“Middle Kingdom” was used to refer to civilizations around the Yellow River Valley before the empires leading to modern-day China began to form. The court cards use exquisitely detailed line art of Chinese deities and people, while the card back is a great freehand drawing with interpretations of Chinese lattice borders and of course, a dragon.
China’s vast history provides a rich palette of subjects for court cards.
King of Hearts: Pangu, the first living being and creator of the Earth from chaos
King of Diamonds: Caishen, the main Chinese deity of prosperity
King of Clubs: Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, creator of the centralized state
King of Spades: Tai Di, the “Primordial Divinity” or “Utmost God”
Queen of Hearts: He Xiangu, an immortal renowned for her selfless caring for others
Queen of Diamonds: Lan Caihe, an immortal portrayed sometimes as a man dressed as a woman and other times as a woman, Lan Caihe was said to have ridden to heaven on the back of a magical swan while in a drunken stupor
Queen of Clubs: Xi Wangmu, Queen Mother of the West. She held court and allowed deities to meet in her perfect palace
Queen of Spades: Nuwa, humanity’s creator along with her twin brother, Fuxi
Jack of Hearts: Fuxi, humanity’s creator along with his twin sister, Nuwa
Jack of Diamonds: Luxing, a deity who made people happy through promotions and salary increases
Jack of Clubs: Yu Shi, the rain deity
Jack of Spades: Zhan Yinbao, an army officer
Fantastic creatures play a large role in Chinese mythology, and they are honored representing the suits:
Phoenix (Hearts) – Sun, warmth, and love
Kui (Clubs) – A one-legged ox that would warn of coming storms. The Yellow Emperor (the King of Spades) used Kui’s skin for a drum that could be heard hundreds of miles away
Pixiu (Diamonds) – Brings in good luck and wealth and drives away evil
Dragon (Spades) – The most powerful creature
The card back combines a dragon with another famous Chinese element, the Yin-Yang symbol. This symbol represents positive and negative, order and chaos, male and female.
Combining elements of Chinese architecture, latticework, and dragon art, the tuck box is the perfect complement to the cards.
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