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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 2011-03-01 UTC
Yes, you make good points about how other variants in Asia are closer to the Shatranj game, but that does not make me think that that was the original game because of the thought historical chronology of the game suggested by Dr. Li. As the book points out, early on the 9x10 intersection board was not accepted by the Persians and the 8x8 board played in the squares was also developed by the Chinese as an experiment. This version was accepted by other cultures and that is why other countries which are quite close to China like Thailand are close to Shatranj. Shogi seems to be a mix of Xiangqi and Shatranj so its possible it was influenced by both and over a long period of time. The pawns in that game move forward and capture the same way which suggests influence from Xiangqi, but many other aspects of that game are either Japanese developments or influence from Shatranj. So while I think your point is true that most chess variations in the world are closer to Shatranj with Korean chess being the exception, coming from my Chinese point of view, it doesn't really matter because 1st century B.C. which is at least 400 years after Weiqi is invented seems more reasonable to me and I am not stuck on intersection points or squares because they are basically the same thing. The logical points brought forth in Dr. Li's book is enough for me and I look forward to one day looking at supposedly supporting evidence either in Chinese literature or artifacts being found in China that support the existence of Xiangqi as we know it today. If this debate didn't exist between China and the West, Chinese scholars would say Xiangqi started around 1 B.C. or around the beginning of the Han dynasty. They did not make that time period up just to be 800 years before the start of Chaturanga in India. The Chinese did not proclaim their game as the first one, but just think it's their own game from around that time. It was the West that proclaimed that Chaturanga was first and that automatically all other forms of chess are derived from it without looking into other sources from other countries. It seems that the Chinese are confident of their own history while the West has to make proclamations about other cultures in order to boost the superiority of their own culture. If you look at some of the quotes from the British writers, they want to equate all inventions that Chinese believe they had to the Indians. It's not about Chess. It's about putting down China because the Brits seemed to hate them for the last 300-400 years. Or rather, China wasn't a British colony so its history needed to be ignored. I'm sure the Dr. Li book won't have much of an influence on anyone who is so sure of the Chaturanga theory that is known as fact in the Western world. Even if several artifacts dated well before 600 A.D. were found throughout Asia, it wouldn't budge a single Westerner's assumption that Chaturanga was the origin of all chess games out there. Playing chess within squares is more popular throughout all the world's chess variants. Does that make it the original game or could that just be the version that was exported out of China that was accepted by other cultures? Regarding the diagrams on the supposed evolution of Xiangqi in Li's book, the original version did not have any ministers but just one adjutant. If Chaturanga is the original game and the Chinese copied it from India, that means they took out 2 ministers/bishops and 3 pawns and rearranged them on the 4th rank so they'd be split. That seems unlikely that a culture would delete pieces it borrowed. In the Chinese chronology, 1 minister was added later, and then later on there was 2 ministers and 2 adjutants as well as 2 cannon. But obviously, the game had already been transplanted to other parts of Asia and the Middle East where the cannon was not included. I gave most of my reasons in the last post so this one will be a bit shorter. We need to look at sources from all over the world and their possible dates to make solid conclusions about chess origins. However, I don't see a single shred of influence in Xiangqi from any other game from its original form to its modern form 1,000 years later. And I can say that because the first version of Chaturanga looks like a late version of Xiangqi without the cannon pieces. The original version of Xiangqi had a very open board. Only 11 pieces for each side. 5 foot soldiers, 2 chariots, 2 horseman, 1 adjutant placed behind the general, and the general on the 2nd rank by himself. Now assuming that a chess game starting from scratch would have less pieces and not more, which game looks like it is the more likely predecessor assuming they really are related cousins? A game like Chaturanga with 16 pieces on it with the back row filled up and the soldiers/pawns fully filled, or a fairly empty board with only 5 pieces on the back row and a lone general on the 2nd row. Which board looks like an earlier development? If you have the book, its illustration 20 on page 173. If I were designing a chess game, I would start with the basics and then add more later on to spice up the game. Since all variants of Chess were being experimented on by various cultures throughout the world as things were adjusted and added on, the earliest game would most likely be the one with the least number of pieces on its original board which is 22 for Xiangqi as opposed to 32 for Chaturanga which has 2 ministers/bishops in it that did not exist in Xiangqi at first. If one assumes Xiangqi is taken from Chaturanga, that means the Chinese deleted pieces and then put them back at some later point in the Tang dynasty. That doesn't seem very logical. If pieces get deleted, that means they don't work right, but the Chinese supposedly deleted pieces and then put them back if you follow the Indian chess origin theory. On the other hand, most board games start with less and then later developments generally add more to the game and fix up some rules to make it run smoother. So I hate to repeat that old adage Occam's Razor, but the more I look at diagrams in that Li book of early Xiangqi boards, the more brian-twisting I need to do in order to find some kind of logical justification for things being the other way around. The West always compares the original Chaturanga board to the modern version of Xiangqi and sees how similar they are in terms of pieces and movement, so that's all the proof that is needed without considering if the converse could be true. Then the Chinese look into their own records and produce boards with less pieces which look more like an early version of Chess, but the West hasn't looked at those early designs and has tried to reverse engineer history in its own way by only looking at the modern version of Chinese Chess. A Chinese person (not me) really needs to bring all the relevant and credible documents towards so-called early designs of Xiangqi to the world so the rest of us don't have to get into these discussions over whose culture is superior or whatever. Unfortunately, the Chinese have a habit of destroying each other's things because they are always fighting amongst themselves given that they think there is nothing else worth fighting for except what we know as China today.