Learning Chinese Chess

One day we went to a local park, a place where older Chinese people tend to hang out and play games. They play card games, board games, mahjong, and others, many of which we couldn't identify. They didn't just play the games, they were really into them. Every game had a small crowd of people around watching and giving advice.

090622 Seniors in the Park

Several of the Chinese men took an interest in Jacen, and eventually one volunteered to teach him Chinese chess, a variant of international chess. (You can learn more about Chinese chess in this Wikipedia article.) Jacen had read about the game, but never played, so he agreed. Not long after a table had been set up and Jacen sat down to play.

090622 Seniors in the Park

Before the pieces could be set up, a crowd of 20 or so gathered around to watch this American boy learn to play (what appears to be) their national pastime. There's a saying in China: It's not the man, but the men behind the man. Boy, was that true here. Chinese chess-watching is a participative activity. Those who watched the game told Jacen how to move his pieces. They told him when he moved the wrong way. They told him where he ought to move. They told him where he ought not to move. And at one point in the game they were even moving his pieces for him. It's different, I know, but it's the way they do it. Jacen took it all in stride and enjoyed his 30 minutes of fame, and I think he made a friend that day.

No comments: