XiangQi, known in the west as Chinese Chess, is an extremely popular game in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is currently played by millions in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and other Asian countries. XiangQi has remained in its present form for centuries.

If you know how to play Chess, the rules of XiangQi will be familiar. The general idea is the same. Each player controls an army of pieces, moves one piece at a time, and tries to get the opponent's royal piece. It differs from Chess mainly in the object, the board, and the pieces.

The object of XiangQi is to either checkmate or stalemate your opponent. Checkmate is the same in both games. In XiangQi, the piece to checkmate is the opponent's General. You have checkmated your opponent when you have attacked his General (placed it in check), and he cannot eliminate the check with any move. Unlike Chess, where a stalemate counts as a draw, a stalemate in XiangQi wins the game for the player delivering it. To avoid any confusion among Chess players who consider stalemate synonymous with draw, let me spell out the difference. Stalemate is when a player has no legal move. A draw is when a game ends in a tie. In Chess, stalemate is one condition in the game, among others, that leads to a draw. In XiangQi, a player with no legal move loses.

The traditional XiangQi board is a grid of ten horizontal lines and nine vertical lines. The vertical lines are interrupted in the middle, so that the board appears as two grids of five horizontal lines by nine vertical lines. This interruption is called the river. It serves as a barrier to the Elephants. Other pieces can pass over it as though it's not there, Pawns gaining the ability to move sideways after crossing it. The board appears very similar to other uncheckered boards, such as the boards Shogi and Chaturanga are played on, but instead of going in the space demarcated by the lines, pieces go on the intersections. These intersections are called points. Two palaces are positioned at opposite sides of the board. Each is distinguished by an x-shaped cross connecting its four corner points. Throughout the game, each player's General and Advisors must remain in the palace.

At the beginning of the game, pieces are placed like so. From left to right on the bottom and top rows, you see: a Chariot, a Horse, an Elephant, an Advisor, a General, an Advisor, an Elephant, a Horse, and a Chariot. On the third rows, you see the Cannons in front of the Horses, and on the fourth row you see the Pawns, one space between each Pawn. The side shown at the bottom of the board is normally called Red, the other side Black, though sometimes Blue or Green.


The Chariot (or Rook) moves exactly the same as the Rook in Chess. It moves in a straight line horizontally or vertically across any number of empty spaces, stopping either on an empty space or the first space it comes to that is occupied by one of the opponent's pieces. It may not pass over occupied spaces. The character used for the Chinese piece, , is the pictograph of a chariot from above, showing wheels at top and bottom.

The Horse is capable of reaching all the same spaces that the Chess Knight can reach, but it cannot leap over pieces. When it moves, it first moves one space orthogonally followed by one more space diagonally outward. When the first space it would move over is occupied, its movement in that direction is blocked. It may never stop on the first space of its movement. So it cannot reach any space a Chess Knight could not reach.
Known as in Chinese, the character for this piece, , is the pictograph of a horse, showing its head, mane, legs, and tail. The Chinese name is similar to the English word mare, which means female horse.

Minister & Elephant  - The Red piece is called a Minister, the black piece an Elephant. The World Xiangqi Federation calls them both Elephants. We tend to favor Elephant. By whatever name, this piece moves two spaces in the same diagonal direction. Like the Horse, it may not leap over occupied spaces. So if the first step of its move is over an occupied space, it is blocked and may not make that move. Additionally, Elephants are confined to their own side of the river. Due to these limitations, the Elephant can reach only seven spaces of the board.
The two characters used for this piece are homonyms in Chinese, both transliterated as xiàng. The character for the Black piece, , is the pictograph of an elephant. The character for the Red piece, , shows an eye behind a tree . The tree is the figure on the left, and the eye is the thing that looks like a ladder. As a verb, it means to examine or study. As a noun, it means prime minister.

The General moves one space orthogonally within the confines of the palace. The two Generals cannot face each other on an open file. For example, a red General on e1 and a black General on e10, with no piece on the e-file between them, is an illegal position. If either General sits exposed on an open file, the other General may not move to occupy that file. Unlike the King in Chess, the General may not move diagonallly.
The Black character for this piece, , tranliterated as jiàng, combines a character for law, , in the lower right corner, with a phonetic. It means will or going to. The Red character, , transliterated as shuài, combines characters for hill and banner .
The hill is on the left side, the banner on the right. As a noun, it means commander, as an adjective, handsome.
The Advisor moves one space diagonally. On the traditional board, the diagonal lines in the palace connect the points the Advisor may reach. It may never leave the palace.  It's Chinese name of shì means scholar. The character for the Black piece,, combines the characters for 1 () and 10 () to mean one who knows all from one to ten. The Red character, , combines the characters for person, , with scholar, , essentially keeping the meaning the same.

The Cannon move differently when it moves to capture than when it moves passively. It moves the same as the Chariot when it is not capturing a piece, and it moves in the same directions when capturing except that to make the capture it must hop over a single intervening piece, referred to as the screen. In other words, Cannons capture by hopping over a second piece in order to capture a third piece.
Cannons only capture when hopping and only hop when capturing. They may never hop over more than one piece in a given move.
The character for the Red piece, , shows fire on the left and the phonetic for its Chinese name of pào, . The character for the Black piece shown here just has the phonetic, but in some sets the Black piece is displayed as , showing a stone with the phonetic. The Chinese pào sounds like the English sound effect pow, and given that the character includes the phonetic for this sound, it is likely that the Chinese name for the Cannon is onomatopoeic.

The Xiangqi Pawn moves one space vertically forward. Upon crossing the river, it gains the additional ability to move one space sideways. Unlike orthodox Pawns, its passive move and capture move are always the same, it never gets a double move, and it does not promote to another piece on the last rank. Being unable to move forward any longer, a Pawn on the last rank can only move left or right.
The Red piece, , transliterated as bing, shows hands wielding an axe . The Black piece, ,  transliterated as zú, combines the pictograph of a cloak with the number 1 . Both characters mean soldier.

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