vendredi 17 mai 2013

Chinese Game.

Non Attributed, Master teaches 2 Geishas the Game of Go, ca. 1870-1890.
I pass to the description of the Chinese game, of which, by occasion, it is pleased to report different things. One is able to see the design of it in the book of Chinese figures which exists in the library of Berlin, whence we have made engraved with care. This game is of the kind of those which depend only on the talent without any mixture of chance ; it has this of the singular, that the players (and it appears that there are two of them) do not take their pieces reciprocally, but they besiege themselves and tighten themselves such, that there is one who is winner, but so to speak without death nor effusion of blood, and only by removing the liberty of being moved by his adversary. This which, in the other games, arrives only rarely, is therefore absolutely necessary.

But we hear, relative to this game, Nicolas Trigaut, in chapter VIII of the 1st book of the Christian Expedition among the Chinese, of the illustrious Matteus Ricci, true founder of the missions in China, according to the report of diverse authors. It is expressed thus:

"There is among them a very serious game, and which consists of a Board of many times three hundred cells." (I believe that this expression should say more than three hundred cells, perhaps by inexactitude of the translation from Ricci, from Italian into Latin, and of that of Trigaut from French into Latin, which expresses rather badly that there are only two players).

"And they play with two hundred pieces of which some are white, and the others black. With these pieces, each of the two players seek to repel those of the other toward the center, in order to be master consequently."

"The magistrates practice this game with the greatest ardor, and they often employ by playing it the greater part of the day, for between skilled players, one single part often endures an entire hour. The one who is strong, when even he would be distinguished by no other merit, is however praised and sought by everyone, and even the magistrates habitually attach some of them near their person, so that instructed by their attentiveness, they are able to understand well the rules of this game."

Here is that which Trigaut reports ; but with this description, he lacks evidently an ocular exposition of the figure of the game. This figure is that of a square Table, of which each side is of eighteen cases, that which makes that the number of cases is eighteen times eighteen, that is three hundred twenty-four and not three hundred. The rest of the description is less important, for each of the two players seeking always to push the other toward the center of the Table, it is evident that this is always in his power, but that this is not absolutely necessary, since it suffices that he holds him enclosed, either in the middle, or in one of the angles of the Board ; for that one wins the game, who remains the master of a greater number of cases ; is it that one is able to understand thence ? if this is not the one who, holding his adversary enclosed, is the master of the field of battle.

I easily believe that the magnitude of the Board and the quantity of pieces render this game quite ingenious and quite difficult, although all the rules are not known. However, certainly the singular principle, according to which all the actions of this game have never for end the death of the enemy, but only to push him to the limits of the Table, this principle (which is not found in our games) would merit well that we spoke of it. It is possible that some Brahmin has invented it, and that this sage, abhorrent of murder, wished to obtain a victory not soiled by blood ; for it is constant that many peoples of the oriental Indies, more Christian, if I dare say it, than those who bear the name of it, have the habit to avoid murder, even in war.

See also here. 

Godfried Wilhelm Leibniz, translated from latin by Camille Théodore Frédéric Alliey & from french by Richard J. Pulskamp, Note on Some Games and Principally on the Chinese Game, on the Difference of the Game of Chess from the Little Robbers (or Latrunculus), and on a New Kind of Naval Game in Le Palamède, vol.7, 1847, p.489-490.

Merci à T.K.D. 

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