Page:Smith - The game of go.djvu/44

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20
THE GAME OF GO

On the board, as shown in the diagram (Plate 1), are nine little circles. It is on these circles that the handicap stones when given are placed. They have no other function in the game, but they are supposed also to have some sort of symbolical meaning. Chamberlain states that these spots or “Seimoku” are supposed to represent the chief celestial bodies, and that the central one is called “Taikyoku”; that is, the primordial principle of the universe. In the work of Stewart Culin referred to in the preface it is stated that they correspond to the nine lights of heaven — the sun, moon and the seven stars of the constellation “Tau” (Ursa Major). Indeed the whole arrangement of the board is said to have some symbolical significance, the number of crosses (exclusive of the central one) representing the three hundred and sixty degrees of latitude, and the number of white and black stones corresponding to the number of days of the year; but nowadays the Japanese do not make much of a point of the astronomical significance of the board or of the “Seimoku.”

The stones or “Ishi” with which the game is played are three hundred and sixty-one in number, corresponding to the number of “Me” or points of intersection on the board. One hundred and eighty of these stones are white and the remaining one hundred and eighty-one are black. As the weaker player has the black stones and the first move, obviously the extra stone must be black. In practice the entire number of stones is never used, as at the end of the game there are always vacant spaces on the board. The Japanese generally keep these stones in gracefully shaped, lacquered boxes or “Go tsubo.”