The Go Master

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The Go Master
Theatrical release poster
呉清源 極みの棋譜
Directed byTian Zhuangzhuang
Written byAh Cheng
Zou Jingzhi
Produced byLiu Xiaodian
StarringChang Chen
Sylvia Chang
Akira Emoto
Ayumi Ito
CinematographyWang Yu
Distributed byFortissimo Films
Release date
Running time
104 minutes

The Go Master (呉清源 極みの棋譜, Go Seigen: Kiwami no Kifu) (simplified Chinese: 吴清源; traditional Chinese: 吳清源; pinyin: Wú Qīngyuán) is a 2006 biopic film directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang of the renowned twentieth century Go master Wu Qingyuan, better known as Go Seigen, the Japanese pronunciation of his name. The film, which premiered at the 44th New York Film Festival, focuses on the life of this extraordinary player from his meteoric rise as a child prodigy to fame and fortune as a revolutionary strategic thinker, as well as the tumultuous global conflicts between his homeland and his adopted nation. The film also features a scene involving the Atomic bomb go game. The film also screened at the AFI's China Film Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland.


The Go Master shines a light on the life and times of Wu Qingyuan, pronounced Go Seigen in Japanese. Wu is considered the greatest Go player of the 20th century, his talents bringing him from his native China to a professional career in Japan when he was only a teenager. Based on Wu's autobiography, this elegantly shot and remarkably restrained biopic follows the life of a singular figure, fascinating not only for his genius and achievements in the game of Go, but also for his unique experiences as a Chinese man in Japan during an immensely turbulent period in history. Acclaimed Taiwanese actor Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) portrays the titular role in a subtle, poignant performance that is as penetrating as it is opaque, underlying the brooding lyricism of the film. The Go Master co-stars Sylvia Chang, Matsuzaka Keiko, Emoto Akira, and Ito Ayumi, and Wu Qingyuan himself appears briefly in the film's prologue. Also of note is the film's costume design, which is by renowned designer Wada Emi (Ran, Hero, House of Flying Daggers).

With the breakout of the Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s, Wu Qingyuan (Chang Chen) and his family are thrown into an uncomfortable and dangerous position as Chinese nationals residing in Japan. While Wu's family returns to China, he chooses to stay behind in his adopted country to continue to pursue the game of Go. In the quiet recluse of his school, there are no politics, only the singular dedication to his art and the love for his wife Kazuko (Ayumi Ito). However, the chaos of the times eventually forces him out of his enclave, throwing his life and mind into conflict.[1]

Wu's career ends abruptly when he is struck by a motorcycle in a collision which does not appear to be an accident. This real-life incident may have been a conspiracy against him by opponents in the world of Go, where he remained an unshakable winner. He is later hospitalized and can no longer play Go, due to brain trauma. Despite this, the film ends nostalgically in the golden room of Go.



Wu Qingyuan is played by Taiwanese actor Chang Chen. Chang was nominated for the 2006 Golden Horse Award for best actor for his portrayal. The real Wu Qingyuan makes a short cameo appearance in the film's prologue.[2] Produced by Liu Xiaodian with executive producers Wang Jun, Own Chen, Wouter Barendrecht, and Michael J. Werner. The screenplay was written by Ah Cheng. Costume design was by the acclaimed Emi Wada, famous for such films as Kurosawa's Ran, Dreams, as well as Zhang Yimou's Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

Critical reception[edit]

A.O. Scott of The New York Times called The Go Master "a stately and respectful biopic", as well as "deliberate and contemplative rather than dramatic or psychologically probing" and "gorgeously shot".[3] The film was nominated for Achievement in Cinematography at the 2007 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.


  1. ^ Review courtesy of Asia Torrents
  2. ^ Havis, Richard James (2006-10-10). "The Go Master". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-05-27. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  3. ^ Scott, A.O. (2007-03-14). "A Prodigy's Life Is Played Out In a Japanese Game of Skill". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-27.

External links[edit]