Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ancient Liubo Set Recovered from Western Han Dynasty Tomb

From Peoples Daily (English version online)  Note: I do not believe that most western chess scholars agree that liubo was an early form of "chess," but writer David Li wrote a book several years ago, "The Genealogy of Chess", that made this argument.  From the comments made by archaeologist Fan Shuhai in the article, it appears that the theory of liubo as an ancient form of chess may be accepted as fact in China.

Ancient chess set from original version of game found in Hebei
16:13, September 08, 2010

Recently, an archaeology team from the Hebei Cultural Relics Research Institute has found a chess set for Liu Bo Chess, thought to be the original version of Chinese chess and chess, in an ancient tomb belonging to the Western Han Dynasty in Pingshan County.

Since May of this year, the archaeology team has carried out a protective excavation along a train station reconstruction site in Pingshan County. On a field to the west of the railway, archaeologists found 100 ancient tombs from a period lasting from the Warring States Period to the Qing Dynasty and unearthed some very rare and precious cultural relics from those tombs.

Fan Shuhai, the leader of the archaeology team, announced on Sept. 7 that they found a Liu Bo chess set, including chessmen and chess-prods, near one male's remains in a Western Han tomb. He said the discovery was "one of the most important discoveries," because "several chessboards of Liu Bo Chess have been found in China, but hardly ever the chessmen and chess-prods."

He said the chess game was invented before the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, and it includes three major tools, the chessmen, chess-prods and a chessboard. The game symbolized a battle, and two players had to use their wisdom and strategies to attack each other and to win the game by forcing rivals into a deathtrap.

According to Fan, the form of chess was on the wane after the Eastern Han Dynasty, and the playing method and rules were gradually out of record both in people's memories and history books.

By Wang Hanlu, People's Daily Online
Information on the game of liubo (including several images), from Cazeaux's comprehensive website on ancient chess and chess-like games.

For those interested:

A story well told is not necessarily true - being a critical assessment of David H. Li's "The Genealogy of Chess" by Peter Banaschak

A letter by Dr. David Li to E. Meissenberg of the Initiativ Gruppe Koenigstein, in response to an invitation to give a presentation at a symposium to be hosted by the IGK.

A 2005 interview of Dr. David Li at Chessbase that discusses, among other things, "The Genealogy of Chess."

Another interview of Dr. David Li at Sonshi (possibly from 2006).

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