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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]
Aurelian Florea wrote on 2019-02-25 UTC

Is anyone else finding weird similarities between Chaturanga (Davidson's variantion) and Makruk?


Jose Carrillo wrote on 2018-06-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

My rating is specific to the Davidson Variation of Chaturanga.

If Davidson was correct (about Kings being able to move into check and to be captured), this would make an interesting alternative evolution story from Chaturanga to Shatranj, which makes a nicer transition story from Chaturanga to Shatranj to Chess.

Chaturanga - Davidson Variation (Rule Enforcing) Presets:


Kevin Pacey wrote on 2018-03-01 UTCGood ★★★★

A poorish game by modern standards, especially due to the alfil pieces, but modern chess is indebted to this historic early version of it.


Jose Carrillo wrote on 2016-07-25 UTC
Here is a Game Courier preset that enforces the rules for Henry A. Davidson's 1949 version of Chaturanga.
 

Jörg Knappen wrote on 2016-05-04 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
An excellent for the great rewrite.

George Duke wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
This Morality, http://www.chessvariants.org/fiction.dir/poems/falconpoem9.html, from 13 years ago cites in the last Pleiad Calaeno (of Rook, of Saturn, of metal Lead, of bird rook and raven, of 7 Wonders Mausoleum and so on) the same bases for pairs T, A, C and G in another number four arrangement.  In renewal of the well-known Chaturanga four, the claim arrogantly re-stated by Calaeno is that there are the four fundamental Chess pieces obviously from different mutually exclusive destination squares by the R N B and F.  In fact, this Poem would claim Chess itself as first or necessary cause of the universe which follows, let alone mere billion-year Life inception.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
Or is this book a kind of Uncyclopedia?

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
The nonsense book of the week.

That chess ever was a dice game is wrong, let alone the other points

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
In "Encyclopedia of absolute and relative knowledge" by popular French writer Bernard Werber, there is a short article about chess. Well, one should read this "encyclopedia" spectically, as it's philisophical tone confidently states some things that are not necessary true, and Werber could copy other people's mistakes, lie or speculation, and in the beggining of this article it's said that Chaturanga's first mention is found in 1000 BC, wich already makes to doubt about the rest article, but anyway, I'll ask about it.

It's said that Chaturanga is an ancestor of chess, cards and dominoes(!). It's said, it used dice with four symbols of four Indian castes: cups for priests, swords for warriors, sticks for peasants, coins for merchants. I know that these symbols was used in Indian cards, and in Europe they evolved to card suits we know (cups = hearts, swords = spades, coins - diamonds, sticks = clubs). But I never heard about connection between chess and Indian castes or card suits. Are there any serious sources to prove it?

Another interesting but very doubtful guess in this book (well, at least it said that it's only the guess) is that number four - of castes, card suits and chess pieces, is somehow linked with four DNA nucleotides - Thymine, Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine.

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2014-02-16 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
After modern European Chess and Chinese Xiang-Qi, Chaturanga with 2;2 elephants and Shatranj looks odd.
In European Chess there are logical and worthy pieces. In Xiang-Qi there are resonable and harmonical positions of pieces, though elephants and ferzes are even weaker.
In comparision with these games, at first sight Chaturanga looks clumsy, with very random pieces, with elephants, chaotically dangling in 8 squares each.
But actually, after a few tries to play this game, you'll see some harmony in it...

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.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-02-10 UTC
http://history.chess.free.fr/papers/Banaschak%201997.pdf

Here is a good paper from a German researcher that has a strong usage of
Chinese to actually examine the origin of Xiangqi directly.

The author has been quoted as disputing David Li's theory of Xiangqi
coming specifically from a general from the end of the Warring States
Period and does not necessarily subscribe to any particular theory.

Unfortunately, Banaschak is misquoted in places as a researcher who is
disputing that Xiangqi has a Chinese origin. This is certainly not his
position. He is simply disputing David Li's theory and not that Xiangqi
has a Chinese origin.

From his paper, it looks as if he personally believes that Xiangqi has a
Chinese origin, but concludes there is not enough evidence to prove any of
the possible theories of its origin but believes that future archeological
findings could support one theory or another.

