Beifang Qiyi, the Xiangqi lover's companion in the 20th century 02

Author: Jim Png

Note: This article first appeared on

This article is a continuation of the article last wk.

Xiangqi history

Beifang Qiyi shouldered the responsibility of promoting the culture and history of Xiangqi to the world. Very often, there would be articles mentioning significant historical incidents in ancient times. While some of these articles discussed the origins of Xiangqi, some articles mentioned interesting Xiangqi anecdotes.

1980 June Edition of Qiyi showing a historical article Xiangqi players in the ancient times

Diagram 20 1980 6th Edition of Beifang Qiyi. A short article mentions a Xiangqi expert's poor fate during the Song Dynasty, under Emperor Song Taizong's rule.

Xiangqi historian Li Songfu (李松福 lǐ sōng fú), who had published (《象棋史话》xiàng qí shǐ huà), also contributed to the history of Xiangqi on more than one occasion. The following diagram, Diagram 21, shows an excerpt of his work.

 1980 February Edition of Qiyi showing an article of Li Songfu discussing the History of Xiangqi

Diagram 21 1980 2nd edition. Xiangqi historian Li Songfu wrote about Wen Tianxiang.

1983 April Edition of Qiyi. Article of an excavated broze Xiangqi set.

Diagram 22 1983 4th Edition Article mentioning an archeological find of a bronze Xiangqi set

Overseeing the evolution of the Rules of Xiangqi

The Rules of Xiangqi in China have undergone a series of evolutionary changes since its inception in the 1950s. It is part of a never-ending process of perfecting the game.

Note: For the newcomer to Xiangqi, there are TWO sets of rules used in Xiangqi. The World Xiangqi Federation Rules is the official set of rules used for tournaments in the world. As the level of competition of Xiangqi is a few notches above the rest of the world, the rules used in Xiangqi for professional tournaments have been revised many times by the Chinese Xiangqi Association to cater to the needs of tournaments in China. The CXA rules are much more complicated than the World Xiangqi Federation Rules.

Beifang Qiyi was also the go-to source for questions about the rules. Questionable situations or repeated positions that have appeared in tournaments are often discussed in Beifang Qiyi. The diagram below shows one of the earliest articles on the topic. It is by Liu Guobin (刘国斌 Liú guó bīn, 1932-present) who is one of the fiercest promoters of the culture of Xiangqi and an avid Xiangqi ancient manual collector. It is believed that he has well over twenty thousand Xiangqi manuals in his collection.

1981 August Edition of Qiyi. Liu Guobin introduces the Rules of Xiangqi

Diagram 23 1981 Aug Edition. Liu Guobin introduces the concept of Rules of Xiangqi

Since its inception in 1979, Beifang Qiyi has documented the changes to the rules of Xiangqi used in China.

There was also mention of the various exams that Xiangqi arbiters had to go through to become eligible. See later part of Diagram 26.

Xiangqi Heroes

For the author, the most enticing section of the book would be the articles discussing the Xiangqi masters. There are plenty of autobiographies of the Grandmasters. There are often interviews that shed light on the lives of these Xiangqi grandmasters and masters.

Given below is part of a series of articles chronicling the early life and success of Grandmaster Liu Dahua (柳大华 liǔ dà huá, 1950 - present) from Hubei Province. Grandmaster Liu remains VERY active in Xiangqi today. He is known as the Oriental Computer and was the original record holder for the number of simultaneous Xiangqi blindfold matches played. The author has written a short article on that topic that can be found at the URL below.


1988 February Edition of Qiyi. GM Liu Dahua biography.

Diagram 24 1988 Feb Edition of Beifang Qiyi. This article would mark the start of a series of articles chronicling the legendary rise to stardom of Grandmaster Liu Dahua.

Beifang Qiyi did not neglect the up-and-coming Xiangqi stars either. Often, there would be articles showcasing new Xiangqi stars. The articles would chronicle their lives and the success they have in tournaments.

1983 May Edition of Qiyi. Article on up and coming new star.

Diagram 25 1983 5th Edition of Beifang Qiyi. A short article chronicling the success of Anhui's Zhou Liwu is shown here.

Giving Recognition to the Fairer Sex

Women have played Xiangqi for centuries. In ancient times, it has been known that Empresses, the Emperor's concubines, maidens, et cetera, in the imperial palace played Xiangqi. Nevertheless, Women's professional Xiangqi still fell behind their male counterparts.

China has made many efforts to promote the Women's division, and Beifang Qiyi has been a testament. Indeed, reports of Women's events have spurred the growth of Xiangqi.

Today, in the author's humble opinion, professional Women's Xiangqi tournaments are just as exciting as their men counterparts. There is much more coverage of women's events as compared to four decades ago. The author attributes this healthy progression of Xiangqi to the efforts of the Chinese Xiangqi Association and magazines like Beifang Qiyi and other articles in spreading the word.

1983 February Edition of Qiyi. Article documenting the growth of Women's Xiangqi

Diagram 26 1983 Feb Edition. Article mentioning the growth of both Xiangqi and International Chess.

A short section on International Chess

In the first few editions of the periodical, there was also a short section discussing International Chess. The discussion was, of course, carried out entirely in Chinese and represented the of the earliest material on International Chess in China.

1979 March edition of Qiyi. Article on International Chess

Diagram 27 1979 March edition. International Chess section discussing some of the opening principles in International Chess.


