Go, I-Go and Wei-ch'i

It is traditionally supposed that GO was invented by the Emperor Yao, who lived some 2,350 years before Christ. This Emperor had a son whose name was Tan-Chu. He was not exactly a promising youth, and his father, the Emperor Tao, proposed by means of this game to train his mind and teach him to think.

The first definite mention of the game in literature is made by Confucius (about 600 B.C.), who says: "There are many who think only of eating without applying their mind for the entire day to any occupation. What a Life! Is not there Wei-Chi? To play at Wei-Chi is much better than doing nothing." This mention is of interest, because it shows that even in these early times GO was extensively played and was a recognized relaxation.

Another early reference is by Meng Tzu, " the divine Mencias," who, about 460 B.C., wrote of GO: "Amongst the ancient players Yeh-Chu was considered the greatest of all." Recognition by this great philosopher, a disciple of Confucian School, shows us that GO was held in great consideration, and that good players were, even in those early days, much in the public eye.

Unfortunately, no books on the game, nor any collection of actual games played by ancients, have reached us. The literature of GO begins only with the dynasty of the Tang (1000 years A.D.), and has its maximum development at the time of the dynasty of the Tsing in the seventeenth century.

We know that during the Tang dynasty (A.D. 1000) the game was held in such esteem that the Emperors gave special honorary titles and even paid posts to the champions.

It is usual to find in collections of Chinese art of this time, either on a scroll, or on a vase, or over a screen, pictures of men playing GO, and we find that it is constantly referred to in contemporary literature.

Tournaments were frequent, the champions were made to play at the court of high officials, and the winner was proclaimed "the first hand of the Empire."

Click here for an article written at the request of a curator in the British Museum when Jan van der Steen pointed out errors in a display of ancient games a few years ago. Very informative.

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