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Go: an ancient board game of the mind

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The ancient harp, go (or weiqi), calligraphy, and traditional Chinese painting are the four traditional arts loved by ancient Chinese ladies and gentlemen. [1] Each type of art has its respective long history of development and requires a profound knowledge to master it. The game of go (weiqi) was recorded as early as the Warring States period. Its colors are black and white and there are 180 pieces on each side. An elderly player usually takes the black Weiqi pieces and makes the first move. In ancient China there were 13 or15 or 17 circles on the chessboard. In the Tang Dynasty it developed into 19 circles.

According to Chapter 37 of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, when Zhuge Liang was still living in seclusion in Longzhong, the local farmers often recited a poem written by him: “The heaven is like a dome while the earth is like a chessboard. Men on the chessboard are either on the black or the white side, fighting each other. The gracious players in the game are composed and calm while the greedy players always find themselves busy calculating each move. Among them there is a man that has chosen a secluded life in Nan Yang who cannot get enough satisfaction in napping in peace.” The game of go (weiqi) is essentially a miniature representation of society, of mankind or of a man’s life.

[1] The “chess” here refers to “Weiqi”, a Chinese board game played between two players who alternately place black and white stones on a board checkered by 19 vertical lines and 19 horizontal lines in an attempt to enclose the larger area on the board. Weiqi was spread to Japan during the Sui Dynasty and was named “Go”.

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