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Game of the Three Friends

Also known as Sān-yǒu-qí, Sanyou Qi, or 三友棋.

Information from Yu Ren Dong

Zhèng jìndé 鄭晉德, the inventor of Three Friends Chinese Chess, lived in the Anhui province during the reign of Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. He was a friend of Zhāng cháo 張潮 who was known as one of the greatest essay writers in China. Zhāng cháo 張潮 wrote a book called "Collection of volumes in the Present Age” (Zhāo dài cóng shū) 昭代叢書. This book contains the rules of Three Friends Chinese Chess.

During the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735-1796), Jīn xuéshī 金學詩, in his game book: Swineherd’s Chat (Mùzhū xiánhuà) 牧豬閒話, mentions this game.


  1. Two new pieces are added to the standard Xiangqi pieces: Flag and Fire.

  2. Flag. Two Flags are placed at the North-East and North-West corners of the palace. The Flag piece moves 2 steps (never 1) forward. Once a Flag moves out of the owning players' territory, it moves as a Chariot.

  3. Fire. The Soldiers located at the second and forth columns are replaced by Fire pieces. The Fire piece moves 1 step diagonally forward and cannot retreat.

  4. The triangle zone in the center of board is called Ocean. Chariots and Horses are not allowed to pass through this zone.

  5. The other triangle zones in every conrer are named Mountain and City. Cannons are not allowed to pass through this zone.

  6. Other rules are similar to ordinary three-handed chess.


The detailed rules of this game are avaiable from the book:

圖說中國古代遊藝 Tu shuo Zhongguo gu dai you yi
(Ancient Chinese recreation including figures)
by Lequan Cui
Type: Book; Chinese
Publisher: Taibei Shi : Wen jin chu ban she you xian gong si, 2002.
Edition: Chu ban
ISBN: 9576687039

From the book 'Tu shuo Zhongguo gu dai you yi'

The following book records the board of of Three Friends Chinese Chess, but lacks the detailed rules:

中國象棋史叢考 Zhongguo xiang qi shi cong kao
(Some Textual Research on Chinese Chess History)
by Nanxian Zhu 1916-1970.
Type: Book; Chinese
Publisher: Beijing Shi : Zhonghua shu ju, 2003.
Edition: Di 1 ban
ISBN: 9787101037043

From the book 'Zhongguo xiang qi shi cong kao'

See also: The Game of the Three Kingdoms.


Yu Ren Dong and Jean-Louis Cazaux contributed to the content of this page.

NOTE: Any comments about this page made before 18 March 2009 may no longer apply.

WWW page created: 1995 or 1996. Last modified: 23 March 2009. Special thanks to Yu Ren Dong for providing the titles of the source books listed above, for the graphic images from those books, and for the detailed rules on how this game is played, and for background information on the inventor of this game.