North America

The Chinese gambling games were played in the Chinatowns, but they were never customized for locals...

Acculturation of the Chinese in the United States: a Philadelphia study by Tê-ch'ao Chêng - 1948

Gambling, certainly, cannot be stopped in this way ! Some Chinese friends told me that the police vice squad is used as a propaganda device before the election. So, once in a while, you will find the headlines like this :

Ousted Chinese Seized Here With $10,000 in Opium

Cop Learns to Read Chinese and Traps Lottery Suspects

In these two events, more than twenty thousand dollars are added to the city treasury, and a good name for "clean" government is won for the mayor. It is the Chinese who suffer loss, the loss of their hard-earned money pud the loss of their reputation.

There are five different games which are most popular among the Chinese gamblers, namely, fan-tan, p'ai-gau, tsi-fa, pak-kap-piu and ma-cheuk or ma-jong. As ma-jong and p'ai-gau or dominoes are more complicated and have been introduced into the American public as social games, let me explain briefly the other three games only.

(a) Tsi-fa (字花) or Character-flower.

This is a game composed of thirty-six different names of animals, flowers and fish. The gambler just picks the names he wants and writes them down on a piece of paper and hands it in with the sum of money he wants to gamble. The game opens twice a day. As soon as the "name" is up, you know right away whether you get the game or not. If the "name" coincides with any one of yours, the pay-off is thirty times the money you invested in that "name." Suppose you buy ten "names" with one dollar, then, if any one of these ten turns out to be the "name" put up by the gambling house, you get three dollars back.

(b) Pak-kap-piu (白鴿票) or White-Pigeon-Ticket.

This name seems to suggest the Christian concept of "Holy Spirit" which they certainly need, and a lot of it too!

This game is different from the former one in that it has more characters. In tsi-fa there are thirty-six names, while in this one there are eighty characters which are taken out of a Chinese primarty reader calles "Ch'in-chi-min" (千字文) as shown on Illustration VI. The gambler may choose any ten out of the same eighty. When the hour comes (twice a day), usually an elderly person is invited to pick up the ten characters. As his reward for this honorable service, he will get twenty-five cents for each drawing. If the gambler has less than five characters out of the ten, he loses the game entirely and all the money he bets is consequently gone. But if be gets five characters right he has a double reward; if he gets six, ten times; seven, twenty times; eight, two hundred times, and nine, he hits the jack-pot of two thousand times.

(c) Fan tan

The game is just as short as its name sounds. But, exactly because of its shortness the game is a very fast one. It takes only a square board with four numbers (1, 2, 3, 4,) marked on four corners and a bag of buttons to play the game. While the gambling master is filling the buttons into a wooden vase in the bag blindly, the gamblers who stand around the table put out the money they want to bet on the corners. When everybody is settled, the gambling master slowly and disinterestedly draws out a stick and counts off all the buttons by four in front of the rolling eyes following the direction of the stick closely. When the last four buttons are being pushed aside, the game is over. If the number of the button left is the same as the number on the corner which you bet the money, then you get a quadruple reward. But the chance always seems to be on the wrong side, yet the gamblers are reluctant to go away until their pockets are cleanly stripped. I know of one restaurant man who once won seven hundred dollars and lost all that plus his own five hundred with which he started the game all in one afternoon.

From these brief accounts we are able to visualize that to open a gambling house is not a small concern. A big reserve fund must always in case luck is not on your side. The capital, consequently, is directly proportional to the magnitude of the probability of chance. In general, it takes one thousand dollars to set up a tsi-fa; $5000 for a fan-tan and $10,000 for a Pak-kap-piu. The secret of getting such capital is to get as many shareholders as possible, because the shareholders would make up a large portion of the regular players. True are the words, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!"

New York's Chinatown: an historical presentation of its people and places By Louis Joseph Beck 1898



THE Chinese are naturally and constitutionally the most inveterate of gamblers. Almost all of them gamble, and their code of morality places no embargo on the practice. They only wonder that the laws of this country should forbid what they consider so harmless and .proper an amusement. They do not indulge in their games of chance solely for money-getting purposes, though that may furnish the inspiration in many cases, but rather for excitement and pleasure. And the gaming being perfectly lawful and proper under the laws of their native land, and they having indulged in it from childhood, they cannot readily appreciate that it is an unlawful practice in this country. Of course the older immigrants and those professional gamblers who own and control the games know that it is a forbidden practice, and for that reason surround it with so much secrecy, and submit to the blackmail levied upon them by the highbinders for "protection" in its indulgence; and sometimes blind .the eyes of an intrusive policeman with liberal payments for not disturbing them. They can compel them to pay generously for this ''protection" because of the universal disposition of their countrymen to patronize the games, which makes the business highly lucrative.

Fan tan is the game most popular and most generally patronized by these people. An idea of the extent to which it is played may be gathered from the fact that an enumeration recently made showed no less than eighty places in Chinatown where the game is regularly in operation. Each and all of these places pay the Hip Sing Tong, or Highbinders' Society, tribute in money for the privilege of carrying on the game without molestation or disturbance. This tribute, or "protection money," is levied according to a fixed scale. Games located in basements or on the ground or main floor, are assessed $15 a week per table. Sixty of these tables are in existence, besides ten policy shops. This money is collected with regularity every week by a regular collector whose name, as well as his occupation and personality are well known. It is a common belief that some of the money reaches the hands of the police, though on that point there is no direct evidence beyond the inference to be gathered from the fact that the patrolmen do not discover the games which are so well known to everybody else. A story is told that one of the proprietors, whose place is at 28 Pell Street, distrusting the collector, insisted that a former Mayor of Chinatown, and now representing the Hip Sing Tong, should come and receive the money, whereupon the patrolman on the beat, an officer of the Elizabeth Street Station, called on the proprietor of the game and told him he had better pay the regular collector. This the proprietor persistently refused to do, declaring he would only pay the police direct or the ex-mayor. The truthfulness of this story is not vouched for, nor is the outcome of the alleged controversy known.

When a fan tan game is to be started ten men usually club together, each contributing $30. Out of this money the "joint," or place where the game is to be conducted, is secured and fitted up. The rent will be about $16 a week, which is invariably required in advance. Then the table is purchased at a cost of $6. This is about all the furniture required. Gas is needed; for the supplying of which the gas company requires a deposit of $10. "Protection" money must also be paid in advance, and that is at least $16. The remaining money, about $240 or $260, is reserved for the bank, or capital of the game. The "joint" is then ready for business.

The various fan tan games of Chinatown are all subject to the control of the Fan Tan Hong, or syndicate, as it would be called in English. This is a voluntary organization of Chinamen of prominence and influence who undertake the regulation of the game in general; adjust disputes between warring "joints;" fix the number of games to be allowed, and exercise general supervision over that particular form of gambling. The open character of the game, and its entire reputability and lawfulness; in Chinese estimation is manifested by the standing of this Fan Tan Hong or syndicate. It has its headquarters in the building of the Chong "Wah Gong Shaw, or Chinatown's City Hall, and conducts its business as openly and with as much show of right and authority as does the Chong Wah Gong Shaw itself, or any of the several trade organizations.

Every fan tan game employs one lookout man, one dealer and one banker. The duties of these several officials are obvious from their titles. The paraphernalia of the game consists of the "board," a plain, square piece of zinc or tin, ten or twelve inches square, the sides being numbered I, II, III, IV. This is laid on one end of a common table about which the players gather, the dealer sitting in front of the board. A short stick, about the size of a chop stick, but twice the length, with which the dealer manipulates the "cash," or pieces with which the game is played; a number of "cash"— small circular brass pieces with a square hole in the center (one or two hundred of these are used) — and a "cover" — a round brass vessel sufficiently large to cover the "cash" used — constitute the outfit.

On the opposite page is given a cut illustrating the manner of playing the game, and the paraphernalia employed.


The game being ready, the dealer takes a handful of the "cash" from the box in which they are kept and carelessly lays them in front of him, placing the cover over them, so that they may not be counted or estimated. The bets are then made, each bettor placing upon the board the amount of money he purposes to bet. The dealer then proceeds to separate from the common pile with his stick four pieces of "cash" at a time, the game turning on the last draw, whether it be an odd or even number of pieces. This, however, has its modifications, as whether it will be one, two, three or four pieces. And, again, betting may be made on one number as against the other three, or two numbers against two, and so on. Whatever number of pieces remain for the last draw, that number wins.

In playing, the money bet is placed upon the board. The location in which it is placed determines the bet. If a player places one dollar on the comer of the board formed by the intersection of the two sides III and IV, he is betting against numbers I and II. If he loses, his loss is one dollar. If he wins he receives ninety-three cents, the remaining seven cents being "Soi" or water. Seven per cent, of all winnings are retained by the bank to defray the expenses and for profit, and is known as Soi.

If the player places one dollar squarely on the side marked I, he plays that number against the other three. If he loses, he only loses his one dollar; but if he wins, which he does if only one piece remains for the last draw, he wins $3.00 less seven per cent., or $2.79 net.

When one dollar is placed on a number, "Chang How," then the bet is only against the opposite number, as I against III or II against IV. The number on which the money is placed is the winning number for the bettor, and the opposite number is his loser. It is an even bet, but he can only win should his chosen number come out, or lose should the opposite number appear. If neither number comes, then the bet is off and the player may withdraw his stakes.

