Go Sighting #1: Inoue Gen’an Inseki Signed Goban

Saw this beautiful old board for sale at a Japanese auction: a kaya goban signed by Inoue Gen’an Inseki 井上幻庵因碩 (1798-1859), a very important historical figure in the game of go. The board measures 43.5cm by  41.5cm, with a height of 25cm and a thickness of 12.8cm. It may have cracks and wrinkles but it’s not warped. So it’s quite a thing of beauty for something that is probably around 150-200 years old. The lucky winner of the auction bought it for JPY336,000.

[May 2010]
Source: Lifein19x19 forum post
From John Fairbairn:

Being historical does not automatically make a GO BOARD famous or important. Recall that Genan lost all his money in his shipwreck and tried to recoup it by dishing out 1-dan diplomas left right and centre, hence the derogatory phrase Inseki shodan. It is probable that he signed BOARDS just as freely. This may be an Inseki BOARD.

…This BOARD says 百戦百勝不如一忍 – “Being victorious one hundred times in one hundred battles is not as good as being forbearing once”. This (I think – don’t quote me) is from the Chinese poet Huang Tingjian and he goes on with something like “One hundred words and one hundred barbs are not as good as being silent once”. After that, rather like the second verses of national anthems, the subsequent lines become hazy in the memory, but it may have been something like “One hundred gobans are not as good as one GO BOARD”.

The BOARD in question (if genuine) can be dated post 1830 from Genan’s signature where he naughtily styles himself Inseki XI and Dagoushou (= Meijin). I don’t know, but I’d be fairly confident that he was still willing to use that style after his shipwreck, since he was so far away from Edo in remote Kyushu. In that case this BOARD would be dated post 1853.


Thanks to JF’s comment, I found the Sung Dynasty poem the phrase is from.
Written by 黄庭坚(1045-1105)
Source: http://www.xici.net/d59517284.htm

赠送张叔和 黄庭坚



Compare the grain of the goban with the above picture. Notice the grain of the top surface runs diagonally from corner to corner. This type of wood cut is "shiho koguchi" which is cut so that all the end grain on all four sides will be the same. According to the book "The Go Player's Almanac 2001", this cut is very rarely seen nowadays but was once popular in the Edo era. Although the surface is not considered aesthetically pleasing, it was popular as this cut was considered a lucky charm against evil spirits.

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3 Responses to Go Sighting #1: Inoue Gen’an Inseki Signed Goban

  1. shibownbown says:

    Where did you get it? This is one of the Gobans that are of greatest historical importance that I have ever seen….

  2. shibownbown says:

    The price paid by that bidder is actually not expensive at all….If I have money I will definitely buy it….幻庵因硕,he was such an important figure in the Japanese go history….

  3. tchan001 says:

    I am not the lucky bidder. The lucky bidder seemed like someone who was prepared to pay much higher prices. Just that his competitors were not as willing to bid higher.

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