Dynamic Divisions

The Tactics of Weiqi 圍棋 and Strategic Space in Imperial China

in Journal of Chinese Military History
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


A major and as yet insurmountable obstacle in our comprehension of pre-modern Chinese military culture is the unfortunate dearth of detailed battle scenes or attack plans. The historiographical record simply does not include more than the barest outlines of how battles transpired. This essay offers a possible back-door method for accessing military movements and formations on an abstract level. It contends that the ancient game of weiqi, commonly known in the West by its Japanese name, Go, may afford insight into some of the military maneuvers likely employed in the Tang and Song dynasties, and perhaps even earlier. Using the earliest game maps available, found in the Song-era Wangyou qingle ji, with additional input from Ming and Qing texts, the essay spatially analyzes the tactical terms from a manuscript attributed to an author from the Five Dynasties and early Song periods, the Weiqi yili, and illustrates their potential employment using two historical passages, one from the Jiu Tangshu and another from the Hanshu.

Dynamic Divisions

The Tactics of Weiqi 圍棋 and Strategic Space in Imperial China

in Journal of Chinese Military History



  • The Analects LauD.C. 1979 New York Penguin Books

  • BoormanScott The Protracted Game: A Wei-ch’i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy 1969 New York Oxford University Press

  • ChengEnyuan成恩元 Dunhuang qijing jianzheng 敦煌碁经笺证 1990 Chengdu Shurong qiyi chubanshe

  • The Ch’un Ts’ew With the Tso Chuan LeggeJames The Chinese Classics 1960 Vol. 5 Hong Kong Hong Kong University Press

  • de WeerdtHilde “Maps and Memory in Song China.” Imago Mundi 2009 61 2 145 67

  • de WeerdtHilde ChiaLucillede WeerdtHilde “The Cultural Logics of Map Reading: Text, Time, and Space in the Printed Maps of the Song Empire.” Knowledge and Text Production in an Age of Print: China 900-1400 2011 Leiden Brill 239 70

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DeleuzeGillesGuattariFélix A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia 1987 Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press

  • Di CosmoNicola Ancient China and Its Enemies 2002 New York Cambridge University Press

  • DongYao董耀 Yixue huihai 弈學會海 1996 Shanghai Shanghai wenhua chubanshe (fl. 17th c. ce)

  • GraffDavid A Di CosmoNicola “Narrative Maneuvers: the Representation of Battle in Tang Historical Writing.” Military Culture in Imperial China 2009 Cambridge, Massachusetts Harvard University Press 142 64

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GrahamA.C. Later Mohist Logic Ethics and Science 2003 Hong Kong Chinese University of Hong Kong

  • Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成 1884 Shanghai Shanghai tushu jichengju qianyinben

  • GunterAnn C. MackenzieColinFinkelIrving “Chess and Its Visual Culture in West, South, and Southeast Asia.” Asian Games: the Art of Contest 2004 New York Asia Society 136 67

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Haiwai yizhen huihua 海外遺珎繪畫 1989 Vol. 1 Taibei Gugong bowuguan

  • HuckerCharles O. A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China 1985 Stanford, CA Stanford University Press

  • Jiu Tangshu 舊唐書 1975 Beijing Zhonghua shuju Compiled by Liu Xu 劉煦 (887-946 ce)

  • KissingerHenry On China 2011 New York The Penguin Press

  • KnechtgesDavid The Han Rhapsody: a Study of the Fu of Yang Hsiung 1976 New York Cambridge University Press

  • “Li ye hou wai zhuan” 李鄴侯外傳 FanLi李蘩 Tangdai congshu 唐代叢書 1806 21 ce

  • LiSongfu李松福 Weiqi shihua 围棋史话 1990 Beijing Renmin tiyu chubanshe

  • LiuShancheng刘善承 Zhongguo weiqi 中國圍棋 1985 Chengdu Sichuan kexue jishu chubanshe

  • LoAndrew HingbunWangTzi-Cheng MackenzieColinFinkelIrving “Spider Threads Roaming the Empyrean: the Game of Weiqi.” Asian Games: the Art of Contest 2004 New York Asia Society 186 201

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mohai jinhu 墨海金壺 HaipengZhang張海鵬 1921 Shanghai Bogu zhai (1755-1816 ce)

  • MoskowitzMarc L. Go Nation: Chinese Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China 2013 Berkeley, CA University of California Press

  • OuyangXun歐陽詢 Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 2010 Shanghai Shanghai guji chubanshe (557-641 ce)

  • Peiwen yunfu 佩文韻俯 YushuZhang張玉書 1983 Shanghai Shanghai guji shudian yinhang (1642-1711 ce)

  • Quan Han fu 全漢賦 FeiZhengang費振剛HuShuangbao胡雙寶ZongMinghua宗明華 1993 Beijing Beijing daxue chubanshe

  • SchramStuart R. Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912-1949 2004 Vol. 6 Armonk, NY M. E. Sharpe

