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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2016-05-03
 Author: Fergus  Duniho. Chaturanga. The first known variant of chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Jason L. wrote on 2011-02-28 UTC
Yes, and Chinese people are willing to acknowledge that the religions they look to are from India. But does that mean we should ignore the fact that the Chinese were strong at board games and that Xiangqi as we know it today and not that other game (Xiangxi) which is not a war board game apparently is just the 19x19 Weiqi (Go) board divided into 4 pieces for a 9x10 board? What is more likely? That the Chinese invent Weiqi as late as the 6th Century B.C. or whenever it was and then invent another game using 1/4 of the board that is also played on the intersection points as Weiqi is and includes some of the same principals such as being blocked. Or rather, the Indians who are not into board games culturally invented a game played on the squares rather than intersection points with the same moves as Xiangqi as it was during the Tang Dynasty but the minister and counselor's movements are essentially updated into the modern day bishop and queen in Europe later on because those movements do not fit the game to begin with. Why? Because the soldiers or pawns are right in front of the major pieces so a counselor moving up one diagonal square is hardly interesting at all and the minister (not elephant) is also rather dull in the game because it has nothing to defend really. If the Indian version was really invented by them, you would think that India would have a long history of playing the game, but they don't. Anand is not proof of India's long history of playing the game since 600 A.D. or so. Europeans starting around the 1400's or a little later have a long history of making the pieces move right on the 8x8 board and producing tons of talented players. In fact, the real improvements were made by the Europeans. The pawns can move 2 spaces on its first move because it is on the 2nd row instead of the 4th. The rule en passant (French word) has to be added to prevent players from illegally advancing pawns without a fight against another pawn. Castling is added to the game. We call it castling since there were castles in Europe! Seems like the game wasn't really playable by modern standards until it got to Europe. How come there isn't a single modern opening named after anything Indian? Did the Indians invent a game with awkward moving pieces and then abandon it only to find it again like 1,000 years later with all these openings named after European people and countries? Or maybe a board game with pieces that moved right on a 9x10 board had the pieces put in the squares on an 8x8 board and the pawns were moved back the 2nd rank and filled in for aesthetic reasons, but no other necessary changes were made to the counselor and minister (elephant) so the game is not really playable and its slow also. If the modern Chinese version was already basically done by 800 or so during the Tang Dynasty and the queen piece was added during the Middle Ages in Europe, which game probably came first? A game with pieces that have not changed in their design but only their position on the board and the number of pieces there, or a game with pieces in the middle of the board that don't fit there until it gets a makeover like 600 years later in a different part of the world? So I am proposing to people that in terms of board game design which all of us can think about on paper and pencil, that when a game reaches its modern form like 600-800 years before another game that looks quite similar to it, then that game most likely came first. It's not absolute proof, but it's a bit like common sense. As I have mentioned before, don't forget archeological findings found before 600 or so. The transmission of religion and spirituality from a country strong in those aspects does not have any direct relationship with a board game based on war. That's also ignoring the fact that Weiqi came from China. That statement suggests a superiority of Indian culture in every respect instead of looking at all the factors involved. How come no one ever talks about Weiqi when discussing the origin of chess if certain principals are similar? It's like the world's oldest board game that is still played today must be ignored in order to make the assertion without much good reason that a game made famous in Europe is the original chess game in the ENTIRE world. Regarding the document that Dr. Li quotes in his book. It was apparently written in 1793, and it's about how General Han Xin invented the game 379 years after Confucius and you can see in Chinese the actual character Xiang Qi in the document. If the document was written in 1793, no Chinese person would put out the possibility that Xiang Qi could have meant another board game that was not played any longer for like over a thousand years. It's true the document does not have a description of how the game is played but describes the condition of the camp during winter. So I don't think the document proves that the game was first started in 203 B.C. or whenever, but to say that the document might be referring to another game with the same name even though such a misunderstanding could not occur in 1793, is like the Western cure all thinking to discredit the Chinese assertion that the game was invented in China without any foreign influence. In the Western world, when we say 'Chess' we do not mean any other version of Chess other than the Western version of it which we presume to be an original game as the name 'Chess' suggests. Therefore, if someone writes a document in the Western world after it has been played for at least a few hundred years, then it is not that reasonable to say that the word 'Chess' does not mean Chess as we know it today. Does anyone ask anyone what do they mean by 'Chess' in the Western world? Like is it Japanese chess, Chinese Chess, or Korean Chess? So in the Chinese world after playing Xiangqi in its modern form for like 1,000 years, an author would not quote a different game with the same exact 2 characters if it was not in play anymore. That would be causing a very illogical misunderstanding and there isn't a single Chinese person today that would think that that document from 1793 would be referring to anything else. In fact, if you ask your average Chinese person that there was a game named Xiangxi or Xiangqi that has nothing to do with Xiangqi as we know it today, they would probably not know what you are talking