Xie Xiaxun articles, translated from Mu Men Xian Sheng page 2

【连载】胸怀“大中华”的棋王——谢侠逊(4)

The Heart of the true Chinese Chess King ---- Xie Xiaxun (1)
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!

The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 4

(4) The Young Xie Xiaxun and his good times at the Bunds of Shanghai

Xie Xiaxun was born in an age of turmoil. Others in that era were often forced to leave their homes to wander for their survival and Xie was no different. Xie’s father passed away when in 1906 and Xie was compelled to give up his studies to support his family. He had just only managed three months of education at the School for Teachers in Wenzhou. For a traditional family like Xie’s family, the passing away of his father meant instantly that the family would be in trouble. And the burden of the family would usually be placed upon the eldest son. Xie began to shoulder the duties of supporting his family in 1908, and he did so by working as an elementary school teacher. Xie would also try to earn some extra income by helping others pen letters and documents. But life was nevertheless very hard, and Xie had a hard time just trying to get by. In 1916, Xie was forced to leave his hometown to travel alone to Shanghai to try to eke a living. Shanghai was one of the busiest and most prosperous cities in China at the time.

It would be impossible to for modern day folks to appreciate what Xie’s travels meant in his day. Decades later, Yang Guanlin would undertake his own journey to Shanghai which was fraught with hardship and danger, much like Xie’s own experience. Initially, Xie had his share of difficulties, but Xie’s fortunes took a turn for the better when he met another friend and mentor. The author believes that this acquaintance was one of the most important turning points in Xie’s life. In the I-ching has a verse called “利见大人”(Hanyu Pinyin lì jiàn dà rén) which meant that if one were able to meet a benefactor in times of need, it would be the greatest of fortunes. An ironical fact is that there have been so many chess players in the history of China who have met mentors or people who could help them but did not know that they had such great fortune. As a result, they remained mundane.

Xie’s ‘benefactor’ was the general manager of Shanghai’s New Trendy Newspaper (which has been out of circulation). His name was 黄溯初 (Hanyu Pinyin huáng sù chū), who was also from Xie’s hometown of Wenzhou. Xie became an employee of the newspaper agency and was lucky enough to head the Xiangqi column in the newspaper. Although his salary was not impressive, Xie had a regular income. More importantly, Xie’s job provided a stage where he could put his prowess in Xiangqi to good use.

Xie was very hardworking, and he produced results. His Xiangqi column had legions of fans and supporters which accounted for a marked increase in the circulation of the newspaper. Eventually, it would become one of the top three newspapers in Shanghai in its time. Fate had given Xie a chance to change his life for the better and Xie made the best use of his good fortune. It was a good start for his career in Xiangqi.

One of Xie’s many tasks was that he had to travel and survey Xiangqi in China and Xie made good use of his travels to meet and befriend influential people in Xiangqi of his time. These friends would later provide him with many important literature and documents that would finally allow Xie to finish his greatest masterpiece of all time: An Encyclopedia of Xiangqi Manuals (《象棋谱大全》 Hanyu Pinyin xiàng qí pǔ dà quán)

In 1918, Shanghai held Shanghai City Xiangqi Individuals Tournament. The scale and magnitude of the tournament was never seen before in the history of Xiangqi in China. In Xie’s biography, it was said that sixty Xiangqi experts from different places in China gathered in Shanghai to compete. As for Xie, he met the expectations of his supporters and won the tournament. It was one of the biggest milestones in Xie’s Xiangqi career, and it would be the start of Xie’s efforts to promote Xiangqi on a national level.

After the tournament, different Xiangqi activists from various parts of China all started their own clubs and organizations, and Xie was invited to guide them. In the ensuing decade, Xie Xiaxun did a lot of organizational work. It was also during this period of time that Xie invented demonstration boards with big demonstration pieces and also simultaneous matches. These inventions were critical to foster a new era of Xiangqi whereby onlookers could interact with each other while the competitors played their games in peace. It was said in the book that there was an Englishman by the name of Jackson who was from the International Chess Club who used Xie’s inventions to promote Xiangqi.

From 1922 to1927, Xie devoted all his energy to writing An Encyclopedia of Xiangqi Manuals. There was quite a passage dedicated to this significant contribution of Xie. There was also special mention of Zhang Yuying’s (张毓英 Hanyu Pinyin zhāng yù yīng) Xiangqi Revolution (《象棋革菁》 Hanyu Pinyin xiàng qí gé jīng) and Qian Mengwu’s (钱梦吾 Hanyu Pinyin qián mèng wú) Meng Wu’s Xiangqi Collection (《梦吾象集》 Hanyu Pinyin mèng wú xiàng jí). After six years of hard work, An Encyclopedia of Xiangqi Manuals was finally finished which contained over two million words. It was also mentioned in the autobiography that not only did Xie manage to collect all the Qing Dynasty and Ming Dynasty manuals he could find, there were also many important records of the games played by the Xiangqi experts of the 1920’s and 1930’s and also various endgame compositions of the time. Liang Qichao (梁启超 Hanyu Pinyin liáng qǐ chāo) was so impressed that he used his brush to write the two Chinese characters 大全 for Xie’s book.

