|Table of names (Johore)||Example of clue|
|Chart - TungRen|
It was my impression that I had quite exhausted the subject of the gambling customs of the Chinese in the United States, when my attention was attracted by certain curiously imprinted sheets of orange-colored paper, posted on the walls of Chinese shops in Philadelphia, which I was told were connected with a lottery that was then carried on in that city. These paper tablets, Fig. I, bear a rude wood-cut about eight by nine inches, comprising the figure of a man, inscribed at all points with Chinese characters, and surrounded with carefully ruled divisions, within which are the names of men and animals.
Over the man's head is the legend Shang tsoi, "producing wealth," but neither this nor the popular name of the personage, T'ung Yan, meaning "composite man," or composed of many men, threw any light upon the purpose or significance of the sheets. No information could be obtained about them other than that they were used in a lottery called the Tsz' Fa, concerning which those interested appeared to be more than ordinarily secretive. These tablets were only displayed for a short time, and I have not seen them since in Philadelphia.
I had almost given up the hope of learning anything more about them, when, one day, happening to be in the Chinese quarter of New York City, I encountered an old acquaintance, a Chinese man of superior intellect and accomplishments, of whom I inquired about the Tsz' Fa. He in turn wanted to know how to make green ink, which he had been unable to purchase, for the duplicating instrument called the hektograph. Upon my telling him, for I happened to think that a solution of green aniline might serve his purpose, he not only answered my questions, but at last reluctantly informed me that he himself was the manager of such a lottery in New York City, and it was for use in this very enterprise he wanted the green ink.
The pressure of circumstances had been too much for him, although his early training so constantly reasserted itself that his life was a constant struggle between his ideas of propriety and his necessities. In addition to his literary education, meager enough from a Chinese point of view, although in advance of any of his countrymen with whom I am acquainted, and ample and amazing to the Western scholar, he possessed a vivid imagination and a refined and cultivated mind. These qualities, however, especially fitted him for his position, as it will be seen that the manager of the Tsz' Fa must be a man of superior intelligence and ability.
The ruled divisions of the sheet are classified under nine categories :
1. The four Chong un. (The name given to those who take the highest degree at the examination for the Hanlim.)
2. The seven successful merchants.
3. The four Buddhist priests.
4. The five beggars.
5. The five generals
6. The four ladies.
7. The four destined to good fortune.
8. The Nun.
9. The two Taoist priests.
Each of these divisions, of which there are just thirty-six, is subdivided by horizontal lines into three parts, of which the upper contains a name and surname composed of three characters; the center part two names, one in most cases that of an animal ; and the other, of some historical personage, while the third part contains the last two characters of one of the names in the upper part of one of the other divisions.
The figure of the man is entirely covered with the thirty-six pairs of characters, which are identical with the pairs of characters last referred to, and serve to indicate the relations that are assumed to exist between them and the various parts of the body.
The thirty-six proper names form the lots upon which the bets are made. One of them is selected by the manager of the lottery for each drawing, and the players who bet upon this number receive thirty times the amount of their stakes. The drawings are held twice daily, at three o'clock in the afternoon, and at ten in the evening, in a room used especially for the purpose. Here the players assemble somewhat before the appointed hour, and make their bets upon the thirty-six numbers.
The last two characters of the winning name for the drawing have been written upon a piece of white paper, which, securely rolled within a piece of black cloth, hangs upon the wall. When all is ready, the manager slowly unrolls the cloth and reveals the winning name. This probably explains the peculiar name, Tsz' Fa, or "Word Blooming," which is given to the game.
So far, the utility of the pictured sheet has not been apparent. Upon examination, it appears that the names contained in the middle space of each of the thirty-six divisions are those of birds, beasts, fishes, and reptiles ; of common occupations, as tailor and gobetween ; of noted characters in the popular romances and histories, and of miscellaneous objects, such as "jade," a "corpse," and the "Tutelary Spirit." This heterogeneous collection, which somewhat resembles the lists of objects in the dream-books sold in our shops for the use of "policy" players, is employed by some of the gamblers for a similar purpose. The picture of the man forms part of the scheme, so that if a person dreams of the right hand or the left hand, the stomach, or any part of the body, he plays the name which stands written upon that particular organ in the diagram.
