Xiangqi, or Chinese Chess, is an extremely popular game in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is currently played by millions (or tens of millions) in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and other Asian countries. Xiangqi has remained in its present form for centuries. It is believed that both Xiangqi and Western Chess derive from the original Indian game of Chanturanga.
Xiang Character (xiáng) Qi Character (qí ) translates to Elephant Game. In Mandarin it is written as either Xiangqi, Xiang Qi or Hsiang-Ch`i and pronounced "Shiang-Chi". In Cantonese it is written as Jeuhng Keih and pronounced "Junk Kay".
The name Xiangqi has an interesting origin. Of China's four traditional arts—qin (music), hua (brush painting), shu (calligraphy) and qí (strategy games) -- the latter term, qi, provides the final syllable of Xiangqi. There is much literature on Xiangqi, most of it in Chinese. There are, however, a few books available in English and other languages.
Xiangqi sets can be procured from a number of sources. The most obvious of these are shops in the Chinese districts of large cities. Often, such sets are quite cheap, consisting of a paper board and flat wooden counters inscribed with red and black pictograms. These traditional Chinese symbols may appear strange to the western eye, but can easily be recognized with a minimum of practice. (For more sophisticated sets, see below.)
The Xiangqi board is made up of ten horizontal lines and nine vertical lines. The verticals are interrupted by a central-horizontal void called a river. Two palaces are positioned at opposite sides of the board. Each is distinguished by a cross connecting its four corner points.
The above board shows various L-shaped markings in order to distinguish the setup points of Pawns and Cannons. These markings are not present on all commercial boards.