Xie Xiaxun articles, translated from Mu Men Xian Sheng page 3


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 7

(7) The Second Trip to South-east Asia and the Chess King nearly lost his life

When Xie reached Nanjing, he heard of news of the government preparing to send five envoys overseas so that the overseas Chinese could donate to their cause. In Xie’s autobiography, it was said that the envoys to Europe and America had already been determined. Only the envoy to South-east Asia had not been decided. The reason was that there were a lot of Chinese in South-east Asia and this presented very special circumstances of its own. It was believed that the chosen envoy would face particular danger. Therefore, no suitable person could be found to be assigned as the representative.

Indeed, the circumstances were extraordinary and the journey fraught with danger. Xie nearly lost his life when he was appointed as the envoy to South-east Asia.

Xie voluntarily offered his services. Even though Xie was prepared to put his life on the line, he still had to get the recognition and that was no minor feat of its own. It took some politics before Xie was finally appointed as envoy to South-east Asia. He had to obtain guarantees from Shao Lizi (邵力子 Hanyu Pinyin shào lì zǐ) who was head of the Department of Propaganda for the Kuomintang’s central. Shao’s secretary Lu Xue (卢雪 Hanyu Pinyin lú xuě) hailed from the same town as Xie and had recommended Xie fervently.

But Shao was still skeptical about Xie’s position. So, he decided to test Xie. He told Xie that the envoy to South-east Asia would probably be put in mortal danger, and would face more hardships than the envoys to Europe or America. Shao then suggested coyly that it might have been better for Xie if he could find other ways of showing off his patriotism.

But Xie bluntly replied: “Our country is facing a calamity, why should I be concerned about my own interests? If it required a man to give up his life for his country, it should be an honor that was bestowed!”

Shao was melted by Xie’s strength of character, and after discussion with Zhang Zhizhong (张治中 Hanyu Pinyin zhāng zhì zhōng), it was finally decided that Xie was to be appointed as the envoy to South-east Asia. The duo would then write letters to vouch for Xie who was eventually granted his wish to serve his country.

Before undertaking his trip, many of Nanjing’s elite and chess players expressed their gratitude to Xie. They wrote calligraphy and gave gifts to Xie. Feng Yuxiang (冯玉祥 Hanyu Pinyin féng yù xiáng), Zhang Zhizhong , Chen Lifu (陈立夫 chén lì fū), Li Zongren (李宗仁 Hanyu Pinyin lǐ zōng rén), and Shao Lizi were amongst the people who bade farewell to Xie. There were still many more to send him at the railway station. There was an air of melancholy as many feared that it was their last meeting with Xie. There was mention of poems and calligraphy in the autobiography.

One of the first few stops that Xie made on his second trip to South-east Asia was the Philippines. When he reached there, Nanjing had fell, and there it was a calamity. Xie changed all of his welcoming events into fund-raising events against the invasion of the Japanese. He gave speeches to crowds, and the overseas Chinese had already heard news of the Nanjing Massacre. All were bitter and angry, and the overseas Chinese were more than willing to help out. Many women donated their jewellery, and each fundraising activity surpassed the former in terms of donations. From the period of January 1938 to December 1941, when the Philippines fell to the Japanese, the country had amassed a total of forty-seven million yuan which was an astronomical figures at that time.

Xie would later go to Indonesia where during a two-month period, he would use Xiangqi as a means to try to get donations. Patriotism was in the air, and the Chinese in Indonesia managed over nine million yuan in donations. Special mention of the head of the overseas Chinese living in Indonesia, Chen Xingchu (陈性初 Hanyu Pinyin chén xìng chū) written in Xie’s biography. Chen was very impressed and took it upon himself to attend to Xie’s needs when he was in Indonesia.

Chen was older than Xie by seventeen years, but when the two met, they felt like they had known each other forever. With Chen by his side, Xie’s fundraising activities were much more fruitful. When Xie returned to China years later, Chen would travel to China to show his respect to those who had stood up to the Japanese. Unfortunately, Chen was getting old, and the travels took a toll on him before he passed away in Kunming. Xie was bereaved when he heard of Chen’s death, and would often shed tears of dismay when he recalled his times in Indonesia.

Another one of Xie’s stops in South-east Asia was Penang. Wang Jingwei’s (汪精卫Hanyu Pinyin wāng jīng wèi) wife Chen Bijun (陈璧君 Hanyu Pinyin ) was from Penang. (Jim: Wang Jingwei was a famous politician at the turn of the century in China who would later be branded as a traitor.) Xie would receive death threats when he was in Penang who threatened to harm him.

Xie’s biography had a lengthy passage on the incident. One of the most colorful descriptions was a gang of thugs attempting to harm him when he first reached Penang. Not only did Xie not run away, he stood his ground and told off his would-be attackers, even berating the fact that Wang had tried to change his tag of being a traitor. His would be attackers were shocked and ran off instead! When other local Chinese heard about the incident, they were furious and showed Xie their support. And Chen Xingchu would send over a team of bodyguards to protect Xie. In the end, it was said that the traitors were not able to harm Xie anymore.

