This game, also known as "Chinese chess", is related to international chess, and is very popular in China and Vietnam. Each player will lead an army and try to capture the enemy general. The game will be at the same time familiar and exotic to Western players. That's because, any of the mechanics and pieces' movements are analogous to international chess, but the game includes unusual pieces like the elephant and the cannon, and the board even contains palaces and a river.
A game for 2 players, with an aproximate duration of 20 minutes.
The widely accepted theory, proposed by Harold Murray, is that the chess family of games may be traced back to India, from where it spread the world over. In China, among other places, it developed into Xiangqi, being influenced by already popular local games.
References to the game can be traced back to the Warring States Period, between the 5th and 3rd centuries BCE. It is believed that, when the game made its way into China, it merged with the Constelation Game (where the “river” refered to the “celestial river”, the Milky Way), which intended to reflect the movement of celestial bodies. The connection between them is incidental, though, and Xiangqi mechanics can easily be associated with indian Chaturanga.
Xiangqi entered a golden age during the Qing Dinasty, that governed China between mid 17th century to early 20th century of the current era, when many schools and circles of the game gained proeminence and many books on the topic were published. The game is yet not popular in the Western world, where chess has deep cultural roots.
An interesting characteristic of the Xiangqi lies in the naming of the pieces. As can be observed, the red and black pieces use different ideograms to represent the same type of piece such as the red soldier (兵, that means “pawn”) and the black pawn (卒, that means “soldier”). Both are pronounced “zú”, a characteristic that allows the game to be produced with pieces out of the same material and color, differentiating the type of piece by pronuntiation and its team by the ideogram.