The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 5
Author: 木门先生 from 木门斋 (Recluse of the Wooden Door)
Translated by Jim from www.xqinenglish.com, with permission from the author.
（五）Xiangqi encounters in both North and South to become the Commander of Xiangqi
In 1922, Xie Xiaxun was sent to Beijing for some official business. He had some free time and went to visit the central park where he found several people playing Xiangqi. In Xie’s autobiography, it was said that one of the players was Zhu Qi(朱琪 Hanyu Pinyin zhū qí) who happened to be chairman of the Beijing Daily Newspaper Workers Union (北京日报工会). His opponent was Li Maoxian (李懋仙 Hanyu Pinyin lǐ mào xiān)who was one of the elite from Guangdong. One of the spectators was the chief monk of the Xi Shan Temple in Bejing, and another one of the spectators was a young military officer from Jiangsu called Fei Mianqing (费绵钦Hanyu Pinyin fèi mián qīn). Zhu had the upper-hand in the match. The onlookers agreed that Zhu had the advantage. Xie could not resist the urge to analyze the position on the board. Kibitzing is never allowed in Xiangqi and is considered to be basic etiquette, and Xie was of course well aware of it. That was why he asked the players on the board if he could voice his opinion. And because of this simple request to express his opinion, Xiangqi would become unified in China.
The players and the onlookers were naturally curious and allowed Xie to voice his opinion. Li Maoxian was especially ecstatic as Xie’s analysis was to his advantage. Zhu immediately challenged Xie, saying that if he could turn the tables, Zhu would treat him to lunch. Xie’s skill was a notch above the rest and easily turned the tables, winning the bet. It was at this time that the players and onlookers realized that a real king of Xiangqi was in their midst. Zhu was true to his word and treated Xie to a sumptuous meal, whereby after lunch, Xie was invited to have a simultaneous match the players and one of the onlookers. It was quite an enjoyable experience for both Xie and his newfound friends.
Amongst the onlookers, the young military officer Fei Mianqing was to cross paths with Xie again. In 1926, Fei traveled to Shanghai for work. Fei was an interesting person himself. Upon asking the opinion of many famous people in Xiangqi circles of that time, Fei took it upon himself to pen a telegram, recommending Xie to be the Chief Commander of Xiangqi in China. The telegram was to be published in the newspapers and Fei’s sense of humor and delightful writing immediately caused an uproar in the world of Xiangqi. Soon, people all over China were clamoring for Xie to become their Commander in Chief!
There was a very detailed description in Xie autobiography. Xie could not refuse the calls for him to take up his position. So, on the 2nd of February in 1927, he issued a ‘telegram’ in response that was published in Shanghai’s New Trendy Newspaper (《时事新报》). In that ‘telegram,' Xie told the world of Xiangqi that he had taken up his new title as the Chief Commander of Xiangqi. In reply to Fei’s humorous letter, Xie even issued orders, mimicking the Kuomintang style at that time, to appoint important Xiangqi players to different roles in his ‘army’. What was surprising was that the Xiangqi players that he appointed all assumed the roles that Xie had given out. Never before had the Xiangqi community in China been so unified and it showed the status of Xie.
After assuming the role of Chief Commander, Xie would accidentally stumble into the world of International Chess. Xie’s initial encounter with International Chess had a lot to do with a Dane called Charles Kliene (葛麟瑞) who had lived in China for many years and was an expert in the customs and habits of the Chinese. He was also an expert in International Chess and was also fascinated with Xiangqi. Through a twist of fate, Xie and Kliene met, and the two soon became fast friends. Kliene would learn Xiangqi from Xie, while he would introduce International Chess to Xie, teaching him the basics and giving Xie pointers in International Chess. Kliene would also be instrumental in admitting Xie into the Shanghai International Chess Club at that time. Xie’s induction into the Shanghai International Chess Club would prove invaluable in his trips to South-east Asia.
In 1919, Singaporean Chinese Xiangqi expert Zhang Zhaolan (张兆兰 Hanyu Pinyin zhāng zhào lán) was very impressed at Xie’s skills and decided to invite Xie Xiaxun to South-east Asia.
South-east Asia would refer to a region southeast of China that was made up of several countries and regions. For centuries, Chinese merchants had done business with different parts in the region, and some would finally settle down in their new-found homes, bringing Xiangqi together with them and introducing the game to the locals. It can be thought that the Chinese living in South-east Asia enjoyed the same oceans and played the same game!
After much arrangements, Xie was finally ready for his first trip to South-east Asia in 1935. But Xie would not know that the voyage to South-east Asia would change his life forever!
To be continued…
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