The publication of An Encyclopedia of Xiangqi Manuals saw Xie’s fame grow even further and he became one of the most influential figures in Xiangqi. He was already forty years old when he accomplished the feat. The Chinese believe that a man was most productive when he was in his thirties and forties. Xie devoted this crucial stage of his life solely to Xiangqi.

If you thought that Xie had reached the climax of his Xiangqi career, there was another big surprise waiting. And this surprise was due to a random Xiangqi encounter...

【连载】胸怀“大中华”的棋王——谢侠逊(5)

The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 4

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…

Note: This article is original and may not be shared or downloaded without permission from the author or the translator.

 

 

【连载】胸怀“大中华”的棋王——谢侠逊(6)

The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 6

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.

(6) The Chief Commander makes his name known

On his trip to South-east Asia, Xie stopped by Guangzhou where he had many games against Huang Songxuan, Zeng Zhanhong, Lu Hui, Feng Jingru and other experts (Jim: these players were some of the top experts that represented the south at that time). The mere act of playing the Southern players represented a North-South exchange in China.

In China, it was common to call the Chinese who had emigrated and lived in places outside of China as ‘overseas Chinese’ (華僑 Hanyu Pinyin huá qiáo). And the overseas Chinese were keen to see Xie. The had slogans to welcome Xie, which said: “We welcome Xie Xiaxun, the heavenly king of Xiangqi from our ancestral homeland to visit!”

When Xie first reached South-east Asia, he was whisked off to play against the top local experts for eight consecutive nights, and Xie managed to win all his games. In the autobiography, Xie was brought to Singapore, Penang, Jakarta, Bandung et cetera for a total of ten cities in South-east Asia. And it was done in a short span of half a year. Xie was praised to be the King of Xiangqi, the Xiangqi Genius by the locals. It was under such a conducive environment that a proud Englishman wanted to challenge Xie to International Chess. His name was Paul B. Hunter, and he was the RAF Wing Commander to the region. Hunter was also the Malaysian International Chess Champion and wanted to show off the might of the British. But Hunter did not know that Xie was the Chief Commander of Xiangqi and was an expert in International Chess himself.

In the previous installments, we had mentioned that Xie had learned International Chess from a Dane called Charles Kliene and was also the first Chinese to promote International Chess in China.

In 1933, when World Champion Alexander Alekhine visited ShanghaiChina, Xie was one of the few who had managed a draw against Alekhine when he gave simultaneous blindfold matches. This bit of history was very well described in the autobiography. Xie and Kliene also had a bond that was beyond chess. In 1932, it was said that Kliene had even saved Xie’s entire family. In 1932, the Japanese had invaded and occupied Shanghai. As Xie had organized a series of patriotic activities, he was marked by the Japanese, and for a period of five days, Xie’s entire family of sixteen people was surrounded and trapped by the Japanese. In the process, Xie’s youngest son died. If Kliene had not intervened, Xie’s clan would have been exterminated.

Faced with a haughty opponent like Hunter, Xie chose a steadfast approach and used various principles and tactics in Xiangqi to slowly build up his advantage. In the match, it was said that Hunter sent ‘envoys’ on more than one occasion, hoping to use money and other temptations to force Xie to draw the game. Xie flatly refused and finally defeated the haughty wing commander, bringing him back to the ground.

Hunter not only lost his game but also lost his credibility and respect.

The character of a chess player was like the nature of his personality as the Chinese saying goes. Perhaps Hunter had never had such a realization.

Xie would later have more International Chess matches during his tenure in South-east Asia. In Jakarta, Xie would draw the 1927 International Chess Champion; a Dutchman called 溪简 (Jim: Was not able to find the English name in my books or over the internet!) who was associated with the East India Company.

Xie’s achievements in these two matches shocked the International Chess community and significantly increased the pride of Chinese everywhere. The name Xie Xiaxun was now well recognized in the international community.

Because of Xie, the British government organized Silver Dragon Cup which was an international event. International chess players from Germany, America, Austria et cetera gathered in participation. And they all wanted Xie to participate.

Xie traveled back from South-east Asia to take part in the tournament. He had no time to rest or prepare for the tournament but still managed to win the cup with an impressive 18W1D1L record in the twenty round tournament. (Mark Taylor. A Chinese Chess Centenarian. Chesslife Oct 2011 Edition, page 34-35)

It was truly one of the highlights of Xie’s career as a chess player. The chairman of the Kuomintang committee at that time, Lin Sen (林森 Hanyu Pinyin lín sēn) was very impressed and even took up his brush to write “淪靈益智”(Hanyu Pinyin lún líng yì zhì) the four characters as a gift to Xie. (Jim the four characters would mean that Xie was an inspiration to his contemporaries and that he helped stimulated the mind.)

The troubles in the world of chess were quickly overcome by Xie. But during this time, war broke out.

In 1937, Japan started an invasion of China. Xie was bittered and wanted to do his part for his beloved country. Xie brought his family back to his hometown Pingyang, and despite opposition from his family, he stubbornly chose to go to Nanjing to dedicate himself for his country.

 

To be continued…

Note: This article is original and may not be shared or downloaded without permission from the author or the translator.

 

 

 

 

Click here for page 1 or page 3 in the series. Or here for a short summary of Xie's life by the webmaster. 
First created 20161101
Last updated 20161106

This website and its content is copyright of xqinenglish.com 2011-2019. All rights reserved.

Loading...