Playing a card game or board game in Chinese

Chinese word cards

Some time ago I made a board game as a fun way to help with recognizing and remembering Chinese characters. It is fashioned after the game called “Sequence for Kids”. Instead of cards showing different animals, this “Chinese Sequence” uses cards showing Chinese characters or words. It is best played by two people, such as a teacher and a student, or two students who have become familiar with the game.

Game board with Chinese characters


I. Construction

I bought blank cards the size of poker cards, printed the Chinese words on large labels, then affixed the labels onto the blank cards. You will need two identical sets of cards, with 19 cards in each set. The same set of words are printed on two sheets of ledger paper that are joined together to serve as the game board. One half of the game board is pictured here. As the players will be sitting face-to-face across the game board, the two sheets will be joined and positioned such that the Chinese words can be read right-side-up by each player. Unlike Sequence for Kids, I don’t use wild cards. However, the board does provide a free space at each corner. You can use the pieces that come with Sequence for Kids or some other board game, or collect two different colors of plastic bread bag clips (bread tags), 19 pieces each.

The pictures here show the Chinese words with their pinyin annotations. You could omit the pinyin to make the game more challenging.

II. How to Play

Let’s call the players A and B. They are encouraged to speak only Chinese during the game.

Each player chooses the color of the playing pieces and collects his/her pieces in one pile. The players shuffle their own deck of cards then draw the top three cards. If Player A sees a word on the board that matches the first word on one of his/her cards, Player A lays that card aside and places one of his/her pieces on the spot of the board showing that word. Player A draws a new card. Player B gets the turn to do likewise.

The goal of the game is to get four pieces lined up consecutively in a straight row, column or diagonal. A blank space can be counted as part of the sequence. The player would usually try to take advantage of it when feasible. There is strategy involved. Sometimes it is more advantageous to block the progress of the other player’s sequence than to build up your own sequence.

The first person to make the sequence wins the game, and he/she receives one point. The players could agree on a set number of games to play over a period of time. Whoever gets the most points is the final winner.

After the players have familiarized themselves with the first word on the cards, then they will switch to playing the game by matching and calling out the second word on the card with the board. When they have learned all the 57 words, you could make new cards a new boards for them to use.

Another fun way to use the word cards is to give each player 5 or 6 cards and encourage them to make a simple sentence out of the hand. The player gets one point for each card used in the sentence. Those cards are laid aside, and replacement cards drawn.

All right, here are a few card game terms for you to learn:

Qǐng xǐ pái.
Please shuffle the cards.

Qǐng fā pái.
Please deal the cards.

Please give me a card.
Qǐng gěi wǒ yīzhāng pái.


You’re welcome.

Lún dào wǒ le .
My turn.

Lún dào nǐ le.
Your turn.

我的牌是 . . .
Wǒ de pái shì . . .
Your card is . . .

Zhè yī pán wǒ yíng le.
I won this game.

Zhè yī pán nǐ shū le.
You lost this game.

三 比 二.
Sān bǐ èr.
3 to 2.

It’s a draw.

Have fun!

Happy Moon Festival!


Can one ever be too courteous?

When you see the character , you’re apt to associate it with 命令 (mìnglìng), which means a command or an order. In fact, has a number of other meanings, one of which is “excellent”.

(zūn) means respect, respectable, or a senior. 令尊 (lìng zūn your venerable father) is a polite way of referring to the father of the person you are talking or writing to. 令堂 ((lìng táng) means “your venerable mother”.

Similarly, 令夫人 (lìng fūren) is “your respected wife”, 令嫒 (lìng ài) is “your excellent daughter”, 令公子 (lìng gōngzǐ) is “your excellent son”, and
贵公子 (guì gōngzǐ) is “your noble son”.

姓名 (xìngmíng) is one’s full name. Following are a couple of polite ways to ask for one’s name:

Qǐngwèn zūn xìng dà míng?
May I ask what your name is?

Nín guì xìng?
What’s your surname, please?

The essence of showing politeness is to relinquish superiority to those you wish to please. 先生 (xiānsheng) literally translates to “one born ahead (of me)”. This is the title conferred to teachers, gentlemen and doctors.

大师 (dàshī) means great master. It is also a title used to address a Buddhist monk.
仁兄 (rénxiōng) literally translates to “my kind elder brother”. It means “my dear friend” or “this gentleman” in everyday speech.

You know that 大哥 (dàgē) means eldest brother. It is also a polite way for a man to address another man in his age group. On the other hand, the man would refer to himself as 小弟 (xiǎo dì) even though they are not related.

In “The Butterfly Lovers”, 粱山伯 (Liáng Shānbó), was somewhat older than 祝英台 (Zhù Yīngtái). Therefore, he referred to himself as 愚兄 (yú xiōng), which means foolish elder brother, while he addressed 祝英台 (Zhù Yīngtái) as 贤弟 (xián dì), or virtuous younger brother.

敝人 (bìrén shabby me) and 在下 (zàixià lowly me) are old ways of referring to oneself. You’ve probably heard these terms in historical movies.

If you want to stay neutral, then simply refer to yourself as (wǒ I, me) or 本人 (běnrén I, me, myself).

作品 (zuòpǐn) are works of art or literature. When talking about someone else’s work, you want to say “your great work”, or 大作 (dà zuò). You could also refer to it as 佳作 (jiāzuò), or fine piece of work. As for your own work, you’d want to refer to it as 拙作 (zhuōzuò), or dull, awful work

意见 (yìjiàn) is an idea, point of view, opinion or suggestion. Your brilliant idea is 高见 (gāojiàn), while my humble opinion is 拙见 (zhuōjiàn).

To express that someone’s words of wisdom are much treasured like gold and jade, you can refer to them as 金玉良言 (jīnyù liáng yán).

府上 (fǔshang) means “your respected home” or “your respected family”. On the other hand, 寒舍 (hán shè cold shed) is how you would refer to your own abode.

The polite way to refer to your guests is: 贵宾 (guìbīn), or distinguished guests. To ask the guests to honor you with their presence, you would write on the invitation:

Jìng qǐng guānglín.
We respectfully request your magnificent presence.

Always remember to say (qǐng please) and 谢谢 (xièxiè Thanks!) when making a request. When someone thanks you for a favor received, respond with 不谢 (bùxiè No need to thank me. Don’t mention it.) or 不客气 (bùkèqi You’re welcome. No need to be courteous.).

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