Chess in East Asia: Xiangqi, Changgi, Shogi: Sources on their history and development until 1640

Munich, iudicium 2001; ISBN 3-89129-656-8; xix, 233 p., DM 58,-- (EUR 29,65)

Chess histories in European languages often proclaim that chess originated in what was to become India. In a sizeable minority of texts, however, Persia, China, or the region of the Silk Roads are named as the areas of chess origin. Nearly all of these texts have one thing in common: their respective authors make use of e.g. Chinese texts without knowing the language(s). About the same is true for texts dealing with the history and development of Changgi 將棋 or Shogi 將棋. In the present work the sources which might contain information on the history and development of these games are examined and checked for their content in facts.

When reading the earliest Chinese texts which contain a combination of the characters xiang 象 and qi 棋, i.e. the "Zhaohun 招魂" and the Shuoyuan 說宛, this combination of characters presumably means "ivory gaming pieces". Until now, not a single source is known which gives information on a game "Xiangqi 象棋" and derives from a time demonstrably earlier than the 9th century AD. The short story "Cen Shun 岑順" from the Xuanguai lu 玄怪錄 and a poem by Bo Juyi 白居易 taken together allow to assume that the word Xiangqi in Tang 唐 times already means a board game. These sources do -- alas -- not allow for a safe reconstruction. From Northern Song 宋 times on the number of source materials becomes larger. Roughly dated to the same period there are the eldest known Xiangqi pieces: three complete sets of 32 metal pieces each, marked with characters on one side, and with pictures on the other. In Southern Song 宋 times, after some casual mentions of Xiangqi descriptions follow which make the game appear very much like the modern game. From Northern Song times on manuals and theoretical treatises on Xiangqi have been written; however, the oldest extant examples of these are from the late Southern Song period.

The earliest mention of Changgi 將棋 is from the late 16th century, the oldest description comes from the early 17th century. The game described there is identical to the modern game. Currently, next to nothing can be said about the development of Changgi.

Shogi is first mentioned in the early 11th century. Pieces of the kind mentioned in the text (identical to the pieces used today) have been found in a dig at the Kofukuji 興福寺 in Nara 奈良; they have been dated to 1058. Further mentions of Shogi can be found in the Shinsarugakki 新猿學記 and in diaries of the 12th century, but no details are given. The Nichureki 二中歷 of the early 13th century describes a small and a large Shogi. The earliest depiction of Shogi (on a part of the Choju giga 鳥獸戲畫) is from about the same time. That a new form of large Shogi begun to be played is attested in the Futsu shodoshu 普通唱導集 and in the pieces found in a dig at Tsuruoka 鶴岡. The Yugaku orai 遊覺往來 mentions a middle Shogi. This Chu-Shogi 中將棋 had already been mentioned earlier in diary entries -- and throughout the 15th and 16th centuries we find numerous of those entries mentioning Shogi. The Shogi rokushu no zushiki 將棋六種之圖式 describes additional large Shogi variants. The Shogi koma no nikki 將棋馬日記 tells us that in the late 16th and early 17th century pieces for these larger variants were actually produced. Modern Shogi developed in the second half of the 16th century and with the founding of the Shogi-Dokoro 將棋所 became the standard variant.

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