Book 1    

Preface to "New Methods in Go"

Shigeno Yasutsugu1

When Meijin2 Shuho compiled a collection of games, he asked me about a title: "What about 'New Methods'?" New refers to changing what is old. Hoen Shinpo Renewing daily3 implies that there is never an end. Ever since go sages appeared there have been many go manuals. The theory they exemplify has changed with time; openings gradually change. When Sansa emerged, we had go of the Genna and Kanei eras [1615~1643]. When Dosaku appeared, we had go of the Genroku and Hoei eras [1688~1711]. When Jowa4 appeared, we had go of the Bunsei and Tenpo eras [1818~1844]. The players who followed Jowa were Shuwa and Shusaku, and now we have reached Shuho. The more who appear, the more there is something new and so new manuals are created. If they are called New Methods5 it is surely with justification.

If that is so, then are new methods always correct and old ways wrong? Are players of today skilful and players of the past clumsy? Not so, I say. If a player's art has reached the ultimate level, then it is not possible to surpass it. But just because rain has fallen it does not mean the next day will be fine. Or, even if today is fine, tomorrow rain may fall. And people rejoice in the fact that there is no limit to what is new each day.

In other words, as Wei Bingshu6 said, there are boundaries where no progress is possible and there are boundaries where change is possible. Please allow me to discuss go in terms of this theory. A player whose skill has is extremely refined is known as a sage: he has reached the ultimate. Dosaku and Jowa were outstanding examples of go sages. Dosaku's skill was of supreme excellence; Jowa's was heroically profound. If we liken them to poets, then Dosaku resembled Li Bai. Jowa resembled Du Fu. If we liken them to men of letters, Dosaku is Su Dongpo and Jowa is Han Yu. Though they differed in temperament, in depth of knowledge they were the same. There are sages of former ages and sages of later ages, but the standard is the same. Surely it is not possible to distinguish between them.

It is so with go theory and openings. They change as they follow the ages and so appear to change their aspect. Here are the boundaries where change is possible. Since old ways have been in use for a long time, it is possible to assess their merits and demerits. Changing the demerits leaves the merits. But what is changed has further merits and demerits. Later, those who are proficient make further changes and so things are renewed. This is what we mean by renewal day by day, without end.

This is so not only in go. It applies to protocol, music, law and government. There is nothing which does not change so. Because of change, that which is filled overflows. Every generation must learn that this is so.

Shuho had Shuwa as his teacher and Shusaku as his elder fellow-pupil. The three "Shus" all had their fons et origo in Jowa. 20-odd years after he died [in 1847], there was a change of government and the Godokoro7 was entirely abolished. Its venerable players passed away and their art was on the verge of disappearing.

It was then Shuho who gathered some friends and formed Hoensha. Day and night they taught, they studied, they investigated, they discussed. When everyone later heard rumours of this, they came flocking to see. The Way of Go again flourished mightily.

A certain German person approached Shuho for tuition. He produced a go manual when he returned to his own country to spread the game there. This is how go was introduced to the West.

After the Edo Shogunate set up the Godokoro, many famous players emerged one after another. Their strength and the extent of their skill far exceeded China's. They were supreme over all other countries. The book by Jowa called Viewing the Highlights of the National Art8 is proof enough of that. But the person who par excellence introduced the game over the seas was Shuho.

Since the beginning of the Restoration of the Meiji Emperor, go, despite being a "small art,"9 has blossomed. When an impasse is reached fortune is needed and we have seen that. I wrote recently in a preface to Hoensha's monthly magazine that if our cultural accomplishments developed and the traditional arts are burnished, that will make our age illustrious and prosperous. A mere three or four years has elapsed since then and this has already been seen to be the case. Books on new methods are now appearing in great numbers and students now have whatever they need to acquire knowledge in depth. Sages will appear in due time. Any changes in go theory will be scrutinised, and this will go on and on without end. Having written that then, I feel now just like a Meijin who predicts the result of a game!

Shigeno Yasutsugu, Autumn, August 1882


1. Shigeno Yasutsugu 重野安繹 (1827 ~ 1910) was a famous historian and Chinese scholar from Kagoshima. He used the sobriquet Seisai for this book. After the Meiji Restoration he worked for the Ministry of Education, where he presumably became acquainted with Miyoshi Kitoku who wrote an afterword to Hoen Shinpo. Miyoshi, an amaneuensis for Shuho, was also credited by Korschelt with providing the history notes in his book (though the grave mistakes there are surely not attributable to Miyoshi). Shigeno was heavily involved in the politics of the time and was a member of the House of Peers. The title of his main work, in 1899, the History of the Restoration of Great Japan probably sums his politics up well enough.

2. Shigeno refers to Shuho as guoshou, a Chinese equivalent of Meijin, and we have referred to him as Honinbo Shuho. Strictly neither was correct. The book correctly gives the author as Murase Shuho. But he was unusual in being regarded already as Meijin by acclamation, and the Honinbo title was soon to be his anyway.

3. Renewing oneself daily is a well-known piece of advice from Confucius.

4. An example of the style expected of the Chinese scholar: Jowa is here written the first time in a very unusual way: 丈龢. The usual way of writing Jowa, and also used here subsequently, is 丈和 - the second character, in a way, has been reversed. Was this a way of signalling a certain doubt about a man whose reputation was still in the balance? Jowa's fall from grace (after his politicking to gain the Meijin post) and rehabilitation have long intrigued go scholars. Coded or not, it is interesting that he is given here as an exemplar, because it suggests his rehabilitation may have started earlier than is usually accepted. All the names given are from the Honinbo lineage, of course. Clearly everyone knew that Shuho would soon be signing for that team again.

5. Although we have decided to stick with 'methods' in the translation, it is 'openings' that are referred to, as is always the case with 法. 'Methods' avoids having to distinguish between joseki and fuseki. On that topic, the book is subtitled "Games and Joseki," yet joseki are not treated in this work and the term really refers to openings in general. This era may be the cross-over when fuseki began to be used instead of the old term ishidate.

6. Wei Bingshu, or Wei Xi, (1624 ~ 1681) was an outstanding Confucian scholar and Ming loyalist. His most famous tenet was that knowledge that has no practical use is not worth being called knowledge.

7. Godokoro is given in the Chinese text with the characters for Ki-in, which probably explains why Korschelt used the term Go Academy (in German, die Go-Akademie).

8. Jowa's 1826 book Viewing the Highlights of the National Art (Kokugi Kanko) was structured in a way rather similar to Hoen Shinpo. It formed part of his battle royal with Genan Inseki. See "Jowa - Sage or Scoundrel?" on the GoGoD CD for a full discussion.

9. Calling go a "small art" is a conventional reference to Mencius.


© John Fairbairn & T Mark Hall (GoGoD), London 2007.