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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.

Mahjongg

Mahjongg

Mahjongg is usually played with tiles, which are Chinese playing cards made in solid form...

These cards are almost certainly printed in Malaysia, but are exported to Singapore. However, the locals prefer playing with tiles, rather than cards. The rules of the game are akin to Rummy. The top row contains the suit of Circles. The second row contains the three Bonus cards, from L-R: 红中, 白板 绿發 that is, the “red centre, white tile, and green prosperity." The third and fourth rows contain the suits of Myriads and Bamboos respectively, the ranks are, from L-R: 1 ,2, 7, 8 and 9. The suit of Myriads is unchanged from the traditional money cards. The suit of Bamboos, however, is merely a corrupted version of the “Strings” in the money suited cards. The bottom row contains the “Winds" tiles, from L-R: East, South, West, North.

Mahjongg cards made in Malaysia

Images and information 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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