A two-player game taking turns to place black stones and white stones on a wooden board with a 19 x 19 grid to see who can occupy the most territory to win.
Also called Wongi or Hyeokgi, Baduk originated in China and made its way to Goguryeo, becoming a hobby among the upper class. Given that Emperor Shun of ancient China taught Baduk to his son, Baduk retains a very long history, while Baduk boards used during the later Han Period have also been discovered.
According to Gudangseo (the Old Book of Tang), the people of Goguryeo liked Baduk, as well as Tuho (a traditional game where players throw sticks from a distance into a large canister). Samguksagi (a historical record of the Three Kingdoms of Korea) says that King Jangsu of Goguryeo was able to occasionally win battles by dispatching a Buddhist monk named Dorim to King Gaero of Baekje as a spy, having taken advantage of his superior Baduk skills. Baduk also spread to Silla, while according to an anecdote, prior to King Hyoseong of Silla ascending to the throne, another Buddhist monk, Shin Chung, used to play Baduk with the crown prince, and the prince promised that he would appoint Shin Chung to an important position. However, the king did not keep his promise and Shin Chung composed a song expressing resentment and attached it to a nut pine tree, leading to the tree’s withering. Upon hearing this, the King repented of his mistake and promoted Shin Chung to a high position. The people of Silla were also talented Baduk players with a reputation that even traveled to the people of the Tang Dynasty.
During the Goryeo Period, Baduk was passed down through the upper class for the training of mental acuity. According to the book, Goryeosa (Goryeo History), Choi Seung-ro caused a stir by appealing to the King that the crown prince, who later became King Gyeongjong, indulged in scandalous affairs, hyangak (traditional Korean music), as well as Baduk and Janggi (Korean chess) all day long. Go was also played by civil retainers and generals. Goryeosa accounts that General Gangjo lost his life due to his obsession with Go. Even though his subordinate reported on the enemy’s sudden attack, he wasted time engaging in the game and ended up being taken alive. In the end, he lost his life after refusing appeasement from Georan. On the other hand, as the news that the people of Goryeo were excellent Baduk players spread to China, two civil retainers, Gwak Hui-bin and Jo Jeong-tong, went to China to play Baduk upon invitation from the Emperor of Yuan. At the time, the most excellent Baduk player was nicknamed, Guksu, as is still the tradition today.
According to Dusieonhae, (literary works by the legendary Chinese poet, Du Fu, 1481), Baktongsaeonhae (Korean annotation of Chinese study material, Baktongsa, 1677) Baduk was written as Badok, pointing to the term “Baduk” as a pure Korean word with a very long history. King Sejo enjoyed Baduk, and even wrote a Baduk manual named Ohaengwigibeop. At the end of the Joseon dynasty, Lee Gyu-gyung explained the principle of Baduk by studying ancient documents through a theory named Wigibyeonjeungseol in his book Ojuyeonmunjangjeonsango, which contains a systematic approach to Baduk, as well as criticism, like the book, Hyeokgiron. Kim Hongdo, a genre painter in the late Joseon Period, was under scrutiny for being excessively taken by Janggi, Ssireum (traditional Korean wrestling), and Baduk when he was bereaved of his father. According to Eou Yadam (Eou’s Unofficial Histories), Seo Cheonryeong, who was of royal blood, boasted of being the best Baduk player, but was put to shame after being defeated by an ordinary man in a Baduk match. Among the Kisan Genre Painting series painted by Kim Jun-keun (penname Kisan), paintings describing Koreans playing Baduk during the late 19th century are housed in the Museum of ethnology in Hamburg, Germany, and The State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow, Russia. In a painting in Germany, one yangban (the gentry of the Joseon Period) in a jeongjagwan (a hat worn by the yangban class) is holding the black stone, and another yangban wearing a gat (a traditional hat) is holding the white stone. Around those two players, three people wearing gat and yugeon (a traditional hat) are sitting or standing while watching the game, and a drinking table is presented next to them, implying that they are drinking and playing Baduk for entertainment. In contrast, only a teacup is shown next to the yangban (the gentry of the Joseon Period) elder wearing the jeongjagwan. The board in the picture is of high quality, with patterns ornamented on the legs, with the stone bowls of both players painted in red. During the Joseon Period, Baduk had been mostly played by relatively wealthy noble men, implying that Baduk is a game of high society, which intensely stimulates brain activity. Also, it is said that Kim Ok-kyun, one of the leaders among reformist activists, was also skilled at many games, such as billiards and Baduk.
Baduk has two players, one with black stones and the other with white stones. As two players place stones alternately on a wooden board with a 19 x 19 grid, the player to successfully build the most “houses” wins. Two houses are required in order to keep going. An empty space that does not belong to either player is called gongbae. Additional rules, including Pae (a tactical and strategic phase) and Bik (local stalemate), make the game more intriguing. The winner is determined after filling gongbae with stones and counting the number of houses on the board, however, there are some cases where a player concedes defeat during the game. As of now, three countries, Korea, China, and Japan, have professional Baduk leagues of their own, and in these countries, Baduk is quite a popular hobby among ordinary people.
Baduk originated from China and widely spread among Korean nobles during the Three Kingdoms Period of Korea, as an excellent board game for mental development. Baduk is regarded as more than just a game, rather, it is more like cultivating one’s character, which is well-represented in the term Kido (the way of Baduk). On top of that, Baduk has evolved into a professional sport, with increasing arrival of professional players. Baduk has also been actively passed down throughout younger generations amid being chosen as an official event during the Asian Games.