Korean Dominoes

Plate 9

A set of Korean dominoes from Seoul (Plate 9 [left]) in the National Museum is made of ivory and numbers 32 pieces.

They measure 3/4 by 7/16 by 3/16 inches, and are marked with incised spots arranged according to the Chinese system.

The "one" and "four" spots are painted red and all the others black, and the "one" spots are much larger than the others and very deeply incised.

[Page 522] The Koreans call dominoes kōl-hpai (Chinese kwat p'i), "bone tablets."

A more correct name is said to be ho-hpai, (Chinese U p'i), "barbarian tablets." This latter name is also applied to a special game.

The 32 dominoes are paired as shown in Plate. 6, those of which there are two being mated with each other, and those of which there are but one with reference to the sum of the slots, but not in the manner of the Chinese series. (Plate 5).

The pieces receive the same names as those of the dice throws of the Korean game Ssang-ryouk, " backgammon," viz:

Plate 6
Plate 5
Plate 6 Plate 5

1-1, syo-syo (Chinese  si si), "smallest"
1-2, tjoui-hko (Chinese sh pi), "rat nose"
1-3, syo sam (Chinese si sm), "small and three"
1-4, păik să  (Chinese pk sz'), "white and four"
1-5, păik i (Chinese pk' ng), "white and five"
1-6, pik ryouk (Chinese pk luk), " white and six"
2-2, tjoun-a (Chinese tsun ), "superior two"
2-3, a sam (Chinese sam), "two and three"
2-4, a (Chinese sz'), "two and four"
2-5, koan-a (Chinese kun ), "sovereign two"
2-6, a ryouk (Chinese luk), "two and six"
3-3, tjyang-sam (Chinese ch`ung sm), "long three"
3-4, sam să (Chinese sm sz'), "three four"
3-5, san o (Chinese sm 'ng), "three and five"
3-6, san ryouk (Chinese sm luk), "three and six"
4-4, tjoun-hong (Chinese tsun hung), superior red"
4-5, o (Chinese sz' ng), "four and five"
4-6, ryouk (Chinese sz' luk), "four and six"
5-5, tjoun o (Chinese tsun 'ng), "superior five"
5-6, o ryouk (Chinese 'ng luk), "five and six"
6-6, tjoun-ryouk (Chinese tsun luk), "superior six"

Dominoes are regarded as a vulgar game in Korea. They are used in gambling houses and are not much played as a social game by the higher classes.

Last update January 31, 2010