Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ancient "Go" Board Excavated as Part of Marquis of Haihun's Tomb

I'll just get right to it!  Here's the pic of the game board -- I'm so glad they actually photographed it and included that photo in the article released to the general public about some of the magnificent items uncovered in the excavation of this tomb:

Chessboard found at the excavation site of royal tombs of Marquis of Haihun StateinNanchangcapital of East China's Jiangxi province. [Photo/]
A chessboard was also found in the "Haihunhoutombaccording to Jiangnan City Daily
The chessboard is not completebut was apparently used for playing gamesAccording to
expertsit resembles the modern game "go", but has yet to be fully identifiedIf the 
chessboard was for "go", it would be the earliest "gochessboard unearthed in China.

Link to full article at The Daily Mail (December 27, 2015), with link to article and photographs at China Daily article that was updated on November 19, 2015.

While the article refers to this as a "chessboard" it is far too large to have anything to do with Xiangqi, which was played on a 9 by 9 square board. [While the chessboard of the West is 8 by 8 squares, Xiangqi pieces were placed on the intersections of the squares and thus the board playing surface was reduced to the equivalent of an 8 by 8 board.]  My guess if that this is probably a board on which "Go" was played, but appears to be less than one-half of the board, assuming it was a square board.  It is unclear from the description quoted above whether the rest of the board is missing or if it is still underneath what appears to be layers of mineral deposits that have yet to be chipped away???

The tomb is that of the Marquis of Haihun, who briefly sat as Emperor of the Western Han Dynasty in China (206 BCE - 24 CE) before being deposed.  This is what the article said about him:

It is thought the main tomb at the site in Jiangxi, an eastern Chinese province where archaeologists were digging at Christmas, belongs to Liu He, who was the grandson of Emperor Wu.

Liu was given the title Haihunhou, or Marquis of Haihun after he was dethroned after 27 days as emperor.  It is believed he was deposed because he lacked both talent and morals.

Evidently he wasn't killed or forced to commit suicide immediately -- which I find extremely unusual.  Why wasn't he killed?  That was the usual modus operandi for the Chinese (of course, not only for them, when disposing of some inconvenient heir to a throne) back in the day.  In any event, he was some years after his "impeachment" in 74 BCE given the title of Marquis of Haihun and given a marvelous royal burial when he died, in 59 BCE.

I find reading about Chinese successions to emperor, etc. confusing at best, but Wikipedia tries to put it into plain English here.

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