Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Four colour cards/四色牌 2:

"2001 龙凤四色牌”  112c +7
This particular deck of playing cards is yet another variation of the 四色牌, playing cards, or as some English authors call them "chess cards" . The Chinese name reflects the suit system of the cards. Four colours, Red, Yellow, Green and White. The English name reflects the ranks in each of the suits, which correspond to the pieces in the Chinese version of Chess.

  Although purchased in Singapore, this particular pattern is not common there. In all my years of collecting, I have only seen this pattern twice. On both occasions I bough the decks in question.
For a Comparison with a more typical pattern, please see http://www.wopc.co.uk/singapore/double-elephant  and http://anthonylesq.blogspot.sg/2013/03/four-colour-cards-hokkien.html

The red and yellow suits. The ranks are, From Right to Left: General 帥,Guard , Minister,  Chariot, Horse , Cannon , and Infantryman. 
Despite being printed in the PRC, these cards are written in Traditional Chinese characters. Also note the company name (龙凤, "Dragon and Phoenix")written in the space between the cards. 

The Suits of Green and White. Like real Chinese chess sets, ( see here and Here ) The pieces for opposing sides are written using different characters. The ranks are, Again, General 將,Guard, Elephant 象 (The Chinese words for "Elephant"and "Minister" are homophones, hence the substitution ) , Chariot , Horse, Cannon .(Amusingly, this character on its own means "Bun").and soldier. 

The "Title cards" (A, B) and the five "Jokers (C-G). The text on card A gives the name of the company, and an auspicious greeting. Card B is a Quality control certificate. (合格证). It also gives the " complaints hotline". The card informs us that the company is located in Fuzhou. 

The jokers ( C, D, E, F, G)  are slightly more cryptic. They apparently refer to ranks of the Chinese Nobility. EDIT: The jokers depict the five ranks of  ancient Chinese nobility mentioned in the Book of rites.  In descending  order of rank, they are 公 (G)、侯(F)、伯(E)、子(D)、男(C).
 In any case, the games that are played with the deck do not appear to use them. 

The box. You can see it is fairly battered. 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

International pattern XII: Anon.

[International pattern], Anon. 52c+2
This anonymous deck of cards was purchased at an outlet of the renowned Japanese value goods store Daiso about 5 years ago. The cards are made of plastic.

The first thing that strikes one about these cards is the simplicity of the design. The cards are done in only 3 colours. This is not uncommon. However, unlike most cards, the courts are drastically simplified in design. 
In most decks of the international pattern, the dress of the courts is comprised of elaborate patterns. Here the draughtsman has removed most of the roundels and other such features, replacing them with simple cross-hatching. 
Here the cards are compared with a more standard deck. D stands for the anonymous deck, W stands for the Waddingtons deck.  The maker of the anonymous deck has adhered to the basic features of the pattern, despite simplifying it. The King of spades still holds a sword, and his Queen holds both a sceptre and a flower. 

But, some courts have been altered. The King of diamonds no longer holds an axe. Instead of a pair of spiked poles, the Jack of swords holds a sword. Perhaps this was the anonymous pack's draughtsman's attempt at "rationalizing" the pattern? 

Another feature of interest is the direction the court cards face. In the Waddingtons deck, all the court cards face to the left. In the Anonymous deck, some of the courts face to the right. This feature is present in the oldest cards of the international pattern, but not in today's cards. 
We wonder what caused the maker to so drastically simplify the courts. Perhaps it was a limitation of the printing process? When printing on plastic, it might be difficult to align the colours precisely. A simplified design would be to order.