hist-games: hist-games Digest, Vol 42, Issue 2

M Winther mwi9 at swipnet.se
Sat Mar 14 00:04:06 PDT 2009

Den 2009-03-13 21:14:41 skrev P Shotwell <pshotwell at gmail.com>:

> Hi Mat,
> Thanks. Sounds interesting. You might want to look at Appendix III of both
> my Origins article and the Tibet one. Also, Appendix II of the Origins
> article goes into the possible history behind divination and games. (
> www.usgo.org/bobhighlibrary)
> I think you might be thinking of the old theory about the origins of
> go--I've never heard of Chinese chess pieces being used this way, though I
> suppose it's possible. This is one of the theories about go that I question
> heavily in the body of the Origins article (which is repeated in Appendix
> III).
> Best,
> Peter

The Chinese used chess pieces for divination, yes. One such variant
was called tan-ch'hi chess (cf. Needham, Science and Civilization IV).
The lower board was rectangular like earth, and the upper was round
like heaven. By throwing pieces, or shaking the board, fate could be

I don't know how old Go is. But if it goes back to the Han period or
older, then I suspect it was used for divination. We moderns tend to
think linearly, i.e. that it first originated as a mantic procedure,
then it became a competition, etc. But ancient people tended to view
things as multifactorial. They likely viewed it simultaneously as a
competition, as a mantic method, and as a religious ritual, etc. So
these aspects arouse conjointly. A boardgame diagram provided a
topography for playing, but it was also a magical protective design,
and a doorway for the spirit in divination.

Depending on the age of the game, the ancient Chinese must have tried
to predict the future from a game between two Go masters. It was a
competition, but also an event of spiritual dimensions. The point is
that they couldn't differ between the two.

Mats Winther

More information about the hist-games mailing list