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Sato Tadanobu, a Samurai of the Twelfth Century, defending himself with a "goban," when attacked by his enemies Frontispiece
Playing Go 22
HISTORY OF THE GAME
The game of Go is probably the oldest of all known games. It was played by the Chinese from earliest antiquity, and has been played in its present form by the Japanese for over eleven centuries, but while the game originated in China, the Japanese have far surpassed the Chinese in skill at the game, and it has come to be regarded in Japan as their national game.
In the old Chinese works three persons are named as the originators of the game, but in Japan its invention is commonly attributed to only one of these. This man is the Chinese emperor Shun, who reigned from 2255 to 2206 B.c. It is said that this emperor invented the game in order to strengthen the weak mind of his son Shang Kiun. By others the invention of the game is attributed to the predecessor of Shun, the emperor Yao, who reigned from 2357 to 2256 B.c. If this theory is correct it would make the game about forty-two hundred years old. The third theory is that Wu, a vassal of the Chinese emperor Kieh Kwei (1818— 1767 B.c.) invented the game of Go. To the same man is often attributed the invention of games of cards. It would seem that this last theory is the most credible, because it would make the invention more recent, and because the inventor is said to have been a vassal and not an emperor.
Whatever may be the truth in regard to the origin of the game, it is perfectly certain that Go was already known in China in early antiquity. In' old Chinese works, of which the oldest is dated about a thousand years before Christ, a game which can be easily recognized as Go is mentioned casually, so that at that time it must have been well known.
. , We are told also that in China somewhere about 200 B.c., poetry and Go went hand in hand, and were in "high favor, and a poet, Bayu, who lived about the year 240 A.d., made himself famous through poems in which ,he sang the praises of the game.
It is remarkable that in the old books it is stated that in the year 300 A.d. a man by the name of Osan was so skilled in Go that he could take all the stones from the board after the game had been finished and then play it over from memory. This is of interest also as showing that in the course of time playing the game has had the effect of strengthening the memory of Go players, because there are now hundreds of players in Japan who can replace a game move for move after it has been disarranged. It is in fact the customary thing for a teacher of the game to play the game over in that way in order to criticise the moves made by the student.
Anecdotes have come down to us from the old Chinese times in regard to the game, of which we will mention only one, which shows how highly it was esteemed.
Sha An, a man who lived in the time of the Tsin Dynasty (265-419 A.d.), carried on a war with his nephew Sha Gen. Growing tired of taking life, they left the victory to be decided by a game of Go, which they played against each other.