The banker takes in all the money that is lost to the house and pays the winning of the bettors.

The lookout watches the board for any carelessness or mistakes in placing bets; that no bettor takes up money not belonging to him and that the transactions are all correct.

The usual limit of the game is five cents as a minimum bet and $500 for the highest. The average bet is $1, though hundreds of more impecunious ones bet half a dollar, a quarter or even a nickel, if that is all they can command. As many may play as can find place around the table, and the room is quite frequently crowded with eager onlookers, who, perhaps, have no money with which to play.

When the fear of the police was not so great as it is now it was the custom to have a man stationed at the street door to call out to the crowds in the street and to passers, Moi Han La! which meant 'The game is now open; come in and playl" Now, on the contrary, a watchman is placed at the door to keep out white people, unless vouched for, and also to give notice of the approach of the police. But this is a mere pretence, as the police very rarely trouble the games, though their location and notoriety are known through Chinatown.


Lottery is another form of gambling affected by the Chinese, though not by any means to the extent of fan tan. The Chinese lottery is very different from the lottery of the white people. It has no great capital; offers no grand prize, nor in fact any prizes at all. It is more like the policy so well known among the negroes and the lower classes of white people in this country. It is conducted by three persons — the conductor, or manager, a secretary and an assistant secretary. The conductor manages the drawings; the secretary receives the money and records the bets; the assistant secretary has charge of the drawing board, and marks out with brush and red ink the winning numbers. This "drawing board" is merely a placard bearing 80 Chinese characters, arranged in columns of four characters each, duplicates of which on small sheets are furnished to the players as tickets.


When the drawing is ready the manager tears each of the characters off the board, rolling them up separately in snug, tight wads, which are then placed in a tin can and thoroughly shaken and mixed. He then draws them out one at a time without opening them, and divides them equally among four pots or receptacles. Then a lot is drawn to determine which pot shall be opened. If pot or lot three is thus selected the pot or lot so chosen becomes the one from which the drawing is to be made. The manager then proceeds to draw out the wadded characters from the pot so indicated. These he opens as drawn, calling out as he does so the names of the inscribed character or letter. This is then stuck on the drawing board in the place from which it was originally torn. The assistant marks out the winning numbers with red ink.

The methods of playing lottery are various, but the simplest is that the player selects any ten numbers from the eighty, either all in one column, in a row or otherwise, as he pleases. If five of the selected letters come out among the twenty drawn by the manager, the one who selected the ten wins double the money he may have wagered. If he has selected six of the drawn letters he wins $20 for one; if seven, $200 for one; if eight, $1,000 for one; if nine, $2,000 for one; if ten or all the drawn letters, the winning would be $4,000 for each dollar invested. But no such luck has ever been experienced by any player. Indeed, rarely does a player hit even five of the letters. If any number less than five have been selected the player wins nothing, but loses his investment, which may have been five cents or five dollars.

The Chinese lottery players are ten times more superstitious than the American players. They rely unhesitatingly upon their dreams. For instance, if one dreams about a dead man he will select a letter for the lottery drawing which will indicate death. If he dreams about girls in bed he will select a whole row of letters containing the one letter bearing the character "girls.'' There are many Chinamen who have lived in Chinatown for years and have never done any work, but who place their faith wholly on dreams and Joss.

The lotteries of Chinatown, like everything else, have a union. They are all under one common supervision, charge one uniform price for their tickets, pay the same commissions to agents. Each has a capital of $3,000. There are nine of these concerns as follows:

Wing Chung Tai, 10 Mott Street.
Chong Chin Wing, 11 Mott Street.
Hang Chung Tai, 18 Mott Street.
Lin Tai, 17 Mott Street. '
Sam Toy, 30 Mott Street.
Yuen Lee, 18 Mott Street.
Foo Kwai Chin, 32 Mott Street.
Wing Yuen Tai, 14 Mott Street.
Lee Ching Chung, 16 Mott Street.

Each lottery has two drawings a day, one at 3.30 P. M. and the other at 9;30 at night. They give employment to about 150 agents, who go around selling the tickets and collecting the bettings, which they turn in to the company employing them. For their part of the work they receive 10 per cent, of the money they collect But no agent is allowed to collect a commission unless he belongs to the Lottery Agents' Union, the fee for admission to which is $5, or $25 for a life membership. This union extends help to its members when in distress, or when they get into trouble with the police or the lottery managers.

These lotteries, however fairly conducted, are a gigantic swindle, the chances of winning at them being less than in any other game of chance. By careful calculation the game gives the managers 65 per cent of the chances, while the player has but 35 per cent. Some of the poor infatuated players are laundrymen who work hard six days in a week and then squander their earnings on these lopsided lotteries. The man is not known who ever made a respectable winning at any of them, while their victims are numbered by the thousands.


Anotner form of gambling among the Chinese is that known as the riddle game, riddle policy, or transformation of characters. In this game there are thirty-six chances. Usually the outline figure of a person is drawn and the different parts of the body are marked, every mark representing a chance of the game. A few hours prior to the drawing the dealer gives out a verse something like this:

"The bright light shines over the shadow valley."

Then the persons wishing to play gather and guess as to the meaning of the verse. The letters in the chance always bear the meaning. They stand either for bird, fish, spider, wild cat, tiger, money, strong man, dead body, pretty woman, old maid, etc.

The dealer pastes the letter on a piece of cloth, rolls it up and hangs it on the wall, which means that "the game is hung up." A player may guess any one of the thirty-six chances, and having bet from one to fifty cents, his winning is thirty for one.

He might, for instance, construe the meaning of "shining light" to be a "pretty woman," and if the letter shows this to be a correct guess he wins. The percentage to the house, or dealer, is twenty per cent. The agents for this game have a union known as the Tsz Fa Chong, or Union, which translated means Riddle Game Union. On nil money that the agents play for their principals they are allowed 10 per cent., and if they win they get 10 per cent more from the person for whom they play. Nobody is allowed this commission except those who belong to the Tsz Fa Chong.

There are six games of riddle going on in Chinatown and each has two drawings a day, one at 3.30 o'clock in the afternoon and the other at 9.30 o'clock in the evening, the same as the lotteries. There are twenty-five members of the Tsz Fa Chong. These riddle games do an aggregate business of about $700 a day.

The game is played by the Chinese and the white strumpets of the district as well. It is no uncommon thing to hear one of the white women say she dreamed of a spider, or a pretty woman, etc., the night before, and was going to play riddle on the dream.

There are still other games of chance played in Chinatown, but the foregoing are the ones most largely patronized. Their patronage shows how general is the gaming habit among these people.

Fan Toy the Opium-Queen; or, The Bradys and the Chinese Smugglers By F. Tousey

This is a fiction, a story about a detective....

The room was full of Chinamen, for the Riddle Game of Tsz Fa was being played there, and they had come to take chances.

It was a queer gamble, and the gamblers played their dreams.

There were two drawings daily.

The manager drew the outline of a person, bird or fish on a big sheet of paper.

Various letters were given to different points of the outline, each letter representing a chance in the game.

Then the manager gave out a sentence forming a riddle, the letters in the line holding the secret of the riddle.

The sentence might be, "The yellow dragon eats the rice of our fields." .

Persons desiring to play guess the hidden meaning of the sentence.

The letters in the line-may stand for monkey, lizard, old hen, young man, etc. But the words "yellow dragon" might mean "old hen" and "eats the rice," might stand for "young man."

It was all purely guesswork, there being thirty-six chances in the game, and each player having only one guess.

The probability of putting a correct construction on the meaning the manager gave the sentence was very slight, so that the players rarely won and the parties who ran the game made all the money. And yet the Chinamen ventured to play this absurd lottery.

Bury my bones in America: the saga of a Chinese family in California, 1852-1996 : from San Francisco to the Sierra gold mines By Lani Ah Tye Farkas

Chinese lottery, now called keno, was a very common game in the San Francisco Bay area. The only difference was that in the early days it was played using eighty words written in calligraphy. Later, when more non-Chinese began playing keno, it was changed to numbers.

Chuck-a-luck is a gambling game in which players bet on the possible combinations of three thrown dice.

Emeryville By The Emeryville Historical Society

This Chinese lottery ticket from the 1920s was found in an abandoned house in Emeryville. The 80-character ticket sold for a dime and was distributed by runners, or it could be purchased at a local lottery den or gambling establishment. The Chinese lottery flourished in Emeryville during the 1930s and 1940s.

Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper Dec 1887

A game of fantan in progress

Oakland Police Department By Phil McArdle

This lottery ticket was issued in Chinatown. Gambling represented a deep conflict of mores between the Chinese community and the majority population. The police and the city government eventually gave up all practical hope of ending illegal gambling, aiming instead to limit it with such means as were available — individual arrests and occasional raids.

Chinese Americans By Stanford M. Lyman 1974

Typically, the men who gather in the tiny parlors hidden behind laundries, shops, or restaurants or in rooms below the level of the street play fan t'an, pai kop piu, bok-a-bou, gee fah, or mah Jong. The rules are known to the Chinese players, and the games are conducted in one or another of the Cantonese dialects spoken in Chinatown. Occasionally there are Japanese and Filipinos among the players, but they are old-timers who know enough of the game language to participate without interrupting the smooth flow of the action. Although Mafia-controlled gambling has penetrated other ethnic enclaves — such as Harlem — Chinatown has preserved its autonomy in this as well as in many other enterprises. A sort of tacit reciprocity appears to obtain between the Mafia and Chinatown: the Chinatown operations do not extend beyond the Chinese community — except for the lottery, which is peddled widely in lower-class neighborhoods regardless of race — and the Mafiosi find it expedient, though not necessarily advantageous, not to trouble themselves with learning the linguistic and technical intricacies of Chinese games of chance. However, precisely because of its intracommunity exclusiveness, Chinatown gambling has special problems.

