Feng Yun at the White House
January 19, 2011

At the invitation of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Feng Yun visited the White House to take part in the official arrival ceremony for President Hu Jintao of China on the occasion of his state visit to Washington. Please see some of her pictures of the arrival ceremony.

Before President Obama's first trip to China in November 2009, Feng Yun worked with the State Department to put together a presidential gift, a complete go set (board, stones and bowls), which was given by President Obama to President Hu when they met in Beijing. According to the State Department, this gift was well received and apparently was a complete and delightful surprise. Please see pictures of the presidential gift.

Story of the Presidential Gift

The story began in the autumn of 2009 just a few weeks before President Obama was scheduled to depart for China. Dennis Cheng, Deputy Chief of Protocol in the State Department, called Feng Yun at home to ask for her advice. In their research on President Hu's possible interests, the State Department had found that he liked go, and therefore was considering the gift of a unique go set. Feng Yun in turn reached out to her contacts to find possible sources. After a few days of investigation and discussions with the protocol team at the State Department, the following plan took form.

  • The go board would be made using wood from Hawaii, President Obama's home state, by a woodworker in North Carolina.
  • The bowls would be made by a glass blower in California who had done work for the Obama family before.
  • The stones would be donated by an American go champion, Feng Yun, who also is well remembered in China for her contributions as a member of the National Weiqi Team.

Dennis Cheng came from New York to Feng Yun's home in New Jersey for a quick lesson on go equipment. He saw a variety of boards, Chinese and Japanese, antique and modern, thick and thin, with and without legs, together with bowls and stones suitably matched to the board styles. Dennis decided in favor of a table board (no legs) with Chinese standard dimensions, to be paired with Chinese jade stones.

Feng Yun offered to donate her most beautiful jade stones which were given to her by the China National Weiqi Team after she won the women's world championship in 1995; these stones were one of only three sets of top grade stones provided to the National Team by the Shuangyuan company of Luoyang. On seeing these stones Dennis accepted her offer, and also borrowed some wooden go bowls of the right size as models for the glass blower to use. Feng Yun sent dimensions for the go board to the woodworker so that the stones would fit on the board properly.

In the end, everyone succeeded in doing their part: the Hawaiian wood was shipped to the woodworker, the board was joined and laser cut, the glass bowls were blown, and the jade stones with special provenance completed the State Department's concept.

In recognition of her contribution to helping build a good relationship between the two presidents, Feng Yun was honored to join the White House visitors for President Hu's arrival ceremony in Washington.