George Duke wrote on 2012-01-28 UTC
Thanks Jason. It is sheer speculation about separate mathematical development of 3x3, and you may have mentioned no early palace before. Though I linked John Ayers GoddessChess article a year ago, this is one thread I have not kept up on all that much what is said during 2011. However, half impression is that it is certainly up for grabs whether Chess is eventually found to go back even more centuries in India or in China. That is, based on Jason L.'s the structural rather than documented historical seems to tilt to China. Good arguments all around and Jason L. has one more in his camp.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-27 UTC
From what I read, the original concept was no 3x3 palace, but just a 9x10 intersection board with the general in the center file on the 2nd rank by himself with the 1 space diagonal moving counselor right behind him on the first rank. In this formation, the counselor can reach all sides of the general. Supposedly, the 3x3 palace came later to restrict the general from leaving the center of the board where he belongs. Then the 2 space minister in front of the general was added. The another counselor and another minister at some point.

George Duke wrote on 2012-01-18 UTC
Betza -- one of Betza's summary comments appears early this same article, that Jason L. has kept going for a year now as the most popular. Also Peter Aronson right here too states ''co-evolved'' ten years ago: Aronson. History was preparatory for the John Ayer GoddessChess article, Origin. Has it been maintained yet, that there was no promotion in Chaturangan origin? Speculation on promotion after the fact without documentation, makes Xiangqi and Chaturanga more alike in the regard, since Pawn to the last rank can only move laterally Xiangqi. In the advanced upper half of board both pawn-types have three possible movements, regardless divergency. Looking at Xiangqi alone, ignoring other Chesses, but allowing a little history of Xiangqi, for instance that Counsellor precedes Minister in historical development, there is the following. One would think the Palace 3x3 came first before embodying big surrounding complete 90 spaces; and before any other piece-types, just orthogonal one-step King and one or then two diagonal ''Ferz/Advisers.'' How those two elemental piece-types interact on a small 3x3 board, like trivial tic-tac-toe. Just the nine spaces played around with might become complex enough for a game; then a regular Chess out of it comes much later. Tetraktys is nine spaces too made by ten dots: Tetraktys. [Notice the link inside link, Wikipedia is blacked out this 24 hours.]

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-16 UTC
I don't think that the original 16 pieces in 8x8 Indian chess has no
relationship with Xiangqi. Only the King moves slightly differently and the
rest of the back rank pieces move the same but can jump in 8x8 chess due to
the pawns being on the 2nd rank.

The difference in pawns is not a strong argument I am putting forth. I am
aware of the fact that a different capturing pawn and different position
pawn is not necessarily directly influenced from Xiangqi. My main point
about game development is that the 1 space moving counselor and 2 space
moving minister don't appear to fit the 8x8 board but they do for the 9x10
intersection board. It's also very unlikely that weird moving pieces would
be developed on a board they don't fit and were fixed by moving to a
slightly different board.

To make this kind of conjecture seems like putting forth something that is
not extremely likely just to make it seem like that is what could have
happened so it probably happened.

I have read Western chess books on Shogi and Xiangqi and I have heard
similar arguments for how Shogi and Xiangqi could have been developed. They
all try to reverse engineer from the 8x8 game. I do think Shogi comes from
an 8x8 variant similar to Makruk with the silver general, but it does not
seem that logical that original 8x8 with 16 pieces could have become
Xiangqi for several reasons I have already stated.

I am not saying that these reasons you are stating don't make sense. I am
saying that in order to make conclusions about Xiangqi, one should look at
China's history regarding the development of the game. The documentation
does not suggest that China exported the game to Persia or India. To my
knowledge there is nothing that suggests that.

I have given you guys several reasons for why Xiangqi's origin is native
to China without making definite but probable conclusions on how it could
have influenced 8x8 chess in other parts of Asia.

Therefore, if Xiangqi can be predated by to an 11 piece arrangement with no
minister that moves 2 spaces, and the general on the 2nd rank like in
Janggi, then it is obviously not taken from 16 piece Indian chess with the
back rank filled, because its very unlikely that pieces would disappear
along the way.

Now the legitimacy of this progression of Xiangqi needs to be confirmed and
I would like to do that myself, but if this progression of Xiangqi is true,
then it does not follow that the board and the pieces are from India or
Persia.

Also, I have already pointed out that a 9x10 intersection board most likely
does not come from an 8x8 square board. Because if you simply move the
pieces from an 8x8 board to the intersection points, you get 9x9
intersection board. You do not get 9x10.

And the original Xiangqi was 9x10 with no river. I repeat. No river. That
means, the river was added later to separate the 2 armies, so it was not
the addition of the river that made Xiangqi go from 9x9 intersection point
game to 9x10 intersection game.

In Taiwan, they sell Xiangqi boards on a cheap piece of wood with a Weiqi
board on the back. If one looks at the 19x19 Weiqi board and then flips it
over, the comparison would be obvious. Not just because of intersection
points being used for both Weiqi and Xiangqi, but because where did 9x10
come from? Why not 9x9 or 10x10, or 8x9?

