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Go Nation

Go Nation: Chinese Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China

Marc L. Moskowitz
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Go Nation
    Book Description:

    Go(Weiqi in Chinese) is one of the most popular games in East Asia, with a steadily increasing fan base around the world. Like chess,Gois a logic game but it is much older, with written records mentioning the game that date back to the 4th century BC. As Chinese politics have changed over the last two millennia, so too has the imagery of the game. In Imperial times it was seen as a tool to seek religious enlightenment and was one of the four noble arts that were a requisite to becoming a cultured gentleman. During the Cultural Revolution it was a stigmatized emblem of the lasting effects of feudalism. Today, it marks the reemergence of cultured gentlemen as an idealized model of manhood. Marc L. Moskowitz explores the fascinating history of the game, as well as providing a vivid snapshot of ChineseGoplayers today.Go Nationuses this game to come to a better understanding of Chinese masculinity, nationalism, and class, as the PRC reconfigures its history and traditions to meet the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95693-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    July 8, 2010. That was the day I discovered that I could play Weiqi better than a ten-year-old in China. In 2010 I spent three weeks taking classes at the Wenbo School for children (the Wenbo Weiqi Training Center,Wenbo weiqi peixun zhongxin) and its summer school in a different location. In the first week, most of the children were on vacation and the school offered only one beginning and one lower-intermediate class. Much to my surprise, and even more of a shock to my teachers, I turned out to be the strongest player in both classes. Mrs. Wang, the...

  7. TWO Multiple Metaphors and Mystical Imaginaries: A CULTURAL HISTORY OF WEIQI
    (pp. 24-47)

    All games have their metaphors. In the West this is most often evinced by a particular fascination with the thin line between genius and madness. This trope is most often expressed with chess but also with the game Scrabble and even Weiqi as it appears, albeit briefly, in Western movies such asA Beautiful MindandPi. Both films feature brilliant mathematician madmen who are first enamored with, and then humbled by, the game.³

    In contrast, East Asian writings on games, though acknowledging the eccentricities of gamesters, do not go so far as to depict them as insane and are...

  8. THREE Nation, Race, and Man
    (pp. 48-70)

    Many people i interviewed made direct comparisons with Weiqi strategies and Sunzi’sArt of War. Sunzi’s statement above perfectly captures the nuances of the Weiqi concept of seizing the initiative (xianshou), in which the player who can force his opponent to follow his lead is thought to have a tremendous advantage. Similarly, Weiqi rhetoric asserts that one’s playing style reflects one’s personality and one’s place in the world in direct comparison with other men. This form of manhood relies on controlled aggression, the will to maximize one’s gain, and the ability to assert one’s dominance.

    The second opening quote of...

    (pp. 71-96)

    Teaching children weiqi is part of a larger discourse on training boys to become men who will thrive in China’s highly competitive economy. This has been linked with the concept ofsuzhi(often defined as “quality”), which is more often than not associated with middle-class aesthetics, consumerism, and a grueling work ethic.Suzhiis used by the Chinese government, popular press, and educational leaders to encourage its citizenry to be industrious, to seek education, and to behave in a genteel fashion.Suzhiis also used in disciplining children to become model citizens. In elementary school classes, In elementary school classes,...

    (pp. 97-118)

    Weiqi is thought to attract a particular kind of man and, in turn, to train him to become certain—to address the world with confidence and to fearlessly rely on his intellect to overcome all obstacles. One of the central tenets of being a Confucian gentleman is to display an unwavering integrity. For Peking University students, the idea that a proper man should consistently display virtue and strength also arose with remarkable frequency. Regardless of whether or not they play Weiqi, Peking University students represent the ideal personhoods associated with Weiqi, for they have overcome incredible odds to gain entrance...

  11. SIX Retirement and Constructions of Masculinity among Working-Class Weiqi Players
    (pp. 119-140)

    On my first day at the park I accepted an offer to play a game of Weiqi with seventy-two-year-old Mr. Yu. Because I had watched him lose to a much stronger opponent I had underestimated him. Because I am American he underestimated me. The result was a strange beginning, full of unreasonable moves on both sides. A stream of passersby stopped to watch because of the anomaly of my presence in this decidedly non-Western arena. For the same reason, a crowd of Weiqi-playing regulars at the park gathered to provide a steady commentary to the effect of “Hey, the foreigner...

    (pp. 141-148)

    Too often, western depictions of people who play games of logic hone in on the suffering of mad genius; of the toll of the game physically, psychologically, and economically; of ostracism from mainstream society ending in isolation, despair, and even death. In China’s views of Weiqi this rhetoric is largely absent. In part this is because Chinese culture is less ambivalent about intellectual prowess and having a relentless work ethic. Characteristics that in the West might be labeled as “nerdy” (studying or working from morning to night, avoiding heavy physical activity, an exceptionally strong attachment to one’s parents) are components...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 149-164)
    (pp. 165-166)
    (pp. 167-178)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 179-184)