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Chinese Tarot Deck and Tarot Card History

A Chinese tarot deck is a tribute to the tarot card history that starts in China with the invention of paper, paper money and playing cards.

Origin of Paper and Cards

A legend tells that the emperor's eunuch Ts'ai Lun invented paper in the second century A.D. by making pulp of tree bark and pressing it into fine sheets.

From China, paper making spread throughout Asia, first to Korea and then Japan. Paper arrived in Europe from Asia only in the twelfth century.

Chinese tarot cards

The new material was very versatile: it could be shaped in different thickness, kept its form and edge, could be decorated with ink and colors, by hand or using wooden carved block for printing.

At the beginning paper was used as a substitute for wood or ivory to build playing pieces in small, thick blocks.

Later the potential of this new material was used to the fullest and the thin, wide cards we know today were created.

Apparently at the beginning in China money and playing cards were the same.

In the games the cards were used for the game itself but also had a money value so the cards right from the beginning were closely linked to gambling and money.

This is confirmed by the fact that it was found a similar design on early Chinese paper money and playing cards. 

Chinese tarot cards

The Chinese Tarot

Maybe Chinese tarot decks were created to celebrate the legacy of all modern cards to the first Chinese cards.

Not always the classic tarot deck structure is followed in the Chinese tarot cards and the tarot card meaning at times seems difficult to understand but invariably the cards show beautiful and original artwork, a real joy to handle and study.

In these tarot decks the symbols are interpreted in Chinese style and the result are images of evocative beauty in vivid colors and fluid, elegant lines.

Maybe these are not the best decks to start your discovery of tarot cards but they are nevertheless a great addition to any tarot collection.

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