How to Play Chinese Card Games: A Step-by-Step Guide


Card games have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and China has its own unique set of card games that continue to enchant players of all ages. Whether you are a beginner looking to explore the world of Chinese card games or an experienced player looking to enhance your skills, this step-by-step guide will provide you with all the information you need to start playing and enjoying these fascinating games.

I. Traditional Chinese Card Games:

1. Mahjong:

Mahjong is a tile-based game that originated in ancient China and has gained immense popularity worldwide. To play Mahjong, you will need four players and a set of 144 tiles. The objective of the game is to create sets of tiles by drawing and discarding them until you complete a winning hand. The game involves a combination of skill, strategy, and luck.

2. Dou dizhu:

Dou dizhu, also known as “Fight the Landlord,” is a widely played Chinese card game. It requires three players, and the deck consists of a standard 52-card deck with the addition of two jokers. Each player is dealt an equal number of cards, and the objective is to be the first to get rid of all the cards. The game involves bidding, card combinations, and varied strategies.

3. San guo sha:

San guo sha is a Chinese card game inspired by the historical events of the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history. The game requires a minimum of three players and uses a deck of 108 cards. Each player is assigned a character card with unique abilities, and the goal is to be the last player standing. San guo sha combines elements of strategy, role-playing, and luck.

II. Rules and Gameplay:

1. Mahjong:

a. Set up the tiles: Start by shuffling the tiles facedown, then create a wall with them.

b. Deal the tiles: Each player receives 13 tiles, one at a time, until all players have a full hand.

c. Take turns: The game proceeds in turns, during which players can draw a tile from the wall or claim a discarded tile to complete sets.

d. Winning hand: To win, a player must have a complete hand of sets and a pair of identical tiles.

2. Dou dizhu:

a. Determine the landlord: Shuffle the deck and let each player draw one card, the one with the highest card becomes the landlord.

b. Deal the cards: Starting from the landlord, distribute the cards clockwise until each player has 17 cards. The remaining three cards form the “kitty.”

c. Bidding phase: Players bid to be the landlord and gain advantages for that round.

d. Gameplay: The landlord plays first, followed by the other two players. Players can play higher-ranked cards, combinations, or pass their turn.

e. Winning the round: The round ends when one player uses all their cards. If the landlord wins, they remain the landlord for the next round. Otherwise, the winner becomes the new landlord.

3. San guo sha:

a. Assign roles: Players randomly choose character cards, each with its unique abilities.

b. Game phases: The game consists of several phases, including drawing a card, playing equipment cards, and performing actions.

c. Actions and strategies: Players can attack, defend, use special skills, and gain allies to eliminate opponents.

d. Last player standing: The game continues until only one player remains, who is declared the winner.


1. Are these games suitable for children?

These Chinese card games can be enjoyed by players of all ages. However, certain games like San guo sha may require a certain level of strategic thinking and reading abilities, making them more suitable for older children or adults.

2. Can these card games be played online?

Yes, all these card games have online versions available on various platforms, allowing players to enjoy them remotely with friends from around the world.

3. Can these games be played solo?

While these games are typically played with multiple players, variations and applications exist that allow for solo play. Rules and objectives may be adjusted accordingly.

4. Are there tournaments or competitive events for these card games?

Yes, these card games have active tournament scenes, particularly in China and other Asian countries. These events showcase skilled players competing against each other for prizes and recognition.


Chinese card games offer a unique and exciting gaming experience that combines skill, strategy, and elements of luck. Whether you choose to play Mahjong, Dou dizhu, or San guo sha, following the step-by-step guide provided will ensure a fun and engaging experience. So gather your friends or join the online community and delve into the world of traditional Chinese card games for endless hours of entertainment.