How to Play, and Lose at, Chinese Drinking Games

How to Play, and Lose at, Chinese Drinking Games
Jul 15, 2010 By Michael Webster ,

There are those who may find the title of this article a little strange. After all, the object of any game is to win, isn't it? Why should Chinese drinking games be any different? Fact is, I don't want to get your hopes up. You play Chinese drinking games, you're going to lose. The bright side is that you'll always be the first to experience a righteous buzz.

I have chosen what I believe to be the easiest three games to start with. When you've mastered these three...well, if you master these three games then you'll already be better than I am.

BS! 骰子/筛子 (Tóu zi/ Shǎizi)
Also known as Liar's Dice, Pirate's Dice (because it was in that movie with Johnny Depp), Bluffer's Dice and a plethora of other names. I like this game because it's slow and simple.

How to play:

  1. All players have a cup with five dice. Everyone shakes the dice and slams the cup as loudly as possible on the table in front of them, allowing no one else to see their hand.
  2. Someone, usually the loser from the previous round, makes the first bid. A bid is your guess as to how many of a certain number of dice there will be when everyone's hands are combined. For example, if there are two people playing and you’ve rolled three threes, then you might bid, “four threes” in the hope that your opponent has rolled at least one three. In every place I have ever played in China, one is always wild, unless the opening bidder chooses to bid ones, in which case they are no longer wild.
  3. The next person has two choices: They can either call the bluff or raise the bid. The important thing to remember is that the next bid always has to be higher in value or quantity than the previous bid. In other words, if you bid “four threes”, then my next bid could either be, “five threes” or “four fours”, but not “three twos”. The bidding continues until someone is ready to call the bluff. If there are two players and the bid gets to, “eleven sixes!” then it's probably safe to say they're bluffing.
  4. When a player calls the bluff, then all players raise their cups and the totals are counted. If the bid was “five threes” and there are at least five threes in the combined hands, then the player who called the bluff has to drink. If there aren't, then the player who made the bid has to drink.

It’s definitely the easiest of the drinking games. For vocabulary, the only thing you need to know how to do in Chinese is count. Just remember that when expressing quantities of a number, the quantity and the number will be separated by the measure word gè (个) So, “seven fives'” would be “七个五”(qī gè w?). If you can handle this vocabulary, then you are also ready for game number two.


“15, 20” 十五二十 (Shíw? èrshí)
If you have ever seen two people in a bar waving their hands up and down, sometimes open, sometimes in a fist, while frantically screaming, “ten!” “fifteen!” or “twenty!” then you have seen this game being played. It's actually a very simple game, but the speed at which it is played can be a little daunting at times.

How to play:

      1)  Two people stand opposite each other, with their hands in the ready position –usually elbows pointed down and fists at shoulder level.

      2)  Simultaneously, the two players say, “十五,二十” (shíw?, èrshí) and bring their hands down to waist level. Each of their hands will either be open, or closed in a fist. A closed hand represents, zero, and an open hand represents five.

      3)  At the same time as the hands reach waist level, both players yell out a number. This number is supposed to represent the total value of all four hands added together. As there are only four hands, there are five possible results:

1. 0 (méiyou): All four hands are closed into fists
2. 5 (wu): Three fists and one open hand
3. 10 (shí): Two fists and two open hands
4. 15 (shíwu): Three open hands and one fist
5. 20 (èrshí): Four open hands

      4)  Usually, both players will be incorrect, in which case steps 1-3 are repeated at a rapid (meaning lightning fast) pace. If one of the players happens to shout a number that actually corresponds to the combined value of the hands, then the other person drinks. It is also possible to “foul” if you yell a number that is made impossible by the hand combination that you have chosen. For example:

     A.  If you have one or both hands open, and say “méiyou!” That is a foul, because it is not possible to be have zero if you yourself already have five

     B. If you have no hands open, and you say “shíwu” or “èrshí” – those would also be impossible situations, causing you to foul.

     C. If you have both hands open and you say “wu” you would be committing a foul.

It sounds simple enough, but the trick is in the blinding speed. You also have to be able to say your number, hear the other person’s number and count the hands all at the same time. In my experience, this game usually consists of me shouting random numbers at the top of my lungs, (SEVENTEEN?!) and the girl telling me to do another down-down.

It is possible that there are those of you out there who find these first two games are too easy and you want a greater challenge. I respect you for that. At the same time, I pity your naivety.


The bees and the flowers 两只小蜜蜂 (Li?ng zh? xi?o mìfēng)
This game is not simple. This game is not for the faint of heart. However, since this game might be the only way you ever get to kiss that smoking hot guy or girl over there, I suggest you learn it well, young grasshopper.

How to play:

  1. The first thing you need to do is memorize this short poem, “两只小蜜蜂呀,飞到花丛中呀” (li?ng zh? xi?o mìfēng ya, fēi dào huācóng zhōng ya), which essentially translates as “Two little bees fly into the flowers.” Got it? Good.
  2. Next, you need to learn the dance that goes with the poem:
  3. For 两只小蜜蜂呀 (li?ng zh? xi?o mìfēng ya),cross your arms in front of you while making wings with your hands.
  4. During飞到花丛中呀 (fēi dào huācóng zhōng ya), keep making the wings, but now they are out by your shoulders.
  5. Now is where it gets fun: The two players say the rhyme and do the dance together.
  6. After the rhyme is completed, both players say “飞呀!” (fēiya) and bring their hand down to form a rock, paper or scissors. (I'm assuming you can already handle that part of the game...yes, there is a game within the game.)
  7. If both hands are the same, (two rocks, etc.) then the two players give each other “bisous”, or little air kisses on both cheeks. It's important to make good kissing noises.
  8. If the hands are not the same, then the player with the winning hand “slaps” the player with the losing hand twice while saying, “piao piao” (Again, just like the kisses these are air slaps, so exercise the appropriate amount of caution.) At the exact same time, the player with the losing hand whips their head back and forth as though being slapped while saying, “Ah, ah!”
  9. Step four is repeated at the usual Jackie Chan vs. Jet Li speed, until this case the hapless foreigner...messes up and kisses when they should slap, slaps when they should kiss, slaps when they should get slapped, or gets slapped when they are the ones who should be doing the slapping. It ain't easy being a pimp.

I know, sending you in all alone like this is like giving you a slingshot and telling you to take down an F-22 fighter jet: you will lose. But there is a plus side. You will drink. You will have fun. And when all else fails, you can teach your Chinese friends the fine art of beer pong.

Related Links
Nine Ways to keep Healthy While Drinking
Affair with Chinese Student Leaves American Behind Bars
What Chinese Waitresses Really Think About Foreign Clientele

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What is most important is drink decently while having fun.

Oct 15, 2020 06:33 Report Abuse



Throwing a dice in Chinese tou zi is simple and easiest to play.

Oct 15, 2020 06:30 Report Abuse



Finally, explained in proper English! I've had Chinese friends and foreign friends alike try to explain these games to me, and I end up getting pushed into a game only to end up with a confused look on my face, saying "I have to drink...why?"
I don't think they play birds and bees here though. A little too risquee for rural areas, perhaps.

Feb 16, 2012 21:00 Report Abuse