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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.

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China

43 Articles

The Chinese took their cards with them wherever they travelled and traded in the East, and we find Chinese cards in use not only in the mainland but also in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, North Borneo and Vietnam.

Chinese Playing Cards

The Chinese took their cards with them wherever they travelled and traded in the East, and we find Chinese cards in use not only in the mainland but also in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, North Borneo and Vietnam.

Chinese Playing Cards

Pulp Pin-Up

Classic 1940s Pulp Pin-Up covers on playing cards from China, c.2010.

Pulp Pin-Up

Diaoyu Poker 8068

8068 by Diaoyu Poker (China) 2019.

Diaoyu Poker 8068

Chinese Costumes

Chinese Costumes from the Winterthur Collection, published by Fournier, 1984.

Chinese Costumes

Khanhoo

Khanhoo by Charles Goodall & Son, 1895.

Khanhoo

Chinese Jokers

Chinese playing card makers have probably produced the widest variety of jokers of any single part of the world.

Chinese Jokers

Characters of “The Water Margin”

Characters from the Chinese novel “The Water Margin” - 水滸撲克.

Characters of “The Water Margin”

Hogwarts

Harry Potter Hogwarts playing cards, c.2016.

Hogwarts

Tô Tôm №1204

Tô Tôm is played with a 120-card Chinese-style deck.

Tô Tôm №1204

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, Beijing, China, c.1998.

The Summer Palace

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker brand produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai.

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker

57: China 3

A third and final look at some Chinese cards.

57: China 3

Hakka

“Double Happiness” brand Hakka [客家] playing cards used by Hakka ethnic communities who have a separate identity from Cantonese,

Hakka

55: China 2

Some further American designs used in China.

55: China 2

54: China 1

Although many people would not consider Chinese cards worth collecting, the huge variety of court designs used by the companies based in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan over the years should be of interest to those who like to enjoy variation in court cards, jokers and aces of spades.

54: China 1

Lucky Buddha Beer

Deck made in China in c.2010 advertising the Chinese brew “Lucky Beer, the enlightened beer”

Lucky Buddha Beer

Terracotta Army

Each card has a different photo of elements of the terracotta army whose purpose was to protect the emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife.

Terracotta Army

Magic Poker Cards

“Magic Poker Cards” are often found inside Christmas crackers along with party hats, puzzles and jokes...

Magic Poker Cards

Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin

“Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin” collectible playing cards, made in China, c.2010.

Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin

Rūfa

Rūfa is a game designed by Ernest Legh and manufactured by De la Rue. The object is to build a pagoda with specially-designed cards without causing the building to collapse.

Rūfa

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

Chi Chi Pai

Chinese “Chi Chi Pai” Playing Cards by Mesmaekers Frères for Far East market, c.1890.

Chi Chi Pai

Mao Zedong & International Friends

Playing cards celebrating the story of the Chinese leader and statesman Chairman Mao / Mao Zedong & International Friends.

Mao Zedong & International Friends

Mr. Men™

Mr. Men™ & Little Miss™ playing cards by Roger Hargreaves

Mr. Men™

Titicaca ® Playing Cards

Each card in this novelty deck, subtitled “Funny Card”, carries information about a prestigious or popular brand.

Titicaca ® Playing Cards

Mad Jack Miracle Pack

Mad Jack Miracle Pack by Chu’s Magic (Tobar) 1999.

Mad Jack Miracle Pack

Li River Souvenir

Li River Souvenir Playing Cards from China.

Li River Souvenir

Hokkien Four Colour Cards

The characters on the cards are written one way for red and yellow, and another for green and white. They are: 將 士 象 車 馬 包 兵 for white and green; 帥 仕 相 俥 傌 炮 卒 for red and yellow.

Hokkien Four Colour Cards

3: 20th/21st Century Variants including some from China

I expect most collectors ignore cards made in China for export. It's true that many of them are close copies of American models, but there are also some interesting, even peculiar, redrawings of the standard English pattern.

3: 20th/21st Century Variants including some from China

Three Kingdoms

One of an extensive range of Chinese historical, art and culture playing cards, Three Kingdoms playing cards describes the historical story of the Three Kingdoms period, the political and military struggles between the contending rulers.

Three Kingdoms

Mini-Poker

Mini-Poker miniature playing cards made in China.

Mini-Poker

Hong Kong

Playing Cards from Hong Kong. A large proportion of the world's souvenir and pin-up playing cards originate from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong

Angry Birds UNO

Angry Birds UNO manufactured in China, 2003.

Angry Birds UNO

UNO

UNO Indonesian edition, licensed by Mattel for sale in Far Eastern countries, 2011

UNO

Plants vs. Zombies UNO Card Set

Plants vs. Zombies UNO card set Chinese edition, licensed by Mattel East Asia Limited, 2011.

Plants vs. Zombies UNO Card Set

Fortune Telling Cards

Fortune Telling Cards - wondrous scientific divination poker cards.

Fortune Telling Cards

Mahjongg

Mahjongg

Mahjongg

Double Elephant & Double Dragon

Double Elephant brand Four Colour cards

Double Elephant & Double Dragon

Playing Cards in Singapore

Playing Cards in Singapore, one of the Four Asian Tigers.

Playing Cards in Singapore

Chinese Playing Cards

The Chinese took their cards with them wherever they travelled and traded in the East, and we find Chinese cards in use not only in the mainland but also in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, North Borneo and Vietnam.

Chinese Playing Cards

Toyo playing cards No.88 for Peru

Toyo playing cards No.88 manufactured in China for the “Estanco de Naipes del Perú”, 1950s.

Toyo playing cards No.88 for Peru