The Secret In the Tangerine

Please click on the board you want to see.
Book 1: Red wins. For practical purposes, this portion will be known as volume 1 on my site.
Game 01: Same direction cannons: Ranked chariot vs Filed chariot. Horse sacrifice with 13 step kill.    
Modern Day analysis and counter measures for Game 01. Click here ...
Game 02: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Black moves side horse first.                   
Game 03: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Black refuses horse sacrifice.                                  
Game 04: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Red uses horse to attack.   
Game 05: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Red uses cannon to attack.      
Game 06: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Black uses palcorner/river bank cannon variation.        
Game 07: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Black moves the palcorner cannon first variation.        
Game 08: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Red uses double central cannons.         
Game 09: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Black attempts central linked horses.          
Game 10: SD cannons: FR vs RR. Red uses river bank cannon.                   
Game 11: SD cannons: FR vs RR. Black uses RR at elephant eye.             
Game 12: Central cannon (abbreviated CC) with FR vs Lt Lame horse defence.             
Game 13: CC with FR vs Rt Lame horse defence.                
Game 14: CC with RR vs Lame horse defence with early elephant variation          
Game 15: CC with RR vs Elephant opening with Elephant eye horse variation.            
Game 16: Opposite direction cannons ( abbreviated OD cannons): big variation.       
Game 17: OD cannons : small variation wins big variation         
Game 18: OD cannons: black uses 7th file cannon variation.          
Game 19: OD cannons: black uses palcorner cannon variation            
Game 20: Screen Horse Opening vs Central cannon.             

Book 2: Section 2: Red is penalized with a one horse handicap. This volume is dedicated to seeing how red wins in such a situation.
For practical purposes, I have included all the games in this section under volume 3 on this site.
Game 01: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Red wins.                  
Game 02: SD cannons: RR vs FR with black moving sidehorse first. Red wins                            
Game 03: SD cannons: RR vs FR with palcorner cannon variation.          
Game 04: SD cannons: RR vs FR. Black tries sandwiched horse defence variation           
Game 05:  Horse chariot opening by red! One of a kind!      
Game 06: Central Cannon vs Single Horse Defence   
Game 07: Central Cannon with 5th Pawn Advancement vs Single Horse Defence     
Game 08: SD Cannons: FR wins RR      
Game 09 and 10: OD Cannons       

<<橘中密>> (Hanyu Pinyin Ju2 Zhong1 Mi4) or "The Secret In the Tangerine" is one of the greatest Xiangqi masterpieces of all time.  According to historical data, it was written in  AD1632 during the Ming dynasty. Its author was 朱晋桢 (Hanyu Pinyin Zhu1 Jin4 Zhen1) who gave it to his nephews 朱尔邺 (Pinyin Zhu1 Er3 Ye4) and 朱景箫 (Pinyin Zhu1 Jing3 Xiao1) for it to be proofread.
It was said that this great masterpiece was also based on the earlier works of <<金鹏十八变>> "The 18 variations of the Golden Roc" and << 适情雅趣>> "Elegant Pastime Xiangqi Manual".

Summary of the ancient manual
This great masterpiece is divided into 4 books.
In a nutshell, 
  1) Book one , there are 20 games with a whopping 204 variations. The emphasis of Volume one is on how red wins win the central cannon against various openings for most of the games. Only in game 20 does red use the screen horse as an opening against black's central cannon.
  2) Book two, it is divided into 3 sections.
        Section one: The first section consists of 13 games with 108 variations whereby the emphasis was on how black wins.
        Section two: There are 10 games whereby red plays with a one-horse handicap. Red shows how to win even with the handicap. There are another 8 games whereby red plays with a 2 horse handicap. There are 88 variations discussing the Red handicap.
      There are altogether 31  with 196 variations in the ancient manual for this section. 
      In total, for Volumes 1 and 2, there are 51 games with 400 variations.  
  3) Books three and four are discussions of various practical endgames. Historical studies suggest that they are very similar to the endgames found in the Elegant Pastime Xianqi Manual.

