the majestic beauty of the setting frames an activity which at first
seems incongruous. You can see between the seated gentlemen
what looks like a short pedestal with black and white pebbles scattered
atop; the attention of each person is focused on the ancient game of Go.
The game is played by the alternate placement of stones on a two
dimensional grid, each player attempting to outmaneuver the opponent
and hence gain control of the larger portion of the grid.
There are many stories relating to the origin of Go. It is generally agreed to have developed in China over three thousand years ago. The process of play is thought by some to have evolved from one of the divination techniques used with the Chinese classical text I Ching, whereby stones would be randomly scattered on a grid and the resultant formation matched to one of the hexagrams in the text, indicating a respective prognostication. The sixty-four hexagrams of I Ching represent combinations of the eight elements of universe; each of the eight elements are distinct permutations of the fundamental forces of yin and yang. Recognizing the universal poetry of I Ching and its correlation to the nature of Go, the game depicted in the painting becomes a sublime representation of man and nature, perfectly complementing the setting.
Over time, Chinese culture placed Go as one of the "Four Accomplishments" of a gentleman, the other three being painting, calligraphy and lute playing. The game eventually spread to other regions. In Japan, the game was introduced by missionaries returning from China. Go was developed to a very high level there, becoming one of the essential skills of a samurai, and was restricted to the nobility in order to prevent commoners from understanding military strategy. Today Go is practiced professionally primarily in Japan, China and Korea, and by amateurs throughout the world.
I was introduced to Go by my good friend Michael Hayman, who is a connoisseur of games. I play regularly at the Crane's Nest Go Club in New Orleans and online at the Kiseido Go Server, and am a member of the American Go Association.
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