Chinese chess, Xiang Qi, appeared around A.D. 700. It was adapted from the Indian form when it first arrived. To begin
with, the men were no longer placed on the squares of the board. Instead, they were placed on the intersections and
moved along the lines of the board. This was probably due to the influence of the ancient game Wei-Chi, more
commonly known in the western world by its Japanese name, Go, in which the men were placed on the intersections of
the lines. Another change was in the shape of the pieces. The pieces used in chinese chess are flat disks with the
names of the pieces written on top. The color of the writing, normally red and blue, distinguish the two sides.
There is a legend behind why the two critical pieces, the general and the commander, were named as they were instead of
emperor, which is a title more closely related to the king in European chess. It is said that
Emperor Wei-ti (A.D.589-605) once observed a group of foreigners playing a type of chess. When he found out that the
chief piece on each side was named an equivalent to emperor, he ordered the players executed. It was declared illegal
to use the name emperor or images representing the emperor as units in a mere game. This could also explain why the
pieces contain only writing, unlike the sculpted pieces in European chess. Another explanation for why the pieces are
so simple would be that the game served as a diversion for the lower classes. The nobility and the intellects still
preferred Wei-Chi. The people who played Xiang Qi couldn't afford the elaborately carved pieces used elsewhere in the
world, so they used simple disks of wood instead.
Other notable changes in the board are the river, the Hwang Ho, or Yellow River, splitting the board in half and the palace or fortress, containing the guards and the general on either end.