A Glossary of Traditional Chinese Toys & Games

A Glossary of Traditional Chinese Toys, Puzzles and Games

Main Reference:
An English translation of Play, Play, Play: Fun and Wisdom in Traditional Chinese toys,
CHANG Shih-Tsung, National Taiwan Education University, 1993.
张世宗 (國立台北教育大學): 玩遊戲, 太聨文化出版, 1993年。

Category English Chinese Material / Context Description/Remarks
Toy Ba’er 拔兒 wood This refers to a 12-inch wooden object shaped like the stone of a date. It is firsr held uprright before hitting.
Toy bamboo copter 竹靖蛟, 竹蜻蜓 bamboo  
Toy bamboo crossbow 竹弩 bamboo  
Toy bamboo gun 竹槍 bamboo  
Toy Campanula 風鈴 wind, sound  
Toy Camphor boat 樟腦船 water This simple toy is made using a board as the body of the boat with camphor placed at one end. The boat is able to move without any additional force.
Toy clay dolls 泥偶 mud, clay Including clay dogs (泥泥狗), clay tigers(泥泥虎), and A-Fu, a well-known child figurine with a chubby face and a beaming smile.
Toy Clay whistle 泥人哨 clay, sound  
Toy cloth dolls 布偶 cloth Including cloth tigers (布老虎)and other animal shapes
Toy contra rotating stick 逆轉棒 gravity  
Toy Crane lantern 仙鶴燈 light  
Toy Cricket gourd 蝈蝈葫蘆 storage  
Toy Deity standing on the palm 仙人立掌 gravity  
Toy diabolo 空竹, 空鐘, 扯鈴, 響簧 bamboo A diabolo can be a single cone, or resemble two tops joined at their tips with an axle. Players hold two sticks with a string tied between them in their hands and spin the top up and down the string, tossing it and catching it again. Diabolos come in all sizes and are differentiated by the number of ringing sounds they can produce.
Toy Doll stickers 尢仔標 paper  
Toy Dragon lantern 龍燈 light  
Toy Fan Hua Ban 翻花板 wood A kaleidoscope on a board
Toy field toad 地牛 bamboo  
Toy flapping crane 振翅鶴 paper  
Toy flying eagle 飛鹰 paper  
Toy Ice ape 冰猴兒 wood A top made to spin on thick layers of ice.
Toy Jumping ingot 跳寶 gravity  
Toy kite 風箏 wind  
Toy Kong Ming lantern 孔明燈 light Named after Zhuge Kong Ming or Zhuge Liang [諸葛亮], recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era,lighting the lantern symbolizes wishes to be fulfilled
Toy Little Hand Drum 小搖梆 wood  
Toy Lotus lantern 荷葉燈 light  
Toy Monkey walking on a tightrope 猴子走鋼索 gravity  
Toy Morphing paper flowers 摺紙花 paper  
Toy Mu Ren Zou Xian 木人走線 wood Literally, a wooden man walking on a rope
Toy Paper flower ladderpaps 翻花梯 paper  
Toy Punt-polel lantern 篙子燈 light  
Toy rattle drum 搏浪鼓 wood  
Toy River lantern 河燈 light  
Toy Rolling ground tiger 滾地虎 gravity  
Toy Shadow-picture lantern 走馬燈 light Literally, “Walking Horse”
Toy Sound board 響板 sound  
Toy Sun and Moon Ball 日月球 wood  
Toy Top 千千, 陀螺 wood  
Toy WaterlLantern 水燈 light  
Toy wooden dolls 木偶 wood  
Toy Zhu Cao Pie Zai 豬槽撇仔 paper Literally, the term means throwing piglets out of the trough.
Puzzle assembly boards 排板 wood  
Puzzle Butterfly Rings 蝴蝶环 metal  
Puzzle Butterfly Wings puzzle 蝶翅几 wood  
Puzzle Chinese ring puzzles 巧环 metal A collected term that refers to all intellectual ring puzzles, the famous being the Nine-Connected Rings.
Puzzle Clever Puzzle Ring 益智巧环 metal  
Puzzle Deity Ferry 仙人擺渡 wood  
Puzzle Deity Lock Pick 仙人开锁 wood  
Puzzle Deity Shuttle 仙人穿梭 wood A Deity Shuttle is made of a horizontal rod and two pieces of coins. There is a hole in the middle of the horizontal rod which allows a thread to go through. This looks like a shuttle that runs to and fro on the weaving machine during weaving. There are 2 small holes at both ends of the rod to hold the ends of the thread in place. To solve the puzzle is to bring the coins together. During the game, the coins have to pass through the small hole which is even smaller than its diameter.
Puzzle Deity Stairs 仙人登梯 wood  
Puzzle Double Round Jigsaw Puzzle 雙圓七巧板 wood  
Puzzle Egg Puzzle 蛋形拼板 wood  
Puzzle Escape Rings 金蝉脫殼 metal  
Puzzle Five Finger Rings 五指环 metal  
Puzzle Four Amazing Division 奇分四喜 wood  
Puzzle Golden Turtle Rings 金龜环 metal  
Puzzle Heart-shaped Puzzle 心形七巧板 wood  
Puzzle Hua Rong Road 华容道 wood  
Puzzle Lady Scale 贵妃秤 wood  
Puzzle lantern riddles 灯谜 lingual  
Puzzle Left Right Fight Rings 左右逢源 metal  
Puzzle Lovers’ Rings 鸳鸯扣 metal  
Puzzle Lu Ban Lock 魯班锁 wood  
Puzzle Maze Rings 迷宫环 metal  
Puzzle Nine Connected Rings 九連環 metal Also called “Cardan’s Rings” and “Sigillo Salomen” in the West. In Nine-Connected Rings, all rings are interloped on a bar or a frame in a shape ranging from a sword to a butterfly. One either tries to release all the rings from the frame or hook them back on by following certain steps. The name has been extended to cover similar puzzles with number of rings not limited to nine. The procedure of releasing or interconnecting the rings is actually repetitive in shifting the ring up and down around the frame. However, as the number of rings increases, the steps required increases exponentially. A minimum of 241 steps are needed to solve the nine-ring puzzle.
