History of Go 02 Transmission to Japan

* Transmission to Japan
When did Go come to Japan? Nobody knows for sure.

There is a legend that it was brought back to Japan by Kibi no Makibi, who had been sent to China as an envoy to the Tang court in 717, returning in 735. This was during the Nara period (710-84). Actually, however, there are records in the Chronicles of the Sui Dynasty: Records of the Kingdom of Japan to the Japanese fondness for Go. Moreover, in the Taiho Statutes: Rules for Monks and Nuns, published in 701, there is a reference to Go. This indicates that the transmission of Go predated Kibi.

Chronicles of Sui: Records of the Kingdom of Japan
During the Asuka period (592-710), in 607, during the reign of the Empress Suiko, Prince Shotoku gave the envoys sent to the Sui court a letter to deliver beginning: 'From the ruler of the country where the sun rises to the ruler of the country where the sun sets.'
Prince Shotoku

On seeing this letter, the Sui Emperor was angry, but the following year he sent Bunrinro Haiseisei as his envoy to Japan. Haiseisei used his 608 visit to compile the Records of the Kingdom of Japan. He wrote that the Japanese were pious Buddhists and that they liked the pastimes of Go, sugoroku (similar to backgammon) and gambling.

Taiho Statutes: Rules for Monks and Nuns
The Taiho Statutes were promulgated in 701. They consist of rules and regulations concerning politics, schools, land, social status, etc. and were drawn up with the aim of building up a strong country like Sui and Tang China. The section Rules for Monks and Nuns mentions that while gambling is forbidden, the lute and Go are not restricted.

* The oldest go board in Japan
There is a storehouse named Shosoin to the northwest of the main hall, housing the Great Buddha, of the Todaiji Temple in Nara. It stores many articles that had belonged to the Emperor Shomu (701-56), together with contemporary records and artifacts, including Go boards and stones.
Emperor Shomu The Shosoin Storehouse

There are three Go boards and four sets of stones. One of the sets was a gift from the king of Kudara, a kingdom in Korea, to the court noble Fujiwara no Kamatari (614-69).
The Rosewood Illustrated Go Board (from the Shosoin)

* Connections with documents and literature
The first use of the character for "go" is in the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), which dates to 712. Other articles about Go also appeared in the Fudoki (Gazetteers), which are records of different provinces in ancient Japan, the first of which was compiled in 713, and Kaifuso (Fond Recollections of Poetry), compiled in 751.
Go also appears in such famous literary works of the Heian period (794-1192) as: the Kokin Wakashu (Collection of Old and New Japanese Poetry), compiled by the famous poet Ki no Tsurayuki; The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu; and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.
These works show that Go was very popular in the daily life of the court aristocracy. The Emperor Daigo was known for his fondness for Go, and there is a story of a game he played with the top player of the time, Kanren Shonin, in which they wagered a gold pillow.
Go was enjoyed not only by the aristocracy and priests and court ladies -- gradually it spread among the warrior class, also.
There is a story of one Kiyohara no Sanehira who was so caught up in a game of Go that he ignored a relative, Kimiko no Hidetake, who had come to pay his respects to him; this was the cause of a war between them.

Murasaki Shikibu The Tale of Genji Illustrated Scroll

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