Black and white photograph showing two young men wearing traditional Chinese dress seated on a heated platform ('kang') playing Chinese chess (Xiang qi). The 'kang' is decorated with wooden panelling and applied carved designs. To the left of the photograph, a decorative carved wooden screen frames the window and two rectangular window or mirror like panels are fixed to the wall above the 'kang'.
The game of Chinese chess ('Xiang qi') is played with counters on a gridded board. Xiangqi is one of the most popular games in the world. Distinctive features of Xiangqi include the unique movement of the pao (cannon) piece, a rule prohibiting the genearls (similar to chess Kings) from facing each other directly, and the river and palace board features, which restrice the movement of some pieces. This is one of Hedda Morrison's more staged photographs. She has photographed the interior of a house of a well-to-do family. The fur-lined long gowns ('chang pao'), hats ('guapi mao') and focus of pasttime activity on the 'kang' suggest that the phtograph was taken in winter.
This is one of a large number of photographs documenting Chinese customs and pasttimes that were taken by Hedda Morrison (1908-1991) during her years of residence in Peking (Beijing), China 1933-1946.
Exhibited in 'An Asian experience: 1933-67' organised by the Asian Studies Association of Australia, Fisher Library Foyer, University of Sydney, 12-30 May 1986. Reproduced in Hedda Morrison, 'A photographer in Old Peking', Hong Kong, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 164, with the caption 'A quiet game of chess in a rich man's home. The game is a contest between two armies separated by a river. As in Western chess, there are sixteen pieces on each side though their designations and moves are different. The chessmen are simple counters inscribed with the function of the indvidual piece'.
Gift of Mr Alastair Morrison, 1992