This novella is unique for the time because instead of following the process of the cultural revolution, which was often violent and always unfortunate, the story focus's more on self realization and existential transformation (ooh big words!). The main character and narrator is a man that came from a privileged family, but suffered abject poverty after the death of both parents. In the story he transforms from a man who is constantly searching for money and upward mobility, to a man who is able to enjoy the simple blessing of financial stability. The chess master, Wang Yisheng, the focus of the story, was a poor man, who's family is in dire straights in terms of finance and who became interested in Chess from a young age. His realization is simply that before one can spend time playing chess and enjoying leisurely activities, the fundamentals of life must be fulfilled (e.g. a means of sustenance) which is impossible purely through things like playing chess; at least, that was my interpretation. It's pretty deep stuff.
|Your average Xiangqi board and pieces.|
|Even today this is not an uncommon site in my local China town; a bunch of older men watching a game. (not my pic)|
|Box art for the film "King of Chess" based on A Cheng's novella, sometimes called "Chess King".|