The Origins of Weiqi and Xiangqi by Mumen Xiansheng


The Origins of Weiqi from the Diagram of the River , and the origins of Xiangqi from the Book of Luo.

Article by 木门先生 from 木门斋 (Recluse of the Wooden Door)
Translated by Jim from, with permission from the author!

The Diagram of the River <<河图>> and the Book of Luo <<洛书>>were two very ancient diagrams that were passed down generation to generation from the pre-historic times and had been regarded as the origins of Chinese culture and the yin and yang. The earliest record of the Diagrams of the River was found in the Book of Documents <<尚书>> and later the I-Ching <<易经>>. Taiji philosophy, Bagua (or the Eight Trigrams), and later Feng Shui (which has also been translated as geomancy) could all trace their roots to the two diagrams.

There are also two games that are present in the Chinese culture that has also been around and spread for thousands of years: Weiqi and Xiangqi.

After some study, the author discovered some similarities between the Weiqi board and the Diagram of the River, and also some connection between the Xiangqi board and the Book of Luo in terms of the number format. Such a mathematical correlation cannot be a coincidence, rather, they represent the passing down of the Chinese culture for thousand of years, its evolution, and progress. 

We shall first examine the Diagram of the River and Weiqi board and consider it in terms of numbers.

There were ten numbers on the Diagram of the River, whereby the odd numbers were used to represent the Yang, while even numbers were used to represent the Yin. Black dots and white dots were used to represent them on a square board.

The sum of the biggest Yang and Yin number would be 10+9=19, and that is why the Weiqi board consists of 19 by 19 straight lines bisecting each other perpendicularly. There cannot be one more line or one less line for the columns and rows.

The white boards would represent the Yang while the black dots would represent the Yin, and that is why in ancient Weiqi, White would be the first to move in Weiqi.

The origins of the Book of Luo is generally accepted to have been during the time when Huang Di (黄帝 Hanyu Pinyin ) did battle against Chi You蚩尤 ( Hanyu Pinyin chī yóu). It was alleged that Huang Di used the Diagram of the River in combat as strategy and later came up with the Book of Luo as a culmination of his strategy in battle. It would then be used to help plan strategy in wars. How did the Diagram of the River evolve into the Book of Luo? It was believed that the Diagram of the River was opened, the “2” and “7” coordinates were switched with the “4” and “9”. When this was done, the sum of the three numbers would become 15 if added. Also, numbers at the opposite corners would also add up to become “10”. As for the fable that the Book of Luo originated from the diagrams of a turtle was probably a myth that later Chinese invented. The origins of the evolution can be seen from the following diagram.

河图 洛书 Diagram

The numbers of the Book of Luo were one to nine, whereby the sum of the figures would be 45. 45 is believed to be the number that represented life and death. In the

As for the five elements, water was represented by “1”, fire by “2”, wood by “3”, metal by “4” and earth by “5”. The sum of the Yang numbers was nine, the sum of the Yin numbers was six, and the total sum of the Yin and Yang numbers was 15. This was also a match with the I-ching whereby the Yang Yao (阳爻 Hanyu Pinyin yáng yáo) was nine, and the Yin Yao (阴爻Hanyu Pinyinyīn yáo) were also “9” and “6” respectively.

(Jim: Yin Yao and Yang Yao )

Yin and Yang

 The biggest Yang number in the Book of Luo was “9” while the most major Yin number was “10”. Although they were not shown directly, it was believed to have been derived from numbers of the opposite corners of the palace. The “5” in the center of the Book of Luo was another variable, whereby “5” could mean “5” or “0”. For example, a hand would have five fingers when opened, but the fingers would be folded into a fist whereby the fingers would not be so readily visible, hence “0”. But the force of a first is by no means smaller than that of a palm.

There are nine vertical lines (called files) on the Xiangqi board and five horizontal lines (called ranks) for both the Red and Black factions. The product of these two numbers would be forty-five. The nine files could be treated as the Yang, while five ranks can be thought to represent the Five Elements If you were to add the river, there would be six horizontal lines which would be represented by Yin. If you viewed the entire Xiangqi board as a whole, there would be a total of nine vertical lines which would coincide with biggest Yang number “9”, and the total of ten horizontal lines would coincide with the most major Yin number “10”. The pieces are played on the intersections and not in the squares, which would fulfill the constant changing of the Yin and Yang. And the palace on the Xiangqi board would have an uncanny resemblance to the shapes in the Book of Luo. It would not matter if you viewed the Xiangqi board from the numbers or from the shapes, the Xiangqi board and the Book of Luo were exactly the same in terms of meaning.

Yang was represented by white while Yin was represented by Black. That was why in ancient times, the two colors in Xiangqi were White and Black, and White started the game for the same reason as in Weiqi mentioned above. As for the cannon piece, it would have probably been an invention that was inspired by the I-ching when studying the changes of the Yao (as mentioned above).As for the verse “Chu River and Han Border” (楚河汉界 Hanyu Pinyin chǔ hé hàn jiè), it was probably an invention by civilian Chinese, and would not have anything to do with the Book of Luo. A similar analogy would be the Tian Yuan intersection on the Weiqi board, or the star intersection (“星位”) which would have probably been the wit of the later Chinese forefathers.

The match between the numbers and the chess boards are by no means a coincidence. That is why, the author has hypothesized that “Weiqi originated from the Diagram of the River, while Xiangqi was derived from the Book of Luo!”

Otherwise, it would be impossible to explain these astounding similarities. And because both origins were the same, the principles of Weiqi and Xiangqi are almost identical, and can be thought to be different forms of expression of the same thing.

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