The Origin of The Mooncake Gambling Culture
" The custom of tossing dice to compete for Zhuangyuan dates back to the Sui and Tang Dynasties. It starts as a game designed by scholars who craved success in the imperial examinations. The names of the dice combinations originated from the imperial examination system, with the highest being "Zhuangyuan" (No.1 Scholar), followed by two "Duitang" (No.2 Scholar), four "Sanhong" (No. 3 Scholar), eight "Sijin" (No.4 Scholar), 16 "Erju" (No.5 Scholar), and 32 "Yixiu" (No.6 Scholar), 63 in total.
The name of the dice combinations and the rule of the game haven't changed much over the past millennium, but the chips used for the game have undergone constant change, ranging from Zhuangyuan chips, common coins, Zhuangyuan cakes to objects of all sizes and shapes.
Legend has it that over 300 years ago, during the drills by national hero Zheng Chenggong of his naval forces in Xiamen, Hong Xu, an associate of Zheng Chenggong together with the subordinates of War Ministry, invented the "Mid-autumn Mooncake Gambling Game" to relieve the home sickness of the soldiers. After consultation with his office, he adopted an ingenious combination of dice game rules and mooncakes.
Long before, the Mid-autumn Mooncake Gambling Game prevaild in South Fujian province and Taiwan, but after that it has experienced its ups and downs in different regions. Today, Xiamen is the only place where this culture is preserved in entirety. A classical Xiamen balled about the Mid-autumn Mooncake Gambling Game goes, " On the evening of the Mid-autumn Festival, the moon is full; you got 'Sanhong' and I got 'Sijin', but who on earth got 'Zhuangyuan' ? " Every Mid-autumn Festival, quiet evenings in Xiamen are punctuated by ringing of dice in the large porcelain bowls as families gather around tables to compete for mooncakes. The ringing of the dice in the bowls and the exciting dice combinations create an intriguing local bling in Xiamen has made the Mid-autumn festival perfect year by year. "
Note from the signboard.
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Siestas in China?
Yes, that's right. It's called xiuxi or wushui in Chinese, and it is very commonplace. Just after lunchtime, you will find most Chinese taking a nap. Anywhere will do! I have seen the workmen resting in the shade on the grass or even on the pavement. Shop workers simply place their heads on the counter in their shops! Most schools and some offices regularly turn off the lights for half an hour after lunch for naptime! After lunch, try a Siesta in China!
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Children at play - local games
At Gulangyu, time seems to stop. You can see children in school at play - with traditional local games.
Compared with the standard video games, now also prevalent all over China, it is a nice change to watch simple games that do not require any electronic monitor or expensive sports equipment.
Bring back fond memories of childhood games.
Fireworks are associated with China in my mind. And on my first visit to an International Conference, we were thrilled to see the magnificent display of fireworks , particularly at the closing ceremony. The different types and colours of the fireworks were really splendid.
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Harbor statue with a bit of history
Perched on a rock overlooking the entrance of Xiamen harbor is a huge statue of General Zheng Chengong. It is NOT of Admiral Zhenghe who led the Ming naval in faraway sea expeditions.
Xiamen became one of the last strongholds of the Ming dynasty in the 17th century when the Manchu Qing Dynasty took over the Beijing capital. Loyalist Ming General Zheng Chengong even launched an expedition against the Dutch who were occupying the island of Formosa (Taiwan). This statue on Hulanyu Island at the harbor is to honor General Zheng.
Swaying sedan chair
Saw traditional sedan chairs at Fort Huli.
If you cannot walk the steps up this cannon fort, you can hire one of these hammock-like-chair. Last resort as you will be swaying side to side depending on the goodwill of two men carrying you.
Senior citizens passing time
With new economic growth, old houses have been bulldozed down for brand new high rise apartments where neighbors hardly even see each other except when taking the common lift.
Yet, in parts of old Xiamen, pockets of communities still interacting in the old ways. Where you know whose whose children are doing what and whose whose children have gone overseas and not coming back.
Worth walking through the old neigborhood of years passed by.
There are some taboos and customs in Xiamen:
1. Point one's middle finger at somebody is regarded impolite behavior.
2. It is a shame if someone is hit by broom.
3. It is impolite to sweep the floor when a guest is seated at one's home.
4. At wedding, it is unlucky to break bowls, dishes, plates or spoons.
5. Don't stick chopsticks in rice when having dinner with family and friends.
6. To advoid placing six dishes when guests have dinner at home.
7. Don't mention monkey before babies. It is said that it would make babies sick. And don't use the word 'fat' to a baby, you should say he is good-looking.
Some of the taboos mentioned above are still followed, but most of them are out-of-day.
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