Lesson 153: Baduk in Modern China (1)
Since the oldest records and artifacts related to Baduk are found in China, and the legendary tales of the origin of the game all involve Chinese emperors, most scholars agree that Baduk originated in China.
Accordingly, it would be a huge task to reduce the long history of Baduk in ancient China to a brief summary. In contrast,
Compared to the splendid past, the Chinese Baduk scene of the first half of the 20th century is not so well-known. We know the famous Wu Qingwian went to Japan in order to continue studying the game in the 1920s, but his career developed mostly in Japan rather than in his homeland. There were innumerable civil and foreign conflicts during these turbulent, war-torn years, and it is easy to imagine that the Chinese people had more urgent needs to take care of than a game like Baduk.
The modern 'dan' concept, replacing the ancient 9-step rank 'pin', was introduced in the 1950s after the war between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party came to an end. Initially, the presentation of the dan level was done privately among the active players. In 1957, the first National Individual Baduk Tournament was played, and the top ranked players of this tournament were sent as the Chinese national team for the China-Japan Super Competition. Although the National Individual Baduk Tournament was not held during the years of the Cultural Revolution, it was revived at the end of the 1970s, and this year marks its 40th anniversary.
The Chinese Baduk Association was first established in 1962 in Hefei, Anhui, and it started to officially assign dan levels from 1 to 7 to strong players. However, when the Party abolished all ranks in all societies in 1964, even in the army, because everybody should be equal, the just-begun dan system was also discarded. The Cultural Revolution followed not long after.
During the Revolution, most of the cultural relics of ancient China were rejected, including Baduk, and even a world-class player like Nie Weiping (1952~) was not allowed to maintain his career but was put to work as a laborer. Because countless historical sites, buildings and artifacts were destroyed during this period, it is thought that many precious Baduk boards, stones, documents, and records about the game, carefully hoarded till then, were also damaged and lost.
The official Chinese system of selecting and ranking the national players, which continues today, was reinstated back in 1982. At that time, there were 10 strongest players who were national representatives. The new association gave the 10 players dan levels; Chun Jude (1944~), Wu Songsung (1945~2007), and Nie Weiping were given 9-dan, and the others 6-dan and 7-dan. After that, the association selected 114 more players and gave them dan levels from 1 to 7 by comparing their strengths with those of the 10 original players.
The writer is a baduk professor at Myongji University and a professional player of the game.