This section would feature the Xiangqi Manuals that are still extant since the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1276AD), a thousand years ago. Unfortunately, most of the material that the Webmaster has in his collection is in a mess. It has been an ongoing effort for the past few years to try to classify them.
The main reference that the Webmaster has chosen is Encyclopedia of Xiangqi Manuals by Yang Mingzhong et al which is an established reference book for the ancient manuals in mordern times. Please note that the legendary Xie Xiaxun had also written a similar encyclopedia with a similar name but the main reference material used in this Website for this section would be Yang Mingzhong's version.
The Webmaster will continue slogging to try to upload these ancient manuals, which he believes are an integral part of the history and culture of Xiangqi. Your Xiangqi journey CANNOT be complete without going through them.
Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) ancient manuals are not only treasures of the Chinese culture, they are also THE BEST WAY to start learning about Xiangqi. There are about 30 ancient manuals that are still extant.
By definition, ancient manuals are defined as books on Xiangqi that have been published in the Qing Dynasty and earlier, which would be before 1911.
The Elegant Pastime Manual is one of the oldest Xiangqi ancient manuals there is. However, it has proved itself to also be one of the most useful and beneficial ancient manuals for players of all levels.
One of the earliest and still fully extant Xiangqi literature was One Hundred Variations in Xiangqi which would be abbreviated as ‘Hundred’ in this book. The author of the book was believed to have been Zu Long Shi (祖龙 氏 zǔ lóng shì）but not much else is known about the author except that he was very enthusiastic about Xiangqi.
The Plum Flower Manuals were written by different authors from different periods of time. However, they had common themes and most of the original Plum Flower Manuals were extensions or improvements of the earlier ones. There were also overlaps in content in the earlier Plum Flower Manuals.
The original Plum Flower Manual was by Wang Zaiyue.
Some of the exact dates of publications of the Plum Flower Manuals is not known but the general consensus of the order is as follows:
- 01 Wang's Plum Flower Manual
- 02 Wu Shuang Pin Plum Flower Manual
- 03 Chong Ben Tang Plum Flower Manual (1865AD)
- 04 Plum Flower Springs Manual
- 05 Zheng's Plum Flower Manual (1897AD) (originally known as 《梅花五子变》)
- 06 Wu's Plum Flower Manual (Late Qing Dynasty)
- 07 Shan Qing Tang Plum Flower Manual
- 08 Anti-Plum Flower Manual by Ba Jiren
《梅花泉》Plum Flower Springs Manual
Zheng's Plum Flower Manual 《郑氏梅花变法谱》aka 《梅花变法谱》
There were 12 Boards in this ancient manual that was published in 1897AD. According to the author, Zheng Zimei (郑自梅 Zhèng zì méi), this ancient manual was in his father's collection which was based primarily on another earlier ancient manual. Many contemporary scholars treat this ancient manual as a reflection of the progress in Xiangqi opening system after the publication of Wang's Plum Flower Manual, which appeared over two centuries earlier.
- Central Cannon vs. Screen Horse Defense
- Same Direction Cannons
- Opposite Direction Cannons
Not much else was known about the author.
The date of publication is unknown, but judging from its contents, it collected mostly endgame compositions from the Ming Dynasty. The level of difficulty is comparatively simpler to later ancient manuals. There were many endgame compositions that were from One Hundred Variations of Xiangqi, Strategic Considerations and some from the Elegant Pastime Manual. Some of the endgame compositions were collected into later ancient manuals like Remains of the Heart of the Warrior et cetera.
The only extant volume that is available is in the collection of the Feng Jinzhu 冯锦诸 who reorganized and published the book for all to see in the 1980s. There have been other versions.
Like all ancient manuals, there are mistakes in many of the endgame compositions. The author has tried his best to present the original contents and moves, even if they are flawed.
The Webmaster highly recommends this ancient manual, especially the first two scrolls, as it is very beneficial to beginners. It will open up new insights to view games that were never seen before.