花会/字花/字花会Hua Hui, Ji Hua
闈姓Wai Seng : loterie des lettrés
白鴿票Pai-ko-p'iao, Loterie Pigeon blanc

Cards : Hong Kong

Cards written in Chinese, English and Arabic. [source]



Book : Chinese in USA

Song Book

HuaHui Tickets



Another mode of gambling is that called Koo-yan or "the Ancients." It is also known under the name of "Flowery Characters." This game is said to have originated in the department of Chun-chow, and was introduced into Canton in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Taou-kwang. By the "ancients" is meant a number of names and surnames by which thirty-six personages of former times were known and recognized. These names are divided into nine different classes, as follows :—

I. The names of four men who attained the highest literary distinctions.
In a former state of existence, these men were respectively, a fish, a white goose, a white snail, and a peacock.
II. The names of five distinguished military officers.
These men were once, respectively, a worm, a rabbit, a pig, a tiger, and a cow.
III. The names of seven successful merchants.
These men were once, respectively, a flying dragon, a white dog, a white horse, an elephant, a wild cat, and a wasp.
IV. The names of four persons who were conspicuous for their uninterrupted happiness on earth.
These were once, respectively, a frog, an eagle, a monkey, and a dragon.
V. The names of four females.
These were once, respectively, a butterfly, a precious stone, a white swallow, and a pigeon.
VI. The names of five beggars.
These were once, respectively, a prawn, a snake, a fish, a deer, and a sheep.
VII. The names of four Buddhist priests.
These were once, respectively, a tortoise, a hen, an elk, and a calf.
VIII. The names of two Taouist priests.
These were once, respectively, a white egret and a yellow streaked cat.
IX. The name of a Buddhist nun who was once a fox.

The game is played as follows. The gambling company select a person who has an aptitude for composing enigmas, to whom they pay a very large salary. New enigmas are constantly wanted, as the houses where this game is played are open twice daily, namely, at 7 A.M., and again at 8 P.M. Each enigma is supposed to have a reference to one of the creatures enumerated, whether beast, bird, fish, reptile, or insect. So soon as an enigma is composed, it is printed, and several thousand copies are sold to the people. The sale of these enigmas must prove in itself a considerable source of revenue. When a purchaser of one of them thinks he has found out the creature to which it refers, he writes his answer on a sheet of paper. At the hour appointed he hastens to the gaming-house, generally a large hall, where he presents his answer, and the sum of money which he is prepared to stake, to a secretary. When all the answers and stakes have been received, the managers of the establishment retire to an inner chamber, where they examine the answers and count the stakes. The secretary records the names of those who have answered correctly, while his partners wrap up the various sums of money which the successful conjecturers have won. All this time there is suspended from the roof of the chamber where the speculators are assembled, a scroll folded up, and containing a picture of the creature to which the enigma alludes. When the winners' stakes have been prepared for them, the secretary enters the hall and unfolds this scroll. So soon as the picture is seen, it is greeted with a loud shout of exultation from the successful few, and with murmurs of discontent from the many who liave guessed wrong. It is hardly necessary to add that the managers take care to provide riddles of such an ambiguous character, that the majority are always wrong in their conjectures. The amount staked in these places is limited.

Ladies lose large sums of money at such establishments. As they are not allowed to appear in public, they are generally represented at them by their female slaves or servants.

Large sums are daily lost by men, women, and children of all classes, in a game called Ta-pak-up-pu, or "strike the white dove." A company is formed, consisting of fifty partners having equal shares. One is selected to act as an overseer, and, for reasons which will presently appear, he is made to live in strict retirement.
A sheet of paper on which eighty Chinese characters, respectively signifying heaven, earth, sun, moon, stars, &c., is given to him. With this sheet he enters a private apartment, and remains there without communicating with any one for several hours, during which he marks twenty of the characters with a vermilion pencil. The sheet is then deposited in a box, which is at once carefully locked. Thousands of sheets of paper containing eighty similar characters, are then sold to the public. The purchasers mark ten of the eighty, and take their papers next morning to the gaming establishment to have them compared with that marked by the overseer. Before they give them up, they make copies of them, which they retain. When all the papers have been received, the box which contains the overseer's paper, and which stands conspicuous on a table, is unlocked. The gambler's papers are then compared with the overseer's paper. If a gambler has marked only four of the characters selected by the overseer, he receives nothing. If he has marked five of them, he receives seven cash ; if six, seventy cash ; if eight, seven dollars ; and if ten, fifteen dollars. A person wishing to gamble can buy as many as three hundred copies of the gambling sheet, but he must mark them all alike. There are never more than two such establishments in large cities such as Canton, and the winnings of the firms conducting them must be very great, to judge from the number of sheets sold daily.

