The Opposition of the Literati to the Game of Weiqi in Ancient China

The Opposition of the Literati to the Game of Weiqi in Ancient China

By Paolo Zanon

Published Online (2000)

Introduction: With the development of Neo-Confucianism during the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD), the orthodoxy of Chinese society was gradually redefined. However, as board games, which have often been considered as of secondary importance, do have their place in social studies, we may now ask ourselves how this redefinition of epistemological values influenced the attitude of cultivated Chinese élite towards games.

The game of weiqi is examined in this paper, in order to demonstrate the radical change in thinking which occurred with regard to the game in Song times. Although it had been violently attacked by the literati before Neo-Confucianism, with the advent of the new orthodoxy – which allowed many Taoist and Buddhist elements to be inserted in a new framework – weiqi too gradually became accepted, thanks to the new cultural atmosphere.

Fragments from the Warring States (453 – 222 BC) period criticising the game of weiqi are analysed in the first part of this essay. Then two texts devoted to criticism of weiqi are considered and translated. One of these was written by Wei Yao (fl.: 252 AD) in the Three Kingdoms (220 – 265 AD) period, the other by Pi Rixiu (834?-883? AD) in Tang times (618 – 906 AD). In the second part of this essay, excerpts from Qijing Shisanpian (The Classic of Weiqi in Thirteen Chapters) (circa 1050 AD) are translated in order to show how former criticisms based on the “amorality” of weiqi were overcome.

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