Go was invented more than 3000 years ago in China, though some think it was nearer 4000 years. In the beginning, the game had a close connection with the laws of nature, politics and economics, strategy and intelligence, and it was also a theocratic tool for the ancient emperors to rule society. The game is mentioned in the Analects of Confucius, the greatest ancient work of Chinese philosophy and ethics, written in the 6th century BC. It came to Japan about 1,500 years ago via the Korean peninsula, and became popular at the Japanese court among the Imperial family, the aristocracy and court ladies. It makes several appearances in the 11th century masterpiece "The Tale of Genji", often described as the world's first novel. Later, it spread to the warrior classes and the Buddhist priesthood and eventually flourished throughout the country.
Japan 1600-1868The game of Go made its most significant development during the Edo period (1603-1868). The central figure was the first head of the Honinbo school, Sansa (1559-1623), who taught the three warlords who ruled Japan during his lifetime, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu. Sansa became the head of the state Go Academy (Godokoro) and established the system of hereditary Go schools. The head of the four Go schools (Honinbo, Yasui, Inoue, Hayashi) would compete for the honor of their schools in games played at Edo Castle in the presence of the Shogun. Many great players, such as Dosaku, Jowa and Shusaku, appeared during the Edo period. State support of Go, in the form of stipends for professional players, made possible great advances in the level of Go skills and theory during the Edo period, and this laid the basis for the modern prosperity of the game.
Japan: the Modern Era
After modernization and westernization began in the Meiji period (1868-1912), various new Go organizations appeared. Stimulated by the advances in Go technique in Japan, the game started to enjoy a revival in China, its original homeland. Also, during the Meiji period, Westerners visiting Japan learnt the game and began to teach it in Europe and America.In 1924, the different Go organizations in Japan combined to form the Nihon Ki-in or the Japan Go Association. This is still the main Go body in Japan; it promotes the playing of professional and amateur Go among people of all ages in Japan and around the world. The game first became strongly established in the 1920s and 1930s in the U.S. and in Europe. One result was the founding of the European Go Championship in 1938, a tournament which remains today the most important European tournament. Today numerous tournaments are held throughout the year in many countries throughout the world, including those held by the Iberoamerican Go Federation, in Canada, Australia or elsewhere. Most prominent are the European Go Congress (held in a different European country each year) and the American Go Congress.