Chinese chess is as embedded in Chinese culture than rice itself. The earliest findings of the game dates back third century BC. It spreads throughout most of Asia from Singapore, Vietnam, to South Korea. Its long history and gameplay makes this game addictive and fun.
At many of the parks in China, there’s a few groups of older men in several circles with their heads down as they watch two players squat with their chess board on the ground. Some of the game boards are cemented into the sidewalks for people to play. In Singapore, they had cemented tabletops. It’s almost always a heated game with moments of complete silence then sudden shouts and screams. Everyone passing by stops for at least a few seconds to watch the current situation of the game. Once the game is over, the players are high spirited with laugher and congratulating each other on their good game.
I learned that Chinese chess was one fantastic way to learn Chinese culture and interact with locals – even with the language barrier. I, too, stop to watch how the game is going whenever I pass by one. In my apartment, I own two sets. My friends and I have had a few nights of beers and chess (I know it sounds boring but it really is fun). There’s even a few iPhone/iTouch apps out there which has killed lots of time of buses and trains.
The rules are quiet simple. I learned how to play by only using the Wikipedia article as my reference. It’s much simpler if you know how to play international chess as some moves are similar. I find that Chinese chess is easier than international chess, more fun, and more intense.
After learning Chinese chess, I learned Mahjong which is as popular (In fact, the most widely played game in the world – perhaps due to population). I used Wikipedia again to learn this game.