Origins

Rei do oriente

On the origins, as is customary, a little bit of China.

In 1294, the case of two Chinese citizens arrested for practicing gambling was brought to the attention of the emperor Kublai Khan. Caught in the act, they were not able to destroy the cards, which they also produced, or the dies used to print them. The penalty Kublai Khan bestowed on the offenders is not known, but the incident is the oldest record in existence mentioning card games. The person who actually created this new type of game died without being recognized as having left an important cultural legacy for humanity. Perhaps because, at the time, an illegal activity was being carried out and the creator wanted to remain unknown.


Card games in China comprise a set of games with names that always contain the word "pai", which literally means "sign". Various games are played using the principle of "signs", characterized by having a uniform face, where the value of each card is unknown, with the other side containing drawings and symbols used to form combinations in each game. This attribute is seen in playing cards and dominoes as well as the Mahjong tiles. Playing cards made ​​of paper are known in Chinese as "zhi pai"; dominoes as "gu pai" (bone signs) and Mah Jong tiles, usually made ​​of ivory, as "ya pai".


Our Chinese cards, remote precursor of today`s decks were (and still are) small elongated rectangles, with an average size of around 10 x 2.5 cm, much smaller than modern playing cards. Both in physical appearance as well as the composition and rules of games, Chinese cards bear little resemblance to modern playing cards.
But how did these cards evolve and come to Europe, taking the form, structure and pattern that is familiar to us today? In this regard, we have much speculation and little certainty. The fact is that other Oriental playing card patterns have very little to do with the appearance and structure of the European card games from which the modern deck originated. The deck which is now used to play buraco, poker, bridge, truco...