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Published January 03, 2023 Updated January 13, 2023

Chinese Money-Suited Playing Cards from the British Museum

This deck of Chinese playing cards, donated to the British Museum in 1896, is believed to have been popularised during the Qing era (1644-1911).

1896 China Lady Charlotte Schreiber Water Margin Madiao Money-Suited Pai Add to Collection

In 1896, Lady Charlotte Schreiber donated this deck of Chinese playing cards to the Trustees of the British Museum. It is thought that this design was popularised between 1644 and 1911, during the Qing era. The cards are made of paper and feature the Chinese money-suited pattern.

According to information provided by Mr. W.H. Wilkinson of the H.M. Consular Service cards like these were obtained in 1889 and 1890 from a variety of Chinese cities, including Canton, Swatow, Foochow, Ningbo, Shanghai, Peking, Kiukiang, Yichang, and Chungking.

This particular pack of Chinese money-suited playing cards represents nearly two hundred years of Chinese culture and history, with characters from a famous Chinese classic printed on the cards. This reflects the enormous popularity of playing cards in China during this period, as well as the novel The Water Margin. This deck of playing cards is an unique artefact that provides insight into Qing-dynasty China's games and hobbies.

© The Trustees of the British Museum © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: A rare deck of Chinese playing cards dating back to the Qing era (1644-1911)

References

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By Adam Wintle

Member since March 15, 1997

Adam has been involved in developing the site as well as reviewing new decks and conducting research. He is particularly interested in innovation, Kickstarter and East Asian cards. He is a member of the IPCS and webmaster of the EPCS.


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