It is my opinion that the pictured sheet was originally designed for the purpose above described. However that may be, among the Chinese in America such employment is usually secondary to one in which superstition has no part, to one in which the literary talent and ingenuity of the writer of the lottery are matched, at what appear to be heavy odds, against the quick wits of numerous players. The writer of the lottery must compose an original ode for each day's drawings, which must contain, either directly or by implication, some demonstrable reference to one or more of the objects mentioned by name in the middle space of the division in which is found the proper name he has selected for the drawing, or some reference to the part of the body upon which the name appears. The lottery's chances are increased through the writer's being permitted to select as the winning name either the name in the upper space, or its alternate in the lowest space of each of the thirty-six divisions. The manager of the lottery hands each player a copy of the ode referring to the next day's drawings at the conclusion of each day's business.
The odes that I have seen consisted of two measured couplets, each composed of lines of three and five characters, printed in blue or green ink upon a small strip of white paper. The first couplet on the right of the slip must contain a reference to the afternoon drawing, and the other to the one that takes place in the evening. The following (Fig. 2) is a specimen :
Kwok you to.
Man man chim u lo.
Kun un yung,
Pdk sing cKeuttg wo fung.
" The country has the (right) way.
All the people with ram and dew are moistened."
" The officers all forbear.
The people spread abroad with favorable winds."
It is the practice of the writer of the lottery to mislead the players, as far as possible by means of his verses, but he must always be able to give a satisfactory explanation of their connection with the name which he displays. The diagrams I have described are sold in the Chinese shops in New York City, and are to be found in possession of those who patronize the game. The writer of the lottery frequently has another and much larger printed sheet, which contains all that appears upon the small one, with the addition of other names in the middle spaces of the thirty-six divisions, to which he may refer in his poetical compositions.
An explanation of the origin of the Tsz Fa lottery, and incidentally of other lotteries, is suggested to me in the Chinese money-lending clubs. I am informed that in Korea there are no lotteries, the nearest thing to them being found in the kyei, or associations for lending money. One hundred or one thousand persons will join, and each contribute so much per month. The sum thus contributed will be drawn by lot every month, the fortunate member receiving an advance of the sum he must ultimately contribute. The names of the members are written on slips of paper, one being drawn each month The Tsz' Fa may be regarded as simulating such an organization, composed of thirty-six persons, whose names and titles are given.
J. D. Vaughn has given in his "Manners and Customs of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements," published in Singapore in 1879, the following account of a Chinese lottery similar to the Tsz' Fa, in the Straits Settlements : "The game of 'Wah Way,' a lottery, is indulged in by all classes in Singapore to a fearful extent. Thirty-six different animals may be staked on : Cock, Cat, Civet or Musk Cat, Tortoise, Snake, Pelican, Boa Constrictor, Pig, Duck, Frog, Elephant, Bee, Pigeon, Swallow, Butterfly, Fish, Deer, Goat, Lobster, Crab, Tiger, Dragon, Buffalo, Turtle, Rat, Lion, Dog, Leopard, Sea Dog, Goose, Peacock, Land Shell, Wild Duck, Horse, Monkey, and Sea Serpent."
The prize is thirty times the amount of the stake. The Wah Way is supposed to be drawn at Johore, fourteen miles from Singapore, just across the old Straits of Malacca, where the principal office is, having branch offices in all parts of the town, where the player pays his stake in with a piece of paper containing the name of the animal or other thing he stakes on, and the amount of the stake he ventures on each. About three o'clock in the afternoon, whatever is the winning object out of the thirtysix is announced in the town, and then the lucky ones who have staked on it are punctually paid at the branch offices.
The owners of the lottery, having so many chances in their favor, must make a great deal of money each day. Women are the principal supporters of this game, and it is said many ruin themselves and their husbands by staking all the money they can get hold of at these Wah Way offices. In the collection of the Sultan of Johore, at the Columbian Exposition, there was an outfit for this lottery, which was catalogued under the name of "Wah Wai" (Chinese fa ui, literally, "Flower Association"). It consisted of aboard about three feet square, painted white, upon which were written the characters drawn in the lottery, Fig.3. These consist of thirty-six pairs of characters having felicitous meanings, as Tai ping, "Great peace"; Tsing wan, "Azure clouds"; Sam wai, "Three Cassiat rees," etc.
They bear no relation to each other, and appear to have been selected from among many similar phrases. The players are said to be influenced by dreams in playing, choosing a lot which they fancy to have been suggested to them by their dreams. A box painted red, containing thirty-six tablets of wood painted white, each inscribed with one of the characters to be drawn, a small box with a sliding lid, similar to the preceding, in which one of the blocks may be concealed, and a bag, pepundi, completes the paraphernalia. The method of conducting the lottery is evident. The players bet on the characters which are exposed on the large board, the winning number being concealed, with the aid of the bag, in the small box.