Persistence and Change in Cantonese-American Gambling By Milton L. Barnett in Philippine sociological review, Volumes 10-12 p186- 1962

Council on Economic and Cultural Affairs, Inc.

In his record of travels, Marco Polo briefly observed that gambling was more prevalent in Cathay than in any other part of the world. Accounts of missionaries, foreign governmental officials and other sojourners in China since his day have substantiated its widespread nature. Tiffany's comments following his visit to Canton in 1844 are typical: "Gambling, I am sorry to say, occupies much of the time that people devote to amusement; there are hundreds of modes of gambling and sums are staked from a few cash up to large sums of money. The boys learn gambling as soon as they can talk, and pursue it though life." Prior and more recent accounts are similar. While most lack descriptive detail on the nature of games and the dynamics of gambling, it is evident that gambling is a culture pattern long integrated into the social activities of the Chinese and that attitudes favorable to gambling are closely interrelated with attitudes toward wealth and its acquisition. The migrations of South Chinese were accompanied by a diffusion of gambling well beyond Malaysia, which might be argued as falling within the confines of a Chinese area of cultural influence. This concurrence is perceived in most studies of overseas Chinese; whatever their research foci or wherever their locale, at least passing mention is made of gambling. For example, in Reaction to Conquest Monica Hunter reports that "Bantu attend and bet on the European horseraces, and three different Chinese run a gambling game, Fah Fee, patronized by Bantu." Mourino, discussing the social isolation of the Cantonese in Cuba and noting behavioral differences between them and the native population, observes that "La pasion del juego es. no obstante, el punto de contacto, la afinidad que salva estas diferencias. Por eso a los chinos debemos algunas de las formas de explotacion de este vicio que mas apasionan al cubano."

More is involved here than the mere spread of a particular game like Fah Fee to South Africa or for that matter its variant, jue teng, to the Philippines. Hunter writes, "Often people demurred about telling their dreams, for they determined their bets in Fah Fee by their dreams, and to tell the dreams would kill the luck." Kroeber states the point thusly, "What is of interest in this matter of gambling is that these seem to have been diffusions of attitudes as such. . . rather than ordinary diffusions of culture content such as specific games or devices." It can be added that in the case of the Cantonese hua ch'iao overseas residents, they appear in some cultural milieux to have been transmitters of a cluster of culture traits and at the same time to have been persistent retainers of the pattern despite its reformulation in the host culture.

Cantonese-American gambling, the concern of this paper, is essentially rooted in native Chinese tradition with respect to a core of specific games, behavior and cultural attitudes. Such diversified activities as the playing of bridge, canasta and poker, or a knowledge of the seasonal movements of horse-racing from one track to another, are at best variations on a theme, accretions to the culture pattern developed in South China. Indeed, the established place of gambling on the American frontier at the time of the advent of the first Chinese migrants and its continued existence in American urban centers despite illegalization, have made favorable media for the survival of Chinese gaming forms as well as the borrowing of Western ones. These factors reinforced the explicit goal of many hua ch'iao to accumulate wealth prior to returning to their Kwangtung villages. Today, gambling is widely found in Chinatowns, practiced by all classes, and indulged in by men and women alike. It functions on two direct motivational levels, the winning of money or property and the obtaining of diversion and amusement. These are not mutually exclusive nor do they preclude the possibility of other underlying psychological gratifications — a consideration of which is beyond our present scope of interest.

General Attitudes

Gambling is an institution in the Cantonese-American community. Few persons abstain from it completely. When social disapproval is voiced, it is focused upon the individual who is too intemperate in his gambling behavior who fails in honoring his debts, or who doesn't succeed in maintaining a sense of moderation when he is known to have family obligations. Subject to criticism may be the housewife who plays mah-jong or some other game to the extent of ignoring her household duties. The frittering away of family funds by some inveterate gambler will be deplored, but not gambling itself.

Professional gamblers, those who operate gambling houses or own shares in a lottery company, occupy no dishonorable status. The same is true of the percentage gambler,8 known in Chinatown as the "professional gambler. " This holds for both winners and losers. The former, to be sure, are envied for their luck and winnings, but are also admired for their skill and subsequent generosity. The loser will retain respect if he accepts his losses with equanimity and, in general, follows the prescribed gambling etiquette. One is modest, indefinite, but suggestive about winnings, Losses, on the other hand, are discussed more freely. Friends commiserate with the unlucky person and ignore the fact that he may add to the sum in order to dramatize his situation. There is little reticence about discussing one's gambling activities and equally little hesitation about defining oneself as a professional gambler. One bookie euphemistically said of his occupation. "I work for a betting commissioner" A solicitor of lottery tickets spoke of himself as a "speculator" Such circumlocutions, however, are rare. There is little need to be evasive. Tiffany's century-old observation in Canton, "So universal is the practice that it is looked upon as a mere everyday business..." applies to the Chinatowns of today.


The newly arrive hua ch'iao encountering his first opportunity to "buy a chance" to win a turkey at the advent of Thanksgiving or Chistmas meets novelty only in the nature of the native American Prize. In South China the coming of the New Year meant the sale of chances to guess the weight of a fish or piece of pork and thus possibly to win it. The sale of chu-yuk piu pork tickets, finds accommodation in the American holiday raffle. But the Chinese raffles, or more properly speaking, lotteries, will be seen to be considerably more complex than the process of winning a ham or fish or turkey. The lottery is the popular outlet for Chinese gambling. While fan tan, mah jong, dice or card-playing require time, funds and a social situation, the lottery permits minimal individual participation yet maximum participation of numbers of person. In some games one stakes as little as five or ten cents, a trifling amount that doesn't alarm the careful housewife or clerk. The accumulation of nickels, dimes, and larger sums provides substantial dividends to the gambling syndicate backing the lottery. Pak kop piu, the White Pigeon Ticket has been a Chinese pastime which seldom has suffered prolonged interference by the police. Based on eighty characters selected from the Ts'in Tsz Man, the Thousand Character Classic written by Chou Hsing-ssu in the sixth century AD, the printed slip is well- known in the community. Non-Chinese taxi-drivers, waitresses, storekeepers and indeed, policemen, play the game along with their Chinese neighbors. The general operation of the lottery and method of determining winning characters so fully described by Stewart Culin in remains fundamentally unchanged today and requires no elaboration. The player of pak kop piu selects any ten of the eighty characters, indicating his choice on the slip provided him, and bets any amount he desires, the least sum being twenty-five cents. If, as a result of the drawing, five of the characters chosen by him appear among the winners. he receives a sum equal to his bet. Should he have six or more winning characters, the odds increase greatly :
sixcharacters20 to 1
7"200 to 1
8"1000 to 1
9"2000 to 1
10"3000 to 1
These odds, current in recent years in the Middle Atlantic cities and those of the Midwest, concur with but one exception with figures cited by Leong, who wrote about the New York scene. He reports 4000 to 1 as odds prevailing for a ten-character winner. Cheng's data for Philadelphia are at sharp variance. "...if he gets five characters right, he has a double reward; if he gets six, ten times; seven, twenty times; eight two hundred times; and nine, he hits the jack-pot of two thousand times." taking note of the differences between his own and Leong's reported odds, Cheng suggests that "there is apparently a different system of counting in New York Chinatown."9 Culin, whose investigations also were centered in Philadelphia, reports the system of odds similar to the current situation cited by this investigator. There is only one variation: 1500 to 1 odds are paid for a nine-character winner rather than 2000 to 1." It should be stressed that the drawing, necessarily behind closed doors, is "public" and apparently free of dishonesty. The proceedings are especially subject to the careful scrutinity of the ticket collectors, or runners. These solicitors of bets, who stand to gain financially if their clients should win, serve as watchdogs for the latter. Stories of swindling or jugglery in the determination of winning characters play no significant part in the folklore of Chinatown gambling. The history of bankrupt pak kop piu companies attests to this. Syndicates sponsoring the lottery take precautions against "going broke" by setting limits on total winnings for any one drawing. However, the problem for the syndicate is not so much that of preventing winners as to see that they will occur with sufficient frequency so that people will be motivated to play. The probability is slight that any player will draw an even return, let alone select ten winning characters. During the period of the writer's first field study, a non-Chinese group had begun to support a lottery, tzs fa, concentrating upon the non-Chinese of Chinatown and a contiguous "little Italy" as its field of operations. The daily winning characters in the syndicate's game were determined by the tsz fa results in the Chinatown enterprise. The failure of some of this group's runners to pay their winning clients brought about minor altercations; widespread disfavor in the community and subsequent police action closed the game. These events were seen by Chinatown residents as an affirmation of the reliability of Chinese operators of lotteries. Non-Chinese players (and there are many in the locality) claimed a preference for Cantonese management and repeatedly expressed resentment at the attempted inroad by the new group. This intrusion, it was said, was "a racket".

