You are on page 1of 9

LEARN WEIQI (GO), THE HARMONY CULTURE GAME, FOR FUN

Presenter: Francis C W Fung, Ph.D., Director General, World Harmony Organization


Education: B.Sc. Aeronautical Engineering, Brown University
M.S. Fluid Mechanics, Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D. Aerospace Engineering, University of Notre Dame

From Shibumi, bestseller by Trevanian


Those interested in impressing others with their intelligence play chess. Those who
would settle for being chic play backgammon. Those who wish to become individuals of
quality, take up Go [Weiqi].

Weiqi, the ancient Asian chess game, is all about harmony philosophy and extending
influence by people soft power. It is about sharing through extending influence and not
confrontation. Also known as GO in some parts of the world, Weiqi is played by two
with 361 equally ranked black and white stones (influences). Players take turns to deploy
a stone of their color one at a time to gain more presence (influence) on a board with
19X19 horizontal and vertical intersecting lines (in the full version) representing potential
points of influence. The objective is to extend influences across the playing board, and
not to annihilate the opponent’s influence or pieces, leading to capturing the king as in
western chess. When equally matched, players usually win by only a few extra stones on
the board.

Weiqi is easy to learn and fun to play, but hard to play well. It requires good mental
discipline, a deep philosophical attitude, and a multi-campaign mentality. Unlike western
chess, the best known computer program still loses to the best Weiqi human player,
despite the advances of computer programming. Western chess is basically a game of
attack in which you must take your fight to the enemy to win; you will not win just
defending. In contrast, with Weiqi’s objective of spreading influence, one generally only
captures opponents if it is for strategic locations and when in ones acquired sphere of
influence. It is never efficient to capture just for capture’s sake.

According to tradition, Weiqi was thought to have been invented by the first legendary
sage king of China, the great Yao Shun, to teach his son to be a future wise king. To extol
the harmony philosophy of Yao Shun, Confucius said in the Classic Zhongyong, “Great
indeed is the wisdom of Shun! Shun likes to ask and to investigate the words of those
who are close to him. He omits the bad and propagates the good. He holds fast the two
extremes and uses the in-between for the people. This is what makes him Shun!” In
Confucius’ harmony philosophy, from the two extremes comes the in-between. Only
where there is a third that is the in-between of the two can the dispute be resolved and
harmony be achieved. When there is no third, no in-between, the two will compete and
fight with each other. This will lead to mutual destruction and not harmony.

In ancient China, Weiqi was given the second most important position as the “must
learn” discipline, along with Ku Zeng, poetry, and calligraphy, for accomplished
scholars. Both Confucius and Lao Tze considered playing Weiqi as an important
accomplishment for a Confucian scholar. In Asia there were also important talented
ladies recorded in history who excelled in playing Weiqi. Today it is played for fun and
big prize money. In modern Japan, Weiqi has attracted as many amateur female as well
as male players.

In modern days, among some learned circles in both East and West, Weiqi is considered
as must training of business acumen for prospective entrepreneurs, along with reading
Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”. It is also a recommended game at the U.S. Military Academy at
West Point for counterterrorist influence training. For today’s multilateral world, Weiqi
is essential training for our youth to learn how to share in a multi-ethnic and multicultural
planet. Weiqi exercises both sides of our brains in spatial and analytical skills and
cultivates our use of nonconfrontational soft approaches. It will be a desirable skill that
will enable us to live in harmony with ourselves and with the world around us. It is a
diplomat’s game to learn for the 21st century multilateral world.

In this workshop, we will do a lot of practice playing between beginner students guided
by experienced teacher players. By the end of this short workshop, you will have a
strong feeling of accomplishment in playing and will come away with a good sense of
Weiqi harmony culture. Ultimately, the play of Weiqi is a shared negotiation and not
simply outright conquest nor religious influence combined with military power, as in
Western chess.

