I have received a lot of questions about what type of stones are best. At the very least it is very useful to know the difference in materials – plastic, porcelain, Bakelite, Yun-Zi, slate and shell are some of the most common materials. If I can give any advice – this is to stay away from plastic or bakelite– they don’t add to the physical sensations of playing Go, they feel light, do not make a sound when placed, and are easily dislocated from the Go board. Use magnetic stones only if you are planning on traveling, as an additional option, not as a main option for a Go set.
The next level of Go stones are porcelain – they are a great beginners’ collection, which are affordable and add a lot of the touch and sensation of a real Go set. I recommend these to first-time Go players.
Yun-Zi (云子; 雲子 ) stones are most widely used – because of their reputation of traditional stones, used in competitions and for their long tradition. Yun-Zi means literally stones made made in WeiQi manufacturer of the Yunnan province in China. The main problem with Yun-Zi stones is that a lot of different manufacturers and distributors are claiming that they are original Yun-Zi stones, and it is hard to tell the difference. Re-created through reverse engineering, these stones are meant to resemble as close as possible the original Go stones, and their exact composition of materials is unknown. Produced only in one province in China, these stones are an aesthetic and appealing to any go player. I have seen children as young as 4 and aged people in their 70s been equally pleased with them. A distinct feature of the black Yun-Zi stones is that they give a beautiful green aura when held against the light. Yun 云 means cloud and Zi 子 means stone.
Image: Yanzi stones (top) and porcelain stones (bottom)
The next level of stones are jade or made of semi-precious stones. These are beautiful addition to any household, closely resembling jewels and are an amazing luxury item.
The highest quality of Go stones is reserved for slate and shell, which are made in Japan commonly. These are expensive and are likely to satisfy the needs of collectors, long-term Go players or those who would like to give a very special gift.
Saying all of these, I can’t help but imagine that our ancestors were likely to play Go on the beach, with shells and stones, collected from nature, given that the Go game is thousands of years old. There is a beach near Ulsan in South Korea, which is called black stones beach – these stones are perfect for a simple Go board.
You can create your own Go set simply by walking along the beach and collecting similar-sized stones or shells.
In my travels I collected these ‘Go stones’ from Margaret River region.
Nature is our biggest teacher, with billions of years evolution, and we can only benefit from regular meaningful interactions with our natural environment for so many reasons -to become better humans in cognitive, spiritual, emotional and physical development.