Chinese Playing Cards

Note: the following is mostly directly ripped off Wikipedia.

Playing cards are believed to have been invented in Ancient India. They were found in China as early as the 9th century during the Táng Dynasty (618–907), when relatives of a princess played a "leaf game". A Táng writer from the end of the 9th century AD stated that Princess Tòngchāng (?–870), daughter of Emperor Yìzōng of Táng (r. 860–874), played the leaf game with members of the Wéi 韋 clan to pass the time. In his Notes After Retirement, the Sòng Dynasty scholar Ōuyáng Xiū (1007–1072) asserted that card games existed since the mid Táng Dynasty and associated this invention with the simultaneous evolution of the common Chinese writing medium from paper rolls to sheets of paper that could be printed. During the Míng Dynasty (1368–1644), characters from popular novels such as the Water Margin were widely featured on the faces of playing cards.

Ancient Chinese "money cards" have four "suits": coins (or cash), strings of coins (which may have been misinterpreted as sticks from crude drawings), myriads (of coins or of strings), and tens of myriads. These were represented by Chinese characters, with numerals of 2–9 in the first three suits and numerals 1–9 in the "tens of myriads". Wilkinson suggests that the first cards may have been actual paper currency which were both the tools of gaming and the stakes being played for, as in trading card games. The designs on modern mahjong tiles likely evolved from those earliest playing cards. However, it may be that the first deck of cards ever printed was a Chinese domino deck, in whose cards we can see all the 21 combinations of a pair of dice. In the Guītiánlù, a Chinese text written in the 11th century, we find that dominoes cards were printed during the Táng Dynasty, contemporary to the first printed books. The Chinese word pái (牌) is used to describe both paper cards and gaming tiles.

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