— photo from Wikipedia

Dr. Fung is an aerospace engineer by profession. His multidiscipline experience includes


energy and harmony research, U.S. – China technology transfer, academic teaching of
fluid mechanics, international commerce, and creative thinking. As Director General of
the World Harmony Organization, he is a prolific writer. His articles on Harmony
Renaissance, Harmony Culture, Harmony Diplomacy, Harmony Governance, and
Harmony Faith appear regularly worldwide on leading international media and websites.
BEGINNER WEIQI (GO) AND INTERACTIVE PLAYING

THE CLASS WILL BE CONDUCTED IN ENGLISH WITH BOTH ENGLISH AND CHINESE
TERMS. STUDENTS WILL BE GIVEN A LOT OF OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY WEIQI WITH
TEACHER GUIDANCE. THROUGHOUT THE COURSE, WEIQI PHILOSOPHY WILL BE
DISCUSSED BY STUDENT PARTICIPATION USING KNOWLEDGE LEARNED FROM
THE CLASS AND OUTSIDE READING.

THE CLASSES WILL BE CONDUCTED WITH INTERACTIVE EXAMPLES AND


LECTURES ON HISTORY AND THE WEIQI HARMONY PHILOSOPHY. (FOR
EXAMPLES, SEE INTRODUCTION AND WEIQI QUOTABLE VIEWS HANDOUT.)

STUDENTS WILL BE GIVEN EXERCISES TO PRACTICE AFTER CLASSES.


1) WEIQI AND PHILOSOPHY INTRODUCTION; LEARN TO MAKE A WEIQI
BOARD
2) THE RULES OF WEIQI AND DEMONSTRATION GAMES
3) ELEMENTARY TACTICS AND STRATEGY
4) GRAND STRATEGY AND PLAYING
5) EXAMPLE GAMES WITH COMMENTARY AND INTERACTIVE TEACHING
6) CLASS TOURNAMENT AND SPEECH CONTEST; PRIZE AWARDS FOR
TOURNAMENT, SPEECH, AND PARTICIPATION WINNERS.

THREE EQUAL HONOR CLASS PRIZES OF YOUNZI CHESS STONES SETS WITH
WOODEN BOWLS WILL BE AWARDED TO THREE TOP-PERFORMING STUDENTS.
YOUNZI STONES ARE CLASSIC CHINESE STONES FROM YUNNAN PROVINCE USED
IN CHINESE WEIQI TOURNAMENTS. PRIZES WILL BE DONATED BY CLASS
SPONSOR.

THE SPEECH COMPETITION TOPIC WILL BE “WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM


PLAYING WEIQI”, A WRITTEN SPEECH OF ABOUT 5 MINUTES. WINNER WILL BE
SELECTED BY STUDENT VOTING. THE SECOND EQUAL PRIZE FOR TOP CLASS
PARTICIPATION AND MOST HELPFUL STUDENT WILL ALSO BE SELECTED BY
STUDENT VOTING. THE TOURNAMENT WINNER WILL BE AWARDED THE
REMAINING WEIQI SET.

THE LAST CLASS WILL BE THE AWARD CEREMONY WHEN THE TOP THREE
SELECTED SPEECHES WILL BE DELIVERED. PARENTS OF THE CLASS STUDENTS
ARE INVITED TO ATTEND.

Francis C W Fung, Ph.D.


Director General
World Harmony Organization
San Francisco, CA
Edited by James C Townsend, Ph.D.
Director, World Harmony Organization
francis@worldharmonyorg.net
What is GO?