In cities, there are also houses in which card-playing for very high stakes takes place both by day and night. Many persons are there brought to ruin. To elude the vigilance of the authorities these establishments are more or less private ; but card-players experience little or no difficulty in finding out such haunts of vice. A private residence was used for this purpose in the neighbourhood of a Chinese house in which I resided for six years. I was induced to visit it on one occasion, and found in it gentlemen card-players with several female companions. The latter were not engaged in the game,as it is altogether contrary to Cantonese notions of propriety that women should play cards with men. In the cities of Nankin and Kam-poo-sheng, I saw to my astonishment men and women playing together, and on making inquiries I found that a similar custom prevails at Shanghai. Cards are a very popular amusement with all classes.

Social Life of the Chinese. A Daguerreotype of Daily Life in China. by Rev. Justus Doolittle (1868)

There are several kinds of street gambling, on a small scale, for money or for sweetmeats, candies, etc., which it is impossible to avoid noticing while passing along. One of these is a kind of literary or "poetica" gambling.

The head gambler provides himself with a table, and seats himself behind it by the street-side. He exhibits on the table, for the inspection of those who wish to gamble in this way, a written line of poetry of five or seven characters, having one word omitted. He furnishes, also, a list of several words, either one of which, if inserted in the blank place, would complete the line and make good sense. The gambling consists in guessing which of these characters is the word really omitted, and backing the guess with a stake of cash. He who stakes a number of cash on his guess and misses, loses the money. If he guesses the correct character, he receives five times his stake. That there may be no imposition practiced by the head gambler, the real word omitted is found on the corner or side of the same piece of paper which contains the defective line, but concealed from view by the paper being turned over, until a wager is made by some one, when it is exposed for the inspection of the person concerned. The head gambler provides himself sometimes with a large number of defective lines of poetry ready for use, should there be any occasion for them.

Another method of gambling is this : the head gambler provides himself with three slender slips of bamboo or wood, eight or ten inches long, and a stool, and seats himself by the street-side, to accommodate those who wish to try their fortunes by an appeal to the three lots. He hold the three lots in one hand by grasping them at one end, the other end projecting outward, and usually separated from each other, so that those who engage in gambling can easily slip cash on any one of them which he selects. There is hanging down from his hand a red tassel or string, professedly attached to one of the three lots at the end which is held in the hand of the operator. He holds the three ends in such a way that a spectator can not tell which of them it is that has the red thread attached to it. The person who ventures to stake cash, places the amount he pleases on the lot which he bets is the one which has the red string attached to it. If the lot selected is not the one which has a string attached, he simply loses his venture. If it should prove to be the one, the head gambler must restore him the cash, and twice as many more as he ventured. It is very seldom that the head gambler forfeits any money. He usually manages the matter so as almost always to gain, not to lose. The red string is often attached to them all, but in such a way that when any one is pulled forth from the hand which grasps it, the thread will slip off, but remain on the other two. If there is a wager laid on one of the two left undrawn, and the lot selected be pulled forth, the thread in like manner slips off, and the lot appears without any thread attached, even though it really had the thread attached to it before it was drawn. If the head gambler opens the hand to show that every thing has been conducted fairly, the remaining slip has the thread properly attached, and every thing seems to be honestly managed. Of course, the man who operates deceitfully and unfairly does not allow the condition of the string on the ends of the lots in his hand to be seen or examined at the beginning of a game, should any one suspect or charge him with intending foul play.

