Mancala World
Other Names: Aemeibushishi,
Ceelmeiyuqmeiji, Lildvqkojji
First Description: Vernon
A. Eagle, 1995
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Pussa Kanawa
Region: China (Yunnan)

Ceelkoqyuqkoqiji (probably "Goat hole sheep hole walking") is played by the Naxi, Lijiang Prefecture, Yunnan. The three informants (two men and one woman) interviewed by Vernon Eagle in May 1992 and May 1993 lived in Lonquan village, Baisha Township. Other names include Aemeibushishi ("the hen is in her nest"), Ceelmeiyuqmeiji ("nanny-goats") and Lildvqkojji ("stone, hole, walking"). Related games are Bay Khom (Cambodia) and Ô Ăn Quan (Vietnam).

The Naxi are an ethnic group inhabiting the foothills of the Himalayas in the northwestern part of Yunnan Province, as well as the southwestern part of Sichuan Province, which are thought to have come originally from Tibet and, until recently, maintained overland trading links with Lhasa and India. They have a total population of about 300,000 people.


The board has five regular holes per row and, in addition, a bigger storehole at each end. The small holes are called kolosso and the big ones kolomei. Each player owns the store to his right.

The regular holes contain five small stones (lubasso) at the outset. Each store contains one large stone, which slightly differ in size. The larger stone is called mu (Chinese for "female"), the smaller one gong (Chinese: "male").


Initial Position

General Gameplay

The first player of each round is determined by a Naxi variant of Rock, Paper, Scissors: the players simultaneously throw out either thumb ("frog"), index finger ("snake"), or little finger ("centipede") of their right hands. Snake beats frog, frog beats centipede, which in turn beats snake.

On his turn a player picks up the contents of one of his regular holes and distributes the stones, one by one, in either direction on the following holes including both stores. The direction cannot be changed during the turn.

The first lap of a move may never begin from a store.

When the last stown is sown, the contents of the next hole are distributed in another lap. This can be too a large stone, which has never left his store.

Any stone dropped into a store (whether it be a small or a large one) is immediately taken aside and in effect has been captured by the owner of the store. Therefore a store is always empty, except at the beginning when it still contains a large stone, which never left it.

The turn ends when the last stone falls into a hole, which is followed by an empty one.

If the hole following the empty one is occupied after the sowing has ended, its contents are captured.

If the hole of which the contents were captured is followed first by an empty one and then by an occupied hole, its contents are also captured. This continues until the last hole is either followed by two empty holes or a non-empty hole.

The captured stones are removed from the board and set aside until the game is finished.

The large stones are sown and captured just like the small stones. If a hole contained both large and small stones, they can be sown in any order.

Whenever a player has nothing left in his small holes he may huelshe, by placing a single stone from his own captures into each of his empty holes and then continue to play. If there is still a large stone in its original store, huelshe is obligatory, other the player can decline to huelshe and thus end the game. It is permitted to huelshe even if a player hasn't got enough stones to fill each hole. Then he must fill as many as he can in a consecutive manner without gaps, but otherwise he can freely choose them.

The round ends when a player has no legal move and doesn't want to huelshe. The remaining pieces are captured by his adversary.

The round is won by the player who got more points: a lubasso counts one point, the gong is worth six and the mu is worth seven.


Ceelkoqyuqkoqiji is usually played in rounds. The large stones must be bought back, if they aren't belong to their original owners (again the gong is worth six and the mu seven lubasso).

The players try to refill their holes and a player who hasn't enough stones must borrow from his opponent. The other player may not refuse to lend. The debt is remembered and can accumulate from round to round. If a player's debt reaches five, he is obliged to sell one of his regular holes. The seller may choose which one he sells and, in return, he receives five stones.

Sold holes function in the same way as a store. It stays always empty and anything sown into them is immediately taken by its new owner. It is also empty at the start of a new round and on huelshe nothing is placed into them by either player.

Sold holes can be bought back by the original player, if he gets enough stones (captured and/or borrowed) at the end of a round and his opponent may not refuse the transaction.

The game can be continued until one player is vanquished, that is, he cannot fill even one of his holes, or an agreed number of rounds.


Eagle described two variants of the game:

  • Sometimes the value of the mu and gong is agreed to be both five points.
  • A more challinging game, according to one informant, is to play with seven regular holes and seven stones per hole. The large stones are then valued at seven.


Eagle, V. A.
On Some Newly Described Mancala Games from Yunnan Province, China, and the Definition of a Genus in the Family of Mancala Games. In: Voogt, A. J. de (Ed.). New Approaches to Board Games Research: Asian Origins and Perspectives. Working Paper Series 3. IIAS, Leiden (Netherlands) 1995, 48-61.


© Ralf Gering
Under the CC by-sa 2.5 license.