THE CLASSICS OF WEIQI IN THIRTEEN CHAPTERS
The Classic of Weiqi in Thirteen Chapters was written by Zhang Ni 27 during the Huangyou period (1049-1054 A.D.) of the Song dynasty.
Zuozhuan stated: “To stuff oneself with food all day without worrying about anything is difficult indeed! But what about weiqi players then? it is better to be one of them than to do nothing!”28.
In his Xinlun, Huan Tan wrote: “There is now a game called weiqi, concerning which some say that it is a kind of simulation of war. The skilful player, fully cognisant of its configurations, places his pieces so as to encircle those of his opponent and thus win. The average player, although he aims at gaining advantages, can isolate his adversary. Therefore, whether he wins or loses, he must always be attentive and circumspect, and must also carefully calculate and evaluate in order to be certain of winning. The inexpert player, although able to defend sides and corners, moves in small areas, limiting himself simply to surviving in small portions of territory”29. Since the period of the Springs and Autumns all ages have had players of these categories, so that the Way of weiqi has always prospered. The most important problems dealing with victory and defeat, divided into thirteen chapters, are now examined. Extracts from Sunzi Bingfa have sometimes been inserted in the text.
CHAPTER ONE: ON THE PIECES AND THE BOARD
The number of the Ten Thousand Beings originates from the One.
Therefore, the three hundred and sixty intersections of the weiqi board also have their One. The One is the generative principle of numbers and, considered as a pole, produces the four cardinal points.
The three hundred and sixty intersections correspond to the number of days in a year 30. Divided into four “corners” like the four seasons, they have ninety intersections each, like the number of days in a season. There are seventy-two intersections on the sides, like the number of hou 31 in a year. The three hundred and sixty pieces are equally divided between black and white, modelled on Yin – Yang.
The lines on the board form a grid called ping, and the squares they compose are called gua 32. The board is square and quiet, the pieces are round and active 33.
Ever since ancient times, no player has ever happened to place the pieces on the board in exactly the same way as he did during a preceding game. Zuozhuan states: “Every day is new”34. Therefore, reasoning must go deep and analysis must be perfect, and an attempt must be made to understand the processes that lead to victory and defeat: only in this way is it possible to attain that which is still unattained.
CHAPTER TWO: ON CALCULATIONS
The player whose configurations are correct can exercise power over his adversary. He must therefore establish his strategy internally, so that his configurations are complete externally too 35. If he is able to work out who will win while the game is still being played, he has calculated well. If he is not able to work this out, he has calculated badly 36. If he does not know who is the winner and who is the loser at the end of the game, he has made no calculations at all!
It is written in Sunzi Bingfa: “Those who calculate greatly will win; those who calculate only a little will lose. But what of those who don’t make any calculations at all?!”37. This is why everything must be calculated, in order to foresee victory and defeat 38.
CHAPTER THREE: ON CONTROL OF TERRITORY
Control of territory means the need to lay down the general lines of the game while the pieces are being positioned.
At the beginning of the game, the positions are divided up at the four corners. Then play begins, and pieces are placed obliquely 39, missing out two intersections and placing one “below”. Starting from two adjacent pieces, three spaces may be skipped; with three adjacent pieces, four 40. Five spaces may be skipped, if the player wishes to be nearer another configuration; but nearness does not mean adjacency, nor must distance be excessive 41.
All these things were debated by the ancients, and the rules were then studied by their successors. Therefore, those who do not wish to accept but who wish to change their methods, cannot know what the results may be 42. Shijing states: “Without a good beginning, there can be no good end 43.
CHAPTER FOUR: ON ENGAGING CONFLICT
In the Way of weiqi, it is important to be careful and precise. [At the end of the game], the skilful player will have succeeded in occupying the centre of the board 44, the inexpert player will have occupied the sides, and the average player 45 will find himself in the corners. These are the eternal methods of players.
It is generally believed that sometimes many pieces may be lost, provided that the initiative is not lost. This is because losing the initiative means passing it to the other player, who did not have it before.
Before attacking to the left, observe the right; before invading the space behind your opponent’s lines, observe what is in front of them 46.
It is not necessary to divide two “living” groups, because both will live in any case, even if they are not linked together 47. The distance between pieces must be not excessive; nearness must not be adjacency.
Rather than keeping endangered pieces alive, it is better to abandon them 48 and acquire new positions.
Instead of expending effort in making worthless moves, exploit every opportunity which allows you to strengthen your position.
When there are many enemy pieces but few of your own in a given territory, first of all carefully consider your own chances of survival. If the opposite situation arises, when your own pieces are numerous and your enemy is in difficulties, exploit that situation to extend your configurations.