Another common instrument of street-gambling consists in part of a round board some fifteen or eighteen inches in diameter, the circumference of which is divided into eight or sixteen equal parts. From the centre to each of the dividing points is drawn a straight line. A standard or post eight or ten inches high is erected in the centre, coming to a point small enough to allow of cash being put upon it. A slender stick of wood is provided, nearly as long as the diameter of the board, having a smooth hole in the centre of it saffidently large to allow it to fit loosely upon the perpendicular standard, two or three inches from the top of it. This is designed to be put upon the standard, and to turn around easily, and with as little friction as possible, upon this standard, in a line parallel with the surface of the board, which is marked off into eight or six-teen parts. Near one end of this horizontal piece is tied one end of a string, so that its other end will come down nearly to the surface of the board. This horizontal piece of wood, being turned around by a sudden movement of the hand, will continue to revolve some time after the hand has been taken away, and, of course, it is quite uncertain over what part of the face of the board the thread attached to it will finally stop. The gambling consists in guessing where the string will point after the horizontal piece to which it is attached having been made to revolve, stops. The one who wishes to stake some cash upon a certain spot places the amount of his wager on the top of the perpendicular standard, and specifies the particular division he bets upon, or he puts the cash upon that particular division, and then gives the horizontal piece a whirl around with greater or less velocity, as he pleases. If the thread stops, pointing down to the particular division he selected, he has won, and the head gambler must pay him eight or sixteen times as much as he ventured, according as the face of the board is divided into eight or sixteen parts. If the thread stops over any other space than the one he bet upon, he loses his wager. If he should bet upon any particular dividing line on the face of the board, and the string should, when its movements ceased, point directly down toward that line, he would be entitled to receive twice as many cash from the head gambler as he would have been entitled to receive had he bet with success upon any particular piece. The head gambler often has a quantity of candies or sweetmeats with which to pay in part or wholly his forfeits, provided those who are successful in their ventures are willing to accept of such a currency ; if not, he must pay them in cash.


Lotteries are also prohibited, in consequence of their exceedingly pernicious influence on society. Mandarins are anxious to prevent them, and succeed only by the use of the most stringent measures. A few years since, the head man of a certain lottery was arrested and beheaded by order of the viceroy, which decisive course struck terror into all who were engaged, or who were desirous of engaging in the business. The secret in regard to this consists in guessing which set, out of certain thirty-seven sets of names, is the successful one for a particular day. The set selected as the successful one for any specified day is, of course, known only to the managers of the lottery. Those who happen to guess it draw thirty cash for every one they stake. This great percentage of profit induces many to engage in this kind of lottery.


Ta Chieng Kui a god of gamblers, represents a certain man who spent his time in gambling, until, having lost his property, he died of want. An image of him was subsequently made, and called a "devil gambling for cash". His body was represented as clothed with ordinary garments, very much dilapidated, with his cue coiled around his head, and with a gambling card stuck into his hair. This god is much worshiped by gamblers, especially when there is a kind of lottery to be drawn. Having lighted incense and candles before him, they cast lots by the use of bamboo slips, and kneel down and knock their heads on the ground. Some confirmed gamblers have an image of this divinity made for use in their homes, before which they pray for auspicious dreams, as aids in gambling. They prepare for having such dreams by lying down to sleep before the image, having first lighted some candles and incense. When this is done it amounts to a kind of vow. Sometimes tobacco and cakes are offered in the evening.

Sometimes the gambler takes thirty-seven 'slips of bamboo, each of which has certain characters written upon it, and arranges them before the image, covering each with some kind of shell. Incense and candles are lighted, as before, at bedtime. In the morning these slips are carefully examined to ascertain if any have been moved during the night. If one has been stirred, though but a little, the characters upon it are selected by the gambler, upon which to bet with regard to this lottery, under the idea that the god has caused it to be moved as a favor to him, indicating that these characters will be the lucky ones for the day. One of these thirty-seven sets of characters are selected by the lottery directors to draw the prize for a particular day. The gambling consists in trying to guess the lucky characters for any specified day. Those who guess them make thirty fold on their venture. Oflentimes the phrase "devil gambling for cash" is used to describe a man who has become a desperate gamester, probably from his haggard and poverty-stricken appearance.

