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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 2011-03-26 UTC
I'm not here to defend David Li's book because I too found the lack cites disappointing because we don't know if he's just making up a convenient story to date Xiangqi back 800 years before the first Indian version or if the research he did really does suggest this. The document written in the late 1700's of course does not count as evidence because it's just a story. I have already written most of my points in earlier posts so there's no need to keep repeating them. It can be argued both ways which game influenced the other because they are so similar except one is played on the squares and one is played on the intersection points and it can go both ways. However, why is it more reasonable to assume the Indian version came first? I don't see a reason to assume that that's the case. I will try to reiterate my basic point here again. If the diagram on pg. 173 showing the early design of Xiangqi is legitimate and he didn't just make it up, the development process of Xiangqi is not derived from Shatranj because there are less pieces on the original Xiangqi board. There is no minister in the game at first. Just one counselor. If you bring another game over, you generally don't delete pieces from the board, but you might modify the pieces or the board. Therefore, it's common sense that the earlier game would have less pieces on it and then more pieces get added later on. This is, a 2nd minister and a 2nd counselor were added in later only when the 2 cannons were added. So my key point which I am repeating again, is that to make a logical comparison between Shatranj and the Xiangqi, you have to look at the earliest version of Xiangqi and not the modern version of it which has the board full of pieces. Does this make sense to everyone? We don't need to agree on whether the diagrams in the Li book are legit or not, but we should be able to agree on the fact that an earlier game would have less pieces on the board than a later game. Shatranj and modern Xiangqi look similar so either could have influenced the other, but the diagram on pg. 173 in that book shows us 1 counselor sitting behind the general in the palace and that does not look like Shatranj at all. Later on, 1 minister was added in front of the general. That also does not look like Shatranj. Only in the Tang-Song dynasty diagrams of Xiangqi was a 2nd minister (bishop) added and a 2nd counselor and the general was pushed back to the 1st rank where the game finally looks like Shatranj. In fact, modern setup of Janggi is more similar to the original Xinagqi setup with the General on the 2nd row and not the first, and there are many instances where Korea and Japan preserved an earlier Chinese version of something and made it their own while the Chinese changed their ways and their language. It's common to find Japanese usage of Han characters to have a Tang dynasty meaning which modern Chinese is not similar to creating confusion nowadays. What can I say, living in Asia over here, I have learned to look at things from the other way around as opposed to the way I looked at things in the States where we assumed all good things must have come from Europe and therefore India which later became a part of the British pride. I was only saying the Weqi board divided into 4 parts is 10x9 which is either an interesting coincidence or an explanation for where the 10x9 board came from in the first place. If we want to view things from the Western superiority point of view, then we can believe the Chinese took the 8x8 board and put the pieces on the intersection points just to be different or to be similar to Weiqi. Xiangqi was not a direct predecessor of Weiqi. That is a connection game and not a war game. I was just saying the board seems to be taken from it. So just look at the earlier diagrams from the book because I am tired of typing here. It's so obvious from the Chinese point of view that the game was not copied from Shatranj which looks like a more modern version of Xiangqi, it's not even funny. When I discuss the topic with my Chinese friends either in Taiwan or mainland China, people view the game as being from the Warring States period or the Spring and Autumn period because of the emphasis on the chariot. Chariots were supposedly not used starting with the Qin dynasty so its a rather old piece. So since this topic is about who thinks what, I am pointing out to you guys that there's quite a few Chinese people out there who think its their game and this is not something they copied from India. And Warring States period and Spring and Autumn period are like 1000 years before 600 A.D. But it is true that there's gap in the history Li is suggesting. A convenient gap. His book claims the game was not revived among the general public until the Tang dynasty which just at the same time the the Indian version appears on the scene. Therefore, if you believe the Indian theory which is also based on really nothing but Western arrogance and superiority, then Li's story sounds like a convenient story to explain why the game didn't game popularity among the public until around the same time as the emergence of the first Indian game. I would need to learn more about this from Chinese sources directly and not just depend on Li's book for why the game was allegedly not played among the public but only the royalty for a very long time. But I did make an objective observation here. If Janggi was really taken from Shatranj, then why did they put the King or General up on the 2nd row when the so-called original or 2nd one after the original one in India does not? Did the Koreans just get funny with their placement or is that just because the original Xiangqi designs have the general up on the 2nd row. Korea is so close to China that its reasonable the modern day version of Janggi kept that older setup of the General. Anyway, Li's book presents all the Western arguments which are always based on the indisputable assumption that India is first or else the white man loses face and the Chinese thinking has like several logical reasons why the game was developed independently of Chaturanga. And also, someone needs to confirm if the archeology discovery of so-called chess pieces in Russia dated to 2nd century is really true or not. How come no one is discussing this very obvious and important event? We are talking about a difference of 4 centuries if those were really chess pieces discovered along the Silk Road. So once again the bigger picture. The Chinese think their game is about a few hundred years older or around Qin dynasty and do NOT claim that Chaturanga and every other version of chess in the world came from theirs and don't care very much how those other chess games came about, but yet a few mostly British authors INSIST to the entire world that chess in its