Some more on the pieces:
- The best piece in the game is the Ju (chariot)- you have to be very careful not to lose it unless in trade because it is so powerful.
- Unlike international chess, the knight cannot move if there is a piece on the space directly adjacent to it. This is an important strategy point because you can use a piece to "block" a knight and then attack him.
- The general's "fly" ability is really useful in the end of the game when there are few pieces left on the board because you can cover an entire column thus making checkmate a lot easier.
In Chinese chess if your opponent messes up and leaves himself in check, you don't have to let him take the move back, you just kill his general and win. Also if your pawn reaches the other end, nothing happens- he cannot move backwards but only side to side across the end line. There is no piece recovery in Chinese chess.
A normal opening move is to move one of your cannons to the center of the board to threaten the pawn in front of the opponent's general. On your second move you then move a knight to cover your own front-center pawn.
General strategy: generally speaking, at the beginning of the game you re-structure the formation of your pieces for defense and then use one or two pieces to attack. The main attacking pieces are the chariot, the cannon and the knight but pawns also play a role. Two cannons arranged in a row is a very strong formation, as is a cannon behind a chariot or some other combination of cannons and chariots.
Also it's important not to do too much trading of pieces, as if you do, you may end up with only defensive pieces(elephants and scholars) and pawns and you will not be able to win.
Supposedly there are similar Japanese and Korean versions of Chinese chess. A korean kid I knew in high school knew how to play.