Chinese Chess Or Xiangqi


The ancient game of Chess has been quite popular over the millennium and is played and enjoyed by people of all ages throughout the world. The game has evolved in various formats and variants in different cultures and is known by different names by people of different countries. The Chinese version of the game is popularly known as Chinese chess in the West. The people of China call it Xiangqi which when translated to English, means “elephant chess” or “image chess”.

Chinese Chess or Xiangqi

Chinese chess or Xiangqi was played by people of ancient China, with coin shaped pieces of metal and even sometimes porcelain. These coin shaped pieces were traditionally collected and preserved by those interested in primitive Chinese coins, horse and charm coins. In the preset days the playing pieces are generally made of wood or plastic.

While the words “elephant” or “image” may sound illogical to be used in the games of chess, the Chinese word Xiang literally means image or elephant. The logic behind using this name may be noteworthy, and unlike Western chess, this game really includes pieces representing elephants. The most primitive Xiangqi pieces revealed so far includes those of the Song and Yuan dynasties. The earliest Xiangqi chess board exposed so far dates back to the Ming Dynasty.

Playing the Game

The Xiangqi game of chess is played with a set of 32 playing pieces and the full set of Xiangqi pieces discovered from Song dynasty are very uncommon. In Beijing, the four full sets of Xiangqi pieces discovered from Song Dynasty can be seen at “The National Museum of Chinese History”.  One full set of Xiangqi  as exposed from Northern Song dynasty has been treasured at “The Shanxi Museum Of History”.  There are no reports of early Xiangqi pieces of the Song dynasty to be in private hands.

While the western chess is played with back and white playing pieces, the Chinese game of chess is played with black and red pieces.

Game of Two Players

Chines chess or Xiangqi is usually played by two players with each of the players having a set of 16 pieces that depicts different Chinese characters, and have the own strengths and flaws. The game is played on alternate basis and the player with red pieces starts the game. It is widely played in most Asian countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and many others. Xiangqi has been in the limelight of modern form of chess for over a century and has resemblance to the Indian version of chess known as “Chaturanga”.