about unless they were a board game historian. But it appears that Westerners who believe Chess comes from India because the English have said so over and over again, seem to know how to interpret Chinese documents better. Anyway, Dr. Li's books lacks cites, but the process he suggests in the book of how Xiangqi was developed and the charts of how the game was developed are reasonable. The game has always been well designed and they just kept adding pieces to it until the back row was totally filled up. At first, the general was one space up on the 5th column with the adjutant (counselor) behind it. Interestingly enough, the Korean version of Xiangqi has the general in that position till today. The Japanese and Koreans who borrow from the Chinese and then make it their own have a tendency to preserve a great deal of Chinese culture in many ways. There was no minister at first and there were always 5 foot soldiers spaced apart like that in the 4th row with the chariot and horse placed where they still are on the first row. After Han Xin is executed for treason and his writings destroyed, his game which is apparently named after the Prince of Chu (Xiang qi) and not an elephant piece, is lost among the common people until it gets revived again in 600 or so where it adds more pieces. The minister is added in front of the general on the 3rd row. Then the 2 cannon pieces are added on the 3rd row prompting the need for more defense. Another counselor is added as well as another minister and everything is moved to the back row. The back row is a bit crowded and the horse can only move up the 3rd row on its first move instead of the 2nd row because the minister piece is now blocking it. So whether you believe these alleged Chinese sources Li is referring to discuss the making of Xiangqi into its original form is your own choice, but I am just referring to board game design. It's a lot more reasonable to believe that the game developed on its own from Weiqi and the teachings of Sun Tze's Art of War than it is to think the Chinese took an awkward game from India and made it better by changing the positions of the pieces so their movements have a purpose. So if you guys would like to discuss the evolution of board game design, then we can discuss it. I am not a chess historian, so please don't give me the task of producing what the Western world considers to be hard evidence of Xiangqi being invented in China and not a borrowed Indian game as Europe likes to believe. But I hope that by putting down the apparent evolution of Xiangqi here, that I am discussing the development of the board game and coming to probable conclusions based on how board games can change over time. If 2 board games are apparently very similar, one can make reasonable judgments based on how the pieces developed over time and 'when' they developed into its modern form. Like I said, there's a difference of about 800 years or so between Western Chess' modern form and Xiangqi's modern form. Yes, there is still room for argument, but I am just stating what is more likely. What is that rule called? Occam's Razor. The theory that is the most simple one is most likely correct. In this case, a game that comes to its modern form about 800 years before its apparent cousin played on squares instead of intersection points comes to its modern form, most likely came first and not the other way around. A culture that wants all cultured people to play board games develops a board game exactly 1/4 the size of an existing board game at least a few hundred years after the former board game is invented. The board game is revived 800 years later or so and the current dynasty (Tang) promotes the game and it goes out to the rest of the world in places like India, Korea, Japan, and Persia. Or the opposite train of thought, a culture strong in board games, borrows an awkward board game from a culture that does not promote board games and then develops it into its modern form just 200 years later while the supposed original game does not obtain its modern form until it is shipped off to another continent before it reaches its modern form. The early Indian game has a 'queen' that moves one space diagonally only and has an elephant that moves exactly 2 spaces diagonally are both suspiciously the same to the adjutant/counselor piece and minister piece (minus the ability to jump over a piece) in Xiangqi. The early queen and bishop do very little in the Indian game, while they perform a very specific defensive purpose in Xiangqi which is to defend the general on all 4 sides by moving diagonally either 1 space or 2 spaces. The general is on the 2nd rank in Xiangqi so the adjutant can go around all 4 sides without the general moving. The adjutant/queen and minister/bishop work well in one game and doesn't work well in the other. Which pieces were designed for its board and setup and which one was most likely just borrowed from the other game because the pieces don't fit the game? Occam's Razor again. A group of scholars in Europe state only sources from India as evidence that the first chess game in the world is from India because the game they play is from it. The scholars have no interest in looking at sources in other languages as it does not support their argument. Later on, scholars from that other large Asian country suggest a much earlier date and the European scholars can't take it and don't want to take back what they have been saying for like 300-400 years because that would look silly. Besides the whole world speaks English and not Chinese so information has been monopolized world's most influential empire. Occam's Razor. A minister piece is developed called Xiang much later the initial game was developed. It is a homonym and one of them is 'elephant' even though nothing suggests that that piece literally means elephant but everything does in fact suggest it is a minister of the kingdom with swifter movement than the adjutant. A 3 person game is also developed later in the Song Dyansty that has 3 different pieces pronounced Xiang. 1 of them is elephant and the 2 others are not. On the other hand, the chariot, cannon, and horse all mean the same thing for all 3 sides. They do not use homonyms. The same piece is found in the Indian game and is literally an elephant and that culture happens to love elephants and the Chinese did not use elephants in war as far as I know. Oh boy, the European scholars have won some points here. Too bad many Chinese characters have the same sound and this so-called proof is actually a lack of understanding of the Chinese language.