Bits Of China By General Tcheng-Ki-Tong (Military Attache to the Imperial Chinese Legation in Paris)

This is the translation from the French Book (Les Plaisirs en Chine) written by this Chinese General


We have no official lottery, and, unless I am greatly mistaken, we never did have one. The private lottery, however, which is generally very advantageous to its promoters, does exist in China. When a person is in want of money, be it to pay for the funeral of a relation, or for the expenses connected with a marriage in his family, or to help one of his relations to go to Pekin for the examinations, he gets forty or fifty friends and acquaintances of his together, and begs them to take tickets in his lottery. These tickets cost so much, payable in fractions at each of the drawings. The first prize winner is, of course, the organiser of the lottery, and the amount at stake for the first drawing becomes his without any drawing being necessary to determine his right. That is in reality only an advance or loan to be repaid by instalments, for at all the subsequent drawings he pays just like his friends, and cannot win a second prize. The second and subsequent drawings determine the prize-winners according to the number of points obtained by each player with the dice box. Six dice are used. At each of these parties, which take place once a quarter or once every six months, the prize winner always gives a dinner to the others. Everything is done so straightforwardly that in the end nobody loses, as each player can only win once. Nobody may play until he has paid the amount due on his ticket. The highest throw takes the whole stake, without deduction either for commission or interest, a small amount being retained for the dinner alone. In China we do not invest our money as is done everywhere else, and accordingly the last winner has no reason to regret that his turn to win only came at the end. On the contrary, this investtnent of small sums paid away from time to time, resulting in the acquisition of a lump sum at the end, is a very good saving operation. It helps to buy a piece of land, and at the same time he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has helped a friend in need. The use of these lotteries is very general amongst the middle classes, that is to say, amongst very honourable and very solvable people, who don't like to place themselves under obligations by asking for other kinds of loans, and are too proud to accept alms. Being in want of money they make use of this system of borrowing, with the obligation of repaying the sum received in a certain number of annuities. In the upper classes money is never needed, whilst among the lower classes the lottery system cannot be employed because there is no guarantee of the solvability of the organiser. Amongst the latter class, however, there is another kind of mutual help which renders the greatest services to the less fortunate members of Chinese society. Supposing that a workman has lost his father, his colleagues immediately subscribe enough to pay the funeral expenses. Or supposing that he wants to get married, arrangements are made to supply him at once with the funds he may require. Supposing his son passes his examinations, instead of sending him presents in kind, his friends send him money, so that he may have the means of paying his expenses connected with the celebration of his success. Thus we have no public charity funds. These are replaced by a friendly and solidary understanding between people of the same class and position of society, who know each other's means and understand how to help each other. Such mutual services are never refused. A respectable man can always count on the help of his friends under the circumstances mentioned. And this simple organisation forces each man to be kind and helpful towards his neighbour, for nobody is sure of tomorrow. One does as one would be done by. Thus when one of these associates in benevolence happens to die, his widow and children continue to profit by it, and receive together with the inheritance of the deceased the tokens of gratitude from those he has helped, and which, had he lived, he would have enjoyed in due time. We have in this system a kind of pension and life insurance fund. Our system, however, forces every one—and just because he has ho special right to anything— to be good and kind towards all his neighbours.

Besides these regular and useful lottery organisations, there are others which are irregular and mischievous. These are mere forms of gambling pure and simple. I wish to speak in the first place of the game of the Thirty-six Beasts, about which there has been so much talk of late - perhaps more so in Paris than in Camboja. This Cambojan roulette has been described over and over again, and is, it may be mentioned, an importation of Chinese origin. We do not play this game with figures as our neighbours do, but with counters, on which the names of the animals are written. A group of individuals announce that they are going to open a bank, and this without any formality of any sort. The news is discreetly and rapidly hawked about the town by the help of numerous agents. Every morning the bankers hoist up on to a high pole a bag, into which one of the thirty counters has been placed at haphazard. The public stake their money on any one of the thirty-six beasts, and those who have backed the beast whose name is inscribed on the counter in that bag that day win thirty times what they have staked. The six last names are exclusively reserved to the bank. Needless to say that the players almost always lose. Superstition, which always goes with gambling games, is not wanting here either. To guess the right name, players will put the list before their gods or before Buddha, and beg him to give a sign by which they may know which beast is the winning one. Ashes of incense falling on one of the names in the list, or the burning caused by a spark from one of the altar candles, are considered sure straight-tips to the gamblers, who, no matter under what sky they live, are always far more simple than intelligent. As may be seen from this rapid analysis, the game of the thirty-six beasts is a kind of roulette, in which the names of animals are used instead of numbers. It is forbidden by law. Doubtless, it is only another kind of lottery, but the daily drawings are too ruinous for those who are carried away by their passion for gambling. This is the reason why, in the Middle Empire, this dangerous game is forbidden. It is never let out to authorised speculators, and is always carried on in a clandestine manner, and is invariably very short-lived. If the organisers fall into the clutches of the law, they are very severely punished. Several years' imprisonment is not considered too severe a punishment for these harpies on the purses of the poor.

