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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Four Colour Cards / 四色牌 / Si Sek Pai

Four Colour Cards made in Belgium for Far Eastern markets

Four Colour Cards (四色牌 / Si Sek Pai) made in Turnhout (Belgium) for export to Far Eastern markets including Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Four Colour Cards was a popular card game enjoyed by the older generations due to its simple method of play and portability. It’s popularity is shared by the Teochews, Hokkiens, Hainanese and the Peranakans etc. It is believed that if one engages in a game of Four Colour Cards frequently it may help to stimulate the brain and reduce the rate at which our brain degenerates.

Four Colour Cards made in Belgium for Far Eastern markets, c.1900

Above: Four Colour Cards (Si Sek Pai) made in Turnhout (Belgium) for export to Far Eastern markets, c.1900. 56 cards, reverse is plain (uncoloured).

These Turnhout cards have small chinese characters in between the larger chinese characters. I can identify three characters, viz; 双 ( A pair), 合( harmony) and 春(Spring). It is possible that this was the name of the maker that Turnhout copied the cards from. Notes courtesy Anthony Lee.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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Four Colour Cards / 四色牌 / Si Sek Pai

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Four Colour Cards made in Belgium for Far Eastern markets

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