It is interesting to note that the "policy" or "numbers" game so widespread in American cities since the 1930's has not infiltrated Chinatown with any degree of success. To be sure, residents do place an occasional bet on a number series, but the game does not have the same popularity it obtains elsewhere in metropolitan centers. Efforts to incorporate the Chinese communities within the orbit of its operations have been substantial failures. While Cantonese gambling has generally accommodated itself to whatever game forms exist in the cultural milieu in which hia ch'iao reside, the rejection of "policy" is a notable exception. At the advent of the numbers game, the communities already had pak kop piu and tsz fa operating for the several decades of their existence. The drawings were based upon familiar Chinese characters and the danger of chicanery was considered to be negligible. The fact that managing personnel as well as most financial backers of the lotteries were confined to persons knownwithin the community, and part of it, provided some measure of confidence in the game's honesty not matched by the "policy" situation. The element of novelty and the comparative advantage in odds were never sufficiently attractive to permit penetration of the existing gambling pattern, let alone replace or dominate it. The general tendency toward social isolation of the community, reinforced by a generalized distrust of the lo fan, foreigner, and by the particular nature of social distance between the Chinese and the Italian-American group primarly fostering "policy," contributed to the innovation's rejection.

Despite the claim of universal trustworthiness, the honesty of some Chinatown runners cannot be said to be completely beyond reproach. A few have been known to renege on bets, but their acts have terminated their stay in the community. On the other hand; the income of the runner is dependent upon the betting strength of his clientele and that, at least in part, depends upon his reputation. A record of honesty, prompt payment, and minimum friction or misunderstanding literally pays the solicitor dividends. The friend of one runner described an incident in which the latter had been struck by a car just after having completed collection of bets. "As soon as he was hit and lying in the street, he asked me to hold his money and to tell as many customers as possible that all his bets were off since he couldn't place the bets. In this way, there would be no confusion later when the winning number was announced..."

Tsz Fa, Flowery Characters, is a lottery less frequently in play than the White Pigeon. It is a riddle game based on the names of thirty-six ancient personages representing different phases of Chinese life — military, commercial, literary, religious, and so on. Each individual is identified by a symbolic creature — bird, fish, reptile, insect or beast. An enigma is composed, utilizing one of the characters, and made public. The problem for the bettor is to guess which one of the remaining characters best answers the riddle. The compositions are such that virtually any two characters are readily linked, hence the game becomes one of pure chance. At best, the odds against winning are 35 to 1, but the winner generally receives only 30 to 1, the advantage remaining with the syndicate. When police surveillance is lax or lenient, the first drawing of tsz fa begins early in the afternoon. Thereafter fresh drawings may be held hourly until well into the evening; seven or eight drawings daily, especially on Sundays, have not been uncommon when the game is operating at full force. As soon as the winning character has been announced, the runners, who have been congregating at the gambling center after placing bets for their clients, disperse and head toward those restaurants, shops and other cWut-yap, "hangouts" from which they operate. En route to winning customers, by voice or by gesture they announce the winning character to interested individuals or groups of men lounging in the streets. By pointing to his cheek, a herald of the game's result informs bystanders that "pock-face" has been drawn. The little finger extended with the other fingers clenched indicates "shrimp." The index finger at the nose means that "thief" was the winner; the sign of the index and third fingers of one hand crossed over the same fingers of the other hand refers to "goldfish." In this manner, the betting community is rapidly informed of the latest results while those responsible for law enforcement presumably remain in ignorance. The conflict between the gambling pattern of the Cantonese and the legal norms of the American municipal government is no novel aspect of the culture contact situation. On the contrary, its illegal status is an enduring condition of Chinese gambling. The adaptive facility of the Cantonese has generally been as effective here as in other aspects of the host culture. Changes in city administration or transfer of police officials may be accompanied by a period of overtly rigorous law enforcement, but this will be followed by the return to a discreet modus vivendi between the police and practitioners of pak kop piu. Not startling but striking are the results of an analysis of the local police precinct "blotter" made in one city. Of the 17515 arrests of Chinese during the period of January 1933 to July 1949, 17236 or 98.4 per cent were based on various charges of gambling. Of the several inferences to be drawn from these data, one is relevant here. There is affirmation of Tiffany's observation of a century ago, "So universal is the practice that it is looked upon as a mere every-day business..."

Beliefs and Behavior

The relay of news of lottery results and the delivery of winnings to fortunate gamblers are achieved with an overt lack of ceremony and with no apparent display of emotions by either winner or runner. Nevertheless, despite what seems to be a routine transaction of business, the interaction at this point between player and intermediary has attached to it shared meanings and beliefs about gambling role behavior. Winnings may be counted but more frequently they are pocketed with no attempt to ascertain correctness of the sum — at the time. The experienced player who has placed a bet in a coffee shop, let us say, and has won, does not ask the runner for his due upon the latter's arrival. Initiative is expected to come from the runner. The son of a well-known gambler, commenting on this, said, "You merely sit there patiently and when the runner comes around, he pays you off. You never approach him and say, 'Where's my winnings?' If you do this, you are implying he is not honest and the runner will be deeply insulted. He'll pay you off but will not accept your bet in the future." To break with a runner during the course of a lucky streak is fraught with danger, the danger that there will be a break in a favorable run of fortune. The gambler will take steps to encourage or maintain a winning streak by giving "lucky money" or ch'an chi to those about him and thus propitiate fortune; similarly, he will be apprehensive lest any change occur in a situation favorable to his play. The runner invariably occupies a special position as messenger of Luck itself. His reward may be well beyond the formal fee for his services. Flattery and tactful cajolery may also increase his income, but the judicious runner keeps these in abeyance until after the formal turning over of winnings. In the overt behavior of the pair, feelings of triumph or pleasure will be suppressed and the transfer of funds will generally be accompanied by a studied diffidence and deliberate casualness. In a situation so delicately balanced by the fulcrum of probability, the relationship between the player and collector is easily disturbed by non-rational forces — impatience over sustained failure, frustration over near wins, and feelings of personal inadequacy to predict lottery results. The runner is as vulnerable as the bettor and his occupational risks are more than occasional arrest by the police. A luckless client may change runners with the hope of effecting a shift in his gaming record. Blaming one's losses on others and labelling them as harbingers of bad luck is the other side of the wagered coin. A runner can lose a customer and if the latter is vocal, gain a hapless reputation assuring loss of income.

Concern about influencing the course of play extends to other gaming situations. Those watching a game of fan fan recognize that it is wiser not to stand behind a player who is losing lest his wrath be incurred. And indeed, if a tactless onlooker persists in remaining near a gambler during the latter's losing streak in p'ai kau, he will be blamed as the cause of poor cards or a misplay. Even if the player succeeds in suppressing his anger at the offending observer, the situation becomes tense for the entire group. Most non-players as well as gamblers try to avoir behavior which might be considered to influence an individual's play. One doesn't borrow money from a man while he is losing and further, even though he is winning, he ought not to be asked for a gift of "lucky money," even in jest. The very request is regarded as an omen of heavy losses to come. If gratuities from the winner are forthcoming, they will be offered voluntarily and generously at a time the gambler regards as propitious. Just as the winner of a lottery tips the runner and offers ch'an chi to others, so the gambler at other games feels contrained to share some of his winnings with those about him. Ying fan-t'an kan mi, "the winner at fan t'an has followers," especially those who have played and lost. The donor gives to maintain his fortunate state; the losers, by obtaining a token of his winnings, hope to change the trend in their own gambling ventures, and return to the table to recoup their losses. Acts of beneficence do not end in the gaming hall.

The victorious player would do well to offer money to any children he meets on the street. Such gestures of good will enhance his chance for further successes. The sums need not be great; the offering of five-cent pieces serves equally as well as larger amounts. Borrowing has another restriction among gamblers. One should never rouse a gambler from sleep in order to request a loan and, for that matter, one should refrain from making the request for funds soon after he wakens. It is believed that the man who starts the morning by parting with money will continue to do so throughout the day, that is, the gambling day. There is a general extension of this usage: requests for money are seldom made in the morning in the Cantonese-American community. The business manager of a Chinatown newspaper was approached soon after his arrival at the office by a non-Chinese custodial employee who unwittingly asked for an advance on his wages. The man received a curt refusal and as he departed from the room, was cursed roundly and viciously. The outburst of obscenity ended, then manager explained that he had planned to play mah-jong that evening with a group of friends. Now, he complained, he would have to let them know he couldn't come. The stakes were very low so fear of financial loss was not the question. A night of poor luck, however, would be unpleasant and he was certain that this faced him if he were to play. What was done could not be undone. It is not surprising that unusual events, dreams, hunches and omens will be determinants in betting. Personal "systems" are often based on these and a number of books are available to those seeking success. Many players consult a small pamphlet, Hsiu Hsiang Po Ku Tan Chin Hua Huei Chü Kei, to guide them in their playing of tsz fa. Containing biographies of the thirty-six persons from which one is selected for the day's drawing, there are also dream and physiological associations as well as other characteristics to furnish cues for selection.