As the best victory is that gained without fighting, so the best position is one which does not provoke conflict 49. In any case, if you fight well you will not lose, and if your ranks are not in disorder, you will lose well.
Although at the beginning of the game, you must arrange the pieces according to the rules, at the end you must use your imagination 50 in order to win.
Carefully observe the most minute details of all territories: if they are solidly constructed, they cannot be overwhelmed, but, if you surprise your adversary with an idea which has not occurred to him 51, you will be able to overwhelm him where he is unprepared.
If your adversary defends himself without doing anything, it is a sign that in reality he intends to attack. If he neglects small territories and does not play in them, he is in fact plotting to make great conquests there.
A player who puts down his pieces haphazardly is devoid of strategy: if he does not reflect and simply responds to his adversary’s moves, he is on the path towards defeat. As Shijing observes: “Trembling with fear on the edge of the precipice”52.
CHAPTER FIVE: ON EMPTINESS AND FULLNESS
In weiqi, if you follow too many main strategies, your configurations will become fragmented. Once they are disrupted, it is difficult not to succumb. Do not play your pieces too close to those of your opponent, for if you do, you will make him “full” but you will “empty” yourself. When you are empty it is easy to be invaded; when you are full, it is difficult to overwhelm you 53.
Do not follow a single plan, but change it according to the moment.
Zuozhuan advised: “If you see that an advance is possible, then advance! If you encounter difficulties, retreat”54. It also observed: “If you seize something but do not change your method, at the end only a single thing will have been seized”55.
CHAPTER SIX: ON KNOWING ONESELF
The wise man is able to foresee even things which are not yet visible.
The foolish man is blind even when the evidence is placed in front of his eyes. Thus, if you know your own weak points, you can anticipate what may benefit your adversary, and thereby win. You will also win if you know when to fight and when to avoid conflict 56 ; if you can correctly measure the intensity of your efforts; if, exploiting your preparation, you can prevent your adversary from being prepared too; if, by resting, you can exhaust your adversary; and if, by not fighting, you can subdue him.
In Laozi it is written: “He who knows himself is enlightened!”57.
CHAPTER SEVEN: ON OBSERVING THE GAME
The configurations taken on by the pieces must be harmoniously linked together. Try therefore, to take the initiative and maintain it, move after move, from the beginning to the end of the game.
If, when engaging conflict on the game-board, one adversary does not know which is the stronger and which is the weaker player, he must examine even the tiniest details. So, if you notice from the arrangement of the pieces that you are winning, you must take care to maintain your configurations; if, instead, you realize that you are losing, you must astutely invade larger territories. If your advance along the sides only allows you to survive, you will be defeated 58. The less you retreat when in difficulties, the greater your defeat will be 59 : a desperate struggle to survive leads to many defeats.
If two configurations are encircling each other, first constrain your adversary from the outside. However, if there are no nearby configurations granting you support and the pieces are arranged unfavourably, do not place further pieces there. When danger looms, when your adversary has penetrated one of your configurations, do not play there, because to do so would simply mean placing pieces and not placing them. This is not proper play.
There are many ways of committing errors by yourself, but there is only a single path which leads to success. Many victories go to the player who knows how to observe the board properly 60.
In Yijing it is written: “He who cannot see the way ahead must change: it is only by changing that connections may be made 61, and only thus may he live long”62.
CHAPTER EIGHT: ON EXAMINING FEELINGS
At birth, a person is calm and his feelings are difficult to discern. However, after he has received sensations from the outside world, he becomes active and, consequently, his states of mind may be perceived. If we apply this theory to weiqi, we will be able to predict victory or defeat 63.
Generally, if you are sure of yourself yet modest, you will often win; if you are uncertain and proud, you will often lose 64. If you can maintain your positions without fighting, you will win: if you continually kill pieces without worrying about anything else, you will lose.
If, after a defeat, you reflect on its causes, you will improve your skill at the game, whereas if you flatter yourself on your victories, you will lose your ability. To seek the error in yourself and not blame others, therefore, is advantageous.
Attacking the enemy without caring about the attacks which he may make on you is disadvantageous.
Thinking is perfected by carefully observing the entire development of the conflict on the game-board. If you are distracted by other matters, your mind will be confused.
Skilful players correctly weigh up all aspects of the game. Unworthy players prepare themselves for battle in a superficial or incorrect manner. You are strong if you are really able to intimidate your adversary. Merely glorying in the fact that he cannot attain your level is a sure way of being defeated. If you are competent, you will be able to make associations of ideas; if you only have one plan in your mind, you have little indeed!