On the other hand, the mutual help lottery is considered by all as a useful and respectable undertaking, so much so, that, should it be found impossible to get a sufficient number of people to put their money into one of these speculations, the public officials may be applied to, and are always found ready to contribute their mites to an undertaking which is purely of self-help, and which has often relieved those miseries to which, alas ! our poor human race is exposed in every clime and at every age.

Le Renouveau en Chine By Destutayre In La Tradition, Revue illustrée internationale du folklore et des sciences qui s'y rattachent. Février 1902.

Une autre sorte de documents curieux pour l'étude de la métempsychose chez les Chinois, c'est l'ensemble des légendes qui concernent les personnages du jeu des trente-six bêtes ou Loterie Hua-Hoeï, selon les cartes cartes usitées, non au Tonkin, mais en Chine, où ce jeu est né. Tous les personnages, avant d'avoir été ministres, généraux, juges, hôteliers, passeurs de barque, ont été dragons, tigres, oies, dindons, rats, chats, ou autre chose.

Il y a mieux : un homme vivant peut sentir son âme se partager en deux moitiés. L'une, le pé, reste avec le corps, et l'autre, le hoen, revêt un corps fantomatique, et les deux personnages, qui ne sont qu'un seul homme, peuvent s'en aller chacun de leur côté.

Lorsque deus hommes meurent, leurs esprits, quelquefois, changent réciproquement de corps, et l'on peut arriver ainsi à occuper le corps de son ennemi. L'on arrive même à changer de sexe entre mari et femme.

Forty Years in China: Or, China in Transition By Rosewell Hobart Graves (1895)


Like the craving for stimulants, love of gambling is not restricted to any nation or people. The European has his cards and roulette tables, the Malay his cock-fighting, the Chinaman his cards, dominoes and fan-tan while almost all lands have their dice, their lotteries and their betting. Perhaps the fairest and simplest form, where all opportunity for cheating would seem to be excluded, is that used by the Persians, where each man takes out his lump of sugar, makes his wager, and the one whose lump attracts the first fly wins the prize. Like profane swearing, gambling may be a perversion of what may at first have been an act of worship — an appeal to Deity to settle a matter. "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord," says Solomon. Lots have been cast before idol deities from time immemorial and in all heathen lands. A certain form of divination is highly praised and was reverently believed in by Confucius, and is regarded as sacred by the Chinese to the present day. Oracles and various methods of consulting the gods by lot are in common use in every Chinese temple. But the element of chance may be the only link which connects these religious observances with the ordinary gambling for gain which is so prevalent in China. The Chinese learn to gamble from their very childhood. The little stalls on the street and by the roadside where fruit and nuts and sweetmeats are sold to the children, frequently have their dice, wheels-of-fortune, etc., where a child, by staking one cash, may have the chance of winning the worth of two. On feast days and holidays, gambling games of all kinds abound, and children are enticed to venture their spending money in traps of all kinds.

Gambling is begotten of and begets that idleness which is so common in China. Though the Chinese are an industrious race, yet they have a great deal of spare time. They spend much of their time sitting together smoking and conversing. It is not strange that they seek for some excitement to break the monotony of their humdrum lives. If you go into a village you find the young men gathered together after their day of hard toil. What are they to do ? They have no newspapers, and if they had, are to ignorant to enjoy reading them, they are without books, except perhaps their old school-books ; if there be a gaming table there, what so natural as that they should gather around it to watch the game and stake their spare cash ? The fondness for gaming once acquired, especially if they have succeeded in winning some money, they are only too glad to exchange the dull monotony of hard toil in the rice fields for the excitement and indolence of the gaming table. Especially on market-days is gambling found in full blast. Numerous gambling booths are found in almost all the market towns. Here are assembled the sharpers, the indolent, the worthless and the desperate. No mercy is shown to the poor wretch who loses ; his clothes are stripped off his back and he is sent off with cuffs and curses if he does not at once pay what he loses. So in the purlieus of the cities, numerous colonies of gamblers are found. Tables for fan-tan and mats spread on the ground with dice are in open sight to entrap the unwary, like spiders' webs to catch the thoughtless, listless fly. In the business parts of the city rooms are rented for gambling, while the pimps stand at the door to invite the simple with their stereotyped invitation : " Buy a chance and get rich." Besides these back rooms with their gaming tables for the common people, more expensive establishments are gotten up for the rich where only gold or silver are accepted in wagers. Though most of the gamblers are men, gambling is not confined to them. Some of the women, especially those who are well off and have leisure, pass away the time which hangs so heavily on their hands by gambling at cards or dominoes, and in the excitement of the game frequently stake their gold and silver hair-pins and bangles and other pieces of jewelry.