For example, we read of Pan Kuei, who headed the list of candidates in the military examinations. The names of his wife and concubine are provided as well as those of the sons they bore him. The reader is told that Pan Kuei was reincarnated from a field snail (this is his major identifying feature) and is associated with the element of water. Dream topics relating to him include the drama, climbing a tree to pick its blossoms, a son born after the death of the father, and an adopted son. On a drawing of a composite man, which has dispersed on various parts of the body the thirty-six names, Pan Kuei is represented on the right forearm. The gambler who has inadverttently scratched his right arm may very well feel impelled to be on Pan Kuei. But the section on Pan Kuei also has allusions to the right calf and to "between the knees"; these references should make the exhuberant one feel less certain of success At any rate, should he lose after having bet on Pan Kuei, he is given material for rationalization. The list of qualities, events and phenomena associated with each tsz fa figure is varied and long. Thus, in addition to those mentioned above, Pan Kuei also has linked to him the crab, a Buddhist temple, white peas, fireflies, and so on. It is obvious that the gambler in search of a clue for betting or of an interpretation of some happening has ample sources for making a decision. But it is also clear that that author's prognostications are well protected by a sliding scale of over-lapping references and connections with dual meanings.

The abstruseness of the allusions, the ambiguity of Taoist symbolism and recurrent suggestiveness of particular items have sustained circulation of the text over the years. For some, it is for daily consultation; for most, a source of occasional bemused reading. Cantonese gamblers are much too prone to follow their own signs and impulses to be dependent for long upon any guide external to themselves. Nevertheless, individual interpretations are not without cultural context. The Cantonese saying, Shau tan tin piu. "Mark a lottery ticket on your birthday," reflects the auspiciousness with which that day is viewed in Chinese society. While the expectations thus heightened are not matched by a commensurate favorable shift in odds on this occasion, players do have a better chance of winning at the approach of the New Year. Tsz fa syndicates, sensitive to the role of folk beliefs in gaming and in the interest of promoting good will, may contrive a simple combination of characters to permit a greater proportion of winners. One Chinese New Year's Day, for example, "nun" was paired with "big house". In this manner, those playing the ready association were more fortunate. A second advantage to the bettor derives from the syndicate's not selecting a term considered to be unpropitious for the time. Acts and instruments of violence, words connoting ill health or misfortune and similar negatively valued symbols are generally avoided during the holiday period. Hence, the absence of phrases such as dead man, coffin and bad woman reduces the odds in favor of the players. One now defunct syndicate erred by utilizing the traditional word avoidance to its advantage — in this case the terms employed were devil-fish and dead man.

Culin's observation that "books are not regarded with favor in gambling houses" and that gamblers will avoid reading before they indulge in a gambling session has thus far not been substantiated. As a matter of fact, one moderatly successful gambling table operates in the rear of a shop which has an excellent selection of books. At least in the area of horse-racing. The utilization of racing forms and tip-sheets would serve to break down this practice. The antipathy to books presumably is based upon the similarity in pronunciation between the Chinese words for "book" and "to lose." Seventy years ago Culin observed the tendency of some gamblers to refrain from using the sound "shue". This persists as an avoidance term. The inauspiciousness of shue because of homonymic quality is accentuated in that to-shue specifically means to lose at gambling, not merely in the more general sense. The gambler's reliance upon cultural proscription is supported in many instances by religious belief. The expression, k'au piu, implying "Beseech (the gods) for (lucky) lottery tickets," is not uncommon. T'u Ti, God of Earth, is sometimes petitioned and the intervention of Buddhist divinities who enable the acquisition of desired wealth is frequently cited. For example, a Cantonese seaman had an unusual streak of good luck while gambling in New York. Later, he related than Kuan Yin had appeared in a dream one night and told him she had been responsible for his good fortune. "Take some of your money and spend it fixing my room up," she told him. He went to the Kuan Yin shrine of his family association, located on the outskirts of Chinatown, and spent four hundred dollars in redecorating the apartment. Subsequent to this incident and its narration. Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, paid him a second visit. She told him of her pleasure with his act of gratitude. She then informed him that a certain restaurant was worth owning and mentioned the name of the owner. The seaman "happened to know this man." who wanted to return to China. The sale of the restaurant was consummated and as predicted in the dream, the purchase proved to be most desirable.

The foregoing tale is not an isolated one. Culin tells of a winner at pak kop pin who built a shrine in Philadelphia and "hoped by its erection to propitiate the god to whom he attributed his good fortune."'- The presence of shrines honoring Kuan Kung in the headquarters of both major tongs of the Atlantic Seaboard states, organizations whose active interest in gambling is well-known, is further suggestive of the influence of the supernatural in the obtaining of wealth." Two forms of gambling behavior were not traceable by the writer. The first is suggested by the saying, Pai sz shi k'au piu, "Find a (lucky) lottery slip by paying obeisance to a corpse." Apparently the practice was to be found in Kwangtung Province's rural areas. Gray reports rhabdomancy, divination by rods or wands, practiced presumably in the Kwangtung region. He writes, "This mode, however, is, if I mistake not, confined in a great measure to gamblers, who before leaving their homes to pursue their vicious courses are anxious to know what road will bring them luck."14 The more usual form of divination utilizing bamboo slips is still to be found as a technique for decision-making.

Discussion thus far has been confined primarily to the individual gambler. In essaying a description of group situations, distinction must be drawn between gambling wherein the dominant motive is that of economic gain and those games where an avowedly recreational purpose is as strong, if not more so, than the winning of money. Fan t'an or poker would be examples of the first, while mah-jong exemplifies the second, more social occasion. Games held in a gambling house where stakes may be more than nominal and where participants are at best nodding acquaintances, have an impersonal and formal atmosphere. The proceedings seem to be marked by a general suppression of excitement on the part of the players. Any joviality anteceding the game tends to subside once the action has begun. Facial expressiveness diminishes during actual play and conversation subsides. The "good gambler" is taciturn and perfunctory in his moves, alert though seemingly diffident in his responses to the action in front of him The stereotype of "poker-faced gambler" in American culture also obtains in the demeanor of the professional Cantonse gambler. The who illy conceal their emotions, who react with pleasure or annoyance, are not regarded with high esteem. Intensity in play prevails throughout the game, relaxation coming only with the serving of refreshments, or, in lesser measure, during the infrequent convesational asides that intersperse the action. Concentration upon the game, whether skill or chance is involved, is the norm.

A different social atmosphere emerges when a group gathers in someone's home for an evening of cards or mah jong. Although there will be a financial stake, the purpose of the group is diversion and relaxation. The game is for "fun" and mah-jong can provide these ends. The long duration of time required to play a set and the slow, involved moves which are typical of the game are not conducive to the more intense and rapid play of the gambling houses. The emotional reserve manifested in the wholly acquisitive game seems to break down with the clatter of tiles being shuffled, the triumphant calls of p'ung, and the excited words of remonstration or disappointment. As the game develops, players shout or swear, joke and banter, or strike the table with open hand. The noisy air of conviviality that so often prevails is in dramatic contrast to the relative silence of other forms of play. Here is no inhibitory behavior, no set of cultural imperatives requiring concentration on the game to the exclusion of other satisfactions. Teasing is permissible and bantering another for a misplay is not frowned upon nor taken amiss by the target of the chaffing. Good humor and personal interaction predominate.

Gambling and Drinking

When skill and astuteness are demanded, as in gambling for stakes significant to the players, there is no place for any but the most moderate intake of alcohol. While a number of professional gamblers are given to heavy drinking, it seldom occurs at the gaming table. Liquor is available in most gambling houses but during games its use is confined to the neophyte or consistent loser. Emotional gratifications derived from gambling appear to preclude the need for alcohol; the game has its own ingredients for intoxication. On the other hand, at wedding banquets and other celebrations permitting general relaxation and freer behavior, gambling tends to facilitate drinking. That is to say, a number of traditional games are employed to enliven the affair by encouraging drinking. Of these, ch'ai mui is the most popular, the liveliest, and undoubtedly the noisiest. The stake is here not monetary, but personal. The game is a test of tsau leungm, capacity for liquor, and the ultimate forfeit is loss of face.

Ch'ai mui, guessing fingers, is very much like the Italian fist game of morra. Played off and on throughout a festive meal, it usually begins after the initial serving of liquor and is most active during a change of courses. The game is played by a twosome, and when several bouts are in progress at the same time, the banquet hall is filled with clamor and laughter. (It is no wonder that Hongkong Ordinance No.2 of 1872 provided that "Every Person shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding Ten Dollars who shall Shouts or Cries or make other Noises while playing the Game known as Chai Mui between the Hours of 11 P.M. and 6 A.M...."). As the dinner moves toward conclusion, the game increases momentum with players moving from one table to another, challenging and drinking. The process of elimination continues only the hardy and the judicious.

In ch'ai moi, each of the contestants extends from one to five fingers, or a clenched fist to siginify zero. As the players simultaneously thrust out their hands while facing one another, each shouts what he guesses will be the total of the outspread fingers. The loud shouting is considered to be a valuable distracting device enabling one to outsmart his opponent. By varying the number of fingers and by noting any perceptible pattern in the play of the other contestant, an acute observer and careful manipulator can move from guesswork to a more considered anticipation of his adversary. Should both players call the same number, a draw results. Invariably, more than one thrust of the hands will be required to determine the outcome of a game, and three out of five games settles a match. The loser is obliged to swallow a drink of liquor or wine. In the Italian game, the numbers are called out by the players; in ch'ai mui, phrases are used signifying each of the numerals. The lists of phrases vary regionally in China, with each region having several versions. A T'oi Shan series goes thusly :

One yat pen the first rank (a high official)
Two leung sueng ho two good friends
Three sam kat tai three lucky brothers
Four sz kwai fat ts'oi four prosperous seasons
Five ng fui shau Five Chief Spirits
Six luk Ink shun six things come my way
Seven ts'at ts'at hau seven skills
Eight pat sin Eight Immortals
Nine kau lin wan nine connecting links (all good fortune joined)
Ten ts'uen ka fuk everyone happy

There is an appropriate phrase used when a player extends a closed fist and expects his opponent to do the same. The T'oi Shan versions are several and in one, ng fui shau may be omitted completely in those social circles where ng is regarded as an indecorous sound. The player, in this case, will remain silent if he wishes to predict a count of five fingers.