Abstain from making comments but remain inscrutable, so that your adversary will not be able to guess your plans and will be in difficulties. If first you are agitated and then calm, without finding a proper equilibrium, you will irritate him.
In Shijing it is written: “If others have something in mind, I will try to discover what it is”65.
CHAPTER NINE: ON CORRECTNESS AND INCORRECTNESS
Some 66 have stated: “Weiqi considers change and deceit as necessary, invasion and killing as technical terms; is this not perhaps a false Dao?!” But I answer: Not at all!
In Yijing we may read: “When an army is out on a mission, it needs well-defined rules, otherwise it is in danger”67. An army must never be deceived: false words and the path towards betrayal belong to the “Horizontal and Vertical”68 doctrine and the Warring States 69.
Although weiqi is a small Dao 70, it is exactly the same as fighting. Thus, there are many levels of play and not all players are equal: those who are at a low level play without thinking or reflecting, and simply act in order to deceive. Others aid their thinking by pointing at the positions of the pieces, and yet others talk and allow their intentions to become known.
But those who have reached a high level certainly do not behave like this. On the contrary, they think deeply and ponder on remote consequences, exploit the possibilities offered by the shapes which come into being as the pieces are laid down, and let their thoughts travel around the game-board before putting down a single piece. They aim at conquest before conquest becomes manifest, preventing their adversaries from placing pieces even before they think of placing them.
Do such skilled players base their method of play on talking too much and making frantic gestures?!
Zuozhuan states: “Be honest and not incorrect!”71. Is that not precisely what we are talking about?!
CHAPTER TEN: ON OBSERVING DETAILS
During play, there sometimes appears to be an advantage where in fact there is not; at other times, the opposite is the case. It is usually considered advantageous to invade, although there are invasions which only cause damage to those who make them.
At times the advantage lies in playing to the left, at others to the right.
Sometimes you have the initiative, sometimes you are subjected to it. Sometimes the pieces are arranged close together, at others they are far apart. When you play a zhan 72 [...] not before 73. When you abandon pieces, reflect on the consequences. Sometimes you begin playing close to certain pieces and end up far from them; at others you have only a few pieces in a given spot and end up with many.
If you wish to strengthen the outside, first take care of the inside 74. If you wish to consolidate to the east, attack to the west 75.
Pieces laid down by your opponent which are aligned but which do not yet form “eyes” must be “broken” as soon as possible 76.
Play a jie 77, if it does not damage other groups of pieces.
If your opponent plays with “handicap pieces”78, arrange your own pieces amply: the player who uses handicap pieces avoids battle but extends his positions.
Invade territories only after you have selected them carefully. Once you have ascertained that they contain no obstacles, penetrate them. These are some of the most excellent methods used by expert players, who naturally know them well.
Yijing states: “Who but the most intelligent and elevated person in the world can attain such a position?”79.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: ON TERMINOLOGY
Weiqi players have given precise names to all dispositions. Some configurations may be understood easily, like “life or death”80 and “establish oneself or disappear”.
These technical terms are: wo 81, chuo 82, yue 83, fei 84, guan 85, zha 86, zhan 87, ding 88, qu 89, men 90, da 91, duan 92, xing 93, li 94, na 95, dian 96, ju 97, qiao 98, jia 99, za 100, bai 101, ci 102, le 103, pu 104, zheng 105, jie 106, chi 107, sha 108, song 109, and pang 110.
Although there are only thirty-two technical terms 111, players must think of ten thousand variations. But all the changes made on the game-board, according to distance and nearness, horizontality and verticality, are so many that even I will never be able to know them all.
However, it is difficult to disregard these terms if you are aiming at victory. And in Zuozhuan 112 you will find written: “Certainly the names must be rectified!” Can’t this sentence be applied to weiqi too?
CHAPTER TWELVE: ON MENTAL LEVELS
There are nine mental levels into which players are distinguished. The first is called “being in the spirit”, the second “seated in enlightenment”, the third “concreteness”, the fourth “understanding changes”, the fifth “applying wisdom”, the sixth “ability”, the seventh “strength”, the eighth “being quite inept”, and the ninth and last “being truly stupid”.
Levels lower than these cannot be enumerated successfully and, as they cannot form part of the above list, they will not be dealt with here. It is written in Zuozhuan: “The superior man already possesses perfect knowledge from birth; the man who attains it only after study is at a slightly lower level; the inferior man studies only after having encountered difficulties”113.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: MISCELLANEOUS
On the game-board, the sides are not as important as the corners, and the corners are not as important as the centre.