It's because 9x10 is precisely 1/4 of a 19x19 Weiqi board. That's the
simplest explanation for where the original 9x10 intersection board with no
river comes from.

If Xiangqi comes from 8x8 chess, then the first version of Xiangqi would
probably be 9x9 intersection board with no river and no palace. But it was
not.

Anyway, I have stated many reasons for why Xiangqi's origin basically
comes from China and there should be nothing wrong with that because all I
am doing is asking Chinese people about the origin of their own game and
reading books and whatever I can find on the subject done by people who can
read Chinese and not just sources from the Western world.

What I am sharing here should be viewed as the other side of the story that
is lacking in Western literature or Western thought you could say. I grew
up in the States, and I was lacking in these views also.

I'm personally disappointed when my quest to learn about the history of
game(s) becomes a political and cultural battlefield for the superiority of
the Western vs. Eastern cultures. I'm not saying that about everyone on
this forum, but just my personal experience with talking to Westerners
about this. It seems very emotional and narrow minded the way that many of
them respond and it seems like they couldn't care less about archeological
findings are the meaning of Chinese characters and how they can change over
the centuries, etc. It seems it can only be about how British ruled the
world and codified things for the rest of the world to enjoy. I love
learning about that also, but it's not the entire history of mankind.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-16 UTC
'As I stated in my last post, the observation that Xiangqi has no divergent pieces in it until the cannon does not apply because Xiangqi's earliest known version had only 1 counselor and no minister.'
What is the connection?
'This progression from 11 pieces to 14 to 16 where 8x8 chess always had 16 to begin with and had the same moving pieces (not counting cannon) means that Xiangqi predates and influenced 8x8 Chess.'
As it's a different 16 pieces in each case the comparison is irrelevant. Shogi (20 pieces aside) is older than Diana (only 12 pieces aside).

'The issue with the pawn in 8x8 Chess capturing differently than it moves does not necessarily mean that the game is older than Xiangqi.'
No, but it could be that the Pawn structure was abandoned to open up the back rank and ionce that happened all that was required was something to stop the Rooks capturing each other - something which no longer needed to be as complicated as a Pawn. Or perhaps the Pawn had a non-divergent predecessor even on the 8x8 board, but was reduced in number in China to improve back-rank mobility before being replaced by the Pawn in India to improve front-rank interactions.

'I also noted step by step how Xiangqi developed, and there is no apparent influence from 8x8 chess, and 8x8 Chess looks like a more modern version of Xiangqi.'
Yes. but how? To what documentation do you refer? Most of us have seen back to Chaturanga in India and 8x8 race games before that, but only back to 14-piece Xiang Qi in China. Chaturanga does not look consistently more modern. A point that you yourself made, that the Elephant nearer the King does not work so well in Chaturanga, could be used as an argument that the files were expanded to 9 to make the side that did not work match the one that did, and the pieces moved from squares to intersections to save making a new board.

'It seems like I am using common sense logic, and I am being refuted with a different kind of logic that I could not have come up with unless I saw the responses to my posts here.'
Well to me it looks as if everyone else's logic is common sense.

'I am giving a great deal of detail, and it seems that I am getting back a line of logic that is making my head spin.'
Again, the feeling is mutual.

'Why does a more modern pawn in 8x8 chess have to be from something other than a simple moving pawn in Xiangqi?'
See comments above. The fact that I have to say this indicates that your 'great deal of detail' tends to be poorly organised and consequently repetitive.

'It's like saying that because Xiangqi has no queen in it, then it must be the newer game because it has older moving pieces in it like the counselor meaning that 8x8 Chess is an older game because it requires more change to get where it needs to be.'
No, that is what saying that Xiang Qi is an older game because it is better developed is like.