When in Singapore, Xie continued to use Xiangqi for his cause. One of the highlights was using living chess. Young girls and boys were used as chess pieces in the stadium, and it caused an uproar at that time. Thousands gathered to see Xie and it was another highlight in his fund-raising activities.

After finishing his fund-raising trip to South-east Asia, many local Chinese decided to accompany Xie back to China to offer their support against the Japanese invasion.

On his return journey to China, Xie chose to travel by Myanmar and nearly died there from miasma. Poor hygienic conditions also caused Xie to contract dysentery where he almost died of dehydration. Four people died after contracting dysentery.

Xie was ill for over a month before he was fit enough to travel back to China.

To be continued…

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



The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 8

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.

(8) Easing the calamity at home --- The chess king got ambushed

When Xie returned, China was in the midst of turmoil and the Kuomintang government had just relocated the capital to Chongqing. In March of 1939, Xie who had just recovered from his illness went to Kunming where he used Xiangqi to raise funds and also to provide entertainment to the troops there. Xie would return to Chongqing in May where Shao Lizi welcomed him personally. A banquet was thrown, and the upper class of society and distinguished government officials all gathered. Xie would tell of his trip to South-east Asia and how well the overseas Chinese had received him and their patriotism. As Xie had managed to raise the largest donations, Chiang Kai-shek would ask for his presence. After that banquet, Xie would remain in Chongqing where he would use Xiangqi in open tournaments as means of publicity to gain support for the cause against the Japanese. That period was regarded as the hardest time in the fight against the Japanese. For his efforts, Xie was known as the Patriotic King of Chess.

In 1938, Wuhan and Guangzhou fell, and the Japanese tried to force the Kuomintang to surrender using many political means. It was a chaotic time, and the Kuomintang was on the verge of doing so. There were many different factions. The Communist party made use of the opportunity and infiltrated the various factions, trying to gather people for their cause which was to wage a prolonged war against the Japanese. Zhou Enlai (周恩来 Hanyu Pinyin zhōu ēn lái), Ren Bi (任弼时Hanyu Pinyin rèn bì shí) were amongst the communist representatives that infiltrated the upper class in Chongqing. Naturally, Xie was targeted.

In mid-summer of 1939, the president of the Oriental Culture Society Guo Chuntao (郭春涛 Hanyu Pinyin guō chūn tāo) requested that Xie join him for lunch and made him stay back after it was finished. After lunch, he whispered to Xie: “There is a communist party official who would want to see you this afternoon. Are you willing?”

This meeting would change Xie’s life forever. However, it was also a very dangerous thing to do at that time.

They agreed to meet at two pm in the afternoon. The meeting was described vividly in Xie’s biography. The person who had wanted to meet Xie was none other than Zhou Enlai himself! It was said that Xie held Zhou’s hand for a very long time.

The two discussed and exchanged their views on many subjects and Xie was impressed with the ideals of the Communist Party. After their meeting, Zhou requested for a match against Xie, and the games that they played would become an important part of Xiangqi history. In the first match, Zhou had asked for a two move handicap. Not long into the opening, Xie discovered that Zhou was a very adept player himself and soon Xie was placed at a disadvantageous position. Xie could only manage a draw in the first match. In the second match, Xie could only offer a one move handicap match. Zhou would start with his Central Cannon opening, and both players adopted a steadfast approach to the game which also ended in a draw.

Xie had never expected that Zhou’s skill in Xiangqi was so high and both men started discussing Xiangqi. In the end, the endgame that was played in the second match was made into and endgame composition which Xie named “Easing the calamity at home” and it was published in a newspaper. Zhou Enlai was a prominent politician, and Xie was an international King of Chess. The newspaper report of their encounter generated waves.

Of course, Zhou Enlai had intentionally visited Xie.

After their initial meeting, the two men would meet many times again. Xie was engrossed in Zhou’s views of the times and would travel far and wide to hear Zhou’s speeches, and in the process of doing so, Xie would meet other communist officials.

To publicize his patriotism, Xie would create many endgame compositions that poked fun at the times. These endgame compositions would then be published in the newspapers.

In 1940, the Kuomintang would begin their first major clean-up. Xie was displeased with the Kuomintang’s passive stance toward the war and had been vocal about it. He even made himself heard in an International Chess tournament and welcomed the players from the Soviet Union.

The Kuomintang was displeased and reprimanded Xie, even threatening him, but Xie did not care. Finally, the Kuomintang was forced to show their hand, and during one of Xie’s trips to Zeng Jiayan (to listen to the communist speeches), Xie was ambushed.

He sustained many injuries, and two of his right ribs were fractured together with contusion to the lungs. Xie fainted after coughing blood but he was lucky to have been discovered by people from Zeng Jia Yan, or he would have died. Zhou Enlai heard about his plight and visited him in the hospital himself.

News of Xie’s ambush was made known in Chongqing’s newspaper, and patriotic nationals were incensed and became very critical. Even more people applauded Xie for his stubbornness, refusing to concede to authority.

To be continued…

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


The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 9

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.