Fingers are cast, players lose and drink, and as dining and drinking progress and as levity and raucous demand for more intake mount, players shift from a set of three out of five to two out if three; then, as ch'ai mui proves to be too slow a procedure for drinking, more direct measures are sought.

There are a number of drinking contests involving literary skill, such as the Flower Game, the Famous Brigands game based upon the centuries-old novel Shui Hu Chuan, and one played using characters from the San Kuo Chih Yen (the romance of the Three Kingdoms). Intimate knowledge of the tales is required, either derived from oral tradition or by reading. As a result, considerably fewer persons can effectively participate. Most Chinese-Americans of the second and third generations are excluded; even graduates of the Chinese language schools, having a reading acquaintance of the Shui hu, are seldom able to enter the bouts with any degree of success. Only the most precocious student, whose interest perhaps is reinforced by living in a household where traditional Chinese scholasticism prevails, could be expected to respond with the spontaneity and extensive literary familiarity the games demand. It is a fact of the acculturation situation that the unscrupulous acts of Ts'ao Ts'ao or the wily strategems of Chu-ko Liang take their place along with the feats of Robin Hood, King Arthur and Davey Crockett — fused into the vague memories of childhood cultural heroes. Ability to play cleverly becomes confirmatory of one's special status as a scholarly person and obtains prestige and admiration from non-players. The latter know the games, enjoy watching them, but confine themselves to a spectator's role and to the playing of the more popular ch'ai mui. It is safely predictable that the literary games will disappear from hua ch'iao communities long before lotteries like pak-kop piu. The latter, indeed, have spread beyond the confines of the Chinese subculture; the existence of the former becomes one gauge for measuring cultural persistence.

Motives and the Function of Gambling

A singleness of purpose, the acquisition of wealth, was characteristic of most South Chinese residents in the New World. But this met with interference, resulting in a compression of hua ch'iao activities along narrow social and economic lines.19 It is in the context of a minority group enclave wherein the attaining of desired economic goals had been hampered or deflected and wherein social life has been circumscribed by isolation from the broader community, that gambling assumes particular emphasis. Limited success in making money can be achieved by hard labor and long work hours - or the goal may be hastened by good fortune in gambling.

Chinese attitudes towards the attainment of wealth enhances compulsions to gamble. This purely economic motive is of sufficient force to make one thing certain : the Chinese plays to win and "for keeps." Any diversion derived from gambling appears to be secondary. A wager is always suggested even though the stakes maybe trivial. No point is seen in merely playing for "fun." Victory demands tangible rewards and these are primary to any abstract satisfactions obtained from playing the game.

We cannot accept Professir Hsu's assertion that speculation plays no role in Chinese gambling and, by inference, in the economic field.17 Chinese may never have "gambled on the outcome of such events as the ancient dragonboat race in South China, nor in modern times. . . on their favorites in athletic events",17 but they most certainly have bet on the outcome of the civil service examinations during the Ch'ing period. "Gambling on sports... strokes the Chinese as highly immoral" says Hsu. In the acculturative situation, at any rate, Chinese gamble on sports of all kinds. That they have moral qualms about doing so is doubtful. We hazard the opinion that betting in a football pool is substantially not different from playing pak kop piu. Even if lotteries were introduced to treaty port areas by the West, as he claims, the disposition to wager a bet and thus, to risk losing one's stake, is a cultural attitude prevalent in China long before the advent of the Manila Lottery to Macau. The stress on economic gain does not gainsay the non-monetary factors which are also present in gambling. Mah-jong. for example, obviously strengthens family solidarity. It has the social value of keeping family members together; the game is a vehicle for group enjoyment and satisfies the American-born youth as well as those coming from China. With the exception of the theater or social contacts through dining or visiting friends, gambling provides a major institutionalized form of entertainment. The laundryman or domestic worker spending a week-end in Chinatown is offered the promise of pursuit of suddenly acquired wealth and the quest in itself means escape from the boredom and strain of a full work-week. "Trabajo y juego son los dos polos entre los cuales oscila un pendula la puntual actividad del chinito lavandero. o el paisano vendedor de frutas, viveres o verduras," writes Mourino and his comment is as apt for the mainland as it is for Cuba. A drastic change from monotony, the skirmishes with chance in the company of kinsmen and friends intent upon the same quest are functional in satisfying needs for fellowship generated by the isolation of the week. Indeed, gambling offers this social contact all the more to those who are relatively cut off from the Chinese community and who, friendless or without close kinsmen, find some solace and pleasure by being in the company of fellow countrymen. The street tout calls P'ai kau lo seng to those walking down a Chinatown street. "P'ai kau upstairs" means a chance to win money. It is an invitation for temporary social shelter — contact with one's fellows at least so long as one's money holds out. Sam Gee goes to Chinatown nearly every Sunday, if not for the week-end. He automatically lays down bets on pak kop piu and if operating, on tze fa. A trifling bet on the lotteries is routine.

Of greater interest to him is fan t'an, poker, or whichever other game of active participation appeals to him. He may budget his weekly earnings, setting aside a specific sum for gambling, and be prepared to quit should his winnings reach a figure predetermined by him, perhaps fifty or one hundred dollars. Such an orderly approach will be an individual interpretation of the proverb "If you must play, set three things first: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time." On the other hand, confident that he will be able to maintain a winning streak or desperate to recoup unexpected losses, he may deny the maxim and offer as ante his share-holdings or other property. If the latter situation should prevail, few will attempt to interfere with this jeopardizing of life earnings. The ways of the gambling house preclude this.

Whether cautious and disciplined or rash and injudicious, the Cantonese gambler thinks in terms of being lucky or unlucky. "Gambling in its essence." says Fenichel. "is a provocation of fate...". The inveterate gambler is not content merely to plod along with a long range hope of saving for an ultimante return to a Kwantung village. He actively moves forward to tangle with chance and the consequences are oracular with respect to broader goals. That one accepts their portents, even thos of loss and failure, is seen in the host of unattached, old men who live ignominiously, drowned by they yen of gambling.

Unlike drinking in the hua ch'iao community, gambling is the culturally sanctioned outlet for emotional release. Aggression can be played to the limit; ruthlessness along with skill and chance will play dividends. Intense excitement can be experienced with minimal risk by playing low stakes. The amount of money risked is a secondary factor compared to emotional involvement in playing. Individuals, becoming enmeshed in the tactics and tensions of coming play, can lose a sense of proportion and disrupt the normal routines of their lives. One leaves the game jubilant and wealthier, or with money and passion spent. Gambling provides a medium whereby mobility is possible, upward at the expense of one's companions and countrymen, downward at the cost of one's investment in long periods of drudgery. Since the greater part of gambling in the overseas Cantonese communities involves Chinese games and Chinese participants, victors acquire winnings by draining them largely from others within that community. For those concerned with the psychodynamics of gambling, we may hypothesize that the inability to play a freer role in the broader economy has been compensated by an inverted aggression through gambling. The organized apparatus of professional gamblers and their protectors causes some Cantonese to view gambling as a dissipating influence on wage-earners and for that matter, the Chinatown population in general. However, they take note of the social factors involved and differentiate between those whose gambling is subordinate and non-disruptive to their economic livelihood and those who make a living from it. Professional gamblers are regarded as unstable forces in the community, integrally linked with corruption and "gangsterism." Ties between gambling houses, tongs and certain "civic" organizations are cited as evidence of the unscrupulousness of the latter. Tins criticism is directed toward orc«ini:c«i gambling ami its sometime political sponsors. The attitude toward gambling itself, however, is by no means puritanical; an evening of mah-jong or poker — with moderate stakes — is still considered an acceptable mode of social entertainment.

Some qualification regarding the respectability of professional gambling can also be found among well established, prosperous businessmen whose enterprises extend beyond the boundaries of the community's economy and whose life orientation does not include a permanent return to China. Judgments of disapproval are voiced against younger persons; second-generation youths engaged in gambling on a more-or-less professional basis are treated with frank condemnation. Such behavior is seen as shiftlessness and irresponsibility, a demonstration of lack of personal worth. The marriage of a man in his late twenties had been delayed by the giro's family for several years until he demonstrated to their satisfaction that he would be a worthy son-in-law. In his youth he had worked for a gambler and moreover, his father was well-known as a professional card player. The burden of proof rested on the shoulders of the suitor. He chose a vocation not of his liking but demanding of prestige in the eyes of the Chinatown community. Even some of the men who support the financial operations of a gambling syndicate maintain this attitude. The vicissitudes of a gambler's life are familiar to them. Perturbation is felt and often strenuous objection is levelled against those within the orbit of effective criticism who seemingly are unwilling to accept "good jobs" for themselves, who will not take advantage of American schooling to reap economic gain and who seem to prefer the lethargy of a gambler's life.