'That kind of thinking is prevalent here instead of the more obvious line of logic that a 1 space moving counselor is probably from a game that requires a 1 space moving counselor for the game to work right.'
Well it does 'work right' in Chaturanga, and so does the Elephant beside it. It is just the Elephant beside the King that doesn't, and inserting an extra Ferz in between (and therefore an extra file) addresses this.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2012-01-15 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
You can speculate all you want, but in the end, it is all speculation. What governs what is considered the 'oldest' chess is what records are the oldest found, that is it. I dont think this is correct of course, so much records of the ancients has been lost. 
I consider it unclear where chess began, no one can say for sure. An earthquake could happen in China revealing an ancient tomb and chess writing 2,000 years ago are discovered, then chess would be said to have come from china.
The idea that chess always evolves to something better also is debateable. People love inventing things and trying new things, it does not mean the newer idea is a progression. There is no reason to consider that the modern pawn, moving 1 square forward and capturing diagonally could not have been the first pawn to exist.
One thing i can't help thinking, the date we give as chess beginning, seems to me to be highly unlikely, i feel chess is much older, in India, 
China and Japan. The ancients were NOT stupid. They were highly advanced. To think that all they played was a 'race game' .... well, really?
Look at the mahabharata verse, where Yudhisthira talks about 'delighting the king with his play' ... he is going to delight the king with his play in a race game? Come on ... Chess most likely has been around in India and China and Japan for thousands and thousands of years.
But of course, this is speculation.
It's interesting what you saying though, don't get me wrong.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-14 UTC
As I stated in my last post, the observation that Xiangqi has no divergent
pieces in it until the cannon does not apply because Xiangqi's earliest
known version had only 1 counselor and no minister. Later 1 minister was
added, and then another minister and another counselor were added. This
progression from 11 pieces to 14 to 16 where 8x8 chess always had 16 to
begin with and had the same moving pieces (not counting cannon) means that
Xiangqi predates and influenced 8x8 Chess.

The issue with the pawn in 8x8 Chess capturing differently than it moves
does not necessarily mean that the game is older than Xiangqi. That's like
saying a more modern game is older than we believe it to be because it has
more modern moving pieces instead of making the more obvious observation
that a more modern (pawn) is a later evolution of chess in general. If
there is a less modern version of the pawn in 8x8 chess, its predecessor
was obviously the pawn in Xiangqi which captures the same way it moves.

I don't know about any possible Greek influence, but the fact that the
position of the pieces and the movement of the pieces are the same in both
games on the back row, strongly suggests they have a common origin.

I also noted step by step how Xiangqi developed, and there is no apparent
influence from 8x8 chess, and 8x8 Chess looks like a more modern version of
Xiangqi.

It seems like I am using common sense logic, and I am being refuted with a
different kind of logic that I could not have come up with unless I saw the
responses to my posts here. It seems that there is no way I can state
something totally obvious to me here because it will always be looked at it
in a totally different way based on the assumption that 6th century A.D.
India Chess is first.

I am giving a great deal of detail, and it seems that I am getting back a
line of logic that is making my head spin.

It's like if I showed someone 2 cereal boxes. One looks like it is from
the 90's and the other clearly looks like it is from the 60's that are
similar to each other suggesting a common origin. I would say and most
would say that the box from the 60's is older, but I am hearing here that
the box from the 90's is actually older because of the advanced designs,
etc. suggesting a older origin.

It's like on this forum, things that seem newer and more modern are
actually older than something that seems more ancient because its evolution
process must be longer. Well, yes, a simple moving pawn moving straight
forward evolved into a pawn on the 2nd rank that captures differently than
it moves.

Why does a more modern pawn in 8x8 chess have to be from something other
than a simple moving pawn in Xiangqi? It seems like no matter what, some
form of logic not based on specific details must be stated in order not to
acknowledge something that is very obvious to me and others who do not have
a pre-set opinion regarding the matter as if it was their political
allegiance or something.

It's like saying that because Xiangqi has no queen in it, then it must be
the newer game because it has older moving pieces in it like the counselor
meaning that 8x8 Chess is an older game because it requires more change to
get where it needs to be.

That kind of thinking is prevalent here instead of the more obvious line of
logic that a 1 space moving counselor is probably from a game that requires
a 1 space moving counselor for the game to work right. i.e. Xiangqi and not
8x8 Chess. I know it survived in Makruk, but that piece is still out of
place to me and it's movement is essentially duplicated by the 'Silver
General' next to it.

I am not saying anything is for sure, but I am saying that from many points
of view, such and such is more likely than the opposite, and the initial
game design of Xiangqi strongly suggests that it has no influence from 8x8
Chess, but the opposite is true.

Michael Nelson wrote on 2012-01-12 UTC
Note that Xiangqi had no divergent pieces until the cannon was added, in the original version all pieces moved passively and captured in the same way. On the other hand, the Pawn in the various forms of early Indo-Persian Chess has been divergent since the earliest known times. If divergence is an evolutionary change, that suggests that Indo-Persian Chess is older that we currently think it is. On the other hand, it could be an import from some non-Chess Indo-Persian game, perhaps acquired from a Greek game at the time of Alexander the Great. This last factor does not apply at all to China.
Note that divergent Pawns are conspicuously absent from Xiangqi, Janggi, and Shogi, but do occur in various SE Asian variants, which have influences fom both China and India.

