Saturday, 5 May 2018

Water Margin cards 水滸牌

"High Quality plastic poker cards" ( Water Margin cards), Yunchu, 120c
“高級全塑扑克牌” (水滸牌),雲楚 , 120c.
Here is another deck of money-suited cards. The cards seem to be fairly well-known. An Example from the 1960s is shown here  ( called "3 suits-10). Despite being half a century younger, the decks are extremely similar. This present deck is printed on Plastic. Chinese playing-card makers seem to have taken a liking to the material.
This deck possesses 30 subjects. There are four copies of each card.

The suit of coins. Nine is on the Left. The cards are ranked, from Left-to-right, in descending order, with the Ace on the Right. The same holds for all other images. 

 Notice that the ace and Nine of coins have the coins replaced by human figures. Both are personages from the Water Margin. Names of characters from the same novel are also written on the other cards. For instance, the name Bai Sheng 白胜 is written over the two of coins, even though there is no portrait of him on the card.  

Rather helpfully, each card has its rank spelled out on top of each card. So, on the six of coins, the words expressing the rank 六并  are spelled out, above the six coins depicted.
The word used is 并, which, currently means "also" . In all probability the character is shorthand for "餅“, meaning "Cake", which fits the meaning-- a cake of silver. 

The suit of strings, or as they are called here, "Fish". This may seem an odd choice, but the Chinese counting-word for fish  is the same as the one for strings. The 2, 3 and 4 of fishes appear to be swimming, but their brethren on the higher ranks appear to be dead, hanging on strings. 

The ace of coins is here called the "Small fish" . The personage depicted on the card, Zhang Shun was well-known for his powers in swimming. 
Note the bold white-on-black geometric designs on the cards. These function as the indices. Each card has a unique index. Also note that the indices in the Ace and Nine in all ranks are tinged with red.

The suit of myriads. Here the personages on each card are actually depicted. On the Nine of myriads there is the leader of the 108 outlaws of the Water Margin, Song Jiang. 

Like the previous suits, only the figures on the Ace and Nine are colored. The cheery color scheme of red and yellow is austere compared compared to some other decks ( like this one),

On the top row, are the honour cards, called "Old Thousand", "White Flower" and "Red Flower" 

The manufacturers also print a luxury version of the cards, with gold ink . The cards from the luxury version are marked A, the ones from the normal version marked B. The luxury and Normal versions are known by different names. The Normal version is called 雲楚-- Yunchu and the Luxury version called 明富 Mingfu

Above are shown the boxes that contain the cards. (A) and (B) show two sides of the box. C and D are the backs of the boxes. They contain an inscription, extolling the virtues of the cards. The inscriptions are identical, save the name assigned to the cards. C is the box for Yunchu, D for Minfu. Below is a translation of the inscription.  

" Yunchu Poker cards are made of imported material, which has been refined through stamping. As a result, the cards are opaque, do not crack, and have clearly printed pictures. Of durable make, the firm's cards are of the top quality, and have a wide circulation through the country, warmly received by a great many users. 
[ Red on white text] High Class All Plastic Poker cards"

. It is interesting to see the cards being referred to as 撲克牌-- Pu ke Pai  " Poker cards"  even though it is quite impossible to play the game of Poker with the deck

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