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Playing Cards in Thailand

Pub Sign in Bangkok

Above: Bric-a-brac shop sign in Bangkok. Perhaps 'Jack of Diamonds' might suggest making some cash from dealing?

asian art

Above: paintings inspired by Chinese playing cards from an exhibition in a Thai restaurant. Photographs by Adam Wintle - click to enlarge.

Officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam

The Portuguese were the first Westerners to trade with Ayutthaya in Thailand in the 16th century. Thus European playing cards could have been used alongside any locally produced cards and hybrid varieties evolved. Traders also arrived from India, Japan, the Arab world, England, Holland as well as France and often they had their own quarters or village communities. Chinese Money cards are produced in Thailand with Thai indices. The heritage resulting from the presence of foreign cultures in Thailand still exists today.

During the nineteenth century Belgian manufacturers (eg Brepols, Van Genechten) produced "Chinese" cards for South-East Asian countries including Java, the Celebes, Thailand and possibly China as well. Van Genechten was the first to print this kind of playing card in Turnhout: he was also one of the last, having managed to keep a firm hold on his markets. It is recorded that 111 tons of playing cards were exported from Belgium to Thailand in 1938.

Chinese cards exported to Far Eastern countries by Belgian manufacturers

Left: typical example of 'Chinese' cards exported to Far Eastern countries by Belgian manufacturers.

For a story about gambling in Thailand, click here.

The state-controlled Thai Playing Cards Manufacturing Factory, Bangkok, produces about 400,000 decks per month, including cards similar to the ones shown left   more →

“Learn Thai” Playing Cards, 2009

A set of cards aimed at the foreign adult learner of the Thai language is published by Lanna Innovation Co. Ltd. Their website states that “Adults learn language differently than children and adolescents. Our approach is one of engaged, problem-driven learning which seeks to leverage effective language learning tools and teaching methods.”

Learn Thai playing cards

Above: cards from 44-card "Learn Thai" cards, described as an easy to use innovative system to learn faster through visual memory. Published by Lanna Innovation Co. Ltd, 2009. Instructions to using the cards are online at:

‘Secret Magic Cards’ published by Hanky Panky Toys Thailand Ltd, 2006

Above: ‘Secret Magic Cards’ published by Hanky Panky Toys Thailand Ltd, 2006   see more

Last Updated November 26, 2015 at 04:10pm


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