So I would propose the points:

1. Maybe both the Indo-Persian origin theory and the Chinese origin theory are wrong and two different but somewhat similar games were developed independently, perhaps with some mutual influence on one another.

2. My idea could easily be wrong (probably is).

3. So could anybody's idea be wrong, whether they think Chess originated in China, India, Atlantis, or Mars.

4. Documentary evidence is not definitive, nor is it likely to become so.

5. It ultimately doesn't matter, however interesting the question is.

6. It sure as hell isn't worth
   a. practicing racism, or
   b. accusing others of racism.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-10 UTC
It's a possibility that the 8x8 chessboard comes from China or the pieces
were moved over to the squares in China, or they were moved over to the
squares some where between China and Persia or China and India. All of
these are possible.

What is not likely is the pieces from Persia/India were moved from the
squares to the intersection points some where between Persia/India to China
because the original Xiangqi design has less pieces than the 16 pieces
found in the first version of Indian or Persian Chess.

I was mistaken about the first known design of Xiangqi. The earliest one
appears to have no palace, no river, and no minister. It's the same design
as what Charles has posted, except with those changes.

If you look at that board, it looks even less like the first known version
of chess in India/Persia unless you believe the pieces were removed some
where between India/Persia to China. There's only 11 pieces per side in
Xiangqi originally as opposed to 16 in the original versions of Persian or
Indian chess.

A game with less pieces in its original design and one which does not even
have the 2 space moving minister, most likely predates a game with '2'
ministers. Xiangqi did not have 2 ministers until much later. At first it
had none, then one, then 2. That's a progression.

Indian and Persian versions start with 2. That suggests the 8x8 version
came later. Unless of course you believe that a progression of game design
includes removing pieces that were already there.

Another important thing to point out in the first version of Xiangqi, is
that the general or king is the character 'Han' . The same Han from Han
dynasty. Later version of Xiangqi had the generals changed to 'Shuai' or
'Jiang'. The character 'Han' is the same one you can see in Janggi.
That Janggi preserved the position of the general in the center of the
palace on the 2nd rank as well as the character used for the general, is a
strong indication that parts of Janggi are based on the earliest known
version of Xiangqi and then evolved as Xiangqi evolved, but the general
stayed on the 2nd rank.

This is often the case with Korean and Japanese culture. They seem to be
influenced by Han Chinese culture at certain points in history and
essentially preserve parts of it while Chinese culture moves on and forgets
what it was in the past. Therefore, Korean and Japanese culture are places
to look for hints of what Chinese culture was like at a certain point.

Regarding the elephant vs. minister confusion, with all due respect to this
site and every other form of research regarding the name and meaning of
Xiangqi, the Xiang means 'Alive, or atmosphere' as in the pieces move as
opposed to static pieces in Weiqi. If you think of Weiqi as being an
influence on Xiangqi, the pieces in that game are static while the pieces
in Xiangqi move around.

If you want to debate this issue, you will have to learn Chinese and go
into the literature of Xiangqi to dispute this. In Chinese, a character can
be used for different words. In the case of Xiangqi, 'qi xiang' means
'alive/atmosphere', and 'da xiang' means elephant. The xiang on one
side means prime minister and the other xiang takes after the name of the
game.

I've addressed that the main points I have written here are to try to
figure out which game likely came first. I don't claim to have all the
answers to how a game can migrate from place to place.

If we have what we believe to be reliable records that the earliest Xiangqi
does not resemble the earliest forms of chess in Persia and India, that is
good enough.

I'm also trying very hard to point out that there are some very big
misunderstandings as far as what the 'xiang' characters mean and the name
of the game. I am only sharing what I have learned from Chinese people who
know something about the history of Xiangqi and are unaware of the India
vs. China debate which originates from the West.

I'm a little confused by the reference to the Xiangqi site on this web
site chess variants.org. Are you saying that because this site says that
Xiangqi means 'elephant game', etc. that Chinese people don't know their
own language or history or not entitled to interpret their own history and
language without adhering to Western sources first?

This site claims that Chess comes from India first. Does that mean I am not
allowed to post any of these things here that suggest that it does not? So
because a site and a lot of other sources say Xiang in Xiangqi means
'Elephant Game', that I am not allowed to say that the Chinese Xiangqi
historians say it means 'Qi Xiang' and not 'Da Xiang'?

I didn't say the game means 'Minister's Chess' although if I wrote that
by accident at some point, I apologize. I mean that the chess pieces (red
side) means prime minister. The game uses the black side 'Xiang' which is
from 'Qi Xiang' (atmosphere, live) and not 'Da Xiang (elephant)'.

In short the game means moving and alive pieces as opposed to static stones
in Weiqi.

