Mooncake Game's Origin & Rules
Adapted from Amoy Magic© 2007 by Dr. Bill Brown


Mooncake Game was started about 1500 years ago by scholars craving success in imperial exams. The total of 63 prizes, based on various dice combinations, was named after imperial titles earned from the exam:


One prize for #1 Scholar (Zhuangyuan) The seven prize levels:

Highest 1. Zhuangyuan with Gold Flower

             2. Hongliubo (6 fours)

             3. Yaodianliubo (6 ones)   
 
             4. Heiliubo (6 of the same, except fours)

             5. Wuhong (5 fours)    

             6. Wuzi (5 of the same, except fours) 

Lowest 7. Sihong (4 fours)

Two prizes for No. 2 Scholar (Duitang) A straight. 

Four prizes for No. 3 Scholar (Sanhong) Throw 3 fours

Eight prizes for No. 4 Scholar (Sijin) Throw 4 of the same, except fours

Sixteen prizes for No. 5 Scholar (Erju) Throw 2 fours

Thirty two prizes for No. 6 Scholar (Yixiu) Throw 1 four

Rules and names of dice combos have changed little over the centuries, but chips have changed, from common coins to Zhuangyuan chips and  Zhuangyuan cakes (Gulangyu's are most famous). Oddly, some people in N.E. Fujian's Fuding County speak S. Fujian dialect, and still use "Zhuangyuan Chips".
 

Legend has it that one of Koxinga's officers adapted dice game rules to create the mooncake game in order to preoccupy homesick soldiers, and according to many Qing Dynasty writers (like Zheng Dajiu, in "Taiwanese Folk Customs"), for centuries afterwards Taiwan folk stayed up all night shouting and tossing dice to compete for the large flour cake with a red "Yuan" character in the center.

 
Today the mooncake game is found not only in S. Fujian and Taiwan but also, it appears, wherever you find overseas Chinese of Xiamen ancestry. But only in Xiamen is the game preserved virtually unchanged. Even during the "Cultural Revolution," when all "old" thinking and practices were frowned upon, Xiamen folk tossed the dice for mooncakes - though furtively! 


In 2003, Gulangyu's first annual Mooncake Game Cultural Festival attracted crowds of locals, as well as domestic and overseas visitors and the media, and since then the game has become more popular than ever - though mooncakes are no longer the prize of choice (mooncakes, like fruitcake in America, are traditional but not necessarily all that tasty). Prizes today are usually more practical, like shampoo, towels, thermoses, blankets, or cutlery.