This passion for gambling seems to be innate with the Chinese. They often defend it as being perfectly fair, and seem to have no moral objections to the principle as long as only small sums are wagered. But Chinese statesmen see in it rightly a menace to society. It gathers the dissolute, the shiftless, the rascal and the idler together. Employees are tempted to stake their employers' money in the hope of gaining something for themselves ; men neglect their business and lose their employers' time ; the public peace is broken by fights and bloodshed among the desperate characters who keep and frequent the gaming tables, and the nests of gamblers become hot-beds for all kinds of crime. The law therefore forbids gambling, and the officers occasionally make a raid on the gambling houses. But the gamblers are usually men who have been in government employ, and generally are under the protection of some one in authority. Hush money is paid and spies are always on the alert, so that they are not often caught.

Beside card-playing and gaming tables, lotteries are a form of gambling much patronized by the Chinese. These are not open to the objection of assembling bad characters where they can concoct robberies and other evil schemes. Hence they are dealt with more leniently. Though illegal, they are sometimes farmed out by the officials when hard pressed for money. Immense sums are lost annually in these lotteries. There are several forms of lotteries, among which the most common are the peh-koh-piau or ' white-dove tickets," or guessing a number of characters in a list, instead of numbers as in our lotteries ; and the wei-sing or wagering on the successful candidate in a government examination, as we bet on elections or on a horse-race. The Chinese method seems to be fairer than ours, as there is less opportunity of influencing the result, for the bet is not on an individual but that a certain surname will succeed.

Gambling, as it promotes a spirit of unrest and of idleness, as it leads men to seek to win money rather than earn it, as it leads men to squander their means and reduce their families to poverty, is always a source of danger to the state. The Chinese government seems to be aware of this fact even more keenly than the Western ones are, but seems unable to help itself, and impotent to exert any real control over the gambling habit which seems to be so innate in the people and to have its ramifications throughout the Empire. With that desire for some excitement to break the monotony of their lives, that greed of gain and disposition to slide into indolence, and that laxity of moral principle, which are so marked in the Chinese character, it is to be feared that this source of decadence will increase rather than decrease under present conditions.

Curiosités Chinoises - Revue britannique, Volume 6 - 1872

Sans parler des jeux de cartes ou de dés, les loteries chinoises offrent aux hautes classes de la société diverses manières de contenter leur passion pour le jeu. On ne rencontre guère un négociant des ports de Chine qui, à une époque de sa vie, n'ait fait d'une loterie quelconque l'objet de ses spéculations. Disons d'abord un mot de la loterie la plus populaire. Il existe à Hong-Kong plusieurs monopoles publics. La «ferme de l'opium» est un des principaux. Cette ferme constitue le droit exclusif de la vente de l'opium pour la colonie et pour l'exportation. On compte quatre ou cinq grands établissements de bouilleurs d'opium. Les exportations mensuelles pour la Californie seule sont énormes. Il faut en outre subvenir aux besoins de la localité, et les fermiers de l'opium payent des patentes pour ouvrir des boutiques où la drogue somnifère est débitée au détail. Peu importe que chez les Chinois il y ait ou non une étroite affinité entre la passion de l'opium et la passion du jeu ; mais le fait est qu'au moment où la ferme des maisons de jeu d'Hong-Kong fut mise en adjudication, il n'y avait pas dans cette ville un seul débit d'opium qui ne fût aussi un bureau de loterie : à toute heure du jour on venait y chercher une chance heureuse et tenter la fortune. La loterie en usage dans ces bureaux se nomme « pak-kop-pin » , ce qui signifie « loterie du pigeon blanc » ; et, si vous demandez aux Chinois d'où peut venir un pareil nom, ils vous répondent qu'autrefois un pigeon voyageur était chargé de porter au loin les nouvelles du tirage de la loterie.

