象棋 Chinese Chess
Placement of Pieces
Movement of Pieces
Play against a computer: Courtesy of Huey Yao
Anciently China had 4 traditional arts: music, painting, calligraphy,
and strategy games. The second syllable of Xiangqi, "qi" is the Chinese word for
strategy games. The first syllable, "xiang" is the word for
elephant. This spelling is Mandarin, in Cantonese the game is
called Jeuhng Keih.
Like Western chess, Chinese chess descends from the game of Chaturanga,
from India. From India it spread throughout Asia and also to
Medieval Euroupe. In China, the game reached its current form
during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD).
The Chinese chess board is made up of 10 horizontal lines (ranks)
and 9 vertical lines (files). The pieces are placed on the lines
rather than in the squares as in Western chess. The lines are
broken by the blank space that runs horizontally through the middle of
the board. The blank space is the river. At each end there
is a square with intersecting diagonals. These are the palaces,
one for red, and one for black. The other markings are for aids
in placement of the pieces at the beginning of the game.
The Pieces are round disks made of plastic, wood,
etc. Usually the colors are red and black, and the pieces are
identified by the Chinese character written on them.
(Western Equivalant) Pronuciation (Mandarin)
On Each Side
|將 or 帅
Assistant (Queen) shi4
|M or A
|象 or 相
|Horse (Knight) ma3
|H or N
|Chariot (Rook) che1
|卒 or 兵
|Soldier (Pawn) zu2/bing1
Placement of Pieces at start of game
Movement of Pieces
Except the cannon, all pieces capture in the same manner that they move.
將 or 帅 General (King)
Any 1 point on the grid in an orthogonal (non-diagonal) direction
within the palace. It cannot leave the palace except in a
theoretical move when it moves along a file from its own palace to the
enemy's palace thus capturing the enemy's general. Therefore it
is illegal to make any move that leaves your own general in an open
file opposite the enemy's general because it places your general in
士or 仕 Mandarin or Assistant (Queen)
1 point diagonally within the palace, i.e. it cannot leave the
象 or 相 Elephant (Bishop)
2 points in any diagonal direction. Cannot leap over any
piece. Also it cannot cross the river.
马 Horse (Knight)
1 point in an orthogonal (non-diagonal) direction followed by one point
in a diagonal point thus ending two points away from starting
position. It may not leap over other pieces (i.e. if there is a
piece of either color at the elbow point then it cannot move in that
车 Chariot (Rook)
Moves any number of points either horizontally or vertically but not
diagonally; it cannot leap other pieces (same as a rook).
When not capturing a piece it moves exactly as a chariot. In
order to capture a piece it must leap another piece of either color
before landing on the point of the captured piece. It cannot leap
over more than one piece but it can leap the river when capturing.
卒 or 兵 Soldier (Pawn)
1 point forward. After it crosses the river it can move 1 point forward
or 1 point sideways. It never moves backwards or
diagonally. Unlike Western chess it captures the same as it
moves, either forward or after crossing the river sideways, never
diagonally. Pawns do not promote; when they reach the end of the
board they can then either move right or left (sideways).
1. Red moves first.
2. The game is won by either checkmating or stalemating the enemy General.
3. You cannot perpetual check. For example you cannot check the
opponent more than 3 times in a row with the same piece or the same
4. You cannot force an enemy piece to move perpetually between two
points to avoid capture. If this occurs then the person attacking
must withdraw the attack.
5. The game is a draw when neither side can force either checkmate or
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Version 1.0 by Daniel Baird
Updated January 6, 2005