25th April, 2006
Diu fang is a traditional board game from the North-West of China, also
played by the Central Asian Dungans.
Here is a
picture of a game and a short description: 背景资料：方棋
The game is played on a 7 by 8 line board. Each player has 28 pieces
(to fill the board). If you manage to occupy the corners of a square,
you can take a piece from the opponent. When all the pieces have been
placed on the board, you start moving the pieces, again making squares.
You cannot break a square.
The one who takes all of the opponent’s pieces wins. So the principle
is similar to nine men’s morris.
The name of the game is fangqi 方棋 ‘square chess, game of squares’, or
fang 下方 ‘playing squares’. It is played in Ningxia 宁夏, the autonomous
region of the Hui, Chinese speaking Muslims.
Another description of a slightly different version of the game is in
Sushanlo (Сушанло). The Dungans are Chinese speaking Muslims in the
Union, who fled to Russia in 1877–82 taking the game with them.
Sushanlo reports a game similar to fangqi from the Dungans in
Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan. It is called дю фон (diu fang 丢方) ‘losing
board is either 7*7 lines,
чи дар фон (qi daor fang 七道儿方) or 9*9 lines жю дар фон (jiu daor fang
九道儿方) — one would expect the spelling дор for дар. There are two
variations, чон фон (chang fang 长方) ‘long squares’ or сынсы да
дуан (sensi da duan 生死打断) ‘cut short by life or death’. The
players place their pieces on the board in turns, trying to occupy the
centre. The player who has the first turn has one piece more but the
second player has a right to remove two of his opponent’s pieces after
the board has been filled. Then they start to remove each other’s
pieces, but the details are not described.
The board is usually drawn on the ground with spread fingers. The
pieces can be pieces of reed, stones or sheep droppings.
Sushanlo mentions two special configurations the significance of
is not clear. One is ё-лёнфон yao-liangfang 腰两方 (two squares with
pieces in two squares’ and вуҗүәзы wujuezi 五角子 (standard Chinese
pentagon) ‘five pieces in four squares’.
In the following diagram white has a yao-liangfang and black has a
wujuezi. White can win if he has the first move and kills the
wujuezi. It is not explained why, but at least black cannot repeatedly
open and close a square if the configuration is destroyed.
The diagram has been generated by the page Sample Go-ban
GIFs with the following matrix which can be used if the diagram
is not visible.
# O # O\O\O O
It should be noticed that you can play the game on the
intersections of a chessboard.
O # O O\# # #
# # # O\O\#\O
O O O # #\O #\
# # # O #\#\O
O O # O O O #
# # O # # O #
The verb-object compound дю фон has been attested in Dungan texts.
Та йитян йишор пыйшон дундо хонкузышон бу танщян Җонҗя, Вонҗя
щүанхуонни, хан нэ фә «Сангуй» фуни, будуйли хан дюфонни.
All day he would sit in company at the steet corner gossiping. He liked
stories from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or he would play
Җер Ёндагә дюли йитян фон. Линйирди җи пан фуди щинни ду ножынкэли
Today Yang played squares all day long. He lost the last few games,
which made him bad-tempered.
— Фон дюди, е мә җүәҗуә дўзы вә.
He played squares so that he didn’t even notice he was hungry.
Щёнҗуонниди жынму зуә йи чүанзы кын ламә, дю фон. Та дан вонгуә зу
яндин ханди җё щүанхуон, дю фон.
The villagers would like to sit in a circle, chatting and playing
squares. If he passed them, they would certainly ask him to come and
talk and play.
Diu fang is found in China as well. Here is a
longish parenthetical description in 大国寡民
The game is played by country people in the Shaanxi plain. There is no
indication that it is limited to the Hui. The board is
square, 5*5, 7*7 or 13*13 lines. After the board has been
filled, each player takes one piece from the opponent and then they
start to move. There are two variants, peaceful squares (tianfang
surrounding squares (weifang
). The peaceful variant has no surrounding(!) and suits the character
of the Shaanxi people better. It may correspond to the Dungan chang
(comparison of the two styles of play with politics)
It seems that the 7*8 version is called xia fang and played in Ningxia,
while the 7*7 version is called diu fang and played in Shaanxi.
7*8 board, end game
An account of the game in Xinjiang (image)
Outside Xinjiang the board is 7*8 but in Xinjiang it is 7*7. The one
who moves first has an
Southern Xinjiang dialects of Chinese, as well as Central Asian Dungan
in the former Soviet Union, are related to the Southern Shaanxi
dialect, so it is not a surprise that the board size accords with
The following terms are mentioned on the above site.
“黄瓜” a long stretch of pieces in one colour
“铁子 a piece that cannot be captured?
“一梭” a match of three games (A Xinjiang requirement)
“翻盘” reverse the result
There is a computer version of the game for Win2003, WinXP,
Win2000, NT, WinME, Win9X. The files are packed in the .rar format.
Being a Macintosh owner, I have not been able to try it myself.
Here’s an introduction to the software.
It is a 7*7 version. It is good for players who find go too profound
and gomoku too boring.
Other download sites:
Many download sites
According to this site, you can capture pieces that can damage the
formation of a square, whatever that means.
Сушанло, М. 1971. Дунгане. Фрунзе.
Yasuji Shimizu and Shin’ichi Miyahara, with Kôichi Masukawa. 2002. Game
boards in the Longmen Caves and the game Fang
Board Game Studies. 5
A site about the Finnish game of tables,
with links to Chinese boards and pieces for shuanglu 双陆, a game related