Gokyo Seimyo


A recent posting on Sensei's Library expressed surprise at mention of the classic Gokyo Seimyo. A quick rummage does indeed suggest that the only mention of it in English may be on the GoGoD CD, and even we only describe it as part of our catalogue of printed books of the Edo period.

That seems to be enough qualification to count it as new here, so we will give a sample of it. It has many points of interest.

The name means "Refined Splendours from Go Manuals" - or in more modern English: Best of Gokyo Seimyo the Go Classics. It is by Hayashi Genbi. Although Genbi was a fairly prolific, and certainly important, author, it is the only book he published under the name Hayashi Genbi. His nom de plume was Rankado.

It was published in 1835. It can be regarded as a follow-up to his very famous Gokyo Shumyo, even though that was published as early as 1812 (under the name Rankado Genbi). This "Marvels from the Go Classics" is famous today as a sound collection of tsumego problems suitable for weaker players. It has been reprinted in various guises, but the original was important also for the way it attempted to address the technical issues of publishing problem solutions with variations.

Genbi, even though a contender for Meijin, was also intensely interested in propagating go among the masses. He even devised a special go font. In Gokyo Seimyo he also tried to provide a rich fare of new instructional material. It may look ordinary today, but it was a startling innovation in its own day.

It has 206 pages spread over four volumes. Volume 1 has 197 joseki diagrams. Volume 2 has 153 endgame problems. These were regarded as an innovation, but Genbi - who liked to pose as a Chinese scholar - probably borrowed the idea from China. In any case, several of them clearly come from the Ekisei Tsubiho of 1773. This Japanese book was by a Chinese called Chen Jiru, perhaps once resident in Japan, and was in turn a revision of the Ming Dynasty book Yi Zheng (Go Principles, i.e. Ekisei) of 1583. Chen was a Ming scholar who used the charming pseudonym of A Man of Eyebrows in the Clouds (i.e. an old man), which rather puts most KGS/IGS handles in the shade.

Volume 3 of Gokyo Seimyo has 144 problems entitled "moves to live inside territories", which are probably inspired by the encroachment problems of the Chinese classic Guanzi-pu. Volume 4 has 22 Chinese games of famous Qing dynasty players, including the great Huang Longshi. Genbi was no plagiarist, as his title indicates, and he was also almost the lone and mostly unheeded voice in Japan extolling the virtues of the great Chinese masters of the past.

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