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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


A game from my childhood.


  1. The Kalaha is played by 2 persons who make their moves alternatively.  They take a seat at opposite sides of the boards.  Each player has at his disposal the 6 small grooves next to him – the ambos – and the big groove at his right – the kalaha
  2. The aim is for each player to gather as many balls as possible in his own kalaha; the total amount of balls is 36
  3. Before the game starts the balls must be placed in the ambos, 3 pcs.  In each, none in the kalaha.
  4. The player selects one of his own ambos from which he removes all the balls.  Then he drops these balls one by one, from the left to the right, into his own ambos and also into the kalaha when it is next in turn.  If there are any balls left these must be dropped into the opponent’s ambos, but not into his kalah.
  5. An extra move is granted if the player drops his last ball into his own kalaha.
  6. if the player drops his last ball into an empty ambo of his own he may take both this ball and the balls in the opponent’s ambo directly opposite and drop all of them into his own kalah.
  7. The game is over when the ambos of one of hte players are empty.  The player who still has balls left in his ambos may move them into his onw kalaha as they shall be included in the final result.
  8. The player whose kalaha holds the major part of the balls is the winner.


W200xH100, China

Jan Zi is a game that has been popular in China and some other asian countries since the Han dynasty, since 1933 it has also been included in the National Games of the PRC competition.  The aim of the game is for the player to keep the weighted Jan Zi in the air using only their feet, a bit like volleyball or badminton.  The game can be divided broadly into three categories; causal, style and competition.  Causal; surround in a circle, passing the Jan Zi from player to player.  Style; free style and fixed style competition.  Competition; players to compete across a net, the game is similar to badminton where a larger jan zi is used.  The upper part of the Jan Zi is made up of goose feather while the weight at the base of cloth finished up with a piece of leather.

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