Learn how to play a Chinese card game without knowing Chinese!
Without paper, there would be no cards, and since China is credited with the invention of paper, it should be of no surprise that the first appearance of card-playing took place in China in 969 AD. Shortly after the invention of paper, Emperor Muzong was said to have played “domino cards” with one of his concubines, but the deck they used consisted of 33 cards and was composed of four suits: coins, strings of coins, myriads of strings, and tens of myriads.
Over the centuries, playing cards caught on in other countries and eventually reached France, where the 52-card deck consisting of four suits – diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs – appeared during the 15th century. Nowadays, this is the standard deck used in a multitude of games in practically every country around the world.
In China, playing cards can be an important time for families to bond, and there exists a plethora of popular Chinese card games, many of which share similarities with Western ones but go by different names. Playing with Chinese friends is a great way to socialize, as well as develop your language ability.
Dou Dizhu 斗地主
"Beat the Landlord"
In addition to having a gloriously satisfying name, this three- or four-player game, thought to have originated in Hubei, is an ideal introduction to Chinese card games, with a strong community of people playing online.
Objective: The landlord must try to get rid of his or her cards before the other players. The game described here is the three-player version, but for four players, simply deal out all the cards without jokers.
Rules: To play the game, both jokers must be included, with the red joker (大王) holding a higher value than the black joker (小王). The card with the next highest value is 2, then A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and finally 3. Suits are irrelevant in this game.
The landlord (also the dealer) shuffles the cards and then offers them to the player on their left to cut. The dealer then deals out all cards. Each player should have 18 cards.
Single card – One card of any suit or value
A pair – Two cards of the same value
Three of a kind – Three cards of the same value
Triplet with an attached pair – Any triplet with a pair added (like a Full House in poker), with the ranking determined by the triplet
Sequence of pairs – At least three pairs of consecutive ranks, from 3 up to ace (2s and jokers cannot be used)
Sequence of triplets – At least two triplets of consecutive ranks from 3 up to ace (triplets of 2s cannot be used)
Sequence – At least three cards of consecutive rank, from 3 up to ace (2s and jokers cannot be used)
Bomb – Four cards of the same rank (also known as Four of a Kind), a Bomb can beat everything except a Rocket, and a higher ranked Bomb can beat a lower ranked one
Rocket – A pair of jokers, the most valuable set of cards; beats any other combination
RANKS AND SUITS
Each region has its own variations, so if you’re playing against a Sichuan ren, be sure to watch out for different names! But here’s how they go in Beijing:
|Red joker||大王||dà wáng||big king|
|Black joker||小王||xǐao wáng||little king|
|Hearts||红桃||hóng táo||red peach|
|Clubs||梅花||méi huā||plum flower|
|Spades||黑桃||hēi táo||black peach|
|Diamonds||方块||fāng kuài||square piec|