Xiangqi was the game that convinced me that people could connect across cultures with traditional games. I discovered the game while on a trip to New York City. I was in Columbus Park watching as crowds of Chinese men played Xiangqi on cement tables built for the purpose. Around every game were folks giving a running commentary on the game in Chinese. I decided then that I would learn how to play.

About a year later I returned with my own set and a good grasp of the rules to Columbus Park. I spent the whole day watching and playing Xiangqi in the park. Since I look like a scruffy hippy wannabe many of the players probably saw me as a novelty, or an opportunity to show a novice how to play better.

The fact that none of the players were speaking a language I understood did not interfere with the enjoyment of the day . Xiangqi had become a bridge between people of different cultures and generations. All that mattered is that I wanted to play the game that they enjoyed.

Players 2

Xiangqi board and men

How to play
The players take turns (starting with red) moving their pieces until one player checkmates the other general. Check is when the General can be captured on the openent’s next move. Checkmate is if the General can not escape being captured on the next move. If a player’s only possible move puts their General in check they lose.

A player can not check the opponent’s General more than three times in a row with the same piece in the same board position. If this happens the player who attacked must make a different move.

A player can not make an enemy piece move to avoid capture between the same two points indefinitely. If this happens the player who threatened the piece must make a different move.

The board is a 9X10 grid, and the pieces sit on the intersections called points. There is blank row in the middle called the river. The boxes with an X in it at both ends of board are called the fortresses The pieces are set up as shown in the photo bellow.


The pieces are from top to bottom General, Guard, Elephant/Minister, Chariot, Horse, Solider, and Cannon.


The pieces can not move through another piece during it’s move. If a piece ends it’s move on a point occupied by an opponent’s piece the opponent’s piece is captured and take off the board. The photos below have highlighted in red the moves that the pieces can make.

The General always stays in the fortress. He moves forward,backwards,left,or right one point. The General also can not be on the same empty file as the other General. They must be on different files or have a piece between them blocking their view of each other.

The Guards are also always in the fortress. They can move diagonally forward or back one point.

The Elephant or Minister moves diagonally forward or backwards two intersections. They can never cross the river in the middle of the board. They can also not hop over another piece. For example in the photo below the Elephant on the left is blocked from going backwards by a Soldier in the way. The path he can not take is highlighted in blue.


Chariots move like a rook in chess. They can move forward,backward,left,or right any distance.

The Horse moves forwards,backwards, left or right one point, and then diagonally one point. Horses can not hop over pieces. In the photo below the Horse is blocked from moving backwards by a soldier in his way. The move he can not make is highlighted in blue.

The Soldier moves one point forward. If a soldier crosses the river he can move one point forward, left, or right.


The Canon moves like a chariot. However, it captures like no other piece in the game. To capture the Cannon must hop over another piece and then capture the piece behind it. In the photo the Canon on the left can hop over the Soldiers to capture the red Soldier or the red Horse. It can not capture the chariot because the horse is in the way. If the horse was not there it would be able to capture it.



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