Chinese Chess WXF notation system basics

There are several Chinese Chess, or Xiang Qi, notation systems you can find on the web or chess books. The two most common notations are WXF notation and ICCS notation.

WXF vs ICCS notation

WXF stands for World Xiang Qi Federation. This notation is introduced by that organization to popularize Xiang Qi over the internet. ICCS stands for Internet Chinese Chess Server. This notation was first used on computers. Anyone serious about mastering the game must learn the notation system so as to write down the moves, read chess manuals, chess books, etc. In an earlier post, we recommended the free Chinese chess app for iOS. If you will it uses the WXF notation system to represent the moves in many of its manuals, books.

We’ll explain the basics of the notation recommended by WXF below.

The naming of the pieces

  • K stands for king, 帥/將 in Chinese
  • A stands for assistance, advisor, bachelor, or guard, 仕/士 in Chinese
  • E stands for elephant, bishop, or minister, 相/象 in Chinese
  • H stands for knight/ horse 馬 in Chinese
  • R stands for rook/ chariot, 車 in Chinese
  • C stands for cannon, 炮/砲 in Chinese
  • P stands for pawn, 兵/卒 in Chinese
Chinese Chess board - Xiangqi board

The numbering of the files

The files represents where the pieces are located. The numbering of the files follows the ancient Chinese tradition. The files are numbered 1 through 9 from the right in the perspective of each player.

Tandem Positions

If there are more than 1 pieces (same type) in a same vertical line, then the second part will be replace with + or – sign: + means “the front piece”, – means “the behind piece”.


  • + means “moves forward vertically”
  • –  means “moves backward vertically”
  • . means “traverse, moves horizontally”

The four-component notation system

The first character represents the chess piece. The second character, a number denotes the file where the piece sat before the move. The third character describes the direction of movement, either forward (+), backward(-), or sideways/traverse (.), the last character, also a number, indicates either the new file where the piece landed; or the number of intersections moved forward/retreated to reach its destination. For example, C3-4 means the cannon on the third file to be retreated 4 intersections; C2=5 means the Cannon on the second file is moved to the central file.

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