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 Post subject: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #1 Posted: Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:19 pm 
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In Japanese tradition, which side of the clam shell is right-side up? The white side or the stripped side?

Of course, today I mostly see clam shells portrayed with the lines showing since they are pretty to most people. But I remember reading some post talking about the pure white side being the right side up. Which makes sense because the stones should be "white," not stripped. Well, some clam shells have some markings on the other side. Anyway, I suspect that most players don't care and just play the stone however it was held. But I am wondering if there was a tradition in Japan on how the stones were played.

This seems like a topic that might have been covered in the GoGoD Encyclopedia but I could not find anything.

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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #2 Posted: Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:49 pm 
Oza

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It's eclectic, but usually stripey-side visible is preferred for real hamaguri. If you can only afford squilla you may find the grain less pleasing after a while.

GoGoD did write about this, but in the Go Player's Almanac.

In general, in the Japanese aesthetic, anything too pure (e.g. too white) is regarded as out of harmony with Nature, hence a preference for e.g. teacups of slightly odd shape in the tea ceremony - and of course for "interesting" grains in wood and shells. Even a knot in a go board can be seen as a plus, not a blemish - so long as it's a "happy accident."

Wanna buy a used car, only three wheels - a real beauty?


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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #3 Posted: Fri Apr 09, 2021 4:47 am 
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One must also wonder about black slate stones, then. Slate comes in a variety of beautiful colors and degrees of color purity based on lumpy inclusions or tiny veins of yellow, red, green, purple, grey, and white impurities. Go stones with impurities usually do not make it through quality control as evidenced by the fact that I've only seen a handful in decades of examining shell/slate sets. If this supposed Japanese aesthetic were a real thing, I should imagine irregular black stones would be as prized as irregular shell. Indeed, why are snow white Yuki shells the most expensive and sought after? What's the point of having shells that look like glass?

Personally, and I can speak only for myself, I far prefer the weird and interesting shell vein patterns. These purple stones of mine are great fun to play with and I deliberately place each right side up.

https://imgur.com/gallery/U3kOaGN

I have a set of incredibly beautiful Yuki shells that are quite boring by comparison.

I do so wish the black in these sets were as fascinating and multi-hued. Among the more engaging slates are products from Vermont and Virginia that are mottled green/purple/red/black/gray. Now THAT would make some cool go stones!

Here are some examples of slates from sedimentary shields in various locations.The first URL is an international products aggregator and includes hundreds of photos of slate samples from all over the world.:

https://www.stonecontact.com/Main.aspx? ... word=Slate

https://newmontslate.com/category/slate/
https://vermontslateco.com/roofing-slates/
http://www.jamesriverslate.com
https://www.vermontstructuralslate.com/stones/

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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #4 Posted: Fri Apr 09, 2021 5:56 am 
Oza

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I do so wish the black in these sets were as fascinating and multi-hued. Among the more engaging slates are products from Vermont and Virginia that are mottled green/purple/red/black/gray. Now THAT would make some cool go stones!


As I say, these things are eclectic, and I could imagine that if the old Japanese equipment makers had had access to other materials they may not always have made the choices they did.

But beauty is not the only factor - and I'm certain "coolness" would not be a factor at all. Associations, practicality and the local environment are among other characteristics that influenced decisions.

In the case of slate, the variety that goes with hamaguri in the old canon is nachiguro from Wakayama Prefecture - still abundant, I believe. This has very strong associations with ink stones (suzuri), i.e. with calligraphy, and an ancient Japanese gentleman who prided himself on the Four Accomplishments would be familiar with and enjoy this material.

As regards practicality, we have famous examples in the boards being made slightly longer in one direction (for perspective reasons) and black stones being sized differently from white stones to allow for the optical illusion that white and black stones of the same colour would look mismatched. These differences are again part of the old Japanese aesthetic of avoiding pure squares, or pure anything - we see the same thing in calligraphy.

As regards the environment, the light in Japan is if a very bright quality (think Tuscany, perhaps, western as artists did), which makes the size difference between black and white stronger, but is also a factor in the stones. Nachiguro is cool. Clam stones with the stripes on top help deflect the sun's glare. Playing with bright pure white stones and polished slate induces tiredness very quickly in long games. The treatment of the board, and choice of grain, to avoid glare is likewise a factor. There are also environmental factors such as making boards less tasty to insects.

