-Cannons-Soldiers, Advisors-Elephants” representing three types of troops. Each troop has a different role in the game, serving to either attack or defend while ensuring the safety of the General. The primary goal of playing Chinese Chess is to achieve victory, with a secondary goal of seeking a draw. The former reflects the proactive and enterprising spirit of Confucianism, while the latter embodies the doctrine of moderation and harmony, representing the highest level of play where both sides have made no mistakes.

The virtues of “benevolence” (ren), “righteousness” (yi), “ritual” (li), “wisdom” (zhi), and “trustworthiness” (xin) advocated by Confucianism are vividly demonstrated in Chinese Chess. Firstly, Chinese Chess emphasizes “benevolence.” The General, Advisors, and Elephants do not directly engage in combat but rather employ the Chariots, Horses, Cannons, and Soldiers to accomplish the task of capturing the opponent’s General. These pieces are willing to sacrifice themselves for the overall victory, showcasing the ultimate expression of benevolence. Simultaneously, while the Generals are confined to the palace, they still possess some offensive and defensive capabilities, highlighting the unity and cooperation of all pieces toward a common goal.

Confucianism’s principle of “righteousness” emphasizes fairness, justice, and reason. For example, the Soldiers can only advance and move horizontally once they cross the river but cannot retreat. Their brave and forward movements demonstrate loyalty and righteousness toward their own General. In practical gameplay, sacrificing Soldiers is a common occurrence, aiming to advance the game in favor of one’s own side.

Confucianism’s emphasis on “ritual” refers to the customs and ceremonies observed in social life. In Chinese Chess, there are etiquette principles such as red moving first, observing the game without talking, making moves without regret, and adhering to the customary procedures of touching and moving pieces. It also involves the practice of allowing stronger players to handicap weaker players (such as giving one or two moves ahead) or giving handicaps in the form of missing pieces (usually one or two Horses). These practices reflect the respect and courtesy shown by skilled players towards beginners, aiming to build their confidence and create an exciting and engaging game, avoiding dull and tasteless outcomes.

Confucianism’s pursuit of “wisdom” encompasses both intellectual and practical abilities. It requires one to be knowledgeable, inquisitive, thoughtful, discerning, and committed to action. In Chinese Chess, the Generals command the troops within the nine-palace area, employing strategic planning and maneuvers. The game involves a battle of wits rather than sheer power, representing an artistic competition between skilled players.

Confucianism emphasizes “trustworthiness,” which involves sincerity, honesty, and keeping one’s promises. In Chinese Chess, both Generals remain within their respective palaces, while the Advisors and Elephants guard closely by their sides, staunchly defending the safety of the palaces. This reflects the commitment to trust and loyalty displayed by all pieces. Additionally, during the game, players should make moves without regret, avoid cheating, strictly adhere to the rules of Chinese Chess, and play with integrity.

Chinese Chess and School of the Military(Chinese philosophy)

The military strategy and tactics of the Art of War by Sun Tzu embody the essence of the military thought of the School of Military Strategy. Specifically, the School of Military Strategy values strategy and emphasizes cautious warfare. The outcome of a war depends on formulating the correct strategy and tactics. When applied to chess matches, this means understanding the opponent’s style, personality, strengths, and weaknesses in order to make the right strategic decisions. As the saying goes, “Know yourself, know your enemy, and you will never be defeated.”

Chess play is a process of unity and opposition between offense and defense. The ideal state is to be able to simultaneously attack and defend, without forgetting either aspect. A game of chess consists of three stages: opening, middlegame, and endgame. The opening is the stage of formulating strategies and tactics, where both sides deploy their troops, allocate resources, and seize strategic points. Depending on the differences in strategies and tactics, chess styles can be categorized as aggressive, counterattacking, slow-paced, stable, or flexible (based on relative strengths). The middlegame focuses on tactical implementation, playing a pivotal role in the overall game. At this stage, the conflicts between offense and defense become sharp and concentrated, with close-quarters combat and complex variations of tactics. These tactics include techniques such as positioning for advantageous moves, strategic maneuvering, piece exchanges to gain an advantage, simplification tactics, pressuring for gains, counterattacks, balanced offense and defense, breakthrough tactics, sacrificing pieces for an advantage, and others. These tactics align with the principles of the “Thirty-Six Strategies” from the School of Military Strategy. For example, the tactic of “entrapment” in chess is essentially about using ease to await the tiredness of the opponent, which embodies the military concept of “subduing the enemy without fighting, mastering the art of winning.”

