The Chinese chess is a popular game since the Warring State period 1600BC and today major tournaments are held across China and it is a major past time for many.

The character of the chess resembles different roles in the military and have their own rule in movement.  Unlike western chess, the pieces are placed on the nodes rather than the square itself

  • General – 將 / 帥 (restricted in the middle “palace” 9 nodes except when executing the flying attack at the other general)
  • Advisors –  仕 on either side of the general (restricted in the palace and can only move in a diagonal fashion)
  • Elephants – 相 / 象, protectors of the general (restricted on their own side of the board which is separated by the river in the middle, moves in a 2 nodes diagonal (田 field) but the first diagonal point has to be cleared)
  • Horses – 馬 (moves in an elongated diagonal (日 sun))
  • Chariots – 車, a powerful piece (move in a vertical or horizontal straight line and more restricted to one node at a time.
  • Cannons – 砲 (move as the same way as the Chariots, it require another piece as a spring board for taking down opponent’s pieces)
  • Soldiers – 卒 / 兵 (can only advance and no retreat, once on the enemy’s side it can move side ways)

From these rules, and the popularity of the game, there are some idioms basing on the game of chess.

  • 過河卒 – “the soldier that crossed the river” – point of no return
  • 卒子過河當車使 – “soliders across the river can be used as chariots” – even minute, it can be very effective
  • 事急馬行田 – “urgent! the horse will need to across the field” – normally, the horse moves in a 日 sun fashion and the elephant in a 田 field, but being so desperate the horse will need to forfeit its usual move and do the field.
  • 放馬後炮 –  “putting the cannon behind the horse” – a powerful move, the horse enters the opponent’s palace and restricting the general from moving to either side, then the cannon come in and checkmate.  the idiom refers to those comments after checkmate.
  • 飛象過河 – “elephant fly across the river” – as the elephant is forbidden to cross the river, it refers to those who dont follow the rules.
  • 棄車保帥 – “forfeit the chariot to save the general” – making sacrifices to avoid a total loss