Tuesday, 4 April 2017

♠ | spades

Are you missing Chinese characters already? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about them. But let me continue with playing cards. According to Wikipedia,

The Latin suits consist of coins, clubs, cups, and swords. They are the earliest suit-system in Europe, having been adopted from the cards imported from Mamluk Egypt and Moorish Granada in the 1370s. <...> Ultimately the suits can trace their roots back to China where playing cards were first invented. <...> The concept of suits predate playing cards and can be found in Chinese dice and domino games such as Tien Gow.
[Tien Gow is a Westernised (Pinyin: tiān jiǔ) which, as you may have figured out by now, literally translates as “Heaven and Nine”.]
Chinese money-suited cards are believed to be the oldest ancestor to the Latin suit-system. The money-suit system is based on denominations of currency: Coins, Strings of Coins, Myriads of Strings, and Tens of Myriads. Old Chinese coins had holes in the middle to allow them to be strung together. A string of coins could easily be misinterpreted as a stick to those unfamiliar with them. The Mamluks called their suit of cups Myriads and this may have been due to inverting the Chinese character for myriad (). The Mamluk suit of swords may also have been inspired by the Chinese numeral for Ten ().
If this is indeed so, then swords (what we now call “spades” in English was derived from the Spanish word espada, “sword”) must be a direct descendant of and the oldest suit of Chinese origin which we still use in a French deck.

More photos related to cards, leaves and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

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