But, like the con­cept of bureau­cra­cy, chess had a pre­sence in Chi­na long befo­re medal counts. And Chi­ne­se chess tru­ly feels like a sport, as does chess-watching. It even has set posi­ti­ons. There’s always at least one obser­ver who gives advice befo­re a move is made. Ano­t­her onloo­ker waits until the move is finis­hed befo­re he offers his comments. This is the pairs event for spectators—the coach and the critic—and you would expect it to dri­ve play­ers to vio­lence. But all aggres­si­on is direc­ted at the board. Near the Lama Temp­le, Old Zhang and Litt­le Zhang slam­med the woo­den pie­ces as hard as they could with every move.
Thwack!
“I’m giving your hor­se some­thing to eat!”
Thwack!
“I need a gate! I need a gate!”
“Right, right! That’s the right move!”
Thwack!
“I’m giving it to you cheap!”

Peter Hess­ler hält Xiang­qi zurecht nicht für ein fried­li­ches Spiel (via The New Yorker)