On the other hand, the Cantonese businessman sees his entreprise as a gamble. The quest for money and the chance that it will succeed underlies the establishment of partnerships, syndicates and commercial companies. One is constantly searching for areas of investment that may bring unexpected rewards. If the return should exceed expectations, it will be attributed to a combination of good luck and astuteness. Modesty forbids mention of the latter factor, but its recognition is seen in the air of self-satisfaction manifested by some members of this group. On the other hand, few would deny Luck's having bestowed favor upon them and stress this in accounting for business achievement. Values in this group that knows economic success and orients itself toward permanent residence, at least for their children, stress frugality rather than lavish consumption (except in celebration of life crises), reliability and regularity in habits, competency in calling and perspicacity in business affairs. Prestige is based upon stability. Their own young, therefore, should fit into this scheme rather than one of questionable outcome. Attitudes towards gambling here are ambivalent, reflecting the functional relationship between gambling and business. The conservatism of the saying: Pat to shi ying ts'in, "Not to gamble is to win money," is countered by the knowledge that inherent in business is the factor of chance and that risking a small sum may result in large rewards. There are numerous cases where gambling per se was an important avenue for rapid rise in economic status, where capital necessary to initiate a business venture was won. In fact, it is precisely this speculative spirit among some Cantonese that accounts for their economic success.

Some Tentative Questions for the Study of Sino-Filipino Gambling

Investigation of the nature of Chinese gambling in the Philippines and its impact on the varied culture contact situations provides a useful research focus for students of cultural exchange. Ethnographic data on indigenous gambling forms are not plentiful; on the other hand, there appears to have been uneven receptivity to gambling of Chinese or non-Chinese origin.19 Analysis of which groups resisted gambling, made adaptations or readily accepted it should give insight into the cultural integration of the several tribes involved as well as understanding of the nature of their historical contacts with the Chinese

Which games were integrated, which were reinterprated and in what manner ? Jue teng, for example, appears to be a form of tsz fa stripped of Chinese characters and reduced to a simple lottery of numbers. (To be sure, instead of thirty-six choices, there may be thirty- seven or thirty-eight, depending upon local operators; again, the number of betting combinations is greater.) This shift in content is not unlike that of pak kop piu to keno in the American West, but the questions raised extend beyond form alone. Was the substitution of numbers for Chinese characters necessary for local acceptance? If this were so, how shall we explain the unmodified use of pak kop piu among the Ibaloi and Kankana'i in the Mountain Province? Returning to jue teng, many Tagalog players look to dreams and other unique psychological events for clues in betting. Is this a trait borrowed from the Chinese gambling pattern? Garvan writes of divination through dreams among the Manobo; the dream portending future events is also found in the northern islands. When we know more of gambling, if at all, among the Manobo or whether a Kalinga's dreams influence his playing biling, the last question may be more readily answered. Indeed, it may be asked whether the interpretation of dreams and other symbols is a universal part of the apparatus of gamblers. (We raise the question, but prefer a cultural explanation.) An entirely different question, perplexing at least to the writer, stems from the widespread popularity of djak en poy, known to children and adults in the Luzon lowlands and highlands as well as islands to the south. This is surely the Japanese game of janken in which the players begin by shaking their fists three times, saying "Shi. shi, shi," and terminating with "Jankenpoi!". An attending rhyme has been completely altered, now taking the form of nonsense syllables. But this game of scissors, stone and paper is as well known to the Chinese. It is as popular among them as a drinking game as it is in Japan. We surely should have expected the diffusion to stem from the mainland along with the flow of other culture traits from China. We venture to suggest that this anomalistic borrowing may have more than passing folkloristic interest. In the United States, Mexico or Cuba, the majority of hua ch'iao are from one province, Kwangtung. The presence in the Philippines of Chinese ethnolinguistic groups like the Fukienese, Cantonese and, to a lesser degree, Hakka, permits differential analysis along other lines. Have their modes of cultural adaptation been the same or have they taken different paths? Relationships between the subcultures have yet to be analyzed in any one overseas situation. The study of Cantonese-Hakka relationships, for example, should be of particular interest. Our American data show considerable strain and hostility existed between the two groups. Have the Hakka, few as they are in the Philippines, accomodated themselves in Cantonese gambling forms as they have to language ? Fukienese apparently have not done so to any significant extent. And what of Cantonese borrowing of game variations traditional to Hakka? Here, as in virtually all overseas Chinese communities, the Hakka are in the minority. Comparison of relationships in such cases with those of the Hakka in Hawaii, where their numbers are considerably greater, should shed a light on this neglected area of Chinese studies. Father Jacques Amyot's excellent study of the hua ch'iao in Manila offers an opportune point of departure for this.

Differences in the nature of the cultural milieux in which overseas Chinese find themselves account for somewhat different patterns of adaptation to the new environments as well as for those culture elements which have persisted, been lost, or given new emphasis. For example, it was earlier stated that no American data were obtained relevant to the Cantonese saying, "Find a lottery slip by paying obeisance to a corpse.' References to the use of necromancy among Cantonese gamblers in the Philippines have been readily secured. The work of Weightman22 requires further extension to permit the comparative analysis of host-culture institutions and receptivity of Chinese culture traits.

Finally, the study of Chinese gambling in the Philippines sheds light on a much broader question, that of the relationship between risk-takingm capital formation and utilization, and economic development. While we have focused here upon gambling in its narrowest sense, it is the diffused attitude toward wealth and its attainment — in the case of the Philippines, carried here but not fully borrowed — that is of paramount interest. Investigation of hua ch'iao gambling inevitably leads to consideration of the role of the Chinese in the economy of the nation. The study of gambling may fall within the narrow purview of folklore, but a projection of its findings are relevant to contemporary economic anthropology.


1 Osmond Tiffany, Jr.; The Canton Chinese (Boston: James Munroe and Co., 1849), p 195.

2 2 A notable exception is the work of Archdeacon John Henry Gray. See, for example, his two-volume edition of China, edited by William G. George. (London: Macmillan, 1878). For comparative purposes, the most extensive materials are found in JD Vaughan, The Manners and Customs of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements. (Singapore: Mission Press, 1879), p. 60 ff.

3 Monica Hunter, Reaction to Conquest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1936), p. 468.

4 Ena Mourino Hernandez, El Juego en Cuba (Havana: Ucar, Garcia and Co., 1947), p. 17.

5 Alfred L. Kroeber, Anthropology ( New York : Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1948), p. 553.

* Albert H. Morehead employs this term to connote the gambler "unusually agile at probabilities .. and the skillful player of any game in which skill is the dominant factor..." See his article "The Professional Gambler" in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 2?9 (May 1950) pp. 81-92.

6. Tiffany, op. cit., p195

7. Stewart Culin, "The Gambling Games of the Chinese in America," Series in Philology, Literature and Archeology, Vol. 1. No. 4. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Pressm 1891, pp. 6-13.

8. G.Y. Leong, Chinatown Inside Out (New York: Barrows Mussey. 1936), p. 204

9. David Cheng, Acculturation of the Chinese in America (Foochow: Fukien Christian Univerity, 1948), p. 131.

10 Culin. op. cit. p. 19

12 Culin, op. cit., p. 17.

13 See, for example, photographs In Life, Vol. 30, No. 2 (January 8,), p. 72. ...

14 Gray, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 26.

15 Introduction of ch'ai mui to Japan came during the first half of the seventeenth century AD. Known as honken or saiken, the mode of play and setting for the game are similar to those described here. The author is indebted to Dr. Harumi Befu for making available materials on this aspect of the game's diffusion. See Kinjoo Tomonaga;s article on "Ken", in Japanese Society of Ethnology (ed.) Nihon Shakai Minzoku Jiten (Social and Ethnographic Dictionary of Japan), Tokyo: Seibundo Shinkoosha, 1952, Vol. 1, p. 343.

* The implications of this and other aspects of drinking can be found in the writer's "Alcoholism in the Cantonese of New York City: An Anthropological Study," in Oskar Diethelm (ed.) Etiology of Chronic Alcoholism (Springfield: C:

16 Cf. Milton L. Bamett, "Kinship as a Factor Affecting Cantonese Economic Adaptation in the United States," Human Organization, 19 (Spring, I960), pp. 40-46.

17 Francis L.K. Hsu, Americans and Chinese (London: Cresset Press, 1955), pp 307-9.

17a Ibid. p. 308

18 Mourino, op. cit., p. 15

19 See, for example, RF Barton, The Ka- lingas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 1949, pp. 124-25.

20 James M Garvan "The Manobos of Mindanao" Mem. Nat. Acad. of Sci., XXIII, No. 1 (Washington, 1931), p 216

21 Jacques Amyot "The Chinese community of Manila: A Study of Adaptation of Chinese Familism to the Philippine Environment." Research Series No. 2, Philippine Studies Program. University of Chinago, 1900.

22 George Weightman, "Comparison of the American Chinese with Other Overseas Chinese Communities," Phil. Social. Rev. Vol III, No. 3 (July 1955) pp. 32-40.

