Xiangqi (Chinese: 象棋 Xiàngqí) is a Chinese game in the chess family which is very popular with Chinese everywhere. It is also very popular in Vietnam. In English it is often called "Chinese Chess", although "Xiangqi" is also seen frequently.
The qi element, corresponding to the Chinese character "棋" is common to both xiangqi and weiqi, the Chinese name for go, and is used to refer to many chess-like board games including Western chess.
Jangki, the Korean version of chess, is played with similar equipment but is a somewhat different game.
dej2 et al: Xiangqi or the "Elephant Game" is very similar to European Chess. Each side has the following pieces:
- 5 pawns (soldiers) that move (and capture) one space forward until they cross the "river" that divides the near and far sides of the board. After crossing the river, the soldiers can also move (and capture) one space sideways, but never backwards. There is no promotion of any piece in Xiangqi, and so soldiers that reach the edge of the board are trapped there and can only move sideways.
- 2 chariots that move and capture like rooks.
- 2 elephants that move somewhat like bishops, but are limited to 2-space diagonal moves. They can not cross the river or jump over intervening pieces, this allows them to be "blocked" in place.
- 2 horses that move first one space orthogonally, and then one space diagonally similar to knights in Western chess. Unlike knights, however, the horse can't jump and so can be blocked by an appropriately placed piece from either side.
- a general/king that moves one space horizontally or vertically, but must stay in a marked 3x3 area called the "palace." Additionally, the two kings are not allowed to face each other on the same file without another piece in the way, which allows a king to aid in the checkmate of the opposing king, even though neither can leave their palace.
- 2 guards that only move one space diagonally and must stay in the palace.
- 2 cannons that move like rooks, but that can only capture a piece by jumping over another piece first. (It does not matter if that piece is your own piece or your opponent's.)
The Generals/Kings cannot move in direct sight of each other. There must be a piece blocking the view if the two generals are to move onto the same column.
Also see this excellent description.