China Underground > Magazine > China Magazine > Chinese Ancient Board Games

Chinese Ancient Board Games

Chinese board games.

As one of the original cradles of civilisation, ancient Chinese people were playing board games far before most others.

Chinese Ancient Board Games

Their proximity to other civilisations, like the Egyptians, means that we can see how board games made their way across the world from China. Here are just a few of the ones that can be attributed to this civilisation.

Three Player Mahjong

Mahjong is now played mostly online in tournaments but it actually comes from much more humble beginnings. Three and four player versions of the game are common online games but they originate over two thousand years ago. Mahjong comes in all shapes and sizes but the original tile game is older than some countries! It can be played with tiles or cards, though hand carved tiles were the first type to be played with, as printing technology did not yet exist.


Pai Gow

This is another game that came far before the printing press and is also played with carved tiles. It can be played in casinos for real money or can also be found in sites that have classic games like bingo, that can be played online for free. The game consists of 32 dominos in play and it’s the aim of the player to match them up and create a winning hand, similar to poker. The strategy of the game has been studied for thousands of years and, as a result, there are a variety of different techniques that players can follow. To put just how old this game is into perspective, it predates houses like these by a thousand years!


This game comes to players from 2,500 years ago and is one of the more competitive games of the time. The rules are simple, but the strategy to win is a different story, just occupy more of the game board than your opponent. Players sit at a 19×19 square board and are each given makers to distinguish their occupied squares. Capturing squares and defeating your opponent is something that scholars have been trying to find the perfect strategy for.



With a similar gameplay style, Jungle allows players to create traps and capture their opponents. The aim of the game is somewhat alike Checkers, in that players are attempting to get to their opponent’s side of the board. They have to trap jungle animals strategically to succeed and cross rivers to win. The animals have advantages over one another and using them to their full effect will win the game. This was the game of Emperors like Xianfeng, as it was viewed as the game of the wealthy and well-travelled.


This game might seem hard to pronounce but it’s an adversarial game like Go, so it’s only as difficult as your opponent. In a similar fashion, players will attempt to capture squares to increase the amount of the game board that they hold. It’s played on a grid that’s smaller than the Go board and it has a river passing through the middle. It’s a more tactical form of the game and it can last from a few minutes to several hours when the opponents are evenly matched. This is described as one of the most frustrating games to play, as a single misstep can give the opponent the advantage after many hours of playing.


Post Author


20+ fascinating images of Traditional Chinese Opera: The life of the last Chinese Folk Troupe

Chinese Street Kids


Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.