Wednesday, 3 June 2015


"Nolbu", 48c+6

When Korea was under Japanese occupation, the Koreans took a liking to the Japanese games played using hanafuda. The Koreans subsequently developed their own games, and at length, a native Korean pattern.  (If you are not already familiar with the hanafuda, this is a useful link: )
  The first major difference is the materials from which the decks are made. Japanese cards are made of thick cardboard, while the korean hwatu are made of stiff sheets of plastic.

 I have seen people who are ignorant of this fact lodge complaints on an online retailer, feeling cheated, as the Japanese hanafuda they bought were printed on paper instead of the expected plastic!

Nevertheless, despite being made of plastic, the hwatu retain a red border around the cards; an imitation of the japanese cards and their turnover edges.

 The suits of January and febuary. note the “character on the card with the crane, ( Top row, 1st from right) This character marks out certain valuable cards in the deck. 
The suits of  march. and april Note the " ribbon" card ( Top row, 2nd from right) . The inscription on this ribbon is in Korean. No-one seems to understand what it says.  

The Suits of May and June . One of the features of the Hwatu are the use of a light, almost turquoise blue. The standard Japanese cards use a deep purple instead of this color. .  

The Suits of  July and August. Another key feature of the hwatu is the deep black used. The Hanafuda use a grey colour instead of the black. It is thus possible to see the veins of the leaves, and blades of grass. This is impossible in the hwatu. Note the " moon"  card ( 2nd row, 1st from right). It contains the visage of nolbu, a character in a Korean folktale. 

 September. and october 

November and December. 

Here are the extra " joker" cards that are peculiar to the Korean game. They display figures relevant to the story of Nolbu and Heungbu. Nolbu (1) was a miser, who had a brother called Heungbu.
Their father died. Nolbu took all their father's wealth for himself,  and drove  Heungbu out of the luxurious house in which they had previously lived,  (2). Heungbu was forced to stay in a small hut, where a swallow that they saved (3) presented them with a seed. When it was planted, it grew gourds that were filed with treasure (4). 
Nolbu grew jealous, and forced a swallow to present him with a similar seed (5). When that was planted, the gourds that it grew were filled with demons, who tore him to pieces ( not shown ). It seems that the ingenious maker has used the elements of the story described to illustrate the various bonuses that the cards confer. Any translation is appreciated. 

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