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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 2011-12-20 UTC
The addition of cannons has really nothing to do with the discussion between whether the original game is from Persia, India, or China. It's a well known fact that the cannon was added in the Song dynasty which is a few hundred years after chess appeared in India. By that time there was already 8x8 in Persia and India, and 9x10 in China and/or Korea, so the cannons don't really address which one came first or which one came from which. It is a fact that Xiangqi finished its development in the Song dynasty which is at least 500 years before 8x8 finished its development in Europe, so in the case of chess, the development of Xiangqi finished earlier, so development of these 2 games was faster in China. Regarding the 2 boards, it's possible to develop either from each other, but my main point from the beginning has always been the apparently out of place counselor in 8x8 chess. It moves 1 space diagonally and seems out of place. The counselor in Xiangqi has a specific role to defend either the side or the front of the general. In Xiangqi's original setup, the counselor or scholar was behind the general (which was in the center of the palace like in Janggi). My point has always been the original pieces of both games are designed for the 9x10 board and are out of place on the 8x8 board with no palace suggesting that 8x8 is from 9x10 and not the other way around. If you look at the Grand Chess page, the guy who designed the game writes about how the original 8x8 pieces don't seem to fit the board, so the long range bishop was developed, and the counselor or queen was improved to combine the powers of a bishop and rook. So its not as simple an issue of whether an 8x8 board is more intuitive or a 9x10 intersection board. We also need to look at the earliest known version of Xiangqi with just 1 counselor and 1 minister and the earliest known version of 8x8 chess in India which already had 2 ministers (elephants) with the back row filled out with pieces. The earliest known version of Xiangqi has less pieces (12 per side) than 8x8 chess in India (16 per side). Less pieces suggest an earlier game. I've been talking to people with some knowledge of Xiangqi in Taiwan and there does not appear to be any definitive description of the game detailed enough in literature to confirm its origins before chess in India or Persia as far as I know. There are references towards people playing some sort of qi (chess game), but that could mean any kind of board game involving pieces. It is believed that the game is from the Spring and Autumn period and is around 2,000 years old and did not finish its development until the Song dynasty. Please remember, that this is just the general Chinese belief of their own game and was not created to dispute the European theory that Chess is from India in the 6th century. It is an internal Chinese opinion. I'm not saying it is necessarily correct, but I am saying that this is a general belief because many things were invented at that time and the game is not believed to have a foreign origin. Another interesting thing I heard is that the xiang in Xiangqi does not mean elephant. It is from the word qi xiang. I mean the 2 characters put together that mean weather. qi as in air. xiang as in image. qi xiang can mean weather as in weather report, and other words related to the weather, but qi xiang means 'atmosphere' or 'mood' in regards to the game. If this is correct, it is totally not correct to say that Xiangqi is the elephant's game and that the elephant was imported from India. If you know Chinese, it's very believable that there are a number of interpretations possible for a single chinese characters, and the xiang character that is used for elephant only means elephant when it is with the character for 'large', or da xiang. This is not evidence that Xiangqi was developed in the Spring and Autumn period of course, but it does suggest that the origin or at least the name of the game has nothing to do with elephants and therefore the original version of 8x8 chess in India does not seem to have any direct influence on Xiangqi, because the xiang piece which is written 2 different ways in a Xiangqi set, does not mean elephant on either side. One side means zai xiang or prime minister, and the other xiang could be from the name of the game as it has the same sound as xiang from zai xiang. In Chinese people's understanding of the minister, it is meant to be a government official who stays in his own countryside and does not cross the river to the other side. He moves exactly 2 spaces to show that he has a high rank and can move swiftly about his own country as opposed to the scholars who stay inside the palace only and can only move 1 space. Therefore, for the purposes of our discussion here, the existence of an elephant in Persian and Indian Chess should not be used a strong piece of evidence that chess originated in India. Anyway, I need to learn more, but so far, I have not seen much from the history of Xiangqi that would suggest that it was derived from Indian or Persian 8x8 chess.