This is a very interesting topic.
Having read Sun Tzu’s masterpiece and Tao Te Ching, I think that the way both of those were written, in small sentences and in the form of sayings, would have earned their writters a position in the “sages of antiquity” in the West, as well as the position they hold in the East. Because it is a fact that the “sages of antiquity” where known mostly in the masses of the time for their aphorisms and not so much for their more verbose texts (those that did write such, at least).
One could argue that this simililarity is negligible, but I think that it goes to show that wisdom is appreciated accross the globe and accross cultures in a similar fashion. Having said that, it remains a fact that the cultures that we are talking about, have some very profound differences.
Before we get into that let us establish that China and Greece (along with India and Japan) are among the few countries that have managed to survive more than 2500 years while keeping some semblance of identiny along with a constant evolving language. They also produced a lot of philosophy and they ended up influencing a lot of people outside their countries. Indeed Greece, with its philosophy influencing even the Catholic church for centuries, can be said to be the basis of what we call the “Western civilization” and while the East had more “trend-setters” (if you pardon the expression) than the Chinese, I will only keep them in this post because we are talking about Wei-Qi/Go and its establishment as a cultural item of education.
In that regard let us return to the differences of the Greek/Western world with the Chinese Empire which has spanned hundreds of years in different forms.
- Fragmented with different groups with different goals. A lot of the times one group considered the other as invader.
- Small populations where the individual can sometimes sway a whole battle or move a city-state in having a meteoric rise
- Had a lot of constant fighting and rarely had a unified leader of all the different areas
- A vast array of geographical features and lots of coasts, making a lot of places had to defend in any meaningful way.
- In medieval Europe you could have been a Dutch farmer, whose feudal lord was French and his king was Spanish. Next day, unbeknownst to you, things could has shaken up and you might have been traded to some other lord and now you could be Dutch, your lord is Italian and his king is German. Chaos.
- Fragmented with different groups and different goals, but they all identified as a similar group of people since there was a centralized empire. The position of the Chinese emperor - as a whole - was always the coveted prize for the lords and small kings that were ambitious.
- Comparatively enormous populations, even back at the early days. Therein the individual lost a lot of its power and ability to have the chance to exert and amazing talents they might have had.
- Had a lot of constant fighting, but over who would be the a unified leader of all the different areas
- A smaller, less diverse region geographically, with much fewer coasts.
- Vast areas and populations change lords, but the idea of the Empire - a semblance of overarching order that will be eventually be restored - remains.
Let us now see the games those two cultures produced:
- The pieces are set and always similar between the opponents, but they have different values and “talents”
- Killing is encuraged. Indeed the game cannot end without it.
- The balance of power changes, but mostly through destruction. Even if you want to se advanced tactics those demand sacrifices and a lot of mutual bloodshed.
- Nothing matters, except from the king. If the king dies, everyone else is as good as dead or they are free to join the enemy. (indeed in a lot of European History whole countries changed hand just because the kings married off to some other royal line).
- The winner takes it all.
- The pieces have equal value and equal talents. No piece is inherently more important than the other.
- There are games where not one stone is captured. No killing is needed. There is no king at all.
- The balance of power changes, but mostly in a peaceful manner
- The winner does not take it all. The player that win is the one that managed to have even half a point more, but the game itself does not deny the loser its gains. Indeed the game teaches practically that the winner cannot take everything
Now, a good question is that considering the aforementioned cultural/historical differences, is it any wonder that the strategy games that dominated the popularity in those regions had those differences? Is it any wonder that there are many historical differences in the way generals and countries though the ages have solved their problems or had even different definitions of victory?
When you live in a fragmented continent that constantly bickers on who will be the top dog over different countries, with different cultures with different languages, I think that chess, and the military tactics/strategies that go along with it, is a reasonable result.
When you live in an empire where the people are mostly similar and you are used to have one supreme ruler in a vast land, which needs administration and efficient delegation of authority, I think Go, and the military tactics/strategies that go along with it, is a reasonable result.
I admit of this post is a very shallow analysis of the historic attributes of the countries and regions involved. I am neither a history scholar, nor a strategist, so this is post is bound to be relatively myopic in its scope. In that regard, I’d like to request of you to not just point out in general that “some historical things are missing”, but, if you can and have the time, do mention them specifically, so I can learn about them, since I find the topic genuingly interesting