1979 Apr Edition of Beifang Qiyi. Chess Polymath Zhang Donglu discusses the Ruy Lopez

Diagram 28 1979 Apr Edition of Beifang Qiyi. Chess Polymath Zhang Donglu discusses the Ruy Lopez

Note the inclusion of Chinese characters to represent the pieces in the algebraic notation used.

There were also occasional commentaries of games played.

1979 Apr of Beifang Qiyi. Commentary of a game between Garcia (Cuba) vs. Zhang Weida (China). Commentary by Zhang.

Diagram 29 1979 Apr of Beifang Qiyi. Commentary of a game between Garcia (Cuba) vs. Zhang Weida (China). Commentary by Zhang.

The caption given in Diagram 29 said that the commentary was of a game played in the 23rd Olympiad. The author checked for the players' names from Cuba and found that there were two Garcias:  GM Garcia Gonzalez and GM Silvino Garcia Martinez. Unfortunately, it was not known which Garcia played against Zhang Weida.  (3)

In the author's opinion, the presence of Beifang Qiyi, albeit mainly a Xiangqi periodical, also helped International Chess in China immensely. And this was especially so in its formative years in the last century.

A short section on Weiqi

There was also a section of articles on Weiqi in the early editions of Beifang Qiyi. As with the section on International Chess, there were analyses of games played by Weiqi masters. Later, Weiqi would evolve into an independent magazine.

The following is a commentary of a Weiqi game played in 1979 in Shanghai between Japanese player and Chinese player Hua Yigang (华以刚 1949 - -present). Hua would later serve as vice-President of the Chinese Weiqi Association.


1980 January Edition, Japan's Okubo Ichigen 大洼一玄 (Black) vs. China's Hua Yigang (White).  Commentary by Hua Yigang

Diagram 30 1980 January Edition, Japan's Okubo Ichigen 大洼一玄 (Black) vs. China's Hua Yigang (White).  Commentary by Hua Yigang


1980 Jan Edition. Some Weiqi opening theory

Diagram 31 1980 Jan Edition. Some Weiqi opening theory

Some interesting facts

In many ways, Beifang Qiyi saw how Xiangqi evolved back in the 1980s and 1990s.

Black first to move

When the magazine first started, Xiangqi was played, whereby Black started the game. According to the Tu Jingming's Xiangqi Dictionary, Red was the first to start a game of Xiangqi in ancient times. However, the decision was reversed for reasons unknown to the author, and Black started the game in 1956 in China.

The decision was then reversed again in 1980 where Red would start the game. (4 页 11)

As mentioned in some of the author's earlier articles, books published from 1956 to the 1980s would have pictures with Black starting the game. The situation was no different with Beifang Qiyi.

The change in rules from Black to Red was also published in Beifang Qiyi.

 1981 Aug edition. Page 31. Short notice of the rulings by the Chinese Xiangqi Association in June that same year

Diagram 32 1981 Aug edition. Page 31. Short notice of the rulings by the Chinese Xiangqi Association in June that same year. There were also regulations on how the pictures and boards should be presented in books. The names of the pieces and the colors were also defined.


1980 6th Edition of Beifang Qiyi. Black starts the game in this section.

Diagram 33 1980 6th Edition of Beifang Qiyi. Black starts the game in this section introducing the Elephant vs. Left Cross Palace Cannon Opening System

As can be seen, Black started the game in the earlier editions of Beifang Qiyi.


 1993 Dec Edition. Red starts the game.

Diagram 34 1993 Dec Edition. Red starts the game.

Beifang Qiyi made popular a shorthand system

Beifang Qiyi also made popular a shorthand system for the recording of the moves. It was the same way as the official standard. However, for a piece that was traversed, the '=' is simply omitted. To advance a piece, the last integer is underlined. When a piece retreats, the last integer in the notation system is overlined. See Diagram 34 above.


Beifang Qiyi also contained a wealth of other information. As time went by, some articles studied the relationship between Xiangqi and mathematics. There was also much discussion about computers and the role that they could play in Xiangqi.

 1986 Aug Edition. An article reporting the establishment of a Xiangqi center in a university.

Diagram 35 1986 Aug Edition. An article reporting the establishment of a Xiangqi center in a university.

There are still so many interesting articles that the author has not been able to locate.

In the 1990s, Beifang Qiyi was renamed Qiyi. The magazine would still go strong for twenty more odd years but would eventually stop publishing in 2020. To the author, Qiyi represents another phase in the evolution of Xiangqi. As they say, you never forget your first love, and the author's first love lies with Beifang Qiyi. Indeed, writing this article has taken the author triple the time needed as with his other writings. It is because each article, each diagram, each puzzle, et cetera, have brought back so many memories.

While there have been other Xiangqi periodicals in the same period, Beifang Qiyi remains the closest to the author's heart.

Works Cited

1. 王, 嘉良. 《王嘉良回忆录》第十九章 《北方棋艺》正式出刊. [Online] [Cited: Oct 10, 2021.]

2. 錦秘豹略. 華人百科. [联机] [引用日期: 2021Oct9.]

3. contributors, Wikipedia. 23rd Chess Olympiad. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. [Online] Page Version ID: 1048687499, Oct 7th, 2021. [Cited: Oct 9th, 2021.]

4. 屠, 景明 and 杨, 柏伟. 象棋词典. 上海 : 上海文华出版社, 2009. 978-7-80740-339-5/G。475.

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