  • ShiLiangzhao史良昭 Pingsheng juying 枰聲局影 1991 Shanghai Shanghai guji chubanshe

  • Shoushange congshu 守山閣叢書 1922 Shanghai Shanghai boguzhai yingyinben Compiled by Qian Xizuo 錢熙祚

  • Shuofu 說郛 1647 Weiyuan shantang kanben Compiled by Tao Zongyi 陶宗儀 (1316-1403 ce)

  • Songshi 宋史 1977 Beijing Zhonghua shuju Compiled by Tuo Tuo 脫脫 (1313-1355 ce)

  • Suishu 隋書 1972 Beijing Zhonghua shuju Compiled by Wei Zheng 魏徵 (580-643 ce)

  • von HilgersPhilip BenjaminRoss War Games: a History of War on Paper 2012 Cambridge, MA MIT Press

  • Wang you qing le ji 忘憂清樂集 1982 Beijing Zhonghua shuju ying yin

  • XiaoTong蕭統 Wenxuan 文選 1977 Beijing Zhonghua shuju (501-531 ce)

  • Xin Tangshu 新唐書 1975 Beijing Zhonghua shuju Compiled by Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007-72 ce) and Song Qi 宋祁 (998-1061 ce)

  • XuShen許慎 Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注 1988 Shanghai Shanghai guji chubanshe (ca. 58-147 ce) Annotated by Duan Yucai 段玉裁

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Xue Weiqi 學圍棋 1983 Beijing Renmin tiyu chubanshe Edited by the Beijing Qi Association Editorial Board (Beijing qiyuan bianzhe)

  • YanDefu嚴德甫YanTianzhang晏天張 Xuanxuan qijing 玄玄棋經 2004 Lanzhou Gansu wenhua chubanshe

  • YangBojun楊伯峻 Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhu 春秋左傳注 1981 Beijing Zhonghua shuju

  • Yu ju gou xuan 玉局鉤玄 ZhouLüjing周履靖 Yimen guangdu 夷門廣牘 1966 vol. 13. Taibei Yiwen yinshu guan Compiled by Xiang Shifang 項世芳 (fl. Ming dynasty) 4 han Baibu congshu jicheng 百部叢書集成 Compiled by Yan Yiping 嚴一萍

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zhongguo zhongda kaogu faxian 中國重大考古發現 1989 Beijing Wenwu chubanshe

  • Zuoyin yipu 坐隱弈譜 2001 Guilin Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe Compiled by Wang Tingna 汪廷訥

  • 1

    Graff 2009145.

  • 2

    Graff 2009161.

  • 5

    See Liu 1985148-49.

  • 6

    Kissinger 201123.

  • 7

    Kissinger 201122.

  • 8

    Kissinger 2011342.

  • 10

    Boorman 19696.

  • 11

    Boorman 19698.

  • 12

    Boorman 196956.

  • 13

    Moskowitz 201345.

  • 14

    Moskowitz 201325.

  • 15

    Moskowitz 201345.

  • 16

    Liu 1985410-416.

  • 17

    Lo and Wang 2004196.

  • 20

    Liu 1985119. The piece first appears in Ouyang Xun 2010 74.1273. It also appears in a number of other collections including the Guwen yuan 古文苑 suggested to be a Tang-era compendium and various reprints of the Xuanxuan qijing 玄玄棋經. For the Guwen yuan see the Siku quanshu v. 189.

  • 21

    This poem also appears in Ouyang Xun 201074.1271-2 and in other collections including the Guwen yuan 古文苑 and the Xuanxuan qijing 玄玄棋經.

  • 23

    See Gunter 2004.

  • 24

    Yang 1981Xi 25.15 1109; The Ch’un Ts’ew with the Tso Chuan 1960 Xiang Gong 25th year 517. Translation modified.

  • 25

    Xu 19883A.37b 104.

  • 28

    Lo and Wang 2004187-88. See also Shi 1991 88.

  • 35

    Cheng 199030164.

  • 44

    See Cheng 199034-46.

  • 45

    See Cheng 199014-16.

  • 46

    For the complete discussion see Cheng 199022-23.

  • 52

    Dong 19962-5.

  • 53

    De Weerdt 2011249.

  • 54

    De Weerdt 2011249.

  • 55

    De Weerdt 2011247. As de Weerdt also mentions in a footnote the identification of the maps by a title “turns them into objects to be commented upon.” See also de Weerdt 2009 148.

  • 84

    See Dong 19964.

  • 85

    See Cheng 1990123-25.

  • 87

    Dong 19963.

  • 89

    Dong 19965.

  • 94

    Dong 19963.

  • 95

    Dong 19964.

  • 96

    See Cheng 1990125.

  • 97

    The example is taken from Graff 2009147.

  • 103

    See Di Cosmo 2002213-14. Italics mine.


Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 189 171 32
Full Text Views 192 192 0
PDF Downloads 7 7 0
EPUB Downloads 1 1 0