[Rediscovery of Silla (5)] Would people of Silla enjoy playing Go games with pebble stones?

연합뉴스 / 2022-06-23 16:43:31
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▲ This photo, provided by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, shows excavated pebble stones which are presumed to be Go stones of the Silla period. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

 

Gyeongju, June 23 (Yonhap) – On last 2020, relics which are rarely seen were excavated in “Jjoksaem excavation site,” the cemetery of Silla royal families and aristocrats who lived at Gyeongju Wolseong.

In a wooden chamber tomb covered by stone and earthen mound, embracing gigantic tumulus up to a diameter of 30 meters, a lot of pebble stones were excavated, which are presumed to be Go stones, along with other relics including fancy accessories such as gilt-bronze crown and gold earrings.

The owner of the tomb is estimated to be a Silla royal woman about 150 centimeters tall, who lived 1500 years ago. 

 

About 860 Go stone-shaped pebble stones in uniform size were excavated at the bottom of the tomb.

 

 

▲ This photo, provided by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, shows Tomb No.44 of Jjoksaem excavation site where Go stones of Silla are excavated. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

 

In the past, pebble stones presumed to be Go stones were also excavated in ancient tombs of Silla made during the 5th to 6th century, including south mound of tumulus No.98, Cheonmachong tomb, and Ancient tomb in Yonggang-dong. 

 

However, it is the first time that a large amount of pebble stones were discovered at once, such as in Tomb No.44 of Jjoksaem excavation site.

Kim Hyun-jeong, a researcher of Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, who discovered Go stones at Jjoksaem excavation site for the first time, explained, “While I was excavating earthenwares, I found small pebble stones which I haven’t thought of as relics at first,” adding, “I felt certain that they were Go stones after finding huge amount of pebble stones during the excavation.”

 

 

▲ This photo, provided by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, shows black Go stones and white Go stones excavated at the Jjoksaem excavation site. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

 

Pebble stones of ‘Tomb No.44 of Jjoksaem excavation site’ have a round and flat shape, in 1-2 centimeters, which can be distinguished between dark and bright colors.

It is interesting that Go stones of Silla were all excavated in the tombs of the highest ruling class of Silla.

For this reason, it was suggested that 860 pieces of Go stones were buried together with a woman of the Silla royal family so that she can play Go games in the world after death.

Meanwhile, some argued that it is difficult to see pebble stones as Go stones because there are some stones among 860 pieces which are hard to clearly distinguish between black and white stones.

 

 

▲ This photo, provided by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, shows a poster of Cheonnyeon-Sudam, a Go game competition held last April 28. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

 

At the end of last April, a unique archaeological experiment was conducted to figure out the exact use of these pebble stones.

‘Cheonnyeon-Sudam, A Go game competition of Silla,’ playing Go game with Go stones excavated in the Tomb No.44 of Jjoksaem excavation site, was broadcasted live through the YouTube channel of ‘BADUK TV’ and ‘Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage,’ on April 28.

An amateur player Kim Soo-yeong and Hong Seul-gi had a Go game competition with pebble stones excavated in Jjoksaem excavation site on the 13th.

Kim Sung-bae, a chief director of Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, said “This competition is not a normal event, but it is a kind of ‘experimental archaeology’ to figure out if playing Go game with Go stones of Silla period is actually possible.”

Kim further explained that “The Go game competition is meaningful in that it can become a starting point of research to reveal the history of Go game and the culture of the Silla people.”

The competition was held under the attendance of preservation specialists, after a thorough safety diagnosis to prevent pebble stones from being lost or damaged.

There was also a conversation about the history of Go game in Korea, Japan, and China, as well as a commentary on Go game competition.

 

 

▲ This photo, provided by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, shows a Go game playing with Go stones excavated in Wolseong. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

 

The Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage is also continuing on research to identify if 860 pieces of pebble stones were real Go stones, based on the archaeological experiment conducted on this day.

According to a document, it is believed that Go game is a play culture enjoyed by the highest ruling class such as kings of Silla.

Before King Hyoseong took the throne, he played a go game with a wise classical scholar Sin-choong, under the nut pine in the palace garden. - Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) Vol.5

Also, according to the Chinese history documents ‘Gudangseo’ and ‘Sindangseo,’ it is said that there were a lot of people who were good at playing Go game in Silla, and even China sent an envoy to let him compete with people of Silla.

Since Silla people are good at Go game, Yang Gye-eung was appointed as an envoy and sent to Silla to compete with them. -‘Sindangseo’ Vol.220

According to the document, the institute is presuming that Go game was not only enjoyed as an entertainment by Silla royal families but they were also encouraged as “diplomatic sports” to communicate with other nations such as China.

(This article is translated from Korean to English by Kim Jimin.)

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