Go stones

    Keywords: Equipment

Chinese: 棋石 (qi2 shi2); 棋子 (qi2 zi3); 子 (zi3)
Japanese: 碁石 (go ishi)
Korean: 바둑돌 (baduk tol)

Table of contents

go stones
Four different sets of go stones.[1]

The pieces used to mark the moves on the go board are known as stones. They are made from quite a variety of materials. Traditionally they are black and white, but any two colours can be used as long as they are easily distinguishable. A standard set includes 181 black and 180 white stones.


There are two main shapes:

  • Japanese and Korean stones are biconvex, with identical convex surfaces on both sides, like a magnifying lens.
  • Chinese stones are flat on one side. Go/Weiqi stones from Yunnan, a province in the Southwest of China, are called Yunzi (云子).


There are no provisions for the size of stones in official rules of Go. However, a [ext] Nihon Kiin webpage says the standard sizes (diameters) are 21.9mm for white stones and 22.2mm for black stones. White stones are made slightly smaller, because white objects appear larger. The thickness is generally about 8 to 10mm; too thick lens-shaped stones are difficult to handle, and tend to move easily on the board.


  • The most common material for moderately priced stones today is glass. Their workmanship varies considerably, with cheaper sets showing high variations in size.
  • Traditional Japanese stones are made of slate (black) and shell (white) - see section below.
  • Traditional Chinese stones are sintered (powdered and then melted together) jade (black) and sintered quartz (white).
  • The cheapest stones are made from plastic. These are lighter, and to sensitive players don't "feel right in the hand". They are also prone to weld lines and other [ext] molding defects.
  • Ing stones, common in Taiwan, are plastic with a metal center.
  • Historically, in Asian countries, materials such as bone or wood have also been used.
  • Gems, especially jade were used in old times, when go boards were decorated. Jade stones were commonly used in China's upper classes and are still used in some Chinese tournament games (e.g. Sonoda Yuichi versus Zhang Wendong, 1989).
  • Go stones made from semiprecious stone are available from [ext] Algorithmic Artisan. See this [ext] review.
  • Ceramic stones are used in China near the "porcelain capital" [ext] Jingdezhen.[2]
  • One can also look for glass "stones" used in aquariums, flower vases, etc. These are not the best shape for Go stones, but they are usable and generally quite cheap.

Slate and shell stones

Should you want to buy shell and slate stones, be prepared to pay for them. The slate is (relatively) easily found, but the shell is expensive. Shell stones are also judged to be 'better' (and more expensive) if there is a large number of visible lines on them, especially if the lines are straight.

Shell stones are often identified by "grade" (印). For stones made from shell harvested off the coast of Japan the grades are: Flower (Hana 花), Moon (Tsuki 月) and Snow (Yuki 雪), from lowest to highest. Snow grade are the whitest stones with the finest pattern (and thus the most expensive). Moon and flower or "standard" grade have broader lines and may have slight discoloration. For stones made from clams harvested off the coast of Baja California (Mexico) the grades are Standard (or utility) (Jitsuyo 実用), Moon (tsuki 月), and Snow (yuki 雪). Japanese clam stones are several times the price of stones made from Mexican clams.

The price of shell stones also varies considerably depending on thickness. Thickness is expressed in units of 号 ("gō"), a special measure of thickness for Go stones. 1 号 equals about 0.28mm, therefore 30号 is 8.4mm and 35号 is 9.8mm (there are some differences from shop to shop). It is quite difficult to find shells large enough to give stones 10 mm and above.[3]

Environmental impact

Traditionally, shell stones have been made from hamaguri ([ext] Meretrix lusoria). Because these clams often don't reach the necessary thickness, go stones are sometimes made from the Giant Clam ([ext] Tridacna gigas) instead. That species is classified as vulnerable, which has led to some concerns.[12]


Usual colors are of course white and black, except for precious stone sets. In recent years, glass or plastic stones with a variety of color combinations (for example green and dark green, red and blue etc) began to appear, but not used for serious play yet.

Sources for stones

Players and collectors interested in semi-precious stones as material for their stones might also consider the interesting selection offered by a US specialist maker: [ext] http://www.algorithmicartisan.com/gostones/

See also

[1] From top left to bottom right: Biconvex glass stones, Chinese style glass stones, small plastic stones, magnetic stones.

[2] While I prefer the pricier glass ones for their sound and heft, the ceramic ones actually look a little nicer. -- Michael Richter)

[3] For more information, see [ext] http://www.kurokigoishi.co.jp/online_shop/english/go/goishi.html. [ext] clam shell

Go stones last edited by hnishy on October 10, 2022 - 11:27
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