(9) The Centurion King of Chess --- with the true Chinese spirit

On the 15th of August 1945, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally. Naturally, Xie was consumed in the victorious mood that permeated the entire society. However, there was new trouble brewing. Chiang Kai-shek, who was bent on eliminating the communists, had his own ideas. The threat of a civil was imminent.

Xie was for peace and against the civil war. But as a chess player, he could only create various endgame compositions that tried to awaken the public’s interest, hoping that there would be peace. His endgame compositions told of stories of that time and had titles like Stopping the Weapons is the True Spirit of the Bold (止戈为武Hanyu Pinyin zhǐ gē wèi wǔ) , Preventing the Civil War (制止内战 Hanyu Pinyin zhì zhǐ nèi zhàn).

However, history has proven that things often went against the will of the masses. Chiang would finally ignited a civil war that lasted for eight years, which was a time of despair. Many democratic folks who voiced their opinions were taken out by the secret service. Amongst the assassinations, the assassinations of Li Gongpu (李公朴 Hanyu Pinyin lǐ gōng pú) and Wen Yiduo’s (闻一多 Hanyu Pinyin wén yì duō) raised the most public outcry.

When the communists were forced out of Chongqing, Xie went to Zeng Jia Yan to send Zhou Enlai off. He grasped Zhou’s hands, and tears streamed down his face. But Zhou told Xie firmly, that it would only take three years or at most five years before they would meet again.

In the winter of 1947, Xie was disheartened by the civil war and decided to bring his entire family back to Pingyang, his hometown, where he would go into semi-retirement in the lush countryside. Xie had left his hometown decades ago as a youngster trying to make it in the world, and now he was an old man that returned to his roots.

The civil war ended on the 1st of October in 1949, and a new China was born.

1949 was a turning point in the history of China where there was a new beginning. It was also a new start for Xie.

With the personal recommendation of Zhou Enlai who would now be premiere, Xie was appointed and inducted by the Mayor of Shanghai, Chen Yi (陈毅 Hanyu Pinyin ) into the Shanghai Museum of Culture. In the first ever National Xiangqi Individuals Tournament, Xie was appointed as the Chief Arbiter to oversee the event. Xie would also spend the later years of his life nurturing the future generations of Xiangqi players. He cared for the young players from the lower tiers of society and would often give them pointers wherever possible. Once, in a Shanghai training camp for youths, he discovered a talented young boy who was just 13 years old at that time. He would later spend much time teaching the young boy the craft. That young boy was Hu Ronghua, who would rule Xiangqi in China for decades, becoming one of the most decorated Xiangqi stars of all time.

During the National Day commemorating the 10th anniversary, Xie was invited to visit Tiananmen where he would see his old friend Zhou Enlai again.

As Xie got older, he developed various illnesses and was often hospitalized. During one of his hospitalization, his grand-daughter who lived in Japan visited him. According to his biography, Xie had failed to recognize his own grand-daughter. It was after a simple introduction that Xie recognized him. Xie immediately told her that ,

“You should never forget that you are Chinese, and have the blood of the Xie family running through your veins. The Xies are a patriots and loyal to their country, and must never back down when it is their call to serve their country. Do you understand ?”

Xie repeated his words twice, and his grand-daughter kowtowed to him, saying that she had remembered what Xie had told her and would go back to Japan to inform  her mother. It was stated that the nurses in the hospital were also touched by the scene.

Despite his age, one of Xie’s biggest wishes was to see the unification of China, and he would often use the broadcasting company in Shanghai to broadcast his message of “by playing the same game of chess will we unite!” He had even written poems about hoping to see the reunification of China and Taiwan.


In 1981, the National Xiangqi Individual Championships were to be held in Xie’s hometown in Pingyang. When he heard news of the event, he insisted on making a visit to the competition venue. And Xie was extremely delighted at seeing future generations of Xiangqi masters doing battle. As a bonus, he played a public match against Master Shen Zhiyi (沈志弈 Hanyu Pinyin shěn zhì yì) who was one of the older generations of Xiangqi players. It was Xie last public appearance playing Xiangqi.

On the 26th of May in 1985,there was a summit that was held in Shanghai. The aim of the summit was to promote and improve the economic status of Pingyang. Xie and other influential people from Pingyang attended the summit and shared their experiences.

In the same year, a tournament was held specially to commemorate Xie. It was an invitational tournament whereby only Xiangqi masters were eligible for participation. The tournament was also aptly called the Centurion Cup. Xie was invited to the competition where he showed his calligraphy skills. Xie would later be ‘bestowed’ the honor of the Centurion Chess King.

On the 22nd of December in 1987, Xie succumbed to pneumonia and passed away in Shanghai at the age of 101 years old (Jim: this was the traditional Chinese way of calculating the age.)

In his will, Xie requested that all the Xiangqi manuals that he had ever collected was to be donated to the Shanghai Chess Club.

The ashes of the Centurion Chess King would later be shipped back to his hometown of Pingyang on the 9th of February in 1990.

In the biography of Xie, there were many other valuable records of Xie’s games, pictures, and other literary works.

The life of the true king of chess was also a legendary journey through the ages.

(The End)

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 and page 2 in the series. Or here for a short summary of Xie's life by the webmaster. 
First created 20161103
Last updated 20161115

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