Viewpoints
. . . [it is] something unearthly . . . If there are sentient beings on other planets, then they
play Go.
– Emanuel Lasker, chess grandmaster

Go uses the most elemental materials and concepts -- line and circle, wood and stone,
black and white -- combining them with simple rules to generate subtle strategies and
complex tactics that stagger the imagination.
– Iwamoto Kaoru, 9-dan professional Go player and former Honinbo title holder

There are on the Go board 360 intersections plus one. The number one is supreme and
gives rise to the other numbers because it occupies the ultimate position and governs the
four quarters. 360 represents the number of days in the [lunar] year. The division of the
Go board into four quarters symbolizes the four seasons. The 72 points on the
circumference represent the [five-day] weeks of the [Chinese lunar] calendar. The
balance of Yin and Yang is the model for the equal division of the 360 stones into black
and white.
– From The Classic of Go, by Chang Nui (Published between 1049 and 1054)

The board has to be square, for it signifies the Earth, and its right angles signify
uprightness. The pieces of the two sides are yellow and black; this difference signifies the
Yin and the Yang — scattered in groups all over the board, they represent the heavenly
bodies. These significances being manifest, it is up to the players to make the moves, and
this is connected with kingship. Following what the rules permit, both opponents are
subject to them — this is the rigor of the Tao.
– Pan Ku, 1st century historian
Beyond being merely a game, to enthusiasts Go can take on other meanings: of a nature
analogous with life, an intense meditation, a mirror of one’s personality, an exercise in
abstract reasoning, or, when played well, a beautiful art in which Black and White dance
across the board in delicate balance.
– Terry Benson

Unlike chess and its different pieces and complicated rules, Go is played with black and
white stones equal in value, seemingly making it compatible with the binary nature of
computers. Since the aim of a move is to control the most territory, the optimal move
yields the maximum amount of territory — a simple counting procedure and a chore
computers excel at. Yet in spite of the efforts of the world’s best programmers over the
last 30 years, the level of computer Go remains about that of a human who has studied
Go for a month.
– Richard Bozulich

Studying go is a wonderful way to develop both the creative as well as the logical
abilities of children because to play it both sides of the brain are necessary.
– Cho Chikun, among the world’s strongest players and one of the three great
prodigies in Go history

The difference between a stone played on one intersection rather than on an adjacent
neighbor is insignificant to the uninitiated. The master of Go, though, sees it as all the
difference between a flower and a cinderblock. Certain plays resonate with a balletic
grace, others clunk, hopelessly awkward, and to fail at making the distinction is a bit like
confusing the ping of a Limoges platter with the clink of a Burger King Smurfs tumbler.
– From The Challenge of Go: Esoteric Granddaddy of Board Games, by Dave Lowry

That play of black upon white, white upon black, has the intent and takes the form of
creative art. It has in it a flow of the spirit and a harmony of music. Everything is lost
when suddenly a false note is struck, or one party in a duet suddenly launches forth on an
eccentric flight of his own. A masterpiece of a game can be ruined by insensitivity to the
feelings of an adversary.
– From The Master of Go, by Yasunari Kawabata, winner of the Nobel Prize for
Literature

Go is to Western chess what philosophy is to double entry accounting.


– From Shibumi, bestseller by Trevanian

Those interested in impressing others with their intelligence play chess. Those who
would settle for being chic play backgammon. Those who wish to become individuals of
quality, take up Go.
– Microcomputer Executive and an expert player, when asked to compare Go with
other games

Monks who have a talent for it play go with women and become their lovers.
– Yamaoka Genrin, Edo-period essayist
There are Oriental folk
tales reminiscent of Rip
Van Winkle in which
people have been stopped
by an old man [one of the
Immortals], played a
game of Go, and upon
getting up from the board
have found a hundred
years have gone by. This
purely mental aspect of
the game is in its
intellectual dynamic.
These Chinese had seen it
as encompassing the
principles of nature and
the universe and of human
life, as the diversion of the
immortals, a game of
abundant spiritual
powers.
– From The Game of
Go, by Robert Buss

You’re striving for


harmony, and, if you try
to take too much, you’ll
come to grief.
– Michael Redmond,
American Go player
when 23 years old
and already a 5-dan professional

