The First Card Games in Ancient China
T'sai-Lun, from Lei-yang in China, is credited as the inventor of paper circa A.D. 105. Papyrus mats had been used for writing in Egypt for thousands of years, but T'sai-Lun, the chief eunuch of Emperor Ho-Ti, created paper through experimenting with various materials. He finally refined the process and made paper by first grinding plant fibers until they were completely separate and then mixing those fibers with water. The water was strained out of the mixture using a screen, allowing the intertwined fibers to form a flat, thin surface. This thin, flexible, strong paper was known as T'sai Ko-Shi, or “Distinguished T'sai's Paper.”
Some modern card packs used in China still retain the suits of coins and strings of coins (known by mahjong players as “circles” and “bamboos”), and the expression that is used for playing cards means “paper tickets.”
The Chinese kept their papermaking secrets to themselves, finally relinquishing the information in the third century to Vietnam and Tibet. In the fourth century, Korea learned the skills, followed by Japan in the sixth century. Somewhere during this time, cards were invented. The first known documentation involving cards is that Emperor Mu-Tsung played domino cards with his wives on New Year's Eve, A.D. 969. These paper dominos were shuffled and dealt just like the modern cards of today. Ancient Chinese “money cards” contained four suits — coins, strings of coins, myriads of strings, and tens of myriads. In fact, these money cards may have actually been currency that was used in gambling games.