Chinese Games With Dominoes

Chinese dominoes, commonly called kwat p'i,1 "bone tablets," consist of 33 rectangular pieces of wood, bone, or ivory, similar to those used in Europe and America (Plate  4). Plate 4 Plate 4

Figure 16
Figure 16 They differ, in the absence of the "blank " in the Chinese series (Figure 16), [Page 510] when commences with "double one" instead of  "double blank,"  and contains 21 different pieces

Figure 17
Figure 17 instead of 28 as in the European game (Figure 17). Eleven of the 21 pieces are duplicated, making 32  pieces in a set.

The "one" and "four" marks and the alternate "threes," which comprise the "sixes," are usually painted red, while the other marks are painted black or white, depending upon the material of the dominoes.

Figure 18

The dominoes in common use in the Province of Kwangtung and among the Chinese in the United States are made of Chinese ebony and are about 2 and five-eights inches long, seven-eighths of an inch in width, and three-eighths of an inch in thickness, with incised spots, which are painted red and white. The ends of each piece are usually ornamented with a single incised red spot, while the backs are sometimes uniformly marked with three spots, one red between two white, arranged diagonally across (Figure 18 [and the photograph at the top left of this Webpage]).

The following Chinese games are those of the Chinese laborers in the United States, among whom they are the commonest gambling implements. They call each piece by name, and in certain games pair them according to the arrangements shown in Plate 5. The 11 pieces that [Page 511] are duplicated are paired with their doubles, and form a series or suite, to which they give the name of man, "civil," while the remaining 10 pieces are paired with each other, in accordance with the sum of their spots, and from a spite called m, "military."

The man pieces, in the order of their rank, are:
6-6, called t'n, "heaven."
1-1, called t, "earth."
4-4, called yan, "man."
1-3, called wo, "harmony."
5-5, called mu, "plum (flower).
3-3, called ch'ung sm, "long three."
2-2, called pn tang, "bench."
5-6, called f t'au, " tiger's head."
4-6, called hung t'au chap, "red head ten."
1-6, called k kuk ts'at, "long leg seven."
l-5, called hung ch'ui luk, " red mallet six."

The m pieces are:
2-1 and 1-2, called chi tsn, "supreme."
6-3 and 4-5, called tsp kau, "heterogeneous nines."
6-2 and 5-3, called tsp pat, "heterogeneous eights."
4-3 sad 5-2, called tsp ts'at, "heterogeneous sevens.'
1-4 and 2-3, called tsp ng' luk "heterogeneous sixes."
Plate 5
Figure 19

Both pieces in all the pairs are of equal value and rank in their suits in the order given, except those which compose the pair called ch tsn, which together form the highest pair, but separately are the lowest of the m series. The arrangement of the dominoes called shung tung, or "stack," at the opening of games, is shown in Figure 19.

Notes: 1. This is the common name among the Cantonese. Medhurst's English and Chinese Dictionary, Shanghai, gives in addition two other names - ny p'i, "ivory tablets," and tin tsz' p'i, "dotted tablets."

Last update January 31, 2010