Ceki/CherkiThe spelling Cherki seems to be more common in Malaysia and Singapore. It can also be written Tjeki in older Indonesian orthographies, or چکي in Jawi script. The word apparently comes from Amoy (Hokkien) Chinese chít ki (一枝)a[48], “one card”, perhaps referring to the pick-one/play-one nature of the most common Ceki games. Gambling Games of Malaya gives the name as 織箕 (chitki) but I have not found this elsewhere; perhaps it is a phonetic back-formation. or Koa cards are widely used in Indonesia and parts of Malaysia and Singapore. They originally derive from Chinese 3-suited money cards (particularly the “Water Margin” type), and over time the imagery on the cards developed into smaller, simpler, and more abstract forms, while retaining the original deck structure.

Scattered Cherki cards (of Malaysian variety).
2008 ecv5 🅭 🅯 🄏 ⊜)

Ceki games are also played amongst members of “reterritorialized” Indonesian Chinese communities within mainland China.c[555]

Malaysia & Singapore

The use of Cherki cards in Malaysia & Singapore was introduced by Peranakan (Baba–Nyonya) communities. Much of the terminology and card naming derives from Hokkien, and the cards used are closer to their ancestral forms than those used in Indonesia (see below).

An exhibition game using Cherki cards being played in Penang, Malaysia.
Shutterstock.com/Fiqah Anugerah Dah Besa: 1293448237)

In Malaysia & Singapore the game was almost exclusively played by women, and has now nearly died out. The Babas reported that by the 1980s it was only possible to get cards in Melaka.


During the colonial era, cards were manufactured in Europe by Dutch companies and exported to Indonesia.

In Indonesia, Ceki games are still popular, especially in Sumatra, Java, and Bali, all of which have historically had large Chinese influence.

In Indonesia the cards are particularly popular amongst the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, as the Dutch card-making company Handelsvereniging Harmsen Verweij & Dunlop N.V. had a factoryThis building was later to become the Hotel Ambacang, which was destroyed in the 2009 Sumatran earthquakes. in the city of Padang. The company also had offices in Java & Sulawesi (previously known as Celebes).

In Minang they are called Koa (or Kowah).

The Cards

The cards run 1–9 in three suits, and there are three ‘honour cards’, giving 30 different cards. Each deck, or kepala (literally ‘head’), contains two copies of each card, giving 60 total. However, most Ceki games require multiple kepala to play, often two sets (120 cards).

The three suits are called:e[119]

Myriads (Numbers)
ban (from Hokkien bān 萬/万 ‘myriad’)
manek (‘bead’) or sok (from Hokkien ‘rope’)
hitam (‘black’), batik, piah (from Hokkien ‘round thing’), or tong (from Hokkien ‘barrel’)

For each card in the table below I show first (i.e. at left) a card from a 19th-century deck collected in The manners and customs of the Chinese of the straits settlements, and then a modern card from a deck purchased in Bali in 2019. The Malaysian & Singaporean decks are closer in style to the older deck.

Each card in the deck has its own nickname, based on its appearance.

In the table, Malaysian or Singaporean names are presented in the first row. They are a combination of the rank (derived from Hokkien number names) and either the suit name or some nickname based on the middle portion of the card,e[121] which is slightly bigger there than in the Indonesian version.

The second row of names records the names used by Minangkabau people in Indonesia. Instead of numeric ranks, they are based on the appearance of the indices in the corners of the cards.

The third row of names are those used in Java, as recorded in the early 20th century,g and as such might be very outdated.

The fourth row of names records names reportedly used in Balih[45–7] or Lombok,i where almost every card has a specific name. This section of the table is much more imprecise than the previous lines.

Rank 1 (honour cards called kaki (foot?))
yu or yeo
(Hokkien io , ‘ace’)
yu lau chian
from Hokkien ‘old thousand’ 老千

