Figurative Chinese Chess Sets
Jeux d'échecs chinois figuratifs
Chinese Chess, Xiangqi, is generally and widely played with round flat pieces bearing their name with a calligraphied sinogram on their upper side.
Any serious player wishing to learn this wonderful game should make the effort to remember those characters. It is not a giant effort: the knowledge of only 10 characters is necessary and this takes no more than few minutes: 將, 帥, 士, 象, 相, 馬, 車, 炮, 卒, 兵 (sometimes the variants 仕, 傌, ? for red and 砲 for black are used).
However, it is also perfectly true that Xiangqi could be played with figurative "3D" pieces, comparable to those of Occidental Chess. For this last remark, some refer to "Westernized Chinese Chess", although there is no reason to believe that only Western players could invent 3D Chess pieces. As a matter of fact, some sets displayed here are obviously from Eastern origin.
This page presents some realization found here and there.
I bought this set in France in the 80's. These pieces were designed by the regretted Charles Wohrer who has been the ardent promoter of Xianqi in France in the 70's and 80's. His design was patented and then sold by "L'Impensé Radical" in Paris. The pieces were manufactured by Chavet Chess, Jura, France. The full set (32 regular chessmen + 4 Elephants + 4 Cannons) was distributed in France by "Relais des Jeux Descartes".
(Masters Traditional Games)
(Photo René Gralla)
A real "westernized" attempt: here, the traditional board with lines and points is replaced by a checkered, black & white, 9x10 board. It is called Cambaluc Chinese Chess and was produced by the TAZ Corporation in 1973.
As an intermediate solution, players may also adopt round flat pieces but with a figurative drawing instead of the Chinese sinogram.
Xiangqi set-up with symbolic pieces