Wu Qingyuan (The Go Master) (2006)





Director:     Zhuangzhuang Tian.

Starring:     Chen Chang (Wu Qingyuan),  Sylvia Chang (Shu Wen - Wu's mother),  Akira Emoto (Kensaku Segoe),  Aki Fuj (Mrs. Segoe),  Mansaku Fuwa (Matsutaro Shoriki),  Yi Huang (Wu Qingying),   Takayuki Inoue (Shusai Honinbo),  Ayumi Ito (Kazuko Nakahara),  Yoichiro Ito (Kaoru Iwamoto),  Xuejian Li (Li Yutang),  Keiko Matsuzaka (Fumiko Kita),  Kaho Minami (Jikou Son),  Takashi Nishina (Minoru Kitani),  Hironobu Nomura (Yasunari Kawabata),  Nao Ohmori (Utaro Hashimoto).

a Chinese man becomes a master of the game of Go in Japan despite the rise of fascism in Japan


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Odawara (located in western Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan and part of the Greater Tokyo Area), 2004 Master Wu's home.  The talk outside is of the monkeys who have factions and eat Master Wu's persimmons. 

Wu Qingyuan was born in 1914 in southeast China.  "He began learning Go at 7 from his father.  At 11, the records of his matches were sent to Japan  -- thus began his destiny as a Go player"  Wu Qingyuan says:  "Mr. Segoe saw my records and said I was Shusaku reincarnated.  Shusaku was the 'Saint of Go' in mid-19th century Japan."

A Go championship is being held.  After the 21st match, Shuusai has declared an adjournment.  A game observere says he must now go in order to finish his article for the paper. 

In 1933, at the age of 19 Wu Qingyuan won the right to play Honinbo Shuusai, the highest ranking player.  Wu Qingyuan says:  "At that time I was fascinated by the Shin Fuseki technique.  So, from the start, I played the 3-3-Star-Center strategy."

Sister comes home and shows Wu Qingyuan the headline about a "Japan-China showdown" in the game of Go. 

Walking outside, the master tells Wu Qingyuan that if Japan goes to war against China, he may not be able to stay in Japan.  And in China he wouldn't have the opportunity to play.  So:  "Would you consider becoming a Japanese citizen?" No answer. 

In the house the Master tells Qingyuan that God has given him a gift to play this game of Go and he must pursue this gift.

Qingyuan applies for citizenship.  The clerk tells him that they will process his application. 

Qingyuan's friend Kitani seems to be having a nervous breakdown.  He marches back and forth in his room like a cage animal.  Then he throws himself on the floor and cries and carries on so.  This is followed by the friend running out of the room and into another room and nearly crashing into a window. 

In 1935, the Master Saionji Kintake passes away.  Qingyuan says:  "During that period, my only refuge from exhaustion was Saionji's house.  But he was gone forever."

Quingyuan is on a ship crossing over a large body of water to China.  Back on land a guide takes him to the Student Dormitory.  The guide urges Quingyuan to quickly get out of those Japanese robes because the other students will be hurling insults at him.  Quingyuan says he wants to see Mr. Li Yutang as soon as possible.  He says:  "Brother. I want to join the Hongwan League."  The other fellow says Mr. Segoe wrote him a letter saying he was very concerned about Quingyuan and urges him to come back to Japan soon. 

Quingyuan gets to see Mr. Li Yutang.  The man explains that the objectives of he Hongwan League are to avoid involvement in political parties and factions.  In other words, stay clear of politics.  Help stamp out conflict and work for world peace.  Quingyuan attends a meeting. 

Quingyuan is the the hospital. He feels better because his fever is gone and he can walk a little outside.  The wife of Master Roppeita brings a book for Quingyuan to read.  She says that these are such tumultuous times, that she and her husband rarely go out anymore.  She also tells him that they are thinking of moving him to another sanitarium. 

At home the Reppeita couple talk about the weather, until the wife mentions that war has broken out.  She also wonders how Quingyuan is doing?  Her husband says he is reading the Chinese classics to help him soothe his soul.  She says:  "It's very painful to watch."  Husband tells wife that he has bought a nearby house and when Quingyuan gets out of the sanitarium, he will move Mr. Wu into the place. 

In 1936, Wu has a relapse of tuberculosis.  He now goes to Mt. Fuji to rest.  Wu writes:  ". . . I felt the world was going through turbulent changes.  Only the world of Go was as tranquil as the Taikoko Lake." 

When the weather is warmer, Wu gets to be outside.  A friend visiting him recites one of his poems word for word. 

One day while practicing Go, Wu hears a lot of commotion.  After awhile, he has to go see what is going on.  The students are singing a very patriotic Japanese song.  Wu feels that this is too much for him and he runs outside.  He goes for a long walk. 

Wu is now with his old friend Kitani. 

In 1939, after Shuusai retired, Wu Qingyuan and Kitani Minoru competed in the Ten-Game Tournament for the championship of Go in Japan.  Wu later writes that he was so close to Kitani that he often saw him as his older brother.  The two now play each other for the championship. 

