Pack of cards with joker

The Rules of Chinese Rummy

Chinese rummy is one of the oldest and most popular forms of rummy with it being the most widespread form of the game, obviously, in China and in Chinese territories. It’s actually pretty similar to the likes of gin rummy, except for one very crucial difference: it’s played with a special chinese deck of cards that’s very different from what we in the west are used to. 

The Cards

Before getting into the specific rules of Chinese rummy, take a look at this table that shows all the cards in the Chinese deck. As you’ll notice, the suites are, instead of the usual spades, clubs, hearts and diamonds, made up of elements, blessings, virtues, directions and beasts. Each suite has 5 cards and there are also a yin card and a yang card, both of which act mostly the same as jokers.


Card Name Rank Rank Suite
Earth 1 Elements
Wood 2 Elements
Metal 3 Elements
Fire 4 Elements
Water 5 Elements
Long Life 1 Blessings
Wealth 2 Blessings
Peace 3 Blessings
Virtue 4 Blessings
Fame 5 Blessings
Piety 1 Virtues
Upright 2 Virtues
Manners 3 Virtues
Knowledge 4 Virtues
Trust 5 Virtues
South 1 Directions
West 2 Directions
North 3 Directions
East 4 Directions
Cente 5 Directions
Ox  1 Directions
Sheep 2 Beasts
Dog  3 Beasts
Fowl 4 Beasts
Pig 5 Beasts


The Rules


  • This game is played with either 2-3 players in which case one deck is used, or  4-6 players in which case two decks are used.
  • 5 cards are dealt to each player.
  • Once the cards are dealt, place the rest of the deck on the table to draw from. This is called the stock deck.
  • The top card is placed face-up next to the deck. This forms the discard pile.
  • The game then progresses in a clockwise direction.
  • During each turn, the player can take a card either from either the stock or the discard pile.
  • Like all versions of rummy, the object is to create melds out of  the cards. Which is to say, group them into valid combinations. These melds are:
    • Flush. All cards of a single suite.
    • Straight. Sequences of 1 to 5, with cards belonging to different suites.
    • Five of a kind. Sets of the same “rank” cards with each of them being of a different suite,
    • The Ying card works the same as a joker or wild card in a flush, while the Yang card is used the same way in a five of a kind.
  • If you are using a double deck, players cannot cannot create a meld using duplicate cards. So, creating a meld out of Earth 1, Earth 1, Wood 2, Metal 3, Fire 4 are not allowed, whereas substituting one of those Earth 1s with a Metal 1, say, is.
  • The first person to make a valid meld wins the round.


And that’s really all there is to it. As you can see, the game mechanics of Chinese rummy is very similar to a game of gin rummy, but the particularities of the Chinese deck make for a very different and quite unique variation on the game we all know so well.

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