For several centuries, xiangqi (commonly known as Chinese chess in the Western world) has been a popular game mainly among the Chinese communities in Asian countries. The year 1978 saw the founding of the Asian Xiangqi Federation (AXF). One of its missions as stated in the constitution is the globalisation of this ancient brain game.

While xiangqi championships at an international level have been organised annually by the AXF, with the scale of competition escalating year after year, progress in promoting the game to people who do not speak Chinese is still slow, even after the founding of the World Xiangqi Federation (WXF) in 1983. Language is the main obstacle, as there are far too few xiangqi books that are written in English or other foreign languages.

There is a mountain of xiangqi books published in Chinese. None of them, however, is targeted in the first place at readers who do not understand Chinese. I wish to help newcomers shorten their learning curve. Rather than translating the contents of existing Chinese xiangqi books, my idea is to present the principles of xiangqi in a concise and systematic approach. On this humble website, I wish to share my experience and thinking with all xiangqi lovers.

I am assuming that my readers already know the rudiments of xiangqi. In case you are a complete beginner, not knowing how a game of xiangqi is played at all, I suggest you read the following articles first by clicking on the links below:

  1. The Rudiments of Xiangqi (PDF).
  2. A short demonstration game with brief comments on every move.

To make life easier for expounding tactics and annotating games, I have devised a system to mark every spot on the board with a 3-character co-ordinate as shown in the diagram below.


As you can see, the same marking pattern is applied to each side of the board, except the use of 'R' and 'B' respectively in the prefix. Let me illustrate it with the initial positions of the red pieces. The King is at R50, the Advisers R40 and R60, the Elephants R30 and R70, the Horses R20 and R10, the Chariots R10 and R90, the Cannons R22 and R82, and lastly, the five Pawns at R13, R33, R53, R73 and R93.

My inspiration came from a notation system in the ancient xiangqi manual 《梅花谱》(The Plum Blossom Manual). In that system, a poem is composed with two verses each with 45 non-repeating words. Every spot on the xiangqi board is then mapped uniquely to a word of the poem. The poem vividly describes how xiangqi mimics real battle. Memorization of the poem is not difficult, thanks to its rhythm and rhyme. However, to remember which word corresponds to which spot on the board is simply daunting. Perhaps that is the reason why it has not adopted as a convention for recording the moves.

If you are interested in the poem, click here to view it.

Felix Tan Singapore