original form comes from India and not that nation called China because they play a modern version of the Indian one. The Chinese only care about the issue when they start getting accused of copying things they feel are their own. Anyway, from a player's standpoint, it's very obvious Xiangqi is older. It's a more restricted game with less movement granted to the general. When a game evolves, more movement is generally granted to pieces and not less. If we assume Chaturanga was first, that means the Chinese decreased the movement of the pieces just so they could fit into a palace and get trapped there. From a game design standpoint, this seems silly to think that the Chinese would make pieces more restricted. Also, it doesn't seem that reasonable that if you saw a game where the pieces are placed in the middle of squares, that you would place them on intersections instead and thereby increasing the number of spaces on the board to 90 from 64. And if you saw a game where there were 8 foot soldiers on the 2nd row, it also seems very unlikely that you would not use that design and instead put them on the 4th row but staggered instead of occupying every file. It seems much more likely that in India and/or Persia the 8x8 in the square version of the game was more acceptable culturally and the pawns were moved back to the 2nd row and the horse was granted the power of jumping because otherwise it can't move on its first move. The Xiangqi horse or knight is obviously the older one. In terms of gameplay, almost everything about Xinagqi feels older. I'm not here to insist the Indian and Persians copied the Chinese. That's their own business. I just think its wrong to make assertions about where a civilization got their game from without even looking into that civilization's history. I've already said this before. That so-called Western Chess historians don't feel the need to read one word of Chinese before they make their bold assertion that the game travelled to China from India. That seems rather ignorant and convenient and this mode of thinking seems to continue. That's like me saying India must have copied everything from the great Chinese civilization but yet I don't care about reading one word their language or looking into their history at all. So out of respect for 1 billion plus people and their history, it would really help people get along better in the world if others did not make assertions about other's history without studying their history first. If the Chinese don't say anything about where Chaturanga is from, then why do Westerners have to say Xiangqi comes from Chaturanga? In fact the Chinese probably don't even know what Chaturanga or Shatranj are. Do you guys realize how arrogant this comes off as? My Japanese friend saw the wiki site for Shogi and it also says it comes from India. She was like... 'That's rather presumptuous.' On what basis do we make this assumption? And I know not all of you are anti-Chinese in general. I am just saying this Chess invention assumption that exists in the Western world is really without any real basis and we shouldn't keep saying 'something is something' just because its been said in the language of English and other Western languages for the past few hundred years. I told you guys how silly the Encyclopedia Britannica supposedly is with the invention of dominoes right? They say its from the 1700's yet the Italians don't even play the game it seems and yet the Chinese are hard core gamblers with dominoes in Pai Gow? So yes, you can quote the great Encyclopedia Britannica if you like but it should be noted that the authors who write these sources are Europeans and would naturally know mostly when things popped up in Europe and they do not have a vast knowledge of the entire world but just see things mostly from a Western European view. If this wasn't a chess site, we could debate about the Ming Dynasty's navy and how it supposedly went to Mexico, Australia, East Africa, and Italy before Columbus made his journey to America much later but already had a map to go there. That whole issue really gets the Western superiority people all riled up. :) And by the way, my friend has been to a Mexican village where the local people have artwork showing the Chinese coming to visit them in the 1400's and introducing how to raise chickens to them apparently. Good god, we need to destroy any evidence all over the world of China having a navy in the 1400's that can reach as far as North America because it would destroy the whole Western superiority complex! ;) I'm pointing these things out, because I feel we are not even talking about chess but just a mindset that we've been educated to believe in the Western world. I read the Encyclopedia when I was a kid and I know things are not as simple as it is laid out there. You can find in the Oxford dictionary that Mao Zedong fought of the Japanese invaders when in fact Russian and Japanese forces do not have much mention of him ordering battles against them. Also, like every Chinese person whether they are pro-CCP or pro-KMT knows that wasn't the case and Mao was happy the Japanese were invading so he could build up his power base for a final conflict which he still really lost if he didn't get saved by America who didn't want Chiang to unite the country and make China (gasp) strong. But yet, the great Oxford dictionary is a legit source right? The dictionary on my Mac Book Pro says for Mao: 'A cofounder of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 and its effective leader from the time of the Long March (1934–35), he eventually defeated both the occupying Japanese and rival Kuomintang nationalist forces to create the People's Republic of China in 1949.' Are you going to believe that just because it comes from a Western dictionary? According to interviews with people close to Mao like his personal doctor, Mao was livid anytime CCP forces fought the Japanese. Why help the enemy (KMT) like that? It's about taking over China, not helping the Chinese people for heaven's sake! I am getting off topic, but that's my point about chess history. Because Murray says so everyone believes it because of his standing. But what legitimate reasons does he give? Does he know Chinese or is he just saying this is what it is because that's what he want to believe? Does anyone wondering about this history of chess even want to know more about Chinese history in regards to chess or if I happen to find something that suggests it came from China, you guys will just say it's not legitimate because of this that and the other? 'We have a book written by Murray as well as numerous Western sources that say so otherwise.' I must becoming David Li. This Western habit of assuming everything comes from them is driving me nuts. I have too many Western friends in Asia that walk around thinking like this and apparently this kind of thinking is much too common.