Playing a na is better than playing a yue, but playing a bai is better than playing a na 114.
If your opponent plays a zhuo, answer with a yue 115. If he plays a za, your response should often be a zhan.
A large “eye” can overcome a smaller one 116 ; a diagonal line is not as useful as a straight one 117.
If two guan face each other, play a qu immediately.
Do not undertake a zheng if there are enemy obstacles in your path.
If an attack is not completed successfully, do not immediately play at
that point again.
At the end of the game, a jiaopansusi 118 group will certainly be dead 119,
whereas zhisi 120 and banliu 121 groups will certainly be alive.
If it is struck in the centre, a “rose” formation 122 will have practically no
life left. If a “cross”123 formation is in a corner, do not try to capture it at first.
When a handicap piece is played in the centre, do not play a jiaotu 124.
Weiqi should not be played many times consecutively, otherwise its
players become exhausted, and once you are exhausted you cannot play well. Do
not play when you are indisposed, because you will forget the moves and be
Do not boast of victory, nor complain about defeat! It is proper for a
junzi to appear modest and generous; only vulgar persons manifest expressions
of anger and rage. A good player should not exalt his skills; the beginner should
not be timorous,but should sit calmly and breathe regularly: in this way, the
battle is half won. A player whose face reveals a disturbed state of mind is
The worst shame is due to a change of heart, the lowest baseness is to
The best way to play is to lay down one’s pieces in an ample fashion;
there is no more stupid move than to repeat a jie 125.
Change your play after playing three pieces in a line; playing a
fangjusi 126 is not acceptable.
Winning by occupying many intersections is called yinju; losing without
having acquired even one intersection is called shuchou.
When both players have won one game each they are equal. A game is
declared a draw when both players have acquired the same number of
intersections. Matches should not be composed of more than three games each!
When you count your pieces, do not worry about how many you have
Remember that a jie may be double (which creates an alternate figure) or
even triple, which leads to an infinite configuration.
As all players 127 are equal, you must sometimes concede the initiative, or
two, or five or seven handicap pieces 128.
It may be said that, in weiqi, the life of one is the non-life of the other,
that the near and the far complement each other, that the strong configuration of
one corresponds to the weakness of the other, that the advantage of one is the
disadvantage of the other. This means peace but not serenity, it means that one
may establish oneself but not remain inactive. In the same way that danger may
lurk behind peace and serenity, remaining inactive means being annihilated.
Remember the words contained in Yijing: “The junzi is at peace but does not
forget the danger; he affirms his position but does not forget the possibility of
27. This translation uses the name Zhang Ni, as it has come down to us in the various editions of
28. Although the quotation is reported correctly, the same cannot be said for the source. This
passage is not found in Zuozhuan, but comes from the chapter “Yanghuo” in Lunyu. RUAN
YUAN (ed.), Shisanjing Zhushu (The Thirteen Classics with Notes), Beijing, Zhonghua Shuju,
1991, vol 2, p.2526.
29. HUAN TAN, Xinlun (New Debates), Shanghai, Renmin Chubanshe, 1977, p.12.
30. The Chinese solar year had twelve months of thirty days each. The same comparison was
made in chapter “Xiangming” of Dunhuang Qijing (The Classic of Weiqi) [hereafter: Qijing],
written between 502 and 550 A.D. See CHENG ENYUAN, Dunhuang Qijing Jianzheng (The
Dunhuang Classic of Weiqi with Notes), Chengdu, Shurong Qiyi Chubanshe, 1990, pp.158ff.
31. A hou is five days long
32. Literally “small spaces”.
33. This comparison was stated for the first time in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) by Ji
You in Weiqi Ming. It later appeared in chapter “Xiangming” of Qijing (ibidem) and in Tang
times (618-907 A.D.). See OUYANG XIU, Xin Tangshu (History of the Later Tang), Beijing,
Zhonghua Shuju, 1975, Li Mi biography, vol. 15, p.4632.
34. The attribution of this passage to Zuozhuan is erroneous: it in fact appears in the book
“Daxue” in Liji. See RUAN YUAN (ed.), op. cit., vol. 2, p. 1673.
35. The internal-external dualism here represents the player’s mind on one hand, and practical
application on the game-board on the other.
36. This passage follows Sunzi, who opened his treatise on military arts with the chapter “On
Calculations”. He states: “Those who, even before the battle, have worked out who will win have
calculated well. Those who, in the same condition, have calculated who will lose, have
calculated badly… But what about those who have not bothered to make any calculations at
all!?” AI QILAI (ed.), Sunzi Bingfa Jingyi (Sunzi’s Methods of War with Notes), Beijing,
Zhongguo Guanbo Dianshi Chubanshe, 1991, p.58.
