Click here for Part 1
A Chinese Way of Seeing the World Part 2 of 8
The struggle between the white and black stones is played out on a surface with 19 horizontal and 19 vertical lines (chessboard, weiqipan or goban in Japanese), the intersections of which form the 361 places on which, in turn, the two adversaries place their stones, in order to seize spaces.
Although, in contrast with xiangqi (Chinese chess, which much more closely resembles the Western game of chess, and which is widely played in
What exactly is this entity? People often speak of an esoteric expression of the Chinese soul:
The first hypothesis is that weiqi was invented by the military strategists of the periods of the Springs and Autumns (Chunqiu, 770-476 BC) and of the Warring Kingdoms (Zhanguo, 475-221 BC), somewhat later than the game of xiangqi, primitive versions of which are estimated to date back to the Zhou dynasty (11th to 7th centuries BC). The first written mention of weiqi is indeed found in the in one of the Chinese Classics, the Zuozhuan, which dates back to the 5th century BC. Moreover, some historians of the Tang dynasty (618-917) are said to have voiced this idea as to the similarity of the concepts employed by the strategists of the Warring Kingdoms and by the weiqi masters: "weiqi proceeds from the path of harassment, feint, combat and camouflage".
Mengzi, for his part, gives us to understand that weiqi is even older since he mentions Yiqiui as being a weiqi grand master at the time of the Warring Kingdoms, which is attested to by all the contemporary historians of the game. Moreover, the expression he uses, "master" - literally "the best"- implies terms of comparison and an established system of tournaments and apprenticeship which rule out too recent origins.
The principles of The Art of War, attributed to Sun Wu, better known under the name of Sunzi, are also related to the practice of weiqi; on the level of structure, the black stones confront the white on a restricted terrain which is closely contested and has vital points; in practice, the balance and direction of the forces engaged are carried out according to a strategy which is not immutable, and while trickery is allowed, and strategy essential, there is a moral code which must be obeyed: "Do not cut off an enemy in retreat", "An army surrounded must be left a way out", "Do not push to the limit an army at bay"... What is valid for the defense of the country applies also to goban.
Numerous authors of chess manuals down the centuries were to refer to Sunzi's Art of War to clarify the tactics and subtleties of the game, and to comment on the games already played. During the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), Huan Tan wrote: "In our day there is the game of weiqi, which can also be called the art of war".
More recently Boorman has established the relationship between the tactics used by Mao during the years of struggle against the Japanese and the Kuomintang (the Nationalist Party), the military strategies of Sunzi and the traditional strategies of weiqi. Boorman tells us:
There has certainly been interaction, since from the time of the Han, weiqi has been the favorite game of the learned and of the generals, but without it being possible to prove that the game sprang from the brains of the military at the time of the Warring Kingdoms. In fact one may conclude that weiqi was once, in its "primitive" form, a pastime played with stones on lines drawn in the sand, such as there have been in all cultures in all parts of the world. It may have become more refined at the time of the Springs and Autumns. It may have taken on its familiar form at the time of the Warring Kingdoms, with its dynamics which recall the social dynamics of that period, when wars followed on wars. It may have become the favorite pastime of generals and soldiers, the familiar leisure activity of the military and ruling class.
The second hypothesis, much more widespread in society and literature  maintains that weiqi was invented by the mythical Emperor Yao (2300 BC) in order to refine the intellectual and moral qualities of his son Danzhu. It is written in the official register of the Qin (221-207 BC) that: "
Pernickety historians give little credibility to this version, which brings a mythological character into play. What matters is that it is frequently quoted in order, on the one hand, to attest to the antiquity of the origins of weiqi (5000 years!), and on the other, to emphasize its formative side and its nobility. What we should bear in mind above all is the use made of this "legend"... It helps to anchor the legitimacy of weiqi in a country whose system of thought and political regime sought for some time to make the game immoral. As soon as the discourse emphasizes the healthy and formative side of this art which is classified in
4. Duan is the Chinese pronunciation of the better-known Japanese word "dan", which represents the various minor grades in karate and judo. Back to text
5. Yang Guoqing, " Lun weiqi yu Zhongguo gudai sixiang wenhua liupai " ("Remarks on weiqi and the schools of thought in ancient
6. Sitong Lin, " Lun Zhongguo weiqi de minzuxing tezheng " (Remarks on the national characteristics of weiqi in
7. Pascal Reysset Le Go aux sources de l'avenir (Go At The Sources Of The Future),
8. More recently, Ma Xiaochun, 9th dan and world champion in 1995, wrote a work entitled The thirty-six stratagems applied to Go, 1990, p. 97. Back to text
9. Scott A. Boorman, Go et Mao; pour une étude de la stratégie maoïste en termes de jeu de go (Go and Mao; Towards A Maoist Strategy In Terms Of The Game Of Go), Paris, Seuil, 1972, p. 14. Back to text
10. See: Huang Jun, Yiren zhuan (Stories of Chess Masters), Changsha, Yuelu shushe, 1985; Lin Sitong, " Lun Zhongguo weiqi de minzuxing tezheng " (Remarks On The National Characteristics Of Weiki In China), in Tiyu wenshi, n° .3, 1991, pp. 13-16; Ma Guojun, Zhonghua chuantong youxi daquan (The Big Traditional Chinese Game Collection), Beijing, Nongcun duwu chubanshe, 1990. Back to text