Fri, Jan 29, 2016 - Page 5 News List

‘Shengguan Tu’ board game made over in Kaohsiung

By Chen Wen-chan and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Fongyi Academy in Kaohsiung’s Fengshan District (鳳山) is celebrating its first anniversary since opening to the public with a limited number of a Qing dynasty board game called Shengguan Tu (陞官圖) — the map to official promotions.

Built in 1814 — the 19th year of Qing emperor Jiaqing (嘉慶) — the Fongyi Academy contained a small temple dedicated to the worship of Wenchang Dijun (文昌帝君), a Taoist god of culture and literature, who is believed to handle affairs regarding exams.

During the Japanese colonial period the building was repurposed. Reopened last year, it has drawn more than 300,000 visitors and has become one of the most visited attractions in Kaohsiung.

The game of Shengguan Tu can be traced back to China’s Tang Dynasty (618 to 907), the Bureau of Cultural Affairs said, adding that the game was closely related to the central examination system, known as keju (科舉).

The central examination system was initiated in the Sui Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty it become the main method imperial courts used to select officials. It also marked a departure from using members of “great families” as officials, which had been the accepted norm.

To play the game, each player starts as a simple student and attempts to advance to a higher level by rolling dice, the bureau said, adding that a booklet assigned sayings that determined which position they would be promoted or demoted to in accordance with the roll of the dice.

The game was aimed at helping students become familiar with government positions, both in the imperial court and local governments, during the Qing Dynasty.

The academy has made 100 sets of the game, the bureau said, adding that to make the game more modern, it had modeled the game after modern-day board games.

The academy is scheduled to open through the Lunar New Year holidays, except for Lunar New Year’s Eve on Sunday next week.

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