Whenever I see westerners write about their own equipment, or equipment they aspire to, none of these other factors ever seem to cone into it. Prettiness is all. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But personally I esteem, for example, an emotionally mature artist such as Joyce DiDonato over her brilliant but technique-obsessed Juilliard students.

Incidentally, I have never bothered to try to own even a half-decent board and stones. It would be a misfit in my house and in my culture. The only item in this line I have ever had the stirrings of an wish to own is a set of tiger-stripe shogi pieces I saw in Tendo - but likewise only because they are so "pretty", so I do understand the point about purple stones.

But Japanese equipment should be judged within its own framework.

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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #5 Posted: Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:45 pm 
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A great read. Thank you both.

I think I'll find a copy of the Almanac.

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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #6 Posted: Sat Apr 10, 2021 6:53 am 
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Quote:

But beauty is not the only factor - and I'm certain "coolness" would not be a factor at all. Associations, practicality and the local environment are among other characteristics that influenced decisions.

In the case of slate, the variety that goes with hamaguri in the old canon is nachiguro from Wakayama Prefecture - still abundant, I believe. This has very strong associations with ink stones (suzuri), i.e. with calligraphy, and an ancient Japanese gentleman who prided himself on the Four Accomplishments would be familiar with and enjoy this material.

As regards practicality, we have famous examples in the boards being made slightly longer in one direction (for perspective reasons) and black stones being sized differently from white stones to allow for the optical illusion that white and black stones of the same colour would look mismatched. These differences are again part of the old Japanese aesthetic of avoiding pure squares, or pure anything - we see the same thing in calligraphy.


That seems contradictory to me : what you describe are reason why stones (and go materials) were made to be "cool" for the "ancient Japanese gentleman who prided himself on the Four Accomplishments".

Obviously, we're not ancient Japanese gentleman, so our view of cool may be different. But if someone like something because it's made like in the old time, isn't that because he find this idea cool?


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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #7 Posted: Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:23 am 
Oza

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That seems contradictory to me : what you describe are reason why stones (and go materials) were made to be "cool" for the "ancient Japanese gentleman who prided himself on the Four Accomplishments".

Obviously, we're not ancient Japanese gentleman, so our view of cool may be different. But if someone like something because it's made like in the old time, isn't that because he find this idea cool?


You obviously don't realise how obnoxious the word "cool" in its modern American sense can be. It is "uncool" not because it is American but because it robs us of a valuable word meaning "at a low temperature".

Have a gay day.

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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #8 Posted: Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:53 am 
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I think small variation is allowable, even preferable, compared with flawless things. In go equipment, markedly different stone shapes or colors would be distracting in play, the eye being drawn to the stone that stands out. Same goes for the grain or the color of the wood in the board. I notice that "moku" wood which has a chaotic grain is valued for bowls, at least the price for such is higher than that of bowls with "masame" grain, but that might only be due to the difficulty of working with burl wood.

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 Post subject: Re: Which side of the clam shell is right-side-up?
Post #9 Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2021 8:24 am 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
Quote:
That seems contradictory to me : what you describe are reason why stones (and go materials) were made to be "cool" for the "ancient Japanese gentleman who prided himself on the Four Accomplishments".

Obviously, we're not ancient Japanese gentleman, so our view of cool may be different. But if someone like something because it's made like in the old time, isn't that because he find this idea cool?


You obviously don't realise how obnoxious the word "cool" in its modern American sense can be. It is "uncool" not because it is American but because it robs us of a valuable word meaning "at a low temperature".

Have a gay day.


Though I am an American, I find this usage of "cool" way overdone. Of course it is easily determined from context whether it is referring to temperature or appreciation. In the case of go stones, both interpretations might apply simultaneously. However, the use of "cool" as an expression of appreciation of value or interest is not so much used among the young any more, basing this on what I hear from my grandchildren and their friends. Another overused word in everyday conversation in America is "awesome" as a synonym for any level of positive appreciation from good to amazing.

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