How this manual will be presented on this site
This ancient manual has been studied extensively throughout the centuries. It has been dissected, and scrutinized and many many different people.
For practical purposes of discussion, I have based the presentation of the games in this ancient manual according to contemporary study. Footnotes and commentaries will be found on some of the moves to try to explain why the moves were played or whether they are still done so. Controversial moves will be explained and better suggestions will be included by various contemporary masters.
The presentation of the boards will also be slightly different as from the original version.
For practical purposes, I have divided them into 4 volumes.
Volume 1 corresponds to Book 1 where Red wins.
Volume 2 is equivalent to Section 1 of Book 2, where Black wins.
Volume 3 is the presentation of how Red wins with a one horse handicap, equivalent to Section 2 of Book 2 in the ancient manual.
Volume 4 discusses how Red wins with a two horse handicap. It would be the same section as Section 3 of Book 2 in the ancient manual.

Fairy tale origin
Some believe that these games were derived or copies of the Elegant Pastime Xiangqi Manual. Indeed, in the original version of the book, on its first page at the top right hand corner, could the inscription of " The eighteen variations of the Golden Roc" be found. The Elegant Pastime Xiangqi Manual could be considered to have included the variation.
There is a fairy tale to the origins of this masterpiece. It was said that in the Tang Dynasty (the dynasty before the Ming Dynasty), there was a family who lived in the area of BaQiong 巴邛 (Pinyin Ba1 Qiong2) who had a garden full of tangerines. There was a tree in that garden that did not produce any fruit for the first two years. In the third year however,  a gigantic tangerine blossomed from that tree. The head of the orchard decided to cut open that gigantic tangerine and lo and behold, there were two old men playing Xiangqi in it. These two old men were also having a bet whereby the wager was nine pots of the best wine for eight pieces of silk cloths (?).  When the two old men saw the orchard owner, they transformed into white dragons and flew away. The games that they played were thus collected and named "The Secret inside the Tangerine". See footnote 1.

The Secret Inside the Tangerine is a masterpiece in its own right. Other than the introduction of the various openings, there were also poems of how to play Xiangqi. These poems could be said to be the foundations of the principles of Xiangqi that we know today. Indeed, I believe that every serious Xiangqi player in the world has at least read some of the passages in this great masterpiece. I will translate and upload the poems at a later time.

Openings were also presented in a very systematic and thorough way. The aggressive nature of the openings introduced also made itself dear to those who have read it. Sacrifices early in the game, coupled with brilliant kills, sometimes Kamikaze like, are found in nearly all of its games. In fact, I have not known any serious Xiangqi player who has never read at least its first game.

To be honest, the last time I laid my hands on this great masterpiece was over 20 years ago. Even then, I had to have at least 2-3 chess boards on the same table to be able to go through the games and their variations one by one. I must admit that in my recollection, I have never gone beyond the 3rd game of volume 1, I think. Anyway, techonology has improved, and with the newer Xiangqi viewers, I hope to able to present to you at least the rudiments of this great work. Mistakes will be made so please help me proof read and tell me what is wrong so that I can correct them ASAP. Please click on the link below of the games you want to see. I will try to arrange the games in such a format that is more palatable. For any better suggestions, PLEASE TELL ME NOW! And please be patient, I expect that this will take some time for everything to be put on the web.
Finally, after nearly 4 months of work, I have finally uploaded all the opening games in this great manual. I will proceed to upload the endgames section much later as they are quite similar to those found in other manuals. I had wanted to do a more detailed study of the games, but I have forsaken to do more stuff. I hope you will enjoy the manual as much as I did!

Date created :31st March 2011
Last updated: 24th June 2012  , 19th Jul 2015
1. Robert from the for pointing out a few ambiguous areas in my former text. Thanks.

1. <<橘梅新编>> by 屠景明 居荣鑫
2.  <<少儿象棋启蒙篇>> by 傅宝胜
3. <<象棋辞典>> by 屠景明 杨柏伟
4. Files from websites in China
5. <<橘中密祥解>> 刘剑青 刘健
6. <<象棋布局與騙著>> by Master Yan Wenqing and Master Zhang Qiang


1. There have been other similar stories of the this fairy tale origin, but I could only find this version in my collection. For those who have other variations, please email me at or

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