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Popular Board Games That Originate in China

Last Updated on 2020/12/05

Ever since the advent of the technological era, the only games many people (especially millennials) are conversant with are computer/console games.

Long before the introduction of computers, there existed another kind of game widely played across many cultures, these games were popularly known as board games. Taking a simple stroll across the streets of Beijing, it is evident that people’s interest in board games hasn’t subsided despite thousands of years of existence. Over the years the Chinese have developed new kinds of game boards, while some have even evolved into popular computer, or crypto games.

A board game is simply a game where players play using pieces that are moved across, removed from or placed in a specific pre-marked board which varies depending on the game. Board games have been played in many societies and cultures throughout the history of human civilization, some board games can even be tracked to the earliest civilizations.

The oldest board game known by man to exist is the Senet. The Senet game is believed to originate from Egypt, drawings of the game have been discovered in wall paintings in the First Dynasty tombs of Egypt that date back to 3,300–2,700 BC. Senet is widely believed to be a racing game played by two people. Even though the actual rules are unknown, its moves involved tossing a throw stick.

The popularity of board games increased drastically early in the 20th century among the middle class, and this is due to an increase in family’s leisure time and disposable income. Board games are ideal especially for family entertainment since they are suitable for all age-groups. Some of these board games such as Xiangqi, Chess, Weiqi have been classics for many generations.

Board games have impacted the lives of many people in China across the decades, some of the most popular Chinese board games include:

Weiqi (Go)

Weiqi or popularly known as Go in the Western Hemisphere and Japan is labelled as the Eastern version of chess. Weiqi is the world’s pioneering board game that involves both strategy and skill. In China, it is considered to be one of the earliest Chinese board games created. Weiqi is believed to be invented by Emperor Yao (2,255–2206 BC) to hone the intelligence of his Son’s Danzhu.

Many people who love playing Weiqi admit that it is very challenging despite its few rules. Played by two people, each player receives a set of black or white stones to play with. Using these stones, each player places a stone on an empty point, with the goal of seizing the most territory by surrounding the adversary’s stones.

Mah-Jong (Majiang)

Mah-jong is the most popular game in China, enjoyed by both newbies and professional players. It features 144 tiles showing various symbols and characters. There are two variations of this game, traditional and solitaire. The traditional version is played by four players who draw and discard tiles until the winner obtains one pair of identical tiles and four combinations of 3 tiles each.

The Solitaire version is the modern variant of Mah-jong, played using a computer, featuring one opponent. The aim of the game is solely matching identical tiles from different layouts.

Chinese Chess (Xiangqi)

Xiangqi is a Chinese board game that shares some similarity with the western chess game. The origin of Xiangqi is unknown however it is believed that the game was played in China during the 4th century BC.

The aim of this game is to capture your opponent’s king while protecting your own just like regular chess. What sets Xiangqi apart from chess is the unique movement of pieces, a river separating opponents and other rules that limit some piece’s movement.

More and more board games have been introduced while the existing are being improved as time goes by. One recently introduced board game is the Mafia game. Brought to China in 1999 by students from the USA, the game is simple and involves players arguing who among themselves is the killer while each player trying to prove their innocence. The game is rapidly evolving with newer rules being added to make it more exciting and challenging. Mafia game’s popularity in China has drastically progressed becoming the most popular modern board game in China, with several clubs being open specially for the game.


There are other different types of board games available. Some like monopoly mimic real-life aspects, in this case real estate. Other board games such as Cluedo revolve around mystery while others such as Risk, are based on warfare, However, most popular board games enjoyed in China, simulate strategy and skill.

Currently, many board games can be played using the computer, the popularity of computer games can be attributed to the advent of the Internet. There are many online casinos which have board games where you can play and win. Board games will continue to be popular among the Chinese especially with the upsurge of online Bitcoin casinos, where it is easier for players to play various crypto games.

Image source: wikipedia

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