or yu pinding
yu kuching
yu nyonya
yu (娘仔?)
hiu babak
chapter shark
hiu kuciang
cat shark
hiu merah or pinci
red shark or a hat
raja or kobar
king or burning
yu or yeo
(Hokkien io , ‘ace’)
yu kasut
slipper one (looks like a Nyonya slipper)
yu panjang or yu burung
long or bird one
yu hue sio
from Hokkien ‘monk’ 和尚
hiu itam or kasuik
black or [unknown] shark
hiu gadang or panjang
big or long shark
hiu aluih or bungo
genteel or flower shark
[var: kasut?]
lojor or selodor
a long Balinese drum or [unknown]
Rank 2
(Hokkien jī)
ji hitam or ji bulat
black or round two
ji burung
bird two
ji ban
bengkok ‘crooked’bengkok (h)itam
black crooked
bengkok gadang
big crooked
bengkok aluih or halus
genteel or fine crooked
dimpil tolu
larger than normal or fused digit, [fifth week?]
dimpil wong
larger than normal or fused digit, person
(je)bug dua
two dried betel nuts
having a bent back
pelik or kolo
Rank 3
(Hokkien saⁿ)
sa batik
batik three
sa udang
shrimp three
sa ban
jarum wajik
diamond needle
jarum gadang or udang
big or shrimp needle
jarum aluih or halus
genteel or fine needle
cerud jarum
[unknown] needle
jarum wong
needle person
(je)bug telu
three dried betel nuts
caling or jarum
canine or needle
Rank 4
(Hokkien sì)
si hitam
black four
si putih
white four
si ban
suduang (h)itam or wajik
black or diamond spoon
suduang pinggang
pinggang spoon
suduang putiah or aluih
white or genteel spoon
bela or besar
[unknown] or large
sangkap or cawang
mendut or celek
steamed rice flour balls or [unknown]
Rank 5
(Hokkien gō͘)
go pending
pending five
go burung
bird five
go ban
‘pig’ (nostrils?)
babi pusek
navel pig
babi gadang
big pig
babi aluih or halus
genteel or fine pig
babi lintrik
pig [unknown]
babi wong
pig person
prau or perahu
mategede or gogos
bongkar or polak
[unload: forklift?] or [unknown]
Rank 6
(Hokkien la̍k)
lak hitam
black six
lak putih
white six
lak ban
kapik or batuang
‘grill’ or ‘bamboo’
kapik/batuang anam
grilled or bamboo six
kapik/batuang manih/rantai
grilled/bamboo sweet/chain
kapik/batuang aluih
grilled or bamboo genteel
nyem or pis nem
[unknown] or six coins
klenteng or megat
Chinese temple or [unknown]
Rank 7
(Hokkien chhit)
jit hitam or jit daun
black or leaf seven
jit burung
bird seven
jit ban
sisiak bendera
flag scales
sisiak gadang
big scales
sisiak aluih
genteel scales
reab lintrik
reab wong
paku or bendera
fern or flag
ringying or curing
[unknown] or [a type of gamelan?]
Rank 8
(Hokkien poeh)
puek kerang
cockle eight
puek menak
noble eight
puek ban
pacah lapan
broken eight
pacah manih
broken sweet
pacah aluih
broken genteel
lekok pecis
dented [peci or coin?]
lekok lintrik
dented [unknown]
lekok wong
dented person
sekutus or pis ulu
[adj:] eight or eight coins
ulu or manis
eight or sweet
manak or kelepok
[to be born?] or [unknown]
Rank 9
(Hokkien káu)
kau hitam
black nine
kau merah
red nine
kau ban
tali bulek
round rope
tali merah
red rope
tali aluih
genteel rope
[peci or coin?]
gang abang
red gap
sanga or gada
nine or mace
besar or teja
large or shining
kao or jering
[unknown] or upright


There are several games played with Ceki cards. For most of them, I do not know of any rules recorded online:k[124]

  • Cholek Tiga (‘draw three’), a game for two or three playersl[214]e[125]
  • Pak Tui, a solitaire gamel[215]
  • Balik Satu (‘turn one’), a game with no fixed number of playersl[214]e[122]
  • Balik Lima Belase[127]/Balek Lima Belairl[124]/Bukak Lima Blas Lehd[167] (‘turn fifteen’), an alternate method of scoring Balik Satu
  • Choke/Chote (Ramay), a game for more than for playersl
  • Choke/Chote Kiong, a four-player gamel[214]

Manufacturers & Brands

(Extinct) European manufacturers include:

  • Camoin, a French company that was based in Marseille
  • Handelsvereeniging Harmsen Verweij & Dunlop N.V., a Dutch companym
  • Mesmaekers Frères, a Belgian company based in Turnhour whose cards were imported to Java by Brandon Mesritz & Co.n

Indonesian brands include:

  • Ceki Hiu (Old Thousand has a colour image of a shark)
  • Ceki Kalong Mas (Old Thousand inscribed 𫑟林?)
  • Ceki Leak, a mythological creature
  • Gunting Baja, Bali
  • Gunting Rumput
  • Gar’da Kencana
  • Kabuki
  • Kapal Ferry (Old Thousand has a colour image of a ship)
  • Pura Dewa, Bali


  1. (). Loan-words in Indonesian and Malay. Leiden, Netherlands: KITLV Press. ISBN: 9789067183048.

  2. (). Gambling Games of Malaya. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: The Caxton Press.

  3. (). ‘’. Modern Asian Studies 44 (3): pages 547–566.

  4. (). . Singapore: Times Books International. ISBN: 9971-65-058-4.

  5. (). ‘Chiki Cards and Three Chiki Games’. Journal of the International Playing-Card Society 32 (3): pages 119–128.

  6. (). . Singapore: Mission Press.

  7. (). ‘’. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 46 (1): pages 45–48.

  8. (). ‘’. Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia: Universitas Udayana.

  9. Anonymous (). ‘’. Lai tau mah,..!!!.

  10. (). Gateway to Old School Games. Singapore: Asiapac Books. ISBN: 978-981-229-949-9.

  11. (). A Nyonya Mosaic: Memoirs of a Paranakan Childhood. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish. ISBN: 9789814435529.

  12. (). . Singapore: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-4629-1300-8.

  13. and (). ‘’. International Review of Humanities Studies 3 (2): pages 274–286.

  14. (). ‘’. World of Playing Cards.