Page:Smith - The game of go.djvu/36

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12
THE GAME OF GO

rank were called “Kan shu,” or the half-way step, and those of the ninth degree were called “Mei shu,” the clear, bright hand, or “Mei jin,” literally "celebrated man." It is related that this last appellation arose in the time of Nobunaga, who was a spectator of a game played by Honinbo Sansha with some contemporary, and who expressed his admiration of the skill of Honinbo by exclaiming “Mei jin!” which thus became the title applied to players of the highest skill.

Since the institution of this method of classifying Go players over three hundred years ago, there have been only nine players who have attained the ninth degree, and only fourteen players who have attained the eighth degree. On the other hand, there have been many more of the seventh, and many more still of each of the lower degrees. In 1880, at the time Korschelt wrote the article previously referred to, there was only one player in Japan holding the seventh degree, and that was the celebrated Murase Shuho. At present there is one player who holds the ninth degree. His name is Honinbo Shuyei, and he is the only player who has attained the ninth degree during the period called the “Meiji,” or since the fall of the Shogunate forty years ago.

This arrangement of the players in degrees is unknown in China and Korea. On the other hand, it is in use in the Ryukyu or Loochoo Islands.

The Japanese seem to have regarded the classification in degrees as an absolute standard of measurement. Nevertheless, it must necessarily have varied from time to time, and in the course of centuries the standard must gradually have risen.