Learn More on Chinese Chess


Anciently China had 4 traditional arts: music, painting, calligraphy, and strategy games. The second syllable of Xiangqi, "qi" is the Chinese word for strategy games. The first syllable, "xiang" is the word for elephant. This spelling is Mandarin, in Cantonese the game is called Jeuhng Keih.

Like Western chess, Chinese chess descends from the game of Chaturanga, from India. From India it spread throughout Asia and also to Medieval Euroupe. In China, the game reached its current form during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD).

The Board

The Chinese chess board is made up of 10 horizontal lines (ranks) and 9 vertical lines (files). The pieces are placed on the lines rather than in the squares as in Western chess. The lines are broken by the blank space that runs horizontally through the middle of the board. The blank space is the river. At each end there is a square with intersecting diagonals. These are the palaces, one for red, and one for black. The other markings are for aids in placement of the pieces at the beginning of the game.

Movement of Pieces

All pieces capture in the same manner that they move.

將 or 帅    General (King))
Any 1 point on the grid in an orthogonal (non-diagonal) direction within the palace.  It cannot leave the palace except in a theoretical move when it moves along a file from its own palace to the enemy's palace thus capturing the enemy's general.  Therefore it is illegal to make any move that leaves your own general in an open file opposite the enemy's general because it places your general in check.
士or 仕    Mandarin or Assistant (Queen)
1 point diagonally within the palace, i.e. it cannot leave the palace. 
象 or 相    Elephant (Bishop)
2 points in any diagonal direction.  Cannot leap over any piece.  Also it cannot cross the river.
馬    Horse (Knight)
1 point in an orthogonal (non-diagonal) direction followed by one point in a diagonal point thus ending two points away from starting position.  It may not leap over other pieces (i.e. if there is a piece of either color at the elbow point then it cannot move in that direction).
車    Chariot (Rook)
Moves any number of points either horizontally or vertically but not diagonally; it cannot leap other pieces (same as a rook).
炮    Cannon
When not capturing a piece it moves exactly as a chariot.  In order to capture a piece it must leap another piece of either color before landing on the point of the captured piece.  It cannot leap over more than one piece but it can leap the river when capturing.
卒 or 兵   Soldier (Pawn)
1 point forward. After it crosses the river it can move 1 point forward or 1 point sideways.  It never moves backwards or diagonally.  Unlike Western chess it captures the same as it moves, either forward or after crossing the river sideways, never diagonally.  Pawns do not promote; when they reach the end of the board they can then either move right or left (sideways).