VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Gambling Cards
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This complete pack of cards has great historical importance. These cards are considerably smaller than the European ones: about three inches long and hardly one inch wide. On each card, the value is indicated; furthermore, red and black images are printed on them. The game of cards used most commonly has 160 cards, but the method of playing differs immensely in the various parts of the Empire. Although state laws forbade the game, the legislature was so far pushed back by the ruling customs of the people that China looked “like a gigantic gambling house”. Besides the gambling cards, the Chinese used to play dice, chess, checkers, Tsei-mei, a game analogous to the Italian Morra [hand game]. The extra values carry respective marks: the extra value of the single coin series shows a male figure with a graphic emblem and two puce marks (below), the extra value coin cords shows a graphic emblem (middlerow), and the value 1000 x 10000 a male figure with four circles, two adjacent, two vertically spaced (above); in the coin cord series, the value 9000 is designed deviating from comparable depictions: One of the cords lies across the others hanging vertically.

History of the Object
This item is part of the collection, acquired under the leadership of Baron von Asch during the Great Expeditions of the 18th century, which were supported by Catherine II of Russia. These objects – obtained by several collectors – present cultural elements of various peoples in Asia and Russian America (Alaska). The game can be classified under the “linear style”. But differing from this style, the graphic depictions on the respective cards of the Asch Collection are not executed in fine hairlines but in pithy, molded wood cut lines, and all of the games show markings in the margins. 30 sets of each 120 cards have been preserved.

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Type
Print 
Materials
Woodcut on paper 
Measurements
9,2 x 3,4 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China; Northern China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
18th Century 
Function
Gambling 
Acquisition
Part of the Asch Collection 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Ethnographic Collection, Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, Georg-August University Goettingen, Germany 
Museum
Ethnographic Collection of the University of Göttingen 
Credit line
 

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