If that's the case, then there is no room for discussion or debate,
because it means that so-called established sources in English take
precedence over Chinese sources regarding Chinese history, language, and
the history of a board game.

Does this also mean that Chinese teachers must ask Westerners what the
meaning of their own language is before teaching Chinese to Westerners?

If you want to say it's more likely that the Chinese moved un-working
pieces to a different board so that they did work, I can't try to convince
you, but I think the evolution of board games is much more likely the other
way around.

When deciding how a chess piece moves, it has to be on a board with certain
dimensions. Therefore, it's a bit difficult to come up with the 2 space
moving minister on the 8x8 board, because it only reaches 25% of the
squares and doesn't reach any of the back rank squares at all.

The 2 space moving minister/elephant obviously didn't come from 8x8.

And I've also pointed out already, that the original Xiangqi design
didn't even have the minister in the game, so debating this point is
moot.

Regarding the facing each other thing, the fact that the kings do not face
each other in the original version, is another hint that they were reversed
essentially to prevent them from facing each other if the center pawns are
exchanged as they so often are with anyone who is familiar with playing
Chess. In the French Defense exchange variation, the e-file pawns get
exchanged and the kings face each other. Even in the original game where
pawns move 1 space only, the same thing can happen.

I'm not saying it's proof, but it's a possible reason for why the kings
do not face each other. There's other possible reasons of course.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-08 UTC
'Therefore, if the 8x8 square board comes from China, then the same pieces were used, but they did not work properly until they were fixed in Europe several hundred years later.'
Who's saying that the 8x8 board came from China?
'Yes, I agree that it does not make sense to make a game worse, but I don't know who or why someone would switch the same pieces to a slightly different board.'
Well what's sauce for the Peking duck is sauce for the Bombay duck, as it were. If the Chinese wouldn't switch the same pieces to a slightly different board, why would the Indians?
'Also, we shouldn't view the prime minister piece as an elephant because the whole concept of the prime minister not being able to cross the river is more about the minister not leaving its own countryside and not about an elephant not being able to cross a river.'
Well this site's Xiang Qi page shows the Chinese characters for 'Elephant Game', not 'Minister Game'. Are these not the correct characters?
'Also, I think its highly unlikely that the Chinese could have gotten those pieces from a game that wasn't working right and applied a board that made those pieces fit right. Because, you've got to be a little lucky to do that. It's not impossible, but it's not how a game development process usually works.'
Lucky or skilful. They could have seen how well the Ferz and Elephant worked defensively on one side and experimented, switching from squares to intersections (on two half-boards) to get the symmetry that they desired. Perhaps they went through a stage with one aside of more pieces because they wanted to work wit the existing sets, and then decided to make ones specially deisngfed for their own game.
'The goal is to figure out which game likely came first, not to figure out why someone or a civilization would move pieces to a slightly different board so they wouldn't work right. There are a lot of explanations for that, but to me that's a separate issue because I am not trying to figure out how the migration actually happened.'
That's a pity, because finding out how might give a clue to who.
'There is no indication of a palace in Chaturanga or a concept of a countryside and the prime minister needing to stay on its own side.'
The Chinese could easily give two half-boards purely for ease of storage a game-play significance that it never had in India. That would give the River. The Palace or Fortress might be a later addition, perhaps influenced by the Xs at the corner squares of each 4x4 quarter of teh Chaturanga board but moved to fit Chinese culture. Are any of these features on the Wei Qi board?
'Xiang Qi's Xiang means 'live atmosphere' or 'live pieces'. That is the pieces are alive and can move around as opposed to static pieces in Weiqi. Remember, I said that the xiang comes from the Chinese word Qi Xiang. Elephant is Da Xiang.'
I refer the hon. gentleman to my previous point about this site's Xiang Qi page.
'Another thing to point out about the original Chaturanga board. The king/generals do not face each other. They are asymmetric.'
They also have Pawns in front of them, so facing would seem an irrelevance.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-06 UTC
Thanks for putting up the diagrams Charles. However, I am not sure about
the last form of Xiangqi before the cannons were added. It's possible the
2nd minister and 2nd counselor were only added along with the cannons, but
I really don't know. I don't know how long the heavy middle-file version
was played or how widely it was played. The 2nd counselor and 2nd minister
could have been added independently before the cannons were added.

I wasn't saying that pieces were brought to a new board and made worse on
purpose. I don't necessarily believe the Indian civilization did such a
thing. There is a theory proposed in Li's book (which is just a theory)
that the 8x8 square board comes from China and is a simplified version of
the 9x10 intersection board which is exactly 1/4 of a 19x19 full Go (Weiqi)
board. If you add up 10x9 4 times, you will get 19x19.

