In 1993, I was given the task by a mentor of mine to create a special kind of game. That very night I had a dream that I was on sitting before an old man on a mountain somewhere in India. In the center of the rug that we were sitting on was a wooden bowl. I was intrigued by the design for the bowl was not round, but more octagonal in its shape.

As I proceed to look at the bowl, the old man lifted his closed hand, leaned forward and began to drop small colored stones into the bowl. I watched him carefully for he was doing this in a seemingly methodical way. Slowly moving his hand in various positions above the bowl, he would drop one stone at a time. The colors varied from blue, yellow, red, etc. I also noticed that he was looking into the bowl the whole time he was doing this.

When he dropped the last remaining stone into the bowl, he sat back and just looked at me. I felt bewildered at this point. It was as if he was waiting for me to do something. Although I was unsure about what this all meant, I was curious about the stones. So, I leaned forward and looked into bowl. To my surprise, the inside of the bowl was engraved with some intricate, geometric pattern. Each of the stones occupied a single space and seemed to form a pattern themselves.

“What is this?” I thought to myself. And just as quickly as I had stated the question, I suddenly realized what was happening – he was showing me a game. A game that I had never seen or heard of before. I then raised my head to look at the old man in hopes of some sort of affirmation of my discovery. He said nothing. And then I awoke.

For the next several days, I feverishly tried to sketch and write about the dream. I was fortunate to remember the patterns in the bowl in addition to the stones as well. I refused to eat, sleep or go to work that week until I had figured out what this game was about. How many stones were there? Who was this old man? Why India? How many spaces in the bowl? All these questions and a million others raced through my mind day and night.

By the end of the week, I was emotionally exhausted, physically sick for I was only eating like once a day and mentally drained. The whole experience was unlike anything I had encountered before. As I continued to write and sketch, I realized that I needed some sort of name for this new game. I also knew that whatever name I did choose initially would not be the final name – the latter of which would arise on its own time. The naming is a process in itself, so I tried to keep it simple and yet somehow be suggestive of the nature of my endeavor in trying to re-create this game from my dream.

And then, in a moment of quiet, a word softly fell to my attention. A word that would one day transform into what is now known as “Zhadu”. A word that captured the confusion, mystery and wonderment of my life during this time….


Tags: Zhadu | Origins | Enigma | Dreams
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