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~~ Gallery 17 ~~
Regional Cards

South-Eastern Asia
page 1

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My gratitude to John McLeod and Dylan W.H. Sung for their valuable contribution to this section.

due to romanization (i.e. the spelling of Oriental words in Western letters, based on their original sound)
some names might have different spellings.



Indonesia (green) and Malaysia (yellow)
This 60-card pattern is traditionally used by Indonesian and Malaysian players of Chinese descent.
About one century ago, the gambling game of Ceki (other Western spellings: Cheki or Tjeki), also known as Kowah, was particularly popular among the Babas and Nyonias ethnic groups living in Malacca (Malaysia), but it is still played today by the descendants of such immigrants.
This pattern has very strong analogies with the classic Chinese DongGuan cards (see Chinese gallery part 1): there are values from 1 to 9 of the suits of Coins, Strings and Myriads, plus the "Old Thousand", "Red Flower" and "White Flower" cards, and their illustrations are very similar too. Therefore, Ceki cards are a further variety of money-suited cards.
In Ceki decks each subject is duplicated twice, and there is no Gui (or "devil") card; therefore, the pack contains only 60 cards. But since the game requires two decks (120 cards in total) for being played, a clear analogy with the aforesaid Chinese pattern can be told. Furthermore, the game of Ceki is not very different from Mah Jong, whose cards belong to the money-suited group, as well.

In the Ceki pattern the suit of Myriads has an actual Wan sign (not a Guan), as can be seen on the right in the first card of the bottom row. The faces of the characters from The Water Margin novel appear very stylized, more than in Chinese patterns, almost as if they had become a mere graphic detail to fill the central part of the card, yet they can still be told.
In most editions the backs of Ceki cards are plain yellow.
Both Indonesian and Malaysian editions have different proportions from the usual size of Chinese cards: they are almost closer in size to a Western patience pack than to any other money-suited card variety.

Ceki deck by Guan Huat (Hong Kong),
showing "Old Thousand", 9 of Strings,
2 of Myriads, 3 of Strings, 1 of Coins;
note the different frame patterns

an edition by Pendekar ~ Woo Sung (Indonesia):
"Old Thousand", "Red Flower", "White Flower",
(bottom row) 7 of Coins, 4 of Strings, 9 of Myriads
A peculiar feature of Ceki cards is a thick frame or rim which encloses the central illustration. There are nine different frame patterns, and all cards with the same value (for instance: the 3 of Coins, the 3 of Strings and the 3 of Myriads) have identical ones, although they belong to different suits.
A similar index system is also found in other money-suited patterns used in China (see Chinese gallery page 1).

table of Ceki frames and numerical values they match
Apparently, these frames have the same purpose as indices in Western decks, i.e. they help players to tell at a glance the numerical value of the card. In fact, the only two combinations pursued in the game of Ceki, the couple and the "three of a kind", are both irrespective of suits (a 5 of Coins and a 5 of Myriads form a couple, a 7 of Strings and two 7s of Coins are "three of a kind", and so on); therefore, the numerical value of a card is a much more important detail than its suit.
The four of Strings has an additional horizontal break in the center of the illustration (see the previous picture), while two of the special cards, "Red Flower" and "White Flower", have a frame similar to 1s.

The whole deck is shown in the Ceki page, with detailed instructions for the game.

Pictures from an old book about Ceki, featuring a few cards, can be reached by following this LINK.

Single Lion brand (Yong Guan Heng, Malaysia):
"Old Thousand", "Red Flower", "White Flower",
(bottom) 2 of Coins, 3 of Strings, 9 of Myriads


Indonesian and Malaysian players of Chinese descent use four colour cards (see the Chinese gallery, page 2). Some of the local "short" variety packs, though, have only half the number of cards of the standard Chinese editions, i.e. 56 against the usual 112 cards of the Si Se Pai, because each of their subjects is duplicated not four times but only twice.

A further variety has only two colours or suits, yellow and red (the two most valuable ones), with subjects duplicated four times, also in this case making a total of 56 cards. Curiously, the wrapper of these decks still reads "Four Colour Cards", in spite of the two suits.

four colour cards manufactured
in Belgium for export to Indonesia:
a Cannon and a Soldier of each colour

four-suited cards from Indonesia
(General and Horse are shown)
Besides these differences, the patterns are identical to the Chinese ones: the rank is shown by means of a character borrowed from Chinese chess, repeated at both ends of the card, while the background colour (yellow, red, green or white) expresses the family or suit, and a smaller and merely decorative character or drawing fills the central space.

two-suited cards from Malaysia; the only colours
are yellow and red (General, Minister and Cannon are shown)

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