Playing Card Deck


From: China | Beijing

Curatorial Section: Asian

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Object Number 29-238-2
Current Location Collections Storage
Culture Chinese
Provenience China | Beijing
Period 19th Century
Date Made 1889 - 1893
Section Asian
Materials Paper | Ink
Technique Printed
Iconography Money Suited | White Flower | Old Thousand | Wang Ying | Water Margin | Jokers | Tale of the White Snake | Fish | Umbrella | Animal | Mystic Knot | Canopy | Yin and Yang | Wheel | Artemisia Leaves
Inscription Language Chinese Language

"Stick cards" or Gun Pai 棍牌. This type of deck contains money cards with three suits. 126 cards (4 x 30 + 6) making up a complete deck. There are 36 different cards. Of these there are 27 in 3 suits: 1-9 of cash, 1-9 of strings (of cash) and 1-9 of myriads (of strings) (wan), and three additional court cards: 'qianwan' (1000 myriads), 白花 zhihua (white flower) with 福 Fu in the center, and the Wang Ying card with 王英 at the top. These 30 cards are quadrupled and additionally there are six extra cards, jokers, funtioning as 'wild' cards. The six extra cards are 時遷 Shi Qian (the flea on a drum), 王道 Wang Dao, and 晁蓋 Chao Gai (the tower-shifting heavenly king) from the 水滸傳 Sui hu zhuan (Water Margin), and 許仙 Xu Xian, 白蛇 Bai She (the white snake) and 青蛇 Qing She (the blue snake), all three from the 白蛇传 Baishejing Ji (Tale of the White Snake). In the suits of cash and strings the value is depicted by the actual number of coins or strings of coins. In the suit of myriads the value is written out in the top of the cards; thereunder are portraits of commanders from the Shui hu zhuan (Water Margin Story). There is a name with the portrait on qiwan (7 of myriads): Qin Ming. Otherwise recognizable by his blackened face and the battle axe in his right hand is Li Kui on wuwan (5 of myriads) and Zhu Tong on bawan (8 of myriads) by the smaller figure in the lower part of the card depicting the son of the magistrate of Canzhou. Erwan (2 of myriads) has the text 'qi yuan'. This is no name of a Shui hu zhuan commander and the meaning is unknown. (In other packs of shihu pai additionally on sanwan [ 3 of myriads] is the text 'liu yuan'.) Red marks: the 9's and zhihua have one red dot; qianwan and Wang Ying have two red dots and the wild cards have three red dots. Chao Gai and Wang Dao have additional red stamps in the top margin of the cards. The cards have double indices in the top and bottom margins so that both the value and the suit can be read from them. Backs tan with square motif printed in black. 125 rectangular playing cards. Backs tan with square motif printed in black. Faces printed in black on white within rectangular border. Some cards with red dots. One card stamped with red ink seal. Coins, folk heros and things tied together suits. Human faces, full figures, Chinese numbers, other Chinese characters, endless knot, canopy, wheel, artemisia (?) leaf, umbrella, four legged animal, yin and yang and fish on various cards.

From Culin publication: "From Peking. Four packets of thirty cards and six jokers. Described as Wai p'ai - i.e. 'cards from the cantonment' of Tientsin. Index marks for sutis and pips and for White Flower, Red Flower, and two of the six jokers. The jokers are Shi Ts'in, Wong To, Chiu K'oi, Ts'ing She, Pak She, and Hu Sin. These, which were put up outside the pack, are the heroes and heroines of certain tales. The first is a character in the Shwui Hu Chuen (Water's Marge), a Robin Hood romance which furnishes names for the figures in the suits of myriads. The last three - 'Blue Snake,' 'White Snake,' and 'Fairy Hu' - are taken from 'The Tale of the White Snake.' Total, 126."

Length 8.8 cm
Width 2.6 cm
Credit Line Purchased from William Henry Wilkinson, 1903
Other Number Wilkinson 2 - Collector Number | 29-191-242.17 - Old Museum Number

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