The Game and the list

Hua-Hui is a gambling game of chinese origin. It's based on the fictive biography of 36 characters. The game propagates across China between the end of the 1700s and 1950. It propagates too to South-East Asia, Americas, South-Africa, Australia etc... The game and the list of names got adapted to local populations, and so, many variants exist.

Data available about this game are very unequal :

Here is a tentative reconstitution of the diffusion of the game and its list, and their variants.

The Game in China

Here are the places where the game or one of its variants were played.
(The provinces' borders are the actual ones)
The main sources are

The Game in the world

Here are the places where the game or one of its variants were played.
Colored zones are regions where the game was played, white circle are places where the game was played but we found no proof that the game propagated to the whole region.
In China, colors represent the local variants (see below)
Out of China, colors represent the chinese local variant from which the locan version comes :

Ways to play the game

The original game

Initially, the organisation of the game is :

The verses written by the banker related directly or indirectly to the winning name:

For players to remember the 36 characters and their specificities, songs were written containing details about the characters.
Initially, booklets containing these songs were published, then, booklets detailing the biographies of the 36 characters and other features were published.

Game variants

From this basic rules, the propagation of the game will lead to numerous evolutions :

In China et South-East Asia, there are 2 type of bankers :

The game being essentially local, a lot of variants appear in some regions:

This is probably due to the existence of print books :

The modes of propagation of the game

They can be classified in differrent categories:

In China, the variants are mainly due to the adaptation to local dialects: some aspects of the game remain constant in the region using a given dialect, the changes (other than linguistic) appear during "localizations" to neighboring dialects.

In most of the cases, outside Asia, the logic of the propagation is : The coolies import the game and play amongst themselves, then locals and/or other immigrants get interested and "translate" the game in their own language.

The families of variants and their relationships

Map of China with the main dialects in which the game has been adapted.

   1775 Hokkien - 閩南語
   1790 Hakka - 客家语
   1790 Yue - 粤语
   1790 Eastern Min - 閩東語
   1795 Wu (Zhejiang/Shanghai) - 吳語
   1850 Huizhou - 徽州话
   1850 Jiangsu/Annhui - 下江官话/江淮官话
   1835 Jiaoliao (Shandong/Liaoning) - 胶辽官話
   1845 Jilu (Hebei) - 冀魯官話
   1850 Gan - 贛語
   1910 Wuhan
   1910 part of Sichuan
   1910 Yunnan
   1920 Miao - 苗语
   1920 Dongbei - 東北話/东北话

The game's origin is the South-Fujian/North Guangdong region speaking Hokkien/Min-Nan (Southern Min) (The variant spoken in North Guangdong is called Teochew).
The game propagate to the zones speaking this dialect (including south-west coastal area of Taiwan) and then :

All variants of the game come from one of these 4 variants (Hokkien/Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Min). So, these is two large families :

General outlook on the evolution of the game and it's lists

The game's origins and the game's names

The Game's and List's origins

The origins of the game principle and of the list are unknown. Here are the origins proposed by different authors (more or less credible ...) :

The two last theories link the game to the city 漳州 and its surrounding.

The game's names

In China, the game is known under many names, these various names became the local names of the game throughout the world.

Chinese these regions
花會 花 flower
會 assembly, reunion
Fa-FiSouth Africa
Hwa-HweeStraits Settlement
Hoa-HoeeDutch East Indies
花當/花当 花:flower, 當/当:?? Quanzhou (泉州 south-Fujian) Jueteng Luzon
字花 字:character, 花:flower Yue version/Hakka version Chefa Guyana
Gee-FarUS-East Coast, Montreal, British Columbia, Alberta
古人 the ancients, les elders Yue version Cổ nhơn Annam
probably burmese name: 'hti'Burma border
梅花Plum blossomHainan Island
花宝Flower treasuerYunnan and Sichuan
押会probably a shortcut of 押花会:
'play hua-hui'
Shandong, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning
压会压 and 押 have the same pronunciation
a corrupt form of 押会
Shandong, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning
会局the place where the game is played or the game itselfShandong, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning
出会Shandong, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning

The reason of the different romanizations of the names 花會 and 字花 is that the pronunciations vary depending on the dialect used. (sources: dictionaries)

Mandarin huāhuì
Yue粤语zi6faa1kui2 wui2 wui4 wui5 wui6
沙头角腔su5fa1fui5 foi5
台湾四县腔sii5 cih5fa1fi5 woi5
客语拼音字汇si4fa1fi4 fui4 kai4 kuai4 voi4
客英字典sii5 cih5fa1fui5 kwai5
宝安腔su3fa1fui3 kai5
梅县腔se5 ze3fa1fi5 fui3
海陆丰腔sii6 cih6fa1fui6 woi6
Teochew潮州话huê1 hua1hue
福州 Foochowchehwahwoi
福建 Hokkienhwahöēy

Variants of the list's names

As the game adapted locally, the names of the list changed - often using a homophonous character in the local dialect.
NameLocal VariantsWritten Variants
银玉 銀玉根玉 艮玉
扳桂 攀桂板柜 板桂 拔桂
荣生 榮生永生 人生 仁生 云生
日山日出 入山 玉山
九官九宫 加官
火官伙官 金官 洪福
万金 萬金
汉云 漢雲 漢云汗云 旱云
月宝 月寶曰宝 丑宝
青元青泉 清泉 音位
青云 青雲
上招上超 上昭 上召
只得只德 自得 志德
福孙 福孫伏桑 福桑 福双 伏双 福生
合同合通 河通
江祠龙江 江词 江河
正顺 正順正川
志高至高 志交 只高
井利井力 井立
元贵 元貴元桂
音会 音會观音 英台 阴街 阴会 高升