About three hundred years ago an eminent Chinese monk came to Japan on a visit and
was shown the diagram of a game of Go which a master of that time had recently played.
Without knowing anything of the game save the sketchy description they gave him, the
monk studied the moves as shown on the record, and after a few moments remarked with
much admiration and respect that the player must have been a man who had become
enlightened, which was indeed the case. It is interesting to note that this story is told on
the one hand by Go players to illustrate the quality of the game and on the other hand by
Buddhists to show the acuity of the monk from China.
– From Go and the Three Games, by William Pinckard

The board is a mirror of the mind of the players as the moments pass. When a master
studies the record of a game he can tell at what point greed overtook the pupil, when he
became tired, when he fell into stupidity, and when the maid came by with tea.
– Anonymous Go player
Go and the ‘Three Games’
by William Pinckard

Games-playing is one of the oldest and most enduring human traits. Disparate pieces of
evidence such as dice discovered at Sumer, game-boards depicted on Egyptian frescoes,
Viking chess pieces, and ball parks constructed by ancient empires deep in the Andes link
up directly with contemporary phenomena such as Saturday night poker games in Kansas
City and the annual go title matches in Tokyo.

Games are undeniably a concomitant of civilization and even in their most primitive
forms presuppose some degree of sophistication. Most of all, they require the ability to
think in abstractions and to manipulate ideas in logical terms, thereby giving form to
what is formless and creating small, recognizable patterns in the shadow of great
mysteries.

From ancient times in Japan the so-called ‘Three Games’ were backgammon, chess and
go. Chess probably comes from India, backgammon from the Near or Middle East, and
go from pre-Han China. Backgammon is a gambling game which, using dice, gives luck
or chance the preponderant role. Chess in one of its earlier forms also used dice, but takes
its present shape from the structure of a royal society and from war maneuvers. Go is the
most abstract and ‘open’ of the three; and with its freedom from complicated rules, its
simplicity of form, its fluidity and spaciousness, it comes remarkably close to being an
ideal mirror for reflecting basic processes of mentation.

Go is played with black and white ‘stones’ all of exactly the same value, thus somewhat
resembling the binary mathematics which is the basis of the computer. The stones are
played onto the board and are left as they stand throughout the game, so that the game
itself takes shape as a visible record of the thinking that went into it. About three hundred
years ago an eminent Chinese monk came to Japan on a visit and was shown the diagram
of a game of go which a master of that time had recently played. Without knowing
anything of the game save the sketchy description they gave him at the time (this was
after go had more or less died out in China), the monk studied the moves as shown on the
record and after a few moments remarked with much admiration and respect that the
player must have been a man who had become enlightened -- which was indeed the case.
(It is interesting to note that this story is told on the one hand by go players to illustrate
the quality of the game and on the other hand by Buddhists to show the acuity of the
monk from China.)

The great 17th century Japanese playwright Chikamatsu, in a famous passage, compares
the four quarters of the go board to the four seasons, the black and white stones to night
and day, the 361 intersections of the board to the days of the year, and the center point on
the board to the Pole Star. It would be easy to erect a tower of fanciful theory along these
lines, but that would only obscure the obvious point. In this striking analogy Chikamatsu
is describing a feeling of hugeness and all-inclusiveness -- the board conceived as a
complete world system in potential form. The board and pieces can be thought of as
limitless: any number of lines and an endless supply of stones to play with, the game
itself being the life of the players. (In Chikamatsu’s play a young man becomes old and
grows a long beard while watching a single game.) Only because we are human and must
put practical limits to our activities, do we use just a small part of the infinite board. But
this field of nineteen by nineteen is large enough to contain everything we are able to put
into it. The number of possible games playable on this board has been reckoned to be
more than the number of molecules in the universe.

An anonymous go player has written: ‘The board is a mirror of the mind of the player as
the moments pass. When a master studies the record of a game he can tell at what point
greed overtook the pupil, when he became tired, when he fell into stupidity, and when the
maid came by with the tea.’

