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Molded Pottery Tile of People Playing Board Game
Item No. 999995

Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368), N/A, China
Greyware Pottery
11" x 9.25" x 1.5"
( 27.94 x 23.495 x 3.81 cm)
(H x W x D)

This foliate ceramic tile depicts two players sitting on a kang table and playing the Chinese board game called wiq, which originated in China where it has been played for more than 2500 years. It is known in the United States by its Japanese name Go, because it arrived here by way of Japan.

Weiqi is played on a grid of black painted lines that are arranged 19 lines by 19 lines. The playing pieces are played on the intersections of the lines. Probably made of stone early on, the playing pieces called stones are now usually made of glass or plastic. Players begin to learn the game at four years old, and the playing time can range from 20 to 90 minutes for a casual game to 2-6 hours for tournament play. Some professional games, especially in Japan, take more than 16 hours and are played in sessions spread over two days.

The game is played by two players who alternately place black and white stones on the vacant intersections of the grid. The object of the game is to control a larger portion of the board than the opponent. A stone or a group of stones is captured and removed if it has no empty adjacent intersections, the result of being completely surrounded by stones of the opposing color.

Placing stones close together helps them support each other and avoid capture. On the other hand, placing stones far apart creates influence across more of the board. Part of the strategic difficulty of the game stems from finding a balance between such conflicting interests. Players strive to serve both defensive and offensive purposes and choose between tactical urgency and strategic plans.

The framed tile is a fine work of art, as it seems so deeply cut and has a sense of perspective difficult to capture in a work of art only 1 1/2" deep. Part of the sucess of the artist's ability to capture depth is dependent on the bottom of the composition where the frame is open. A ledge is cut there at an angle, there is a three brick-high floor also cut at an angle and the kang table, set at an even sharper angle, is cut underneath it and left open--a device which draws the viewer's eye into the room. It also seems that there are two steps before and in front of the kang table, that the kang table, set at a very severe angle, is placed much further back in the arranged at a severe angle, are set back in the middle of the table and that their legs are set inside the beginning of the table. The truth is, however, that it is all a brilliant illusion of space, as almost half of each figure extends and projects beyond the edge of the frame of the tile and that the entire depth of the tile is a mere 1 1/2". Finally, there is the final illusion of plants and flowers that look as if they are a short distance behind the players.

This tile is also brilliant for its engagement of the viewer's attention in the game that he/she is observing. The player on our right is in the middle of a play, as his left arm leans on the board while his right extends toward the lower left corner to place a stone. He also turns his head toward the viewer, thus engaging his attention in two simultaneous but different ways.

The tile was originally covered with a white slip and painted. Although some of the white slip remains, there is little of the paint extant other than small areas of brown paint on the frame the kang table, the players and the flowers behind them.

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