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The beauty of China‘s drinking games is that they cut down on the rules, leaving plenty of time for pure, unadulterated imbibing. Whether your preferred tipple is a beer or a cocktail, there’s a game to suit you – here’s everything you need to know.
A staple of bars and KTV joints across the country, Chui Niu, known to foreigners simply as Dice, is perhaps China’s favorite drinking game. Though the rules are simple, the results are dangerous, so make sure you know your limits when attempting this game.
Each player begins with a cup and five six-sided dice. When it is your turn, you shake your dice in the cup and look at the result surreptitiously. Then, you must say the total number of dice of a certain figure, for example “three threes,” that you believe are contained under the sum of everyone’s cups. This continues in a circle, with each subsequent player upping the ante – that is, you cannot guess twos after fives have already been spoken for. So you can say “two sixes” after someone has said “four fives,” but you cannot say “six twos” after someone has said “five fours.”
The game is about pushing your luck and calling people out on their bullshit. When you think someone has said an impossible figure, you can shout “bu xing,” meaning “not possible,” and everyone must show their dice. If the player who said the number guessed less than or exactly the correct number, the person who shouted “bu xing” must drink. If the guesser was above the correct number, however, he or she is the one who must drink.
Another simple game, Card Counting is all about dares. To play, the dealer counts from one to thirteen as he or she places shuffled cards one at a time, face up on the table. If the number the dealer says is the same as the number (or face – Jack being eleven, Queen being twelve, and King being thirteen) on the card, every other player must slap the deck. The last player to slap the deck must drink, and, if everyone so chooses, accept a dare from the rest of the table.
Though less popular than Dice or Card Counting, Gong Show has a much longer tradition. Played by characters in the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber, Gong Show will make any player feel dignified. Originally, one player would beat a gong as the rest of the players passed a flower around in a circle. When the gong player stopped the beat, the person holding the flower had to drink. Of course, an updated version of the game replaces gong striking with song playing, but the spirit of the game remains.
The concept of finger guessing is simple, but don’t underestimate its simplicity once you’ve had a few drinks. This one is for two players at a time. Both players extend any number of fingers on one or both hands, revealing their hands at the same time. Just before the reveal, one player must shout out a number between two and twenty. If the total number of fingers held up is equal to the sum guessed, that player is safe. If not, he or she must drink.
Shi Wu is essentially the same game as finger guessing but with better odds. Again, this game requires two players. Each turn, the players have the option of holding up zero, five, or ten fingers. Accordingly, the guesser must shout zero, five, ten, fifteen, or twenty at the moment of the reveal. To make it more challenging, try to use the Chinese numbers when you play: ling, wu, shi, shi wu, and er shi.
Don’t worry, this drinking game has nothing to do with actual bees. It is named as such for the phrase players say at the start of each round: “two bees fly down to a flower and fly,” more or less. After the phrase is said, the two participants play a simple game of rock, paper, scissors. If you win, you pretend to slap the other player three times. If you both guess the same symbol, you must both pretend to kiss. If either of you messes up, drink.
Though not a drinking game, per se, Chinese poker is best when there are a few beers involved. The rules are simpler than those of Texas Hold ‘Em, but the concept is the same. For a full run down of the rules, check the Wikipedia article, or make a few friends at a bar in China, and they’ll teach you within the first five minutes.