Weiqi, known in English as Go or Encirclement Chess, is one of the four most refined skills that an ancient Chinese intellectual could possess. It has a history of well over 4000 years in China and remains popular to this day in China, Japan and South Korea. Culturally, this may be one activity that really is "more than just a game".
Go is a game of encirclement and capture, which takes place on a board of 361 squares. The object of Go is not to capture the opponent's actual pieces but rather to surround empty territory on the board. This is done by building encircling "walls" around these empty spaces. The game is played by two people, with a black and white set of pieces, just as in chess.
It's pretty certain that Go was invented by Chinese ancestors, yet nobody knows exactly when. The Encyclopedia Britannica records that the game originated from China in 2306 B.C. According to legend, a Chinese ruler of some 2200 years ago, Emperor Yao, invented Go to help enlighten his son Dan Zhu.
Wu Yulin is a Go professional, and coach for young players in the National Go Team. He explains how the game is historically another high-brow art-form.
"In ancient China, Go was mostly favored by intellectuals, especially those from the upper class and the bureaucracy. The ordinary people would seldom take a liking to this game. However, now we have people from all circles playing Go, as a result of government efforts to popularize this ancient art."
Secretary General of the China Go Association, Hua Yigang, explains the reason why this game has predominantly been played by intellectuals.
"Only those with some degree of education can approach this game, because it's so complicated. It has too many variations of play and requires a great deal of calculation. An ancient scientist once calculated that the board positions in a single game can be a number that is 768 digits long."
Read more at China.org.cn