Puzzle Nine Curve Rings 九曲环 metal  
Puzzle Nine Halls Diagram 九宫图 wood  
Puzzle Pagoda Rings 寶塔环 metal  
Puzzle Pentominoes 五方联 wood  
Puzzle puzzle boards 拼板 wood  
Puzzle Pythagorean Puzzle 畢氏七巧板 wood  
Puzzle Qi Zhong Yi 歧中易 metal  
Puzzle riddles 猜谜 lingual  
Puzzle Round 10 Assembly Board 园形十巧板 wood  
Puzzle Seven-piece Tangram 七巧板 wood  
Puzzle Six Components of Excellence 六子聯芳 wood Also known as 六疙瘩
Puzzle Sliding Tiles Puzzles 滑板 wood  
Puzzle Spiral Runner 螺旋转轮 metal  
Puzzle Swallow Jigsaw Puzzle 燕式七巧板 wood  
Puzzle Three Coincidental Parts 巧合三寸 wood  
Puzzle Three-star Constellation 三星归位 wood  
Puzzle tongue twisters 繞口令 lingual A kind of word puzzle popular in Song (A.D. 960-1279) and Yuan (A.D. 1279-1368) Dynasties in which a character is broken up into its parts to form a puzzle phrase.
Puzzle Wire Flywheel 铁线飞轮 metal  
Puzzle word riddles 拆白道字 lingual  
Game catching the chicks 老鷹捉小鸡 field  
Game Cat’s Cradle 挑绳,翻花绳 String This rope play trains children fingers skills in picking, turning, crossing, purling and so on and team competition encourages concentration and cooperation. Typical rhymes are often chanted by children at play.
Game Finger guessing 猜拳 drinking Also known as “Throwing fists”. This is a simple game to decide on win/lose. In a wine game, a dinner guest could challenge another one into throwing fists to decide who should drink. The players would throw open their fists, showing certain number of their fingers, while the challenger would call out a number. If the number matches the total fingers put up by both players, the challenger would win. The challenge is not limited to straightforward calling of numbers. Especially among intellectuals and scholars, sophisticated calling phrases have been devised to challenge the literary knowledge of one another.
Game Grassfight 草玩 grass, plant Grassfight is in two different forms. In a phsical fight, different specis are used to cross cut each other. In a literary form, names of the grass are called to match, or ‘overpower’ the other. In Chapter 62 of the classical novel Dream of the Red Chamber [紅樓夢], in the grassfight between two young girls, “arhat pine” [罗汉松] was used to match with “Buddha willow” [观音柳] , and “beauty canna” [美人蕉] with “noble bamboo” [君子竹].
Game hand shadow play 手影戲 light  
Game handball 手球 field  
Game Kicking dance 蹴鞠舞 field The earliest form of football game
Game kicking sand bags 踢沙包 field  
Game kicking shuttlecocks 踢毽子 field  
Game Leaflets play 葉子戲 paper This card game, orginally made of leaves and invented during the Tang and Song dynasties (A.D.960-1279), was spread to Europe as the Mongolian troop marched to the west. After merging with the local cultures, it gradually evolved to become poker.
Game Ma Diao 马吊 paper This Leaflets game was for four players.
Game Mahjong 麻將 tile Evolved from Ma Diao, paper cards were replaced by more lasting stone tiles in mid Qing dynasty.
Game playhouse 扮家家酒 field  
Game Ring toss handheld games 套圈圈 water  
Game Sand drawing 沙畫 sand, water  
Game selling drums 卖摇鼓 field  
Game stepball 踏球 field  
Game stickball 竿球 field  
Game Water Margins cards 水浒牌 paper Evolved from the Leaflets game, this set of cards display the main characters from the classic Water Margins.
Game Water swing 水秋千 water This sports game is played in the following way. First, place the two poles of the wooden frame (of the swing) respectively onto two barges that are close to each other. Next, the player must stand on the suspended wood plank and use great strength to treadle on it. By doing so, he could swing high up. Once the plank reaches the same level as the top of the plank, the player will release his hand from the swing, somersault in mid-air and fall gracefully into the water.
Game Wine games 酒令 drinking Literally, “Drinking rules”. These are games played with wine drinking in dinners. Losers are made to drink. There are over 700 kinds of game rules in 6 major categories ranging from dice throwing, finger guessing; and verbal linguo.
Game Puffing paper frog 噴田蛤仔 paper This simple game places the folded paper frogs in confrontation. Each player tries to puff into his/her own frog to jerk it into smashing the opponent’s frog.

A Joint Presentation of SSAGSg and Prof CHANG Shih-Tsung, first uploaded October 3, 2010
Last changed on August 7,2011