38. Here too, an almost identical expression may be found in Sunzi Bingfa, as a conclusion to the
chapter on calculations (ibidem).
39. This description refers to the early phases of the game, during which this kind of move, called
“lengthening” (extending one player’s area of influence), is made. To avoid such circumscribed
areas being cut by the adversary, a close relationship is maintained between the number of
friendly pieces arranged consecutively vertically and the number of intersections to be skipped
horizontally in order to put down pieces. In this way, if the adversary attempts to separate one
piece from its companions, a careful player will always be able to counteract successfully.
40. The same advice is expressed at the end of the section “On good methods of play” in Qijing,
41. At the beginning of the game, placing a piece next to an enemy one means that the adversary,
by putting his piece “above” the first, deprives it of two freedoms. As these moves take place
early in the game, i.e., generally on the third or fourth line from one side, the other player can
calculate the extent of the risk he runs. This is because a third enemy piece played laterally
would be enough to condemn the first piece to death, since it cannot free itself, due to its
nearness to the side and the absence of friendly pieces. Even if one player were to prevent his
opponent from placing a third piece, this move would clearly be defensive in nature and would
mean that the initiative – extremely important in this opening phase of the game – would be lost.
42. This typically Confucian attitude on the goodness and validity of tradition and ritual not only
strengthens the concept but also introduces the following quotation from The Classic of Poetry.
43. From the poem “Dang” in the section “Daya” of Shijing. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op. cit., vol. 1,
44. This does not mean that a good player must play in the centre right from the beginning of the
game, but that, in the end, he will have been able to control the central areas, which are those in
which skilful play is crucial. Although, by using a corner, a player may use its two sides to
construct “eyes”, or may exploit the possibilities offered by one side, constructing eyes in the
centre requires a far greater number of pieces.
45. The terms “inexpert player” and “average player” are inverted here, probably due to a
transcription error in the text. The sentence, as it now stands, would not be logical, for the reason
46. This technique is described in the treatise by Sunzi in the following terms: “A distant army
must pretend to be close; a nearby army must appear to be distant”. AI QILAI (ed.), op.cit., p.57
47. Chapter 1 of Qijing expresses the same concept in the words: “In the same way that two
autonomously ‘living’ formations should not be divided, there is no sense in attempting to join
two practically dead ones”.
48. A similar concept is expressed in the section “On good methods of play” in Qijing, chapter
49. It is precisely by arguments such as these – i.e., by considering conflict and warlike
contestations not as ends in themselves but as phases of play inferior to an easy victory – that the
author implicitly counters the accusation that weiqi resembles war too closely. However, the fact
of presenting a player able to influence change completely, capable of turning events “naturally”
towards his already established aims, without force or direct confrontation, echoes the Taoist
theories of the school of Dark Science, Xuanxue, which represented a sovereign able to order
and administer the empire by means of his non-action, by virtue of natural cause-effect reactions,
devoid of subjective will (cf. FU YULAN, A History of Chinese Philosophy, Princeton,
Princeton University Press, 1983, vol. 2, p.231ff).
50. In chapter “Shipian” of his work, Sunzi advises: “In any battle, engage conflict with the enemy
in the ordinary manner, but in order to win, use your imagination”. AI QILAI (ed.), op.cit., p.85.
51. Sunzi expressed this concept in the words: “Attack where the enemy is not prepared, advance
where he cannot even imagine you to be”. AI QILAI (ed.), op.cit., p.57.
52. This quotation is linked to the sense of this chapter: reacting irrationally to an opponent’s play,
putting down pieces haphazardly in an attempt to stop him, is like letting oneself be overcome by
vertigo high up in the mountains. In both cases, one risks death. This passage is taken from the
poem “Xiaowan”, from the section “Xiaoya” of Shijing. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit., vol. 1,
53. Similar concepts may be found in chapter “Xushipian” of Sunzi’s work, entitled, like this one,
“On Emptiness and Fullness”. Sunzi writes: “The formation of the army is like water: like water,
it moves from high places and flows downwards, In the same way, military formations should
avoid whatever is already full and occupy the void”. AI QILAI (ed.), op.cit., p.100. The theory
which, as in this case, presents the passage of one principle to its opposite in an infinite cycle, is
proper to Taoism
54. In Zuozhuan, this excerpt, from the twelfth year “Xuangong”, closes by stating that this “is a
good rule for conducting armies”. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit., vol. 2, p.1879.
