In a trip to Hangzhou, almost 2 years ago, I participated in one (the biggest if I'm not mistaken) of the Chinese National Amateur Weiqi Championship as a (Brazilian) foreigner.

During one of the subevents, the organization wanted the foreign participants to play a team game against monks from a monastery. Kind as they almost always (not on the Weiqi board lol) are, the monks brought us some souvenirs, the main one being a fan.

On the fan, there is an inscription that, according to the event official translator is difficult to translate. I don't recall the meaning she gave me back then, but it was something related to the Japanese Shu Ha Ri (she didn't mention Shu Ha Ri, that's my perception actually). Here is a picture of the fan (now with Kim Jiseok 9p's autograph also):

Hangzhou Fan

Shu Ha Ri would be a succinct description of the cycle of mastery of a craft, usually referring to Aikido. On the Wikipedia page:

It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shu, ha, and ri. These stages are explained as follows. In shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebears created. We remain faithful to these forms with no deviation. Next, in the stage of ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws.

What I remember is the official translator telling me that it was something like (I really don't remember her words accurately) "first you see; then you don't; then you don't need to". Contextualizing: first (Shu), you would think that everything is simple, you simply follow rules; then (Ha) you realize that things are much bigger then they seem, you can innovate with your knowledge, but you're just scratching the surface, you're overwhelmed; then (Ri), finally, you don't need to see anything, you represent the craft, you are it.

I think this should be some sort of somewhat famous chengyu, but I'm not sure, it didn't seem that familiar to the translator.

So... could someone please give me the meaning of the inscription and some references on the topic?

1 Answer 1


It is a 棋諺 (Go saying/ common wise words for Go playing).

見棋不是棋 would mean the hand that's obvious to you is not the hand --- meaning you need to look beyond the obvious and decide your move with more in-depth analysis.

Simply put: If a move is obvious to you, it would also be obvious to your opponent, therefore, it wouldn't be as effective as a surprise move.

Shu Ha Ri 守破離 is a martial art saying. The only commonality between 守破離 and 見棋不是棋 is they are both "saying/ common wise word" (口訣).

Other 棋諺 I remember:

  • 左右同形中間有棋 : refers to "the middle point is the key to connecting two weak groups with the same shape".
  • 七死八活 : "seven dead, eight alive", referring to the minimum number of stones in a row on the side that you need in order to live.
  • 白鶴守巢 : "white crane guarding nest" or, as usually translated into English: the crane's nest, a specific famous instance of a snapback.

I play Go too, but I am only at SDK level.

  • Apparently, my memory got very corrupted. Now that you explained it, it does make more sense and I that's actually what the translator told me back then. But I don't quite understand why your 見棋不是棋 is in a different order with respect to the fan's inscription. Did the fan rephrase it to sound cooler?
    – psygo
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 15:03
  • I'm in a bit of a Go hiatus right now, but maybe we can play someday in the future. I used to be around 3-4D on Tygem, nothing spectacular. They only let me join the championship because they always want foreigners to participate.
    – psygo
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 15:05
  • In your answer, you mentioned three other Chinese terms (棋諺, 左右同形中間有棋 and 八生七死). I don't quite know their meaning. Would please you care to clarify/translate them?
    – psygo
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 15:11
  • @Philippe Fanaro See the links I added to 左右同形中間有棋" and "八生七死".
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 17:23
  • 3-4D have to give me 8-9 stones handicap. It won't be fun
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 18:29

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