Hwatu

Hwatu

Headword

화투 ( Hwatu )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Arts > Folk Games

Writer ChoJunghyun(曺鼎鉉)

A game using cards with flower paintings on them, symbolizing the 12 months of the year.

Often called Go-Stop, Hwatu is a game using 48 cards with 12 different families, or groups, symbolizing the months of a year. Hanafuda, a Japanese card game, seemed to be introduced to the Korea in the late Joseon Period and evolved into Hwatu. Though it is not clear who first propagated Hwatu, leading to its popularity in Korea, some claim that Japanese merchants in Tsushima Island could have been the source, as they often went on business trips to Korea. Since its introduction, Hwatu spread rapidly across the country and has today become the most popular means of gambling. The paintings on Hwatu cards were more or less similar to those of the Japanese Hanafuda, but were localized in the 1950s due to concerns over the strong Japanese taste in card paintings. Only four different colors and plastics, instead of thick paper, were used to make new cards for Hwatu. The card size in general is 35 mm wide, 53 mm long and 1 mm thick with red being the dominant color for most cards, amid the presence of other colors.

There are many ways of playing Hwatu. The most basic form of Hwatu is called Minhwatu, or Neulhwatu, where players pair up cards belonging to the same set, or month. Other forms, including Sambong, Jitgottaeng, Seotda, and Go-Stop, require players to be the first to reach 600 points in order to win the game. The number of players for Hwatu can range anywhere from two to a maximum of 10, depending on the type of game.

Players should pair cards belonging to the same month in most cases, while there are special rules for other cases, such as collecting three cards from different months and gaining additional points. Winning Hwatu requires not just earning the highest number of point the fastest, but also guessing the cards of other players so as to strategize game play, demanding both intelligence and a psychological approach. Some players can win the game even by simply collecting cards of the lowest rank. At times, Hwatu is even used for fortune-telling among women and elderly people as a pastime.

Korean people have long played a gambling game called Tujeon, but Hwatu naturally replaced Tujeon. Due to the strong Japanese style of the original Hwatu and the anti-Japanese sentiment among Koreans, Hwatu was seldom played during the late Japanese Occupation and for several years following the country’s liberation. However, the game has gradually become the most popular game among the public since that time, and its popularity may be attributed to the easy access of cards and being able to enjoy it anywhere and anytime. Hwatu, unfortunately, has become a primary means for gambling, thus tarnishing its reputation and original purpose as a simple pastime.

Since the 1970s, Go-Stop has become the alternate name for Hwatu, leading to it’s becoming widespread among ordinary people in the 1980s, as it began to enjoyed by both the younger and older generations.

Hwatu

Hwatu
Headword

화투 ( Hwatu )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Arts > Folk Games

Writer ChoJunghyun(曺鼎鉉)

A game using cards with flower paintings on them, symbolizing the 12 months of the year.

Often called Go-Stop, Hwatu is a game using 48 cards with 12 different families, or groups, symbolizing the months of a year. Hanafuda, a Japanese card game, seemed to be introduced to the Korea in the late Joseon Period and evolved into Hwatu. Though it is not clear who first propagated Hwatu, leading to its popularity in Korea, some claim that Japanese merchants in Tsushima Island could have been the source, as they often went on business trips to Korea. Since its introduction, Hwatu spread rapidly across the country and has today become the most popular means of gambling. The paintings on Hwatu cards were more or less similar to those of the Japanese Hanafuda, but were localized in the 1950s due to concerns over the strong Japanese taste in card paintings. Only four different colors and plastics, instead of thick paper, were used to make new cards for Hwatu. The card size in general is 35 mm wide, 53 mm long and 1 mm thick with red being the dominant color for most cards, amid the presence of other colors.

There are many ways of playing Hwatu. The most basic form of Hwatu is called Minhwatu, or Neulhwatu, where players pair up cards belonging to the same set, or month. Other forms, including Sambong, Jitgottaeng, Seotda, and Go-Stop, require players to be the first to reach 600 points in order to win the game. The number of players for Hwatu can range anywhere from two to a maximum of 10, depending on the type of game.

Players should pair cards belonging to the same month in most cases, while there are special rules for other cases, such as collecting three cards from different months and gaining additional points. Winning Hwatu requires not just earning the highest number of point the fastest, but also guessing the cards of other players so as to strategize game play, demanding both intelligence and a psychological approach. Some players can win the game even by simply collecting cards of the lowest rank. At times, Hwatu is even used for fortune-telling among women and elderly people as a pastime.

Korean people have long played a gambling game called Tujeon, but Hwatu naturally replaced Tujeon. Due to the strong Japanese style of the original Hwatu and the anti-Japanese sentiment among Koreans, Hwatu was seldom played during the late Japanese Occupation and for several years following the country’s liberation. However, the game has gradually become the most popular game among the public since that time, and its popularity may be attributed to the easy access of cards and being able to enjoy it anywhere and anytime. Hwatu, unfortunately, has become a primary means for gambling, thus tarnishing its reputation and original purpose as a simple pastime.

Since the 1970s, Go-Stop has become the alternate name for Hwatu, leading to it’s becoming widespread among ordinary people in the 1980s, as it began to enjoyed by both the younger and older generations.