55. Taken not from Zuozhuan but from the book “Jinxin” of Mengzi, in: RUAN YUAN (ed.),
op.cit., vol. 2, p.2768.
56. Chapter “Mougong” of Sunzi Bingfa contains, among the “five things which must be known in
order to win”: “If you know when to engage battle and when to avoid conflict, you will win; if
you know how to measure the intensity of your efforts, you will win; if, by exploiting your own
degree of preparation you can prevent your adversary from being equally prepared, you will
win”. AI QILAI, op.cit., p.75.
57. Chapter 33 of Laozi begins with this sentence: “He who knows others is wise, but he who
knows himself is enlightened”. XU XINGDONG (et al.), Daodejing Shiyi (The Classic of Dao
and De, with Explanations), Jinan, Jilu Shushe, 1991, p.80.
58. This is because a player leaves the centre of the board, where there are many intersections, in
the hands of his adversary.
59. A peculiarity of inexpert players is that they struggle hard to prevent their groups of pieces
being captured, with the inevitable result that they lose an even larger number. It may be said
that the capacity to understand when a group of pieces is “dead” truly discriminates among
players of various levels.
60. This advice is similar to that contained in Chapter 1 of Qijing, in which careful observation of
play, especially at moments of conflict, is recommended.
61. The verb tong means both “to communicate, put into contact” and “to understand”. The
deliberately ambiguous translation “to connect” has therefore been chosen here, since it also
implies “putting friendly pieces in contact with each other”.
62. Chapter “Xici xia” of Yijing (The Classic of Changes). RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit., vol. 1, p.
63. The author clarifies the following concept at the end of the chapter: for a player to manifest
the fact that he is disturbed during play is not only impolite but also disadvantageous, because it
allows his opponent to understand and exploit his plans. To keep calm (also mentioned in
Chapter 13, together with the recommendation to breathe regularly) allows an adult person to
regain that “original state” which he had when he was a child. The value of this regression to a
childlike state was upheld by Taoism. See also chapter 55 in Laozi, which reads: “He whose
heart is impregnated with the most profound Virtue is like an infant”. XU XINGDONG (et al.),
64. Chapter 1 of Qijing reads: “Insatiability leads to numerous defeats, timidity to little success”.
65. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit. vol. 1, p.454.
66. The author refers here to the Confucians, who had harshly criticised the game, and in
particular to Wei Yao. The quotation which follows in this text is a paraphrase of Yao’s Speech
on Weiqi: “To use change and trickery as a method of play is dishonest and disloyal; and to use
terms such as ‘invasion’ and ‘killing’ is a principle which demonstrates being devoid of
Humanity”. Boyi Lun (Speech on Weiqi), in CHEN SHOU, Sanguo Zhi, Shanghai, Zhonghua
Shuju, 1963, “Wushu”, Wei Yao biography, ju. 65
67. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit., vol. 1, p. 25.
68. This term was used to describe the theories of Su Qin and Zhang Yi.
69. By this statement, the author distances the game from the doctrines, condemned by Confucian
thought, which were generally associated with weiqi and in which the game was viewed as
amoral: the indifference of means towards ends, which in turn were based exclusively on
personal advantage. By objecting that weiqi does not allow total liberty but instead obliges
players to follow a series of unwritten rules of courtesy (indicating pieces with one’s hand,
making known one’s plans, etc.) and by making a rigorous logical examination of the situation,
the author concludes that weiqi is correct in itself, and relegates players who do not follow this
etiquette to a lower level. This reasoning overcomes the greatest cultural obstacle, which later
became anachronistic, which prevented the Chinese élite from full acceptance of the game.
70. Chapter “Gaozi shang” of Mengzi defined weiqi as “a small art”. While there the accent fell on
its subordination to true arts, here Mencius’s authority is used to have weiqi accepted as a Dao
“even though it is small”. YANG BOJUN (ed.), Mengzi Yizhu, Beijing, Zhonghua Shuju, 1990,
vol. 2, p.264.
71. This quotation is in fact taken from Lunyu: “Duke Wen of Jin was incorrect and not correct,
Duke Huan of Ji was correct and not incorrect”. YANG BOJUN (ed.), Lunyu Yizhu, Beijing,
Zhonghua Shuju, 1992, vol. 2, p.151.
72. A zhan is a move in which one piece is inserted between two friendly pieces separated from
each other by an intersection, called guan.