Contrary to the opinion of many people, go has nothing to do with Buddhism. Because it
is a valid system in itself, it offers nothing contradictory to other systems, but in fact go is
an older inhabitant on this planet than is Buddhism. In China it became one of the Four
Accomplishments, the others being poetry, painting and music. It reached Japan around
the 6th century and for a long time remained the exclusive property of a leisured noble
class. Then during the 16th century all this changed. The many great families and clans
which had warred happily against each other for a thousand years were gradually brought
under the hegemony of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was during the subsequent period of
the Tokugawa era (roughly from 1600 to 1868) that go, along with haiku, kendo, tea
ceremony and so on, was most actively cultivated as a way of constructively channeling
the mental energies of the people during the long years of peace. One formal word for go
in Japanese is Kido. Ki is the old Chinese word for go, and -do is the Chinese word for
Tao, which means Way -- or, more specifically, a Way to enlightenment.

All games channel mental energies, whether they lead to enlightenment or the reverse,
but it is suggestive to consider the ‘Three Games’ in their social context because then we
can see how each of them reflects certain basic characteristics of a general or regional
type.

Chess, for example, the great historical game of the West, involves monarchs, armies,
slaughter, and the eventual destruction of one king by another. The game appears to be
entirely directed along the lines of the great myths of the West from the Mahabharata to
the Song of Roland -- the overthrow of a hero and the crowning of a new hero. The
pieces, from king down to pawn (peon), give a picture of a hierarchical and pyramidal
society with powers strictly defined and limited.

Backgammon, the favorite game of the Near and Middle East, is preoccupied with the
question of Chance and Fate (Kismet). All play is governed by the roll of dice over which
the player has no control whatever. The players are matched against each other, but each
tries to capture a wave of luck and ride it to victory. The loser curses his misfortune and
tries again, but the individual is helpless in the grip of superior forces.
Go, the game of ancient China and modern Japan (and now popular throughout the
world), is unique in that every piece is of equal value and can be played anywhere on the
board. The aim is not to destroy but to build territory. Single stones become groups, and
groups become organic structures which live or die. A stone’s power depends on its
location and the moment. Over the entire board there occur transformations of growth
and decay, movement and stasis, small defeats and temporary victories. The stronger
player is the teacher, the weaker is the learner, and even today the polite way to ask for a
game is to say ‘Please teach me.’

Things are different now, but in earlier times, when go was so much admired by painters
and poets, generals and monks, the point of the game was not so much for one player to
overcome another but for both to engage in a kind of cooperative dialogue (‘hand
conversation’, they used to call it) with the aim of overcoming a common enemy. The
common enemy was, of course, as it always is, human weaknesses: greed, anger and
stupidity.

Every year in March department stores all over Japan present elaborate displays in
connection with the Doll Festival. If one looks carefully at the miniature weapons,
musical instruments and furniture of a really complete display one will find a tiny
backgammon board, a Japanese chess (shogi) board and a go board.

The ‘Three Games’ is a useful classification because taken together they make up a
coherent world view. Most of philosophy boils down to speculation centered around the
three basic relationships of the human species. The first is man in his relationship to the
remote gods and the mysterious forces of the universe. The second is man in the society
he builds up around him. The third is man in his own self. Or, to put it another way, man
the backgammon-player, man the chess-player, and man the go-player.

That we have these three shows that they answer basic needs in the human spirit. People
everywhere are preoccupied with social structures, position and status; and everyone who
is capable of reflection must sometimes speculate on his private relationship to fortune
and fate.

But go is the one game which turns all


preoccupations and speculations back on their
source. It says, in effect, that everyone starts out
equal, that everyone begins with an empty board
and with no limitations, and that what happens
thereafter is not fate or wealth or social position
but only the quality of your own mind.

— photo from Wikipedia

Related Interests