2. Dou Di Zhou 斗地主 Card Game
This card game is even more popular than Mahjong, and locals can be found in groups of three playing this game on small card tables set up outside homes and shops every afternoon on nearly every street corner. The game, whose name literally translates to “Struggle against the Landlord,” goes back to the Maoist era, though the implications of class struggle have little bearing on the game as it is played today. In each round one of the players is designated as “landlord” and competes against the other two players. The rules are similar to the American game known alternately as “Loser,” “Asshole,” or “President,” in that players take turns playing individual, pairs, or sets of cards higher than that of the previous player, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of all of one’s cards. Like the American game, 2’s are higher than Aces, but unlike most American games, two Jokers are also used and are even higher than 2’s—the Jokers are referred to as “kings,” however, which caused me some confusion at first. Again, my familiarity with cards and with the American version of the game allowed me to pick up the basics quickly, but I found that the tolerance for strategizing was as low for this game as it is for Mahjong. This game is also usually spiced up by putting a little bit of money on the table. If the Landlord wins, then both of his opponents pay him; if one of the two opponents win, then the Landlord pays both of them. If a player plays a “bomb,” or four-of-a-kind (which, with the whole deck divided among three players, happens fairly often), then it raises the stakes of the hand by an additional RMB. Peasants tend to play this game with a lot of enthusiasm. Particularly strong combinations of cards are slammed forcefully on the table amidst taunts to one’s opponents. When a hand is over, losing players often slam the good combinations left in their hands on the table to let the winner know that he got lucky.
It is customary to set off fireworks, which are sold at a number of specialized shops throughout Jincheng and other towns in Yilong, to celebrate birthdays and over Chinese New Year. Friends in Yilong are always surprised when I tell them that the use of fireworks is much more carefully controlled in the United States than it is in China. For the right price, residents of Yilong can buy fireworks of the size that in the United States are reserved for professional fireworks displays. Furthermore, there is little restriction on when or where they can be set off. I was in Beijing this year for part of the two-week holiday around Chinese New Year, during which the city felt like a war zone. One could hear fireworks going off throughout the night from every corner of the city. I have been told that Yilong’s New Year’s celebrations are just as chaotic.
Unlike Americans, Chinese rarely set off fireworks in conjunction with their national founding day holiday. However, I used Chinese National Day (October 1) as an excuse to set some off of my own.
This case of 30 rockets cost 60 RMB, or just under 10 dollars.
After lighting the fuse on the side, the rockets set off one by one, each creating an explosion as big as most professional-quality fireworks in the US. The on-looking children were disappointed when the whole show was over in about a minute, but I was still astounded at the amount of explosive power I had been allowed to acquire at such a bargain rate.
Unfortunately I’m not a particularly experienced firework photographer and didn’t manage to time the shot very well, but the explosions were quite big