Therefore, if the 8x8 square board comes from China, then the same pieces
were used, but they did not work properly until they were fixed in Europe
several hundred years later.

Another possibility is that between China and Persia or China and India,
the pieces some how got moved over to the squares as a matter of cultural
preference and essentially a different but similar game was created by
playing on squares instead of intersection points.

Yes, I agree that it does not make sense to make a game worse, but I don't
know who or why someone would switch the same pieces to a slightly
different board.

All I do know is that its more logical for those original pieces to come
from a board where they fit. Also, we shouldn't view the prime minister
piece as an elephant because the whole concept of the prime minister not
being able to cross the river is more about the minister not leaving its
own countryside and not about an elephant not  being able to cross a
river.

I also have no idea how the placement of the pawns are different in each
game and most importantly, why the pawn in 8x8 Chess captures diagonally
instead of straight forward. For a pawn to be able to capture diagonally
and be a different movement is a more advanced concept than just pawns
capturing straight forward and then to the side later on after it crosses
the river.

I believe that a pawn that captures diagonally but moves by going forward
is a more modern concept than the Xiangqi pawn which is very straight
forward. It wouldn't conclude anything based on this, but would lean
towards the 8x8 pawn as being more of an evolution of chess and thus being
later in the development stage.

Anyway, I am making a simple game development observation. The 2 space
moving minister and the 1 space moving counselor seem to come from the
Xiangqi board and not the 8x8 Chaturanga or the other Shatranj. Whichever
board those pieces fit better, means they are more likely to have been
developed for that board.

The goal is to figure out which game likely came first, not to figure out
why someone or a civilization would move pieces to a slightly different
board so they wouldn't work right. There are a lot of explanations for
that, but to me that's a separate issue because I am not trying to figure
out how the migration actually happened.

Also, I think its highly unlikely that the Chinese could have gotten those
pieces from a game that wasn't working right and applied a board that made
those pieces fit right. Because, you've got to be a little lucky to do
that. It's not impossible, but it's not how a game development process
usually works.

If the 8x8 game came first, the pieces would fit it and when they were
moved to 9x10 intersection board, the movements would need to be changed in
order to fit that board.

It's strange to me to say that Xiangqi is an improvement of Chaturanga
because that does not necessarily mean that Xiangqi came after Chaturanga
just because its better. Chaturanga can come after Xiangqi and be the worse
game because the original pieces were moved over to an 8x8 board and
didn't work right anymore.

It's an assumption to say that the better game must be dated after the
worse game.

There's more than one explanation for why Xiangqi works better than the
original Chaturanga.

Therefore, I never looked at which game was better. I just looked at the
movements of the pieces and which board they seem to naturally fit.

Also, nothing else from the history of Xiangqi points to any sort of Indian
origin or borrowing from any foreign culture but looks inherently of
Chinese origin.

The 9x10 board can be derived from an already existing 19x19 Weiqi board.
There is no indication of a palace in Chaturanga or a concept of a
countryside and the prime minister needing to stay on its own side. These
are all Chinese concepts and the Xiang piece has nothing to do with an
elephant but just has the same sound of the word for elephant in Chinese.
Xiang Qi's Xiang means 'live atmosphere' or 'live pieces'. That is the
pieces are alive and can move around as opposed to static pieces in Weiqi.
Remember, I said that the xiang comes from the Chinese word Qi Xiang.
Elephant is Da Xiang.

I know that knowledge of the Chinese language is perhaps beyond the purpose
of this forum, but I think it should be pointed out because its critical to
understand that Xiangqi has nothing to do with elephants either in names or
the 2 space diagonal moving piece. It's a very big misunderstanding to
think that the elephant was borrowed from the Indian army.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaturanga

Another thing to point out about the original Chaturanga board. The
king/generals do not face each other. They are asymmetric. This could be
because of the rule in Xiangqi that the generals cannot face each other due
to their attack capability like a chariot(rook).

This suggests that Chaturanga's placement of pieces could have been
influenced by this rule in Xiangqi but was later abandoned in Shatranj.

I don't think there's sufficient evidence of the game going from anywhere
to anywhere, so I don't insist that Chaturanga comes from Xiangqi. I only
insist that if we assume the 2 games have a common origin, that the pieces
fit the Xiangqi board better. As far as how the migration could have
happened or where the 8x8 board really comes from, I'm not sure.

