Literati Culture in Ming Dynasty Drinking Games Using Cards 明代酒牌中的文人文化

Andrew Lo



Most of the drinking games using cards were invented by literati and scholar-officials, and these were quite popular in the mid and late Ming periods. This article introduces these games, with classification, description and introduction to method of play. The cards used in these games in banquet gatherings of the literati mainly depict talented scholars, famous courtesans, beauties, historical figures, including those associated with drinking or money, and characters from poetry, drama and fiction. To fully appreciate these cards and to play, one had to be quite familiar with the textual allusions used by the literati. From the texts printed on individual cards, and those describing the background of these games, we get a glimpse of the social lives and values of literati and scholar-officials. Again, these card games were open to all who could read at least the instructions, and with the transmission of these games to those of a different class, we get an understanding of their genteel aspirations. From the culture and transmission of drinking cards in the Ming period, we see the cultured and the common joining in the appreciation of the refined.