Mooncake gambling is a tradition found only in Xiamen, and played during the mid-autumn festival.
It consists of a large bowl and 6 dice. Each player has a turn to roll the dice into the bowl, and then prizes are given for various outcomes. To celebrate the festival, our school took us down to the beach for a barbecue and then we all played together.
The outcomes are as follows:
1. The lowest prizes are given for 1 four.
2. The next rank is for 2 fours.
3. Then 4 of the same number other than four.
4. Then 3 fours
5. A straight (1-6)
6. The biggest prize is reserved for 4 fours, which can be beaten by 5 of a kind, 4 fours and 2 ones, or 6 of the same number.
If 6 fours are rolled, the lights are turned of and everyone has to just grab any prizes they can and run!
If one of the dice falls out of the bowl, the player has to miss a turn.
After a long night of much cheering and celebrating, we came home laden with tissues, handwash, detergent and a pot. We were not lucky enough to win the very big prizes- and it is believed the biggest winner will have good luck the whole year.
As we went to bed, the night air was ringing with the silvery sound of dice rolling as families gathered around their tables and celebrated into the early hours.
The tradition, I have since learnt, originates from the Ming Dynasty, when an army was stationed in Xiamen as the country tried to recover Taiwan from the Dutch invaders. The soldiers tended to get very homesick come mid-autumn festival, so their General invented the game to relieve their homesickness. It stuck fast and became very popular as the game combines culture, custom and recreation. Each level of win was named after levels of ancient imperial examinations, and the prizes were originally different types of mooncakes. The biggest winner would get the largest mooncake. Now the prizes vary from household goods to red envelopes of money.
Today, in xiamen, most shops will have a Bo Bing bowl by the check out for customers to roll and get lucky discounts off their purchases! Much fun!