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Dueling it Out on a Three Feet Wide Board
Some compare the theory of Weiqi to the Art of War. Others compare it to the way of proper conduct. Indeed, the theory can be applied to a vast variety of things. During the Nan Dynasty, Emperor Liang Yuan Di, Xiao Yi was the king of Xiangdong. In the third year of Tai Qing, he led an expedition army against the king of Hedong, Xiao Yu (his brother). Xiao Yu's slogan against this expedition was, "Xiangdong has only one eye." Xiao Yi lost an eye during his childhood and Xiao Yu used a Go proverb to mock Xiao Yi, signaling that with one eye, he is bound to die. In Han Yu Ben Ji of Shi Ji, it was mentioned that Han Yu and Liu Bang divided China by signing a treaty that gave the territory west of Hong Gou to Liu Bang and east of Hong Gou to Han Yu. Analogies have often been drawn between this incident and seki or dual lives that occur on a Go board. Huang Tingjiang of Bei Song Dynasty wrote the following famous poem, "When I am free and have time to rest; I like to play Weiqi and chat. My heart is anxious like a spider web floating in the sky; My body is still like a cricket transforming into a withered branch. Xiang Yi had one eye but he lived; a dual-live was persisting but won by Liu Bang, who said I value every second of the day? I do not even know the time had passed midnight!"
This is indeed a well-written poem. However, it's a bit difficult to tell if one is applying stratagems to Go, or is it the other way around. This poem has been well received. Deng Yuan Hui of Qing Dynasty, praised Huang's poem as one of the best, with profound meaning.
As early as the Dong Han Dynasty, two philosophers stressed the analogies between Weiqi and war maxims. Hen Tan said in Xin Lun, "There is the game of Weiqi, or the game of war. Best players deploy their troops effectively, and take advantage of the whole board position. Mid-level players are good in taking profits through attacking. Weak players take small profits by defending their groups and making life." Ma Yong also wrote, "The game of Weiqi is a game of warfare, turning the three foot board into a battlefield. When the soldiers on each side face each other, it looks like they are evenly matched. Clumsy strategies are useless and the weak will certainly perish." From this, it is plausible that ancient Chinese (as early as the Han and Wei Dynasties) used Weiqi to simulate warfare, much like modern generals analyze battles on a computer screen.
Not only can Weiqi give insight to fighting a war, it can also be used to govern a country. In Xin Wu Dai Shi, edited by Auyang Xiu of Bei Song Dynasty, it was written, "The secret to have a peaceful country that is free of rebellions can be learnt from Weiqi. One must know all the right plays in the right locations at the right time." Besides stratagems, Weiqi is also referred to in ancient literatures as the symbol for power. There is a saying, "A single play that claims victory", which has been used to describe individuals who claimed kingship. In the Legend of Tang, there is a chapter called the "Bearded Musketeer", which mentioned the story of claiming kingship on the Weiqi board, instead of the battlefield. During the end of the Sui Dynasty, there were three musketeers, known as Li Jin, Hong Fu Nu, and the Bearded Musketeer. All of them had great ambitions, especially the Bearded Musketeer who wanted to be king. A sorcerer told the Bearded Musketeer that the king's presence can be felt in Tai Yuan. He then traveled to Tai Yuan with Li Jin and Hong Fu Nu. At Tai Yuan, they heard that the son of Li Yuan (a judge) called Li Shiming was a person of great charisma, and asked another judge Liu Wen to arrange for their meeting. The Bearded Musketeer pretended that he wanted to challenge Li Shiming in Weiqi, but instead, he wanted to explore Li who might fight over the kingship with him. When the Bearded Musketeer finally met Li, he found him of great character and very friendly. The Bearded Musketeer placed a stone at the star point and shouted, "I'll take the four corners of the world!" (See cover artwork with Li playing go against the Bearded Musketeer.) Li did not extend along the side of the board but placed a stone right in the center (Tengen) and said, "I'll capture the victory with one play!" Everyone was surprised by this unusual play. The Bearded Musketeer realized immediately that Li had what it takes to become a king. He resigned by saying, "I lost! One mistake cost me the game. What can I say." He then left Tai Yuan and gave up his plan of becoming the king. Indeed, after a few years, Li became the king of China, known as the Tai Zhong, the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty.
The game of Go normally starts from the corners with literally thousands of josekis. However, not too many people will play at the center before occupying the corners and sides. Why the Bearded Musketeer resigned may be puzzling to the reader, because playing recklessly at the center does not reflect the character of a king who has to rule over the entire country. However Li wasn't just any king. He established the Tang Dynasty single-handedly. So for him, it might be okay to play an unorthodox play. Actually the play at Tengen is like a king sitting in the center, overseeing the entire world (board)!Copyright Yutopian Enterprises 1999.
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