In chess play, there are tactics such as “enticement,” “throwing a flying knife,” and “traps.” The purpose is to deceive and deceive the opponent, achieving victory by outmaneuvering them. “A soldier is a cunning art,” and chess players should not be constrained by fixed frameworks and preconceptions. Instead, they should be flexible and innovative, adapting and breaking free from routine in actual combat.

The ancient Song Dynasty manual “Shi Lin Guang Ji” contains the “Ten Commandments of Chess,” including not being greedy for victory, proceeding cautiously when entering the opponent’s territory, considering both offense and defense, sacrificing pieces to gain an advantage, choosing larger gains over smaller ones, abandoning danger when necessary, avoiding haste and impatience, responding appropriately to moves, preserving oneself when the opponent is strong, and seeking a draw when one’s position is weak. These commandments contain profound dialectical thinking and have profound guiding significance in chess play. The purpose of playing chess is to win, but being greedy for victory often leads to failure. The desire for victory arises when the timing is not yet ripe, and it results in incorrect assessments and impatience. The principle of “proceeding cautiously when entering the opponent’s territory” indicates that when one’s pieces cross the opponent’s river, attention should be paid to coordinating the pieces, observing whether reinforcements are in place, and avoiding the trap of advancing too deep alone. Chess play involves the contradiction of offense and defense. The principle of “considering both offense and defense” emphasizes that when attacking the opponent, one must also consider the weaknesses in one’s own position, ensuring a balance between offense and defense and avoiding counterattacks from the opponent. “Sacrificing pieces to gain an advantage” is a tactical maneuver for securing an advantageous position. To gain initiative during a game, obtain the first-move advantage, actively seek opportunities, or turn the tide in unfavorable situations, this tactic can be employed.

In conclusion, the strategic and tactical thinking of the School of Military Strategy is not only applicable to military warfare but also to chess play. In fact, chess play is a simulation of war. Despite being confined to the board, it is filled with fierce and intense moves. “Although chess is a small path, it aligns with the art of war.” The strategic and tactical principles of the School of Military Strategy provide important references for chess play. Only by correctly applying strategy and tactics can one grasp the initiative and respond skillfully during the game.

Chinese chess vs international chess

Chinese chess, also known as Xiangqi, and international chess, commonly referred to as chess, are two distinct board games with different rules and characteristics. Here are some key differences between Chinese chess and international chess:

Board and Pieces: Chinese chess is played on a 9×10 grid board, while international chess is played on an 8×8 square grid. The pieces in Chinese chess are called “soldiers,” “chariots,” “horses,” “elephants,” “advisors,” “generals,” and “cannons,” each with unique movement abilities. In international chess, the pieces include “pawns,” “rooks,” “knights,” “bishops,” “queens,” and “kings,” each with their own movement rules.

Objective: The goal in Chinese chess is to checkmate the opponent’s general, which means putting their general in a position where it cannot move without being captured. In international chess, the objective is also to checkmate the opponent’s king, but there are different rules and methods for achieving checkmate.

Movement and Capture: The movement and capture rules differ between the two games. In Chinese chess, pieces move on the intersections of the grid lines, and capture is performed by occupying an opponent’s piece’s position. Pieces generally cannot move backward in Chinese chess, except for certain situations. In international chess, pieces move and capture by occupying the squares on the board, with different movement patterns for each piece.

Castling and Promotion: Castling is a special move in international chess where the king and one of the rooks can move simultaneously under specific conditions. This move is not present in Chinese chess. However, Chinese chess has a promotion rule, where soldiers can be promoted to a higher-ranked piece when they reach the opponent’s side of the board.

Strategy and Gameplay: Chinese chess and international chess have distinct strategic elements and gameplay styles. Chinese chess often involves quick attacks and defense, with a focus on controlling the central area and maintaining a strong defense for the general. International chess emphasizes long-term planning, positional play, and complex tactical combinations.

Cultural Influence: Chinese chess has a long history and is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, while international chess has a more widespread global influence and is recognized as an international sport.

Both Chinese chess and international chess have their unique appeals and complexities, attracting players from different cultural backgrounds. While they share some similarities as board games, the differences in rules and gameplay offer distinct experiences for players.

xiangqi vs shogi

Xiangqi, also known as Chinese chess, and Shogi, also known as Japanese chess, are two popular board games with different rules and origins. Here are some key differences between Xiangqi and Shogi:

Board and Pieces: Xiangqi is played on a 9×10 grid board, while Shogi is played on a 9×9 grid board. Both games have different pieces with unique movements. In Xiangqi, the pieces include generals, advisors, elephants, horses, chariots, cannons, and soldiers, each with their specific rules of movement. Shogi has a variety of pieces, including kings, rooks, bishops, gold generals, silver generals, knights, lances, pawns, and promoted versions of these pieces.