An Inscrutable Passion For Gambling By Peter Axthelm in New York Magazine Sep 27, 1971

As it does in other communities, the lottery or numbers game offers the lowest level of gambling in Chinatown. But beyond the fact that all such games accept nickel and dime action, there is little similarity between the Oriental lotteries and the familiar citywide numbers. In Chinatownm for example, you don't find the familiar, flamboyant numbers runners of most ghettos. Instead, the job is done by wizened old ladies who might just as easily be peddling flowers as rectangular lottery slips. The games themselves, moreover, are far more colorful in Chinatown. In Gee Fah, the bettor selects several characters off a sheet of 36, depending on the amount he hopes to win; in Bok-a-Bou, he picks from 80 characters, and awaits the drawing of the winning characters. The wait is never long. During peak hours, Gee Fah drawings are held hourly in the neighborhood lottery banks. Because the characters on various lottery slips are all symbolic of real things ("fire," "blood," "dog"), they lend themselves to hunches and dreams and give the lottery a certain dramatic quality that goes beyond betting on a day's number. They also provide a measure of protection; on the rare occasions when authorities have tried to crack down on the Chinese lotteries, defense witnesses are merely charming collections of ancient words and slogans.

La llamada de lo salvaje: y lecturas afines [Call of the wild Jack London in Spanish]

La lotería china se juega apostando a un cartón sobre el que hay dibujados varios caracteres (animales, flores, etc.) debajo de los cuales figura un número. El jugador elige su dibujo y, si éste sale, consigue el premio. Éste, y cualquier otro tipo de lotería, estuvo prohibido en todo el territorio de los Estados Unidos desde 1892 hasta 1963. And this was the manner of dog Buck was in the fall of 1897, when the Klondike strike dragged men from all the world into the frozen North. But Buck did not read the newspapers, and he did not know that Manuel, one of the gardener's helpers, was an undesirable acquaintance. Manuel had one besetting sin. He loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his gambling, he had one besetting weakness--faith in a system; and this made his damnation certain. For to play a system requires money, while the wages of a gardener's helper do not lap over the needs of a wife and numerous progeny.

CHINESE GAMBLING GAMES in New York Times, Published: February 5, 1888

MYSTERIES OF FAN TAN AND BOC HOP BU. Two popular games in the Chinese Quarters of American Cities - Superstitions of the players Among the many methods of gambling practiced among the Chinese laborers in America fan tan and boc hop bu, according to Stewart Culin, hold the first place and are both carried on by organized companies. Mr. Culin has studied Chinese gambling from a scientific standpoint, but his discovering are just as interesting as if he had devoted himself to the task purely for the purpose of pitting his skill against that of Ah Sin. He is intimately acquainted with over a hundred Chinese gambling games, but is as innocent of any knowledge of poker and other Caucasian institutions of a not dissimilar character as if he had lived his life within the Chinese realm instead of in staid Philadelphia. Mr. Culin intends to put his knowledge of Chinese gambling into a book, if one book will hold it all, but meanwhile he his willing that the Times shoud print his description of fan tan and boc hop bu.

Other references

Americans and Chinese: passage to differences By Francis L. K. Hsu

Organizing crime in Chinatown: race and racketeering in New York City, 1890-1910 By Jeffrey Scott McIllwain

Moon cakes in Gold Mountain: from China to the Canadian plains By John Brian Dawson, Patricia M. Dawson 1991

The favorite game among North American Chinese was fantan (in free translation, the game of repeatedly spreading out); next popular was pak kop piu (freely translated as the game of white pigeon ticket), commonly referred to in the Canadian West as the Chinese lottery; of lesser importance overall, but frequently played, were a number of games employing dice or dominoes.

Essays in the History of Canadian Law: British Columbia and the Yukon By John McLaren, Hamar Foster

Police and press sources suggest that almost all segments of early-twentieth-century Vancouver society engaged in forms of gambling. Recreational and commercialized gaming were popular in Chinatown, with games such as mah-jong, pai-gow, chuckaluck, and fan-tan. Chinese entrepreneurs also operated popular lotteries for Chinese and non-Chinese customers, both in Chinatown and from small businesses that began to crop up outside of the Chinese settlement after the First World War.

Premiere Vague D'Immigration Chinoise en Californie 1849-1949 By Dominique Maillard 2009

Le nom de la loterie chinoise, pok kop pew (littéralement « le ticket du pigeon blanc") provenait d'un jeu pratiqué en Chine avec des oiseaux de compétition. La loterie (l'ancêtre du jeu de hasard introduit dans le Nevada par les travailleurs chinois du chemin de fer transcontinental que l'on a ensuite nommé Keno) rencontrait beaucoup de succès auprès des non-Chinois parce qu'il était extrêmement simple.

The Hawaiian gazette. (Honolulu [Oahu, Hawaii]) 1865-1918, June 16, 1905,


The Indianapolis News of May 25, has the following:

Gilbert F. Little, lawjer, of Panama, in the employ of the Panama Republic, was at the Grand Hotel with his wife today, coming to Indianapolis at. this time to visit J. M. McGee, an old friend. Mr. Little came to the United States at this time on a rather peculiar mission. In May, 1904, President Roosevelt issued an order, in regard to the zone in Panama controlled by "the United States, under which lottery agents were arrested. A Chinese selling lottery tickets was put in jail. The Panama Lottery Company and the Panama Republic at once disputed the authority of the United States in such matters. The Panama Republic receives $250,000 a year from the lottery company, so the republic employed Mr. Little to fight the arrest of the Chinese. The habeas corpus case was first tried in the Federal Court of the Panama zone, which held that the United States had the right, under the treaty, to stop the sale of lottery tickets in the zone.


An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, before which Mr. Little recently appeared and made an argument. He held that the treaty did not give the United States authority over lotteries in the zone; that the right of the lottery company to sell in the zone was a vested right, granted by the Panama Republic, and could not be interfered with, inasmuch as the franchise had about ten year yet to run.

Mr. Little practiced law in Columbus, Ind., back in the 70's. Later he became a resident of Hawaii, and was for one time commissioner from Hawaii to the United btatcs. He was appointed a judge in Hawaii by President McKinley.

Mr. Little will soon leave for Spain as a representative of the Panama Republic to gather some data at Madrid in regard to the Panama canal work done by the French company.

Chinatown inside out by Gor Yun Leong - 1936

The most bewitching and puzzling is the "tze-far," literally "character-flower," which in effect is a riddle. There are thirty-six different characters, named after animals, flowers and fish. Its pay-off is thirty to one. The proprietor first chooses a part, seals it in a bag, and then announces the riddle, which he generally makes up from classical sayings or current events. The trick is that the riddle always seems applicable to all thirty-six parts, and that no solution can be correct until he opens the bag. It too is a game of chance rather than a brain- tester.

Ironically enough, an Irish officer of the law once informed me that he had "just won four bucks and some odd cents," and asked if I had ever played this game. I said "No." Thereupon he showed me a list of the thirty-six parts printed in English. It is through this officer that I studied the operation of the game, and discovered to my amazement that there are about a half-dozen "tze-far" houses in the larger Chinatowns, all making nice daily collections, though they limit their capital to $300 a game, and play only four games a day.

Somewhat similar in principle to "tze-far" is a policy game called "bocapue," which has lately so caught the fancy of a New York State Assemblyman that he introduced a bill to bring it under the provisions of the penal law. I wish him success, but I doubt if the law can be effectively enforced against the Chinese lottery. They are damned clever, these Chinese.

You cannot find any evidence on them when they are brought to court. They are not so foolish as to use numbers or symbols that can be linked with ordinary policy slips. They use instead parts of old poems of the sort called "Four-Character Classics," which have been in school primers for generations. Since the court interpreter is to interpret the evidence as it is and not as it should be, no American court that I know of has convicted a Chinese on this score.

To explain the working of this game, I quote a few passages of one classic poem. It opens with two lines, "Tin dai yuan wong; yee chow hung fong," which literally means, "The sky and earth are blue and yellow respectively; the universe is but a vast piece of uncultivated land." It goes on to describe astronomy, geography, physics and various phenomena, each in a few words. Lines such as "the fleeting clouds are a sign of rain; the crystallization of dew becomes ice," and "gold is produced in Lai River, while jade is rich in Kunlun mountain" have fascinated old and young for centuries. It ends with "Dragon is the teacher, fire, the ruler, bird the officer, and man the king."

In the game, only the first twenty lines of the poem, each of which consists of two characters, are used. When the time comes to draw, the lottery company gives an outsider (usually a ticket collector who has no financial connection with the house) a quarter to shuffle the characters and divide them into four groups. Then one of the company officers determines the group to be drawn by casting dice. The result is announced to the ticket collectors, who check their books, and inform their customers of their good luck, if any.

A bet can be as small as twenty-five cents for ten characters. Different combinations of characters or designs of more than ten can be chosen for a larger bet, but the rate of winning is the same for all bets. If half the characters chosen are right, the return is double; if six are right, twenty times as much; if seven, two hundred; if eight, one thousand; nine, two thousand, and ten, four thousand. But the lottery company limits its capital to three thousand dollars a game, so it does no good to have phenomenal luck. Quite often the winnings exceed the capital, so the company has to divide its funds proportionately among the winners.

Ticket collectors for lotteries and solicitors for "tze-far" get ten per cent of what they hand in to the company, and ten per cent from each winning, usually with a "bonus." Since they get more from the winners than from the companies, they are always whole-heartedly for the players. But when they are arrested, it is always the proprietors of the companies who get them out of jail