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Traditional Chinese Pieces for Chinese Chess and Variants

These pieces are made with the style of Chinese character known as Big5. This is the more detailed and traditional style of Chinese characters, as distinguished from GB, the simplified style endorsed by mainland China. Big5 is commonly used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and overseas communities. The wooden backgrounds are made from photos of ash and walnut samples. These images may be linked to from other pages at chessvariants.com. They are all GIF files in the same directory as this page. The full URL for each image is "http://www.chessvariants.com/graphics.dir/big5/" + <image name> + ".gif". You can also find the URL for any image by clicking on it. Do not link to these images from outside pages.

Regular Chinese Chess Pieces

Here are the regular pieces used in Chinese Chess. A different character is sometimes used for the same piece on each side. Each row shows pieces of one color, and each column shows the corresponding pieces on each side.

BGeneral.gif
BGeneral
BChariot.gif
BChariot
BCannon.gif
BCannon
BHorse.gif
BHorse
BElephant.gif
BElephant
BGuard.gif
BGuard
BPawn2.gif
BPawn2
WCommander.gif
WCommander
WChariot.gif
WChariot
WCannon.gif
WCannon
WHorse.gif
WHorse
WPrimeMinister.gif
WPrimeMinister
WGuard.gif
WGuard
WPawn1.gif
WPawn1

Alternate Chinese Chess Pieces

These pieces are used in Chinese Chess, but not for the color they are in. They are included, because I made full sets for Chinese Chess.

WGeneral.gif
WGeneral
BCommander.gif
BCommander
WElephant.gif
WElephant
BPrimeMinister.gif
BPrimeMinister
WPawn2.gif
WPawn2
BPawn1.gif
BPawn1

Yáng Qí Pieces

These are pieces I made specifically for Yáng Qí. These pieces are not found in Chinese Chess, and the choice of which characters to use was my own. The characters I chose and those I considered for the same piece are described together, with explanations for why I chose the character I did.

Vao -- A Diagonal Cannon

BArrow.gif
BArrow
The Arrow is a diagonal version of a Cannon. It moves as a Bishop, but it can capture only by jumping over an intervening piece, as a Cannon does, sort of like an arrow flying overhead to hit someone behind. The intent behind calling it an Arrow is that the piece is an archer, but I could not find a Chinese character for archer. The best I found were characters for bow, arrow, and crossbow. Although I found characters that combined person with bow, one meant barbarian, and the other meant hang or condole, but did not seem to mean archer. I favored both bow and arrow over crossbow, because archery is an art that requires skill and training, whereas the crossbow let all kinds of unskilled people shoot arrows. I wanted the piece to be a noble archer, not any old chump with a crossbow. Also, I could not find a crossbow image for the GB set I created, and I wanted to use the same characters in both sets. I favored arrow over bow, because I liked the name arrow better than bow, the Chinese name for the arrow (shi with a hacek mark over the i) resembles the Chinese name for the piece it replaces (shi with a grave mark over the i), and the character for arrow also means the English verb vow, which sounds like Vao, the name originally given to this piece.
WArrow.gif
WArrow
BBow.gif
BBow
BCrossbow.gif
BCrossbow
WBow.gif
WBow
WCrossbow.gif
WCrossbow

Bishop

BSage2.gif
BSage2
The Chinese word for Bishop (zhujiao) is made up of two characters, and neither one is suitable on its own. Zhu looks too much like the character I used for the King, and jiao looks like nothing in particular, meaning religion rather than a cleric of some sort. To decide on a new name, I looked to what the Bishop has been called in other languages. German has called it both the sage (der Alte) and the runner (der Laufer). Modern Hebrew also calls it a runner (ratz) or a sage (zaken). Between these two choices, I favored sage, because it indicates someone with wisdom and education, and it is closer to the concept of a Bishop than a runner is. My conception of why the sage moves quickly along diagonal lines is expressed by Sun Tzu in the Art of War as "That you may march a thousand li without wearying yourself is because you travel where there is no enemy." The Sage knows how to slip through the cracks in enemy lines. It was this ability of the piece that prompted some to call it a Spy or a Scout. But I favored sage over these names for the same reason I favored it over runner. I favored sage over monk, because a sage is normally more venerable than a monk, better corresponding with the concept of a Bishop as a cleric of high-rank. I had two characters to choose from for sage, and I chose the simplified version, because it looked more like a person, and I thought it looked rather sage-like. One more character I considered was the angle character used in the Japanese name for the Shogi piece that moves as a Bishop. It would be recognizable to Shogi players, which was a plus, but horn and angle, which were its meanings, did not make suitable names for the piece, and I did not think that it looked like anything in particular.
WSage2.gif
WSage2
WSage.gif
WSage
BSage.gif
BSage
BAngle.gif
BAngle
WAngle.gif
WAngle
BMonk.gif
BMonk
WMonk.gif
WMonk
BRunner.gif
BRunner
WRunner.gif
WRunner
BScout.gif
BScout
WScout.gif
WScout

King

BKing.gif
BKing

Instead of using the General or Commander for the King in Yáng Qí, I chose a character that is used for the King in Shogi. This is a suitable choice, because the Yáng Qí King moves like the Shogi King, not like the General and Commander in Chinese Chess. I preferred it because its simplicity made it more recognizable, its resemblance to a cross could help others recognize it as a King, and its use in Shogi would help Shogi players recognize it. I also considered the character that Sun Tzu used for Sovereign in the Art of War. It is very similar with only an extra mark at top, but that mark made it look a bit more like the Arrow character, and I wanted to differentiate these two pieces as much as possible. Also, in looking up what the Chinese call pieces orthodox chess, I learned that they call the King by the character I chose, whereas the character Sun Tzu used for sovereign (zhu) is part of the Chinese name for a Bishop.

WKing.gif
WKing
BSovereign.gif
BSovereign
WSovereign.gif
WSovereign

Download Pieces

You can download all the pieces in this zip file, which contains Windows bitmap files of each image, all ready for use with Zillions of Games. This zip file contains this set, the simplified GB set, and a western set based on my abstract pieces. All three sets contain all the pieces for Chinese Chess and Yáng Qí.


Written by Fergus Duniho
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