Go Nation: Chinese Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China

Go Nation: Chinese Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China

Go Nation: Chinese Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China

Go Nation: Chinese Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China


Go (Weiqi in Chinese) is one of the most popular games in East Asia, with a steadily increasing fan base around the world. Like chess, Go is a logic game but it is much older, with written records mentioning the game that date back to the 4th century BC. As Chinese politics have changed over the last two millennia, so too has the imagery of the game. In Imperial times it was seen as a tool to seek religious enlightenment and was one of the four noble arts that were a requisite to becoming a cultured gentleman. During the Cultural Revolution it was a stigmatized emblem of the lasting effects of feudalism. Today, it marks the reemergence of cultured gentlemen as an idealized model of manhood. Marc L. Moskowitz explores the fascinating history of the game, as well as providing a vivid snapshot of Chinese Go players today. Go Nation uses this game to come to a better understanding of Chinese masculinity, nationalism, and class, as the PRC reconfigures its history and traditions to meet the future.


Glenn had played more than four hundred [chess] tournament
games, which I would come to understand was something like say
ing he had written four hundred sonnets, in public, while oppo
nents who didn’t particularly like him tried to write better sonnets
using the same words.

J. C. hallman, the Chess Artist, 2003

There was something unreal about the pictures, which may have
come from the face, the ultimate in tragedy, of a man so disciplined
in an art that he had lost the better part of reality. Perhaps I had
photographed the face of a man meant from the outset for martyr
dom to art. It was as if the life of Shūsai, Master of Go, had ended
as his art had ended, with that last match.

Kawabata yasunari, the Master of Go, 1951

I’m not sure it’s rational—believing as many do that a board game
possesses a sort of cosmic power, something commensurate with our
capacity for wonder—but I feel it nonetheless.

Stefan fatsis, Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph,
Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble
Players, 2001

The first time I lived in China was in 1988, when I taught English in the city of Xi’an. I had originally planned to stay for two years, but like most of my fellow countrymen I left shortly after the Tiananmen massacre that took place a year later. in those days the streets of China were covered with the swarming flow of uniformly sturdy black bicycles. Steel dividers grounded with concrete slabs provided them with a generous amount of road away from . . .

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