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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 2012-03-29 UTC
I was not aware of Murray's conclusions regarding Xiangqi, but he seems to have found a way of saying that references towards Xiangqi are a different game based on the constellations or something and that the new game from India was simply given the same name. By speculating that there were multiple games named Xiangqi, as it appears in Chinese, the historical references to Xiangqi that pre-date 8x8 Chess in India or Persia are essentially nullified from a literary perspective. It's quite a devil's advocate argument because it means that references to Xiangqi before 6th century essentially don't count because that could be a different game whereas references after the 6th century to Xiangqi mean the current game we call Xiangqi now. Seems convenient, but as far as I know there isn't another kind of Chinese game that was named Xiangqi at some point. I haven't seen anything in a museum or any kind of artifact of a different kind of game that was called Xiangqi before the 'copied Indian version' came to China. As far as I know, the name of the game does not have anything to do with constellations or astronomy. Until I had read Murray's theory, I have never heard of anything like that from any Chinese historian with any knowledge of Xiangqi. The river in the middle of the board is most commonly interpreted as a river of a key battle that took place between 2 armies just before the founding of the Han dynasty. Instead of looking at Chinese history, Murray seems to want to point at the Milky Way as being the explanation of the occurrence of the river in Xiangqi. As far as I know, the river was put in later on (probably during the Han Dynasty). That's the simplest explanation. I'm kind of surprised that Murray did not or was not able to find out what the name of the river meant to any Chinese historian or any Chinese person with a basic high school education that would know about how the Han Dynasty was founded. Or rather it seems to me, that Murray wants to attribute another game which does not seem to exist to astronomy instead of a historical battle that took place at least 600 or 700 years before 8x8 Chess appears in India. Murray poses the possibility that there were different games in China called Xiangqi, but as far as I know, there was nothing else called Xiangqi from that period of time. In my opinion, if he is going to make this kind of assertion, some kind of clue as to what this so-called game(s) were like would be helpful. However, it seems he just wanted to discredit China as a possibility when in fact its the most obvious choice because its design is based on a battle that took place several hundred years before Chess in India happens. I also think its kind of surprising that Murray would make such strong conclusions about Xiangqi without even trying to figure out what the characters mean in modern Chinese. While the meaning of Chinese character often change over a long period of time, and it can have multiple meanings, I wonder why he came to the conclusion that it was based on astronomy and not 'atmosphere' or 'live and moving' pieces as opposed to static in Weiqi (Go). It seems that Murray knows ancient Chinese better than Chinese people who can actually read Chinese, because if I started telling people that Xiangqi 2000 years ago was based on astronomy instead of actual battles that were taking place at that time, they'd think I was crazy because it's common sense that a war game would be based on.... war. A chariot goes straight forward. The ancient character for chariot is a pictograph of a chariot with 2 wheels on it. In the Spring and Autumn period, it was the strongest weapon in the battlefield. These more common sense interpretations seem much more plausible rather than pieces being based on stars, etc. There seems to be a conflict in the reverse engineering of Xiangqi. Instead of reverse engineering it to a very simple game with just a few pieces based on actual people on horses or chariots fighting in battles, we are supposed to believe that there's this other game that does not seem to exist in China called Xiangqi, and then a modern version of Xiangqi was developed quickly in the 6th century so that earlier designs of Xiangqi which have only 11 pieces on each side to start with are discarded and not considered. Based on this logic, any reference to anything can be interpreted as being something else without a plausible explanation to what that other thing called the 'same thing' is. I honestly feel the standards for a game being developed in India are extremely flexible in terms of interpretation, while the standards for China are extremely strict almost as if unless a very specific blue print is presented, there's no way a game based on war could be developed from a society that fought wars like that and liked to play board games also.