An Illustration of China’s “Paradoxical Soft Power”: The Dissemination of the Gambling Game Fantan (番攤) by the Cantonese Diaspora, 1850–1950

Paulès, Xavier (包利威). An illustration of China’s “paradoxical soft power”: the dissemination of the gambling game fantan (番攤) by the Cantonese diaspora, 1850–1950 (中國「匪夷所思的軟實力」:一八五零至一九五零年之間粵僑博奕遊戲「番攤」在海外傳播的例子). Translocal Chinese : East Asian Perspectives, 2017, vol. 11, n° 2, pp. 187-207. DOI: 10.1163/24522015-01102002.

Abstract

This article investigates the dissemination of fantan (番攤), a very popular gambling game, during the period 1850–1950, by the Cantonese diaspora. It insists that fantan should not be considered only socially destructive as, by different means, it turned out to be instrumental in reinforcing the cohesiveness of the overseas Cantonese communities. Fantan was also one of the Chinese games that crossed the boundaries of the diaspora to take root in the local population in certain countries, though this was not the case everywhere. In the USA, for example, it remained an exotic oddity in the eyes of the local people. In the cases of Vietnam and Philippines, the local population emulated the Chinese and took up this game which was given a local name. The dissemination of fantan is one typical manifestation of the “paradoxical soft power of China”: despite China’s relative weakness during that time, its cultural influence, as a consequence of the development of the diaspora, greatly extended overseas.

本文探討粵僑之間流行的博奕遊戲《番攤》在一八五零年到一九五零年之間的傳播。我的主要論點是:番攤不應只被視為一種負面的社會行為,它同時具有凝聚粵僑社群的正面功能。番攤是一種使跨越國境的僑民可以在僑居地與當地人民互動的媒介。但這個媒介作用在各地是不同的:在美國,本地人視番攤為難以接受的奇風異俗;在越南及菲律賓,當地人則模倣華人的玩法,並賦與它當地的名字。番攤在海外各地的流傳可以視為一種中國「匪夷所思的軟實力」的展現。儘管當時中國是一個比較弱的國家,但歸功於華僑在海外的發展,他的文化影響力也大規模地擴展到海外。

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Translocal Chinese : East Asian Perspectives (Sommaire du vol. 11, n° 2 (2017)


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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