Monday, December 24, 2007

Chinese Chess

Chinese Chess or xiang (4th tone) qi (2nd tone) is a popular game, often played by old men in the back streets of cities, towns and villages throughout mainland China. These players are often surrounded by bystanders, as absorbed as the players themselves. Their points are chalked up and I've seen cases where they peck their point sheet to their ear lobes with wooden cloth pegs! I tried to take a photo of some players once but they forbade it. I used to feel sorry for these old folks. It seems as if xiang qi occupied their lives to the exclusion of all else. That was before I understood how mentally challenging and stimulating the game was and how it can even help ward off dementia.

The origin of the game is debatable. Some scholars claim it originates from India, others say it began in Persia. But in China, records show that the game was played as early as the fourth century. It was believed to have been created by one of the generals in the Chinese epic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Like western chess, the equivalent of the king, is the general or jiang (4th tone) He is assisted by the mandarins or shi (4th tone) Other pieces on the board are the elephant, the cannon, the soldiers and the chariot, each character in red or black depending on the player.

Today, like online martial arts, online Chinese chess is also very popular among young people.

No comments: