War and Territory
The game of xiangqi (elephant or figural game) has been played in China since the end of the Northern Song period (960–1127). It uses thirty-two disc-shaped pieces in two opposing “armies,” which move on the intersecting points of a grid on a board that is nine by eight squares on a side. Like chess, xiangqi is a game of displacement. As in chess, the objective is to capture or eliminate the opponent’s pieces, culminating in the capture of the opposing general. The similarities with chess are significant: not only is the number of pieces the same, but some of them have similar movements. The chariot (ju), for example, moves in exactly the same fashion as the rook; the horse (ma) moves in an L-shaped manner like the knight; and the elephant (xiang) moves diagonally like the bishop.

Xiangqi folding board
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Xiangqi folding board
China; 18th century
Huanghuali wood with brass inlay; approx. 38.1 x 30.5 cm
Polumbaum Collection, 0012
Photograph by Risa Korris