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Xiangqi: Check Mate Chinese Style

Updated Beijing Time

No game speaks of intelligence, concentration and skill like the game of chess. But did you know there are many types of Chess? Chess originated in India, and traveled around the world. In Europe the French changed it to be the modern game of chess, International-rule Chess.

Chess also traveled east to China, where it was simplified and is called Xiang Qi. Instead of using elaborately carved pieces it uses wooden circles with the names written in Chinese characters. As a result chess in China became a popular game for everyone, from emperors to the ordinary people. Chinese chess might be more popular in its country than other board games in the world.


Cultural Park used to be the arena of the Wuyang (Five Rams) Cup, the most premium tournament for the Xiang Qi masters in China. (by Roy Chambers)

For a chess fan visiting China there comes the question -- is it hard to learn? I have personally taught several people Chinese chess. If you have played chess before then even on the first game you will be able to see some obvious moves. Most players can pick up the basic rules after around three games; though mastering game play takes a little longer.

In Chinese chess many of the pieces move a little differently from its western peer. And there are unique pieces in China, such as Pao (跑 in Chinese, meaning cannon). It makes the game play more exciting.

There is a saying that if you can master the Ma's (马, horse) move in Chinese chess, then you have controled half the game. Because the way the Ma moves is similar to knights in western one. Most people find they already know half of the most difficult part of Chinese chess.



Haizhu Square is one of the popular places for Guangzhou Xiang Qi fans. (by Roy Chambers)

The last question is, is it worth learning? On one hand, Chinese chess is actually a more complex that International rules Chess, with a greater number of total legal moves. The best humans can still beat the best computers at playing Chinese chess. Yet game play – especially in the opening stages – is much simpler.

To play and practice you can ask nearly anyone in China to teach you the basic moves. Club Xiang Qi (www.clubxiangqi.com) is one of the best sites for Chinese chess in English.

Also go to various parks around China where you will find many people playing.

Please remember the classic etiquette of Chess holds strongly in southern China, the polite man watches and says nothing. Though in the north of China everyone stands around and argues loudly over every move.

Guangdong province in South China boasts the top strength in professional competition and public popularity of Xiang Qi in the country. Its capital Guangzhou and Chaoshan and Huizhou regions in the east are the most developed places of this mind sport.

The Guangzhou-based Wuyang (Five Rams) Cup used to be the most premium tournament for the Xiang Qi masters in China for decades. It took place in the Cultural Park east to Shamian Island.


  Chinese: Shuai, Jiang
Literally: Commander
Similar to: King
  Chinese: Shi
Literally: Advisor
Has no equivalent
  Chinese: Xiang
Literally: Minister, Elephant
Similar to: Bishop
  Chinese: Ma
Literally: Horse
Similar to: Knight
  Chinese: Ju
Literally: Chariot
Similar to: Rook
  Chinese: Pao
Literally: Cannon
Has no equivalent
  Chinese: Bing, Zu
Literally: Soldier
Similar to: Pawn

(By Roy Chambers and Ronald Li)

Source: Lifeofguangzhou.com

Editor: Chen Minjie

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