Pour cette loterie, dite le « pak-kop-pin » , on imprime quatre-vingts caractères chinois sur une bande de papier. Ces caractères sont choisis dans la Trin-tsr-mun ou les Mille Caractères classiques, un des livres élémentaires des mandarins. Ce livre est l'œuvre d'un ancien sage, en réponse à la provocation d'un militaire qui lui présentait mille caractères pris au hasard dans l'alphabet chinois et le défiait de les mettre en vers sans omettre, répéter ou ajouter un seul caractère. Notre sage en vint à bout dans l'espace d'une nuit ; mais ce n'était que par un tel effort intellectuel que, lorsque le jour parut, ses cheveux étaient devenus blancs comme neige. Les vers de cet ancien livre classique se composent de quatre caractères. Citons-en un exemple : « tien-ti-un-wong » . Ces quatre lettres chinoises , reproduites en caractères européens , signifient « tien » , le ciel ; « un » , est gris ; « ti » , la terre ; « wong » , jaune. « U-tran-hong-fong» s'explique ainsi : « u », l'espace ; « tran » , le monde ; « hong » , un désert ; « « fong » , vide.

Dans la loterie du pak-kop-pin (la loterie du pigeon blanc), le caractère « tien » constituera une chance, « ti » une autre, et ainsi de suite. Quiconque veut courir les chances de cette loterie achète un certain nombre de caractères, marque à la plume les billets qu'il emporte, et le directeur du bureau de loterie en prend les duplicata. A une heure fixée (à Hong-Kong, ordinairement deux fois par jour), le tirage a lieu au bureau central de la loterie, et la liste des caractères gagnants est publiée dans les bureaux inférieurs. Les souscripteurs à cette loterie ou porteurs de caractères, et non de numéros, ont le droit d'assister au tirage, mais ils prennent rarement cette peine. Les gagnants ont à payer un escompte, habituellement de 7 pour 100, pareil à celui que la banque des jeux prélève sur les bénéfices des joueurs. Une autre espèce de loterie, nommée «tsr-fa», «a-fwui», ou «koo-yan», ressemble à quelques égards au pok-kop- pin ». Une figure humaine est imprimée sur une feuille de papier rouge, et sur les différentes parties du corps de cette figure on colle trente-six petits morceaux de papier portant les noms d'animaux ou de personnages illustres dans l'histoire du Céleste Empire. Le bureau du tsr-fa en choisit un, et le suspend dans un sac une heure ou deux avant que la loterie soit annoncée au public. Des prospectus distribués aux amateurs leur donnent en termes vagues et ambigus une idée du nom qui a été choisi. On peut risquer à ce jeu depuis une pièce de monnaie jusqu'à trois barres d'argent, et même davantage si les directeurs de la loterie le permettent. Avec une mise de 1 dollar on en gagne 30, moins un escompte de 10 pour 100 prélevé par le bureau. Ce genre de loterie est compliqué par des règles techniques et des formalités qu'il serait fastidieux d'expliquer ici, et en vertu desquelles la moindre méprise, la moindre erreur, ou la moindre omission, annulent le bénéfice des des gagnants. Les prescriptions officielles des documents chinois à cet égard sont multipliées à l'infini, subtiles, d'un sens difficile, et un homme de bon sens doit y voir autant de piéges.