At night a rock is thrown through a window of Wu's house.  His mother gets up and reads the attached note.  Wu takes the note to Reppeita.  Mrs. Reppeita wonders what will happen if Wu beats Kitani in the tournament?  She says in this ugly climate between Japan and China, they should cancel the tournament. Husband does not like that suggestion at all.  He tells Wu that he deeply regrets the current political situation.  The atmosphere is so bad that a Go player these days may even have to think about the possibility of being killed. 

The tournament continues.  It rains, thunders and lightning strikes.  All of a sudden, Kitani's nose starts to bleed and he falls unconscious to the floor from his sitting position. Men grab Kitani and take him to get some help. Kitani faints again and goes down.  Wu writes:  "The first match lasted 3 days.  I won that match by 2 points.  It was the first of nearly 100 games I would play in Ten-Game Tournaments.  It was a soul-stirring struggle." 

Mother and Qingyuan leave the building.  A pretty, young Japanese girl named Nakahara Kazuko rushes up to mother and mother introduces her to her son.  She says that Kazuko is a relative of Master Minemura and a student. The two bow to each other.  He gives Kazuko a book that Kitani Minoru and he wrote.  Kazuko thanks him very much. 

Later Kazuko goes to prayer and sits right next to Qingyuan. 

Mother is all packed to go back to China.  Mom asks her son if he likes Kazuko?  He does. 

On the bus ride Kazuko lays her head on Qingyuran's head. 

The two young people get married.  Mr. Reppeita tells Wu that Shoriki Matsutaro phoned to say he won't be coming.  And the Yomiuri newspaper canceled the match with Karigane. 

The young couple go together to purchase some rice.  They have to share the burden of carrying the heavy load because of it's great weight.  They eat a quiet dinner together. 

Young men are being inducted into the Japanese army.  They go through a physical exam.  Wu is among them.  He scores terribly low on the blowing in the tube test, probably because of his bouts with tuberculosis. The army doctor, after first confirming that Wu is the famous Go player, tells him that he still has lingering tuberculosis and he is exempt from the draft. 

Kinita plays Wu again.  He says tomorrow he may be drafted into the army as long as he passes the physical.  So this may be his final game of Go.  Wu says:  "Please come home safely.  When you do, let's play again." 

Kinita passes his physical exam and is going into the army.  As of yet, he doesn't know where he will be deployed. 

Wu goes to the Go academy.  Mr. Reppeita asks him to come with him because the entire Go academy has been evacuated.  He adds that Tokyo is too dangerous of a place now.  Wu says he can't leave Tokyo because he must protect the religious sect he and his wife are in.  Reppeita says he can arrange some Go matches in Hiroshima.  Wu says he wants to concentrate on his faith.  He adds that his plan is to quit Go.  Reppeita comments:  "Ridiculous!  How dare you say that."  He asks Wu san to reconsider the matter.  Reppeita adds that he will keep in touch with Wu. 

An air raid siren goes off.  Wu and his wife help get the kids into the bomb shelter.  When they come out of the shelter, they see the great damage that has been done to the Go academy.  Reppeita is with some of his Go students and asks them if anyone knows where Wu is?  Someone says that Wu and his wife have been displaced.  Reppeita says they have got to find Wu.  One of the students now tells the Master:   Wu san refused to be a part of any competition. 

All of a sudden bombs start dropping from the sky with no air raid siren warning.  Many are very scared, as they ought to be.  Later Mrs. Reppeita tells the students:  "Japan now faces events which will overturn heaven and earth. The sun goddess has entrusted me to save you from this degenerate hour."   The sect members march through the streets praying out loud. 

In Hiroshima Reppeita oversees a game of Go.  All of a sudden there is an extremely bright light that appears and then a blast goes through the room.  Reppeita and the others survive the blast.

In 1945, the USA drops the two atomic bombs on Japan.  Mr. Segoe's son died in the bombing of Hiroshima.  Japan surrendered.  Soldiers are returning home from the war. 

The Yomiuri Newspaper says they will sponsor the Ten-Game Tournament of Go.  Wu says he has dedicated himself to the his faith and he hasn't played Go for two years.  The head of the sect says that this an an excellent opportunity for the sect to be able to spread their beliefs to others.  "I want you to participate on behalf of the sect."  Wu goes into the academy to play Go. 

The police arrive and force their way into the brick building.  They saysthey are here because of violations of the food management laws.  There is a dispute over who owns the rice.  A big tussle breaks out between the police and the heads of the sect.  The leading members of the sect are taken to the police station. 

Wu goes inside a sect building.  The female leader says:  "I want to use Kaneki's country house on Lake Yamanaka as the sect's base."  Kaneki has to be brought back into the sect and the leader says she wants her followers to "Go tell her that I am the living god."  Wu goes to speak to Kaneki at her country house.  He accidentally falls into the pond.  Kaneki welcomes him.  She seems to know already why Wu has come.  She says the sect leader has great spiritual powers, but lately she has been more possessed by evil spirits.  Kaneki tells Wu plainly:  "I will not see her because I cannot trust her."  She continues in this vein saying that the sect leader Jiko is only using Wu.  Now she gives him a robe and he will sleep overnight in the house.  But he can't get to sleep.  He walks around back and forth.  He takes off the robe belt and ties it to a bar.  It looks like he intends to commit suicide.  He sits down to think about it. 

