Learning to play Chinese chess
Playing games in Chinese and/or with Chinese people is an excellent way of learning Mandarin. It's fun, social and opens up many doors. Knowing how to play popular board games in China also makes you popular in general. Read more about why playing board games is a great idea if you're learning Mandarin here. In this article, I'm going to introduce 象棋 (xiàngqí) "Chinese chess".
Introducing 象棋 (xiàngqí) "Chinese chess"
Chinese chess is a classic board game played in ancient times. Exactly how old it is and what the relationship is to international chess is unclear, but it seems likely that they both share a common ancestor in India, but have developed differently, perhaps because of influences from already existing board games. In Chinese, the game is called 象棋 (xiàngqí), which literally means "elephant chess", but is usually called "Chinese chess" in English ("x" and "q" are hard to pronounce, even for people who study Chinese!)
Don't confuse Chinese chess, which is fairly similar to international chess, with Chinese checkers, which is a completely different game that actually isn't Chinese, but that's another story.