History of Go in a Nutshell

Go is an important part of Asian history and is a traditional game of China, Korea and Japan. Nowadays Go is becoming more popular in the other regions of the world. It’s a game with no borders, connecting people from various countries and cultures.

How old is the game of Go?

According to a legend Go is more than four thousand years old. Go has originated in ancient China, where it was named “weiqi“. It was invented on a request of the Chinese emperor Yao. First references to this game can be found in Chinese books written a few centuries BC.

History of weiqi

In the Far East Go has been played for centuries both for fun and for developing one’s mind skills. The first Chinese treatises on Go were written in the medieval ages (the oldest one dating from the 6th century). They were providing practical hints on how to play well. They also included discussions on common patterns appearing in games and collections of Go problems. All of this had a great use in Go training.

Go gained a profound recognition in Japan during Edo period (starting from 17th century). It became a game played in the imperial court. There was established a system of Four Go Houses, where a master and students were studying Go together. In the Houses the players often studied Go in secret, investigating their own innovative moves. A famous collection of very difficult Go problems called Igo Hatsuyoron was completed in one of the Houses and it was kept secret for many years.

Traditional equipment

A special respect for Go in the Far East can be seen when looking at classical Go sets. You can find Incrusted table boards with engraved patterns in Japan as well as in China and Korea. Go stones in China have been sometimes made from valuable materials like jade. Japanese stones have been made from slate and shell. In ancient Korea there was a tradition of burying highborn persons with baduk stones.


In China, Korea and Japan there are special TV channels dedicated to Go. In Korea you can often see other people playing Go on the streets. The best sign of the popularity of Go in this country was in March 2016 when the match between a Korean master Lee Sedol and a newly created Go program AlphaGo took place. The games were shown in Seoul live on large outdoor screens. There were also millions of people watching the broadcasting from their homes.

What is the meaning of Go?

Translating directly from Chinese, we can explain Go as the ”Surrounding board game”.

”Wei” – 围, in Chinese means ”to surround”. ”Qi” – 棋, can be translated as ”board game”.

There are some funny situations connected with the Chinese translation of Go, because in many sentences in Chinese, ”wei” – 围 can be omitted and the meaning of the sentence doesn’t change. However, in many online translators and dictionaries ”qi” – 棋 is translated as ”chess”.

So, if somebody doesn’t know Chinese and uses the online translator to translate the Chinese materials about Go, he might get confused about what game the materials really are.