Objective: The objective in Xiangqi is to checkmate the opponent’s general, similar to international chess. In Shogi, the goal is to capture the opponent’s king. Once a player captures the opponent’s king, they win the game.

Piece Promotion: In Xiangqi, there is no piece promotion. The pieces maintain their original abilities throughout the game. In Shogi, most pieces have the ability to promote when they reach the opponent’s side of the board. Promoted pieces gain additional movement capabilities, making the game more complex and strategic.

Drop Rule: Shogi has a unique rule called the “drop rule.” Captured pieces can be reintroduced into the game by dropping them on vacant squares on the player’s side of the board. This adds a layer of strategy as players can use captured pieces strategically.

Movement Rules: The movement rules of the pieces in Xiangqi and Shogi differ. For example, in Xiangqi, the generals are confined to the palace, elephants move diagonally within their own side of the board, and cannons have unique capture rules. In Shogi, pieces like the silver generals and gold generals have different movement patterns compared to Xiangqi.

Cultural Influence: Xiangqi is deeply rooted in Chinese culture and has a long history dating back centuries. It is popular in China and other East Asian countries. Shogi, on the other hand, is a traditional Japanese game with significant cultural importance in Japan.

Both Xiangqi and Shogi are highly strategic and challenging games, requiring careful planning and tactical thinking. They offer unique experiences and have their own dedicated player communities. The cultural and rule differences make Xiangqi and Shogi distinct and intriguing choices for board game enthusiasts.

Chinese Chess vs. Mahjong

Chinese Chess (Xiangqi) and Mahjong are two traditional games that are popular in China, but they are quite different in nature. Here are some key differences between Chinese Chess and Mahjong:

Game Type: Chinese Chess is a strategy board game played between two players on a square board. It involves moving pieces and capturing the opponent’s pieces to checkmate the opponent’s general. Mahjong, on the other hand, is a tile-based game played with a set of tiles. It is typically played by four players and involves drawing and discarding tiles to complete sets and score points.

Number of Players: Chinese Chess is a two-player game where opponents face each other on opposite sides of the board. Mahjong is usually played by four players, although there are variations that can be played by three players or even two players.

Objective: In Chinese Chess, the objective is to checkmate the opponent’s general, similar to checkmate in international chess. In Mahjong, the objective is to accumulate points by forming sets of tiles (such as melds and runs) based on specific rules and scoring systems.

Gameplay: Chinese Chess is a turn-based game where players take alternating moves to strategically position and maneuver their pieces. The game progresses through a series of moves and captures until one player achieves checkmate or a draw occurs. Mahjong involves drawing and discarding tiles, and players take turns to make sets with the tiles they have. The gameplay in Mahjong is more fluid and dynamic.

Skill vs. Luck: Chinese Chess is primarily a game of skill, strategy, and foresight. It requires deep thinking, planning, and anticipating the opponent’s moves. Mahjong, while it involves skill and strategic decision-making, also incorporates an element of luck due to the random drawing and discarding of tiles.

Cultural Significance: Chinese Chess has a long history and is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. It is often played in homes, clubs, and competitions, and it is considered a traditional intellectual game. Mahjong is also deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and is often played in social settings, family gatherings, and during festivals. It is seen as a leisure activity and a way to socialize.

In summary, Chinese Chess and Mahjong are distinct games with different gameplay, objectives, and cultural significance. Chinese Chess focuses on strategic thinking, while Mahjong combines skill and luck in tile-based gameplay. Both games have their own unique appeal and are enjoyed by players in China and around the world.

Dream about Chinese Chess

  • Dreaming of playing Chinese Chess signifies approaching disaster and the need to be prepared. If you dream of losing a game of Chinese Chess, it suggests that you have been implementing an unproductive plan in real life. You lack the necessary resources and do not understand how to overcome stronger forces. In a spiritual sense, the game of Chinese Chess in the dream represents the struggle between light and darkness.
  • The dream of Chinese Chess is associated with meanings such as strategy, competition, and warfare. Chinese Chess mimics human warfare and symbolizes disaster.
  • Dreaming of playing Chinese Chess indicates that you may encounter conflicts and struggles, and you need to be cautious and prepared.
  • Dreaming of playing Chinese Chess suggests diligence leading to success. It indicates that you are actively pursuing a plan and constantly contemplating it in your mind, which is why the chess game appears in your dream. The dream implies that there may be obstacles along the way, but if you use your intelligence and wisdom, you will ultimately achieve victory.


The Chinese chess game is quite fascinating however, it appears to be more difficult, simply because the powers of the chess pieces are lesser than the ones in Western chess. All in all, if you are into strategic games, the Chinese chess game is a great way to start.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *