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Playing Card Deck

Object Number:29-238-1
Current Location: Collections Storage
Provenience: China
Period: 19th Century
Date Made: 1889 - 1893
Early Date: 1889
Late Date: 1893
Iconography:Money Suited
White Flower
Old Thousand
Wang Ying
Water Margin
Five Virtues
Inscription Language:Chinese Language
Length: 9.2 cm
Width: 2.5 cm
Credit Line:Purchased from William Henry Wilkinson, 1903
Other Number:Wilkinson 1 - Collector Number
29-191-242.11 - Old Museum Number


"Stick cards" or Gun Pai 棍牌. This type of deck contains money cards with three suits. 123 of 125 (4 x 30 + 5) Chinese playing cards (two are missing). There are 35 different cards. Of these there are 27 in 3 suits. 1-9 of cash coins, 1-9 of strings (of cash) and 1-9 of myriads, and three additional court cards: Old Thousand with 万千 qianwan at the top (1000 myriads), 白花 zhihua, (white flower) and 王英 Wang Ying (character from the Water Margin). These 30 cards are quadrupled and additionally there are five extra cards, in games functioning as 'wild' cards or jokers. The five extra cards are the five virtues: 礼 (courtesy), 仁 (benevolence), 智 (wisdom), 信 (truth), 義 (justice). In the suits of cash coins and strings of coins 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 in Chinese characters. There are portraits of commanders from the 水滸傳 "Shui hu zhuan" (Water Margin) underneath the values. There are no names with the portraits but recognizable is Zhu Tong on bawan (eight of myriads) by the smaller figure in the lower part of the card depicting the son of the magistrate of Cangzhou. The child is pictured also in the lower part of wuwan (five of myriads), here together with his murderer Li Kui who can be recognized by his crazy look. On yiqian (one of cash) is the text "馬永記". There are nine different cards with red marks; double red streaks are on the five extra cards, one red stamp is on yidiao (one of strings), two red stamps are on qianwan (万千,1000 myriads) and on Wang Ying and finally there is a red jiu (9) on both short sides of jiudiao (nine of strings). The cards have a double index, so that both value (number of pips) and suit can be seen from it. Backs white with black circular motif.

From Culin publication: "From Nanking. Four packets of thirty cards and five jokers. Index marks for suits and pips and for White Flower, Old Thousand, and each joker. The jokers are the Five Virtues: yan, i, lai, chi, sun [Cantonese] - "humanity,""benevolence,""courtsey,""knowledge," and "sincerity". Total, 125.


[Book] Culin, Robert S. 1895. Korean Games, with Notes on the Corresponding Games of China and Japan.. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. Actual Citation : Page/Fig./Plate: pg. 135, No. 1View Objects related to this Actual Citation

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