73. The text is corrupt here. The note in the Yuan edition, contained in Xuanxuan Qijing (The
Very Mysterious Classic of Weiqi) suggests that the original text was intended to read: “Do not
forget what has happened before”, thereby stressing the importance of links with previous
moves. WANG RUNAN (ed.), op. cit., p.15. However, it seems more logical to interpret this
sentence as: “Do not play a zhan until it is absolutely necessary”.
74. The pieces must be placed inside a friendly group, in order to consolidate it but, naturally, an
equilibrium must be sought: putting down too many pieces would be useless and would make the
player lose the initiative; too many would suffocate the configuration and could even kill it. But
not to play any pieces at all could make it too “empty” and thus allow it to fall an easy prey to
invasion. It is therefore necessary to identify which intersections, in the case of an attack,
guarantee maximum safety with the minimum number of moves.
75. Chapter 1 of Qijing likewise advises players to move to the north-west if their goal is to the
76. Preventing eyes from being created is one of the surest ways of capturing enemy pieces.
77. A jie consists of playing a piece in an enemy configuration while its eyes are still being
created, in an intersection of the za type – i.e., the adversary can kill it with a single move – but in
such a way that the enemy piece, once played, is in turn in a za position and thus vulnerable. At
this point, a move must be made which attempts to kill many pieces in another area of the board,
obliging the adversary to respond immediately so as to occupy a strategic point in the forming
configuration and kill it, preventing the creation of two eyes. This move is successful only if all
the conditions for its fulfilment exist.
78. Handicap pieces, nowadays numbering from one to nine, are those given by one player to an
opponent of inferior skill. They are placed on fixed intersections at the beginning of the game.
79. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit. vol. 1, p.81.
80. A combat situation in a restricted space containing two unstable antagonistic groups. The little
available space does not allow both to survive at the same time, so one group must destroy the
other or succumb. In view of the importance in such a situation in the economy and precision of
each single move, modern weiqi manuals emphasize the difficulties involved.
81. When the adversary is aligning his pieces one after the other (see: xing) in close contact with a
friendly formation, a wo move consists of laying down a line of pieces beyond the enemy
formation, in order to create another structure or aid an already existing one.
82. A diagonal advance in enemy territory which, although it allows greater speed of penetration
than an advance along straight lines, is very dangerous, due to the possibility of being cut off by
nearby enemy pieces.
83. A defensive blocking move: placing a piece next to an advancing enemy piece in one’s own
territory in order to hinder his movements.
84. Placing a piece diagonally at an intersection far from another friendly piece.
85. Guan: the name given to two pieces on the same line separated by an empty intersection.
86. The process of encircling a group with the aim of depriving it of all external freedoms.
87. A zhan consists of placing a piece in the centre of a friendly guan, in order to create a
continuous line composed of three pieces.
88. These are all moves to escape from the adversary’s attempts to encircle a friendly
configuration, either towards still free areas or to link up with other external, still “live”, friendly
89. Placing a piece in front of the empty intersection of an enemy guan, in order to oblige him to
play a defensive zhan.
90. Placing a piece strategically far from one or more semiencircled enemy pieces, in order to
avoid granting them any pathway to escape.
91. Placing a piece next to an enemy piece or pieces, which reduces their freedoms to one. If the
adversary does not react, they can be killed in the next move.
92. Cutting a line of enemy pieces arranged diagonally.
93. Placing a piece along a horizontal line of friendly pieces, thereby lengthening it; also the entire
process of creating a line, provided that the moves are consecutive.
94. Adding to one or more friendly pieces another piece vertically, towards the nearest side of the
95. All moves made to minimize an enemy xing from penetrating friendly territories.
96. Playing a piece inside an enemy configuration still being created, in order to prevent the
construction of two eyes and thereby killing the pieces in question.
97. Playing one or more pieces inside an enemy configuration so that, by killing them, the enemy
is obliged to deprive himself of his freedoms and dies by his own hand.
98. Playing a piece on the same line as a row of friendly pieces constrained by the adversary near
the edge of the board, but separated by one intersection. This piece serves to increase the
controlled territory and prevents the death of the threatened group.
99. Playing above an isolated enemy piece already in contact with a friendly piece.
100. Playing a piece at an intersection where only one freedom remains. As in his next move the
adversary may kill it immediately, this strategy has an ulterior motive.
101. All moves which aim at exerting pressure on the adversary towards one side and prevent him
from expanding towards the centre.
102. Playing a qu in order to prevent an adversary from closing an eye.
103. All moves aiming at preventing endangered enemy groups from joining other “live” groups.
104. This corresponds to the move of the “catapulted” piece, pao, described in chapter
“Qizhipian” of Qijing. It consists of placing a piece inside a practically complete enemy
configuration, without being able to weaken it but with the aim of making the adversary play his
next move there.
