Organized Panel Session
Madiao, a card game played with tiles that were later repurposed by the better-known game mahjong, was extraordinarily popular in seventeenth-century China. Many of the most celebrated writers of the period explore the game--Wu Weiye, Wang Shizhen, and Feng Menglong among others—in guidebook, essays, fictions, but also at least one allusive prose piece written about a tile. Nonetheless, despite its popularity, the game stopped being played by the end of the century, and its rules have only in recent years been laboriously reconstructed. In my paper, I set the game in the cultural context of the early seventeenth century, and particularly in its discovery of deception, one of whose other manifestations is the fiction of the time. I draw on studies of cognition to show what is shared between fiction and a card game, especially one premised on guessing the cards held by an opponent, and what it means to write a fiction about gaming. I will also draw some preliminary conclusions about why madiao faded into obscurity, known now only by antiquarians.