But to go back to the issue of what civilizations claim, I think that any
civilization has the right to claim their own game as having come from
within itself if it chooses to. As far as I know, I have not heard any
Chinese scholar claim that India or Persia copied the game from China. They
just say that Xiangqi comes from within China probably during the Spring
and Autumn period. That's it. They don't claim that India and/or Persia
copied it because there is nothing in literature or anything else that
suggests this.

Therefore, the Chinese scholars should have the right to make a claim about
their own history unless we are saying here that the Chinese don't have
that right. I am reading some writings by British authors in the late
1800's and they seem to indicate with strong authority that India is the
birthplace and that 'China' has admitted to getting the game from India.

How can anyone write that China or the Qing dynasty at that time has
'admitted' to getting the game from India?

If the earliest indication of 8x8 Chess is from Persia or India in the 6th
or 2nd century A.D., that's fine with me. I'm not insisting that the
board comes from China. That's not the point. The point is, if the Chinese
say their game is from a certain period of time in history, they should
have the right to do so. That's the only 'grievance' that I really have
because its kind of upsetting when its assumed that everything must be
copied from an original 'Western' source even though India was not a part
of the Western world in the 6th century.

Even the name 'Chess' suggests precisely that its the original one. For
people who grow up calling chess 'Chess' and may not be aware of Chinese
Chess or Japanese Chess, would naturally think that if the Western version
of the game is simply called 'Chess' and those others are called Chess
with Japanese or Chinese in front of it, then that means (Euro or Western)
Chess is the original or orthodox one. The most correct one instead of
being just another form of chess in the world.

I've seen an 11x10 version of Xiangqi and that version of Xiangqi
definitely comes during the Song dyansty when some experimentation of
Xiangqi was happening because they couldn't find a way to put the cannons
on the back row. There was an apparent attempt to expand the board from the
original 9x10 to 11x10 to fit the cannons, and it did not work. Finally,
the cannons were left floating 2 points ahead of the horse and left there.

So I appreciate the link you have, but I am pretty sure that 11x10 comes
much later.

If Murray uses the Song dynasty 11x10 as evidence that Xiangqi looks like
that and suggests that it comes from a 10x10 board, I am sorry, but he
didn't look hard enough. We all know that the original Xiangqi did not
have cannons, so why would he show that board as an 'early' version of
Xiangqi when he should have just said it was an 'a failed experiment'
during the Song dynasty?

It seems manipulative to show that 11x10 Xiangqi game as an earlier
predecessor. There is no indication that there is any board pre-dating the
9x10 board in Xiangqi.

I think the Weiqi theory makes perfect sense to me. You can cut up a 19x19
Weiqi board into 4 pieces and you will get four 9x10 boards.

I apologize about the comments about Westerners saying Chess is better than
Shogi and Xiangqi. I did not mean that this site endorses that kind of
thinking in any way. This site is certainly not about that kind of thing. I
was saying that this is a common perception in Western circles that Chess
is the best game and that Xiangqi has limited attacking power. Among my
Western friends, they seem to respect Shogi a bit more as a game.

But as an observation of the game play, while Xiangqi has no pawn structure
and therefore less positional complexity, and also has less attacking
pieces and no pawn promotion (queen), the draw rate in the game is still
lower than FIDE Chess which does not suggest inferiority. The game is more
checkmate oriented due to the small palace the general is confined to which
leads to more games ending in the middle game due to checkmate.

At the highest levels, Xiangqi masters draw about 20% less than GM's in
FIDE Chess, so the apparent lack of attacking material does not lead to
more draws in Xiangqi.

I'm not claiming either game is better than the other myself. I personally
prefer FIDE Chess because its what I grew up on. The games have different
kinds of complexities and I also correct the common Chinese belief that
Xiangqi is just way better designed and more complex than Chess because it
is certainly not the case in every regard.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-06 UTC
Well seeing a Pawn row as an obstacle that has been cleared out to make the symmettic pieces more mobile turns the one familiar fact that I saw favouring Xiang Qi being first out on its head. So that leaves tbe issue of pre-pre-Cannon Xiang Qi with just the one Ferz ands Elephant aside (anyone else know anything of that gane?), with everything else pointing to Xiang Qi being an improvement on Chaturanga.

John Ayer wrote on 2012-01-04 UTC
'I often read in places, that Shogi and Xiangqi are not as good and appealing as Chess.' I don't know where you saw that, but I don't think it was in this forum. Our header for Xiangqi says that it is played by millions or tens of millions of people around the world. Our header for Shogi says that it is distinguished for its immense popularity and rich history. So 'appealing' is established. 'Good,' we agree, is subjective. Please do not blame us for something published elsewhere, maybe by someone now long dead.

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