105. This situation occurs when two aligned pieces are surrounded by two enemy pieces at both
ends and by three enemy pieces on both sides, thus leaving only one freedom. If the encircled
player tries to escape, the encircler can constantly place him in a da situation, i.e., always with a
single freedom, by creating a zig-zag column of pieces which the encircled player is obliged to
follow until he is killed. The only possibility of escape is to anticipate the path which the zheng
will follow, and place friendly pieces at strategic points along it. The zheng and ways of
escaping from it are treated extensively by the anonymous author of Qijing, chapter
106. See note 51, Chapter 10.
107. This occurs when two opposing groups encircle each other, without any eyes or possibility of
having contacts: only the death of one will be the life of the other. Mors tua, vita mea.
108. Killing one or more enemy pieces.
109. Enemy pieces, which have remained in one’s own territory without being able to form eyes,
are allowed to survive and rendered harmless. At the end of the game, they are removed as
110. Playing a li on one side in order to begin constructing an eye, or as a move at the end of the
111. The above list in fact only contains thirty technical terms. This may have been a transcription
error. The first list of weiqi technical terms was composed by Xu Xuan (917-992), tutor to the
hereditary prince during Northern Song times and co-author of the literary anthology Wenyuan
Yinghua. His list, also composed of thirty-two terms, of which only traces remain in the Shuofu
of Ming times, certainly formed the basis for this chapter. The missing terms are: jian: cutting
diagonally two enemy pieces; and chong, inserting a piece inside an enemy guan. In the Qing
edition of Xuanxuan Qijing, the commentator, Deng Yuan, added other terms which later came
into use, bringing the total to forty-eight. LIU SHANCHENG, Zhongguo Weiqi, Chengdu,
Sichuan Kexue Jishu Chubanshe, 1988, p.152ff.
112. This quotation is in fact contained in Lunyu. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit, vol. 2, p.2506.
113. This quotation too comes from the “Jishi” chapter of Lunyu, which concludes with the words:
“… and those who do not study, even after having encountered difficulties, are the lowest of the
low”. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit., vol. 2, p.2522.
114. That is, crushing the enemy towards one side is the best of these moves, because it presumes
that the initiative has been maintained; it is also an attacking move. Instead, constraining the
enemy to the sides is a defensive move, and is in any case better than a rigid block, because
(unlike the latter) it allows the initiative to be regained.
115. Obliging the enemy to defend himself in order not to be cut diagonally with a jian and thus
lose the initiative.
116. In a situation in which two enemy configurations, each with a single eye and each struggling
to kill the other, the group which originally had a greater number of freedoms will survive.
117. Unlike a straight line, a diagonal line can be broken.
118. Four pieces arranged in an L-shape in a corner of the board, forming a territory comprising
two free intersections.
119. This configuration and its properties were already known to the anonymous author of Qijing
who, in chapter “Shiyongpian” of his work, expressed them with a sentence containing eight
characters, seven of which are identical to those used here.
120. Six pieces arranged in a corner of the board, enclosing a territory with four free intersections.
The peculiarity of this grouping, i.e., the fact that it cannot be successfully invaded, was noted in
chapter “Shiyongpian” of Qijing.
121. Thirteen pieces arranged so as to enclose a territory of two lines of three free intersections
122. Seventeen pieces enclosing five free intersections, of which the central one is adjacent to each
of the other four. It corresponds to the hualiu formation, mentioned – albeit obscurely – in
chapter “Shiyongpian” of Qijing.
123. Four intersections forming a square occupied by four pieces, two of each colour, arranged so
that no piece is next to one of the same colour.
124. An unknown move (literally: “corner figure”).
125. Continuous reciprocal capture of pieces placed in the same position. This move can now
only be made after a turn in which a move has been made elsewhere. It is not clear from the text
whether this rule was in force at the time this text was written, or whether it had been replaced
by the convention, mentioned here, that it was a rather vulgar way of playing.
126. A formation like a “cross”, but one in which all the pieces are of the same colour: a useless
and unrefined move.
127. The text is corrupt here. It should read: “Not all…”.
128. The existence of handicap pieces was first mentioned in the history text Nan Shi regarding the
sovereign Ming (494-499) of the Southern Ji dynasty. LI YANSHOU (ed.), Nan Shi (History of
the Southern Dynasties), Beijing, Zhonghua Shuju, 1987, vol. 6, p.2027). Chapter “Qizhipian”
of Qijing also discussed this aspect of the game.
129. RUAN YUAN (ed.), op.cit, vol. 1, p.88.