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The esteem in which players were held in the old Chinese times is also shown by the titles with which they were honored; to wit, "Kisei" or "Ki Shing," from "Ki," meaning Go, and "Sei," a holy man, and "Shing," magician or
In the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-906 A.D.), and again during the Sung Dynasty (960-1126 A.D.), the first books about Go were written. The game then flourished in China, and there were then many distinguished players in that country.
According to the Japanese reckoning of time, Go was introduced into Japan in the period Tem pyo, during the reign of the emperor Shomu, which according to the Chinese records was the thirteenth year of the period Tien Tao, and during the reign of the emperor Huan Tsung. According to our calendar this would be about the year 735 A.D.
A man otherwise well known in the history of Japan, Kibi Daijin, was sent as an envoy to China in that year, and it is said that he brought the game back with him to Japan.
Go may have been known in Japan before that date, but at any rate it must have been known about this time, for in the seventh month of the tenth year of the period Tem pyo (A.D. 738), we are told that a Japanese nobleman named Kumoshi was playing Go with another nobleman named Adzumabito, and that in a quarrel resulting from the game Kumoshi killed Adzumabito with his sword.
On its introduction into Japan a new era opened in the development of the game, but at first it spread very slowly, and it is mentioned a hundred years later that the
number of Go players among the nobility (and to them the knowledge of the game was entirely confined) was very small indeed.
In the period called Kasho (848-851 A.D.), and in Nin Ju (851-854 A.D.), a Japanese prince dwelt in China, and was there taught the game by the best player in China. The following anecdote is told in regard to this prince: that in order to do him honor the Chinese allowed him to meet the best players, and in order to cope with them he hit upon the idea of placing his stones exactly in the same way as those of his opponent; that is to say, when his opponent placed a stone at any point, he would place his stone on a point symmetrically opposite, and in that way he is said to have won. In regard to this anecdote it may be said that the Chinese must have been very weak players, or they would speedily have found means of overcoming this method of defense.
We next hear that in the year 850 a Japanese named Wakino became famous as a great devotee of the game. He played continuously day and night, and became so engrossed in the game that he forgot everything else absolutely.
In the next two centuries the knowledge of the game did not extend beyond the court at Kioto. Indeed, it appears that it was forbidden to play Go anywhere else than at court. At all events we are told that in the period called Otoku (1084-1087 A.D.) the Prince of Dewa, whose name was Kiowara no Mahira, secretly introduced the game into the province of Oshu, and played there with his vassals. From that time not only the number of the nobility who played the game increased rapidly, but the common people as well began to take it up.
Our frontispiece illustrates an incident which is said to have occurred about this time in the city of Kamakura. A samurai named Sato Tadanobu, who was a vassal of Yoshitsune, a brother of Yoritomo, the first Shogun of Japan, was playing Go in his house when he was suddenly attacked by his enemies, and he is depicted using the "Goban" as a weapon wherewith to defend himself. The print is by Kuniyoshi, and is one of a series the title of which might be translated as "Our Favorite Hero Series." The "Go ban," "Go ishi," and "Go tsubo" look precisely like those which are at present in use, but Kuniyoshi probably represented the type in use in his day and not in the time of Yoritomo, as it is pretty well settled that in the early times the board was smaller.
There is also a story which comes down from the Kamakura period in regard to Hojo Yoshitoki. He is said to have been playing Go with a guest at the moment that news arrived of the uprising of Wada Yoshimori. Yoshitoki is said to have first finished the game in perfect calmness before he thought of his measures for subduing the revolution. This was in the first year of Kempo, or 1213 A.D.
In the beginning of the thirteenth century we find that Go was widely known in the samurai class, and was played with zeal. At that time everybody who went to war, from the most famous general down to the meanest soldier, played the game. The board and stones were carried with them to the field of battle, and as soon as the battle was over, they were brought out, and the friendly strife began. Many of the monks and poets of that period also had a taste for Go, and several of them are mentioned as celebrated Go players.
All three of the great Japanese generals, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Iyeyasu, were devotees of the game. It is related that Nobunaga came to Kioto in the tenth year of Ten Sho, 1582 A.D., and lived in the Honnoji Temple. One night the celebrated Go player, Sansha, of whom more hereafter, came and played with him until midnight. Sansha had scarcely taken his departure when the uprising of Akechi Mitsuhide broke out.
In the periods Genki (1570-1572), Ten Sho (1573-1591) until Keicho (1596–1614), and Gen Wa (1615–1623), there were many celebrated players among the monks, poets, farmers and tradespeople. They were called to the courts of the daimios and to the halls of the nobles, either in order that the nobility might play with them, or more frequently merely to exhibit their skill at the game. This custom existed up to the time of the fall of the Shogunate.
That the Japanese could find pleasure in merely watching a game that is so abstract in its nature and so difficult to understand is evidence of the fact that they were then a highly cultivated people intellectually. We find nothing like it in this country except in the narrowest Chess circles.
In the beginning of the seventeenth century Go attained such a high development that there appeared a series of expert players who far surpassed anything known before. Of these the most famous were Honinbo Sansha Hoin, Nakamura Doseki, Hayashi Rigen, Inouye Inseki, and Yasui Santetsu.
Sansha was the son of a merchant of Kioto. When he was nine years old he shaved his head, named himself Nikkai, and became a Buddhist monk in the Temple of Shokokuji, which was one of the principal temples of the
Nichi Ren sect in Kioto. From his early life Sansha was very skilful at the game, and upon giving up his profession as a monk, he-obtained permission to institute a school of Go players, and he then took the name of Honinbo Sansha. He was on terms of familiar intercourse with Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Iyeyasu, often accompanied them on their travels and campaigns, and was present at many of the battles of that troublous epoch.
The school of Go which Honinbo opened, however, was merely a private undertaking. The first State institution in which Go was taught was founded by Hideyoshi in the period Ten Sho (1573-1591), but it seems to have had a short existence, and the permanent institution which lasted until the fall of the Shogunate was founded by the successor of Hideyoshi, Iyeyasu. Iyeyasu became Shogun in the year 1603, and the foundation of the Go Academy or "Go In," as the Japanese call it, must have occurred soon after he ascended the throne. Honinbo Sansha, who was still the best Go player in Japan, was named as the head of the institution. The other most skilful masters were installed as professors with good salaries. To Honinbo Sansha, the director, was given 350 tsubo of land (a tsubo is as big as two Japanese mats or tatami, and is therefore six feet square), and an annual revenue of 200 koku of rice (a koku is a little more than five bushels). Men of the best intelligence could now dedicate themselves to the education of students and the further development of the game, freed from the cares of earning a livelihood. In both respects the institute was eminently successful. Its graduates were much more skilful than the previous generation of Go players living in the land. They devoted themselves en