Kaneki takes care of Wu saying that he had a fever but now it's getting better.  She explains to him that he was unconscious for two days.  At other times he was delirious.  Now she says she will reconsider meeting with Jiko. She tells him that something terrible has happened in Hachinohe.  A rich brewery man has donated a house to the sect.  His family was furious with him for this and they paid some men to attack the sect.  From this a riot broke out.  Wu gets up saying that he must go back. 

Wu hitches a ride on a truck to get back to the sect's base.  He finds the building, but no one is around.    He takes off running again.  He runs along the beach.  He finally catches up to the sect members who are also walking along the beach.  Kazuko sees him and she is very happy.  She says she didn't think she would see him again.

Wu is late for his scheduled match.  The match may have to be forfeited unless Wu shows up.  It is suggested that they wait just a little bit longer. 

Wu goes into a building and is handed a letter.  On the bus he opens the letter.  Kazuko writes that she ran away from the sect because she could no long trust Nagaoka Yoshiko.  She says that she didn't see this earlier and Wu had to go through a lot of worrying because of her.  She is going to visit her parents in Hokkaido (the northernmost and second largest island in the Japanese archipelago).  She then will return to Tokyo and wait for her husband there. 

Wu gets off the bus in the middle of nowhere.  He walks back and forth on the road, until he kneels down and rereads the letter. He cries. 

Wu returns to their old home.  Kazuko is already home.  She is a bit nervous around Wu.  She goes to the kitchen and cries.  He comforts her. 

In 1948 Wu Qingyuan left the Jiko sect.  Kazuko, Wu and Kitabu start teaching children again. 

Wu visits his wife in the hospital.  She has just recently had a baby boy. 

When Wu goes to play Go, the people there congratulate him on his new baby. 

1955.  The final match in the Ten-Game Tournament is between Wu and Takagawa Kaku.  Wu writes:  "I had dominated the Go world ever since my first tournament, and defeated all my challengers.  This was the completion of a 17-year contest." 

Not looking where he's going, Wu walks right into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.  He suffers a broken leg and head injuries. 

Wu is up, but has to use a crutch on one side to balance himself.  He talks to a friend about all the young people who are coming into the Go competitions.  After he gets healthier, he plays in Go competitions himself. 

Wu has terrible pains in his head.  He calls for his wife.  She comes in to help him get back in his chair.  He asks Kazuko to take his place in the Go match.  She says she will do it. 

In 1961, Wu Qingyuan was injured in a motorcycle accident.  He writes:  "It seemed the god of competition abandoned me.  I suddenly felt estranged from the stones and Go board."  In private Kazuko cries about her husband's health problems.  Wu stops playing Go, even though friends urge him to get back in the game. 

In 1972 Segoe Kensaku committed suicide.  He had been despondent about not being able to play Go anymore. 

In 1975, Kitani Minoru died.  Wu writes: "One by one, those who had bestowed great kindness on me all passed away, like stars falling from the sky."  

In 1984 there was a grand ceremony in honor of Wu Qingyuan's retirement. 

He writes:  "There are two things in my life, truth and Go."

This film is dedicated to Master Wu Qingyuan and his wife.


Even though I had no idea what the game of Go was all about, I enjoyed the film very much.  The game actually originated in China over two thousand years ago.  On a board the idea is to surround the rival's black and white stones so that the competitor has the most stones at the end of the game.  It was interesting following Wu Qingyuan's rise to the top of the world of Go.  He started playing Go from a very young age in China where he was born.  He was so good that a sponsor in Japan takes him into the Go academy in Japan.  His mother and he start living in Japan and Wu keeps rising in prestige in the Go world.  Political events start to impinge on his world because Japan starts becoming super-nationalistic in preparation for Japanese expansion into eastern Asia. Being Chinese, the Japanese super fascists don't even want to consider the possibility of a Chinese person beating a Japanese person in the world of Go.  In fact, the newspapers talked about a "China-Japan showdown".   Wu became greatly concerned for not only his own safety but the safety of his mother too.   A rock with a threatening message attached to it is thrown through a window of the family home. Wu goes back to China for awhile.  He has to quickly get out of his Japanese robes or else the students at the university will start hurling insults at him. 

Wu and his wife suffer through World War II.  They survive the many bombings of the Greater Tokyo area.  At least, he missed the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan that brought the end to the war. 

Wu was a very quiet, very pensive fellow.  He worked hard at trying to be and remain calm.  He never showed outwardly any sense of joy at being the champion of the Go world.  He always had a very simple way of life with his commitments to his religion and Go.  (He should have mentioned his wife as she was very important in helping Wu Qingyuan.)  He and his wife were part of a religious sect, but both abandoned the sect when the sect leader started referring to herself as a living god. 

Good movie. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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