The spell of China By Archie Bell 1917

Some of the means for gambling devised for the Chinese are too oriental to have originated with the Portuguese and must have come from the Chinese themselves. For example, the butcher will hang a fine piece of meat in front of his stall throughout the day, drawing customers to his shop by announcing that for a penny one may guess the weight of the meat which will go to the winner at the end of the day. Other merchants lure the crowd by receiving guesses on what the weather will be to-morrow, the next harvest, the depth of water in the canal on a certain day, the first appearance of the fruit tree blossoms, the color of a flower from an exhibited bulb. A few cash are deposited for the privilege of gambling, and, of course, toward building up the bank account of the merchant; but the Chinese does not think of that. His concern is the prize that goes to the winner. A popular game is known as the Thirty-Six Beasts. The names of that number of animals are placed on counters and shuffled. In the morning one counter is removed from the pack and placed in a paper sack, which is drawn to the top of a pole. All day long the gamblers wager on the name of the animal inclosed in the bag, and sometimes large amounts of money have changed hands and excitement has run high over the "animal's name." The banker retains the bets placed on six animals as his share of the proceeds, and the winner's stake is multiplied by thirty, as a grand prize. Abbe Hue relates that he saw Chinese gamble until they were obliged to stake the clothing they were wearing. He saw men who were obliged to keep in motion to keep warm, because necessary covering had gone to pay gambling debts. He even saw men staking their own fingers and chopping them off to pay the winners. The Portuguese have been in Macao so long that there is mixture with the Chinese race as perhaps nowhere else in the world, and the stranger has great

Macao By Philippe Pons 2002

Gambling began to assume a real importance in the enclave from the 1850s onwards. As well as numerous gambling joints, lotteries remained one of the great popular pastimes. Even the Santa Casa de Misericordia had its own lottery. Simple folk had a particular penchant for a Cantonese game: a special lottery called the Assembly of Flowers, where you had to guess which out of 36 famous historical characters would be drawn. Placing the game under the protection of Guan Yin (a divinity of Compassion) meant the players were further taken advantage of. The lower and devout classes in Macao, especially women who thought they'd be favoured by the divinity for surrendering to increasingly wild superstitious practices that sometimes led to terrible tragedies, were ravaged by this rampant trickery controlled by the underworld and banned several times in China.

Other lotteries

Chronique in Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient. Tome 3, 1903. pp. 751-768.

Canton est la province de Chine la plus célèbre par ses grandes fermes de jeux. On connait en particulier sa fameuse "Loterie des lauréats aux examens", 闈姓 Wei-Sing, que le gouvernement s'est decidé à reconnaïtre, faute d'avoir pu la supprimer (2). Aujourd'hui les redevances des jeux entrent pour une part considérable dans les revenus de la province; voici les redevances payées l'an dernier par les diverses fermes :

1° 大闈姓 Ta Wei-Sing "Grand Wei-sing", 322.683 taëls;

2° 小闈姓 Siao Wei-Sing "Petit Wei-sing", ou 白鴿票 Pai-ko-p'iao, "Billets du Pigeon blanc" (3), 705.642 taëls;

3° 基舖山票 Ki-p'ou-chan-p'iao (4), 274.728 taëls;

彩票 Ts'ai-p'iao, "Billets de loterie" (5), 92.880 taëls;

soit au total 1.395.934 taëls, plus de 4 millions de francs.

(2) Sur le Wei-Sing, cf. surtout la très bonne monographie de G.T. Hare, The Wai Seng lottery, Public. of the Str. Br. R. As. Soc., n°1, Singapore, 1895, 124 pp. Pour les tentatives de suppression du Wai-Sing, cf aussi Cordier, Hist. des Relat. de la Chine, II, 24; Boulger, The History of China, ed de 1898, II, 475.

(3) Le jeu du "Pigeon blanc" est plus ancien à Canton que le véritable Wei-Sing. Le principe en est sensiblement le même; au lieu de deviner le plus possible de noms de famille des lauréats aux examens, il faut deviner le plus possible des caractères gagnants parmi 80 caracterès que le fermier choisit dans l'un des classiques. Cf. Hare, loc. laud., p. 4. On voit que le "Pigeon blanc" donne aujourd'hui un revenu double du Wei-Sing.

(4) Nous n'avons pas de renseignements sur ce jeu.

(5) Ceci est la loterie pure et simple. Naguère, la seule qui eût quelque faveur en Chine était la loterie de Manille, supprimée depuis la guerre Hispano-américaine. On songea à lancer depuis à Changhai une loterie francaise, dont les bénéfices eussent servi à subventionner des entreprises d'instruction; le ministère ne crut pas que notre legislation permit d'exécuter ce projet. L'idée en même temps était venue aux Chinois, et des loteries furent annoncées un peu partout. Comme c'était une source assurée de revenus, certains gouverneurs de province, entre autres le vice-roi du Tche-li, établirent une loterie officielle de province, avec défense de vendre ou d'acheter les billets de loterie privées.

Lottery in Canton



Le jeu des 36 betes-L.Charpentier
Lotteries in Canton

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