Luan-pi-chai 乱劈柴 means something along the lines of ‘Hap-hazardly chop firewood,’ and is a simple but insanely fun drinking game that locals in Chongqing love to play over social gatherings, especially hotpot.
First let me explain some background of the name luan-pi-chai. Later, I’ll explain its connection to the social game in this post.
Chopping firewood isn’t as simple a task it may sound to us modern city dwellers.
Gas and electric stoves have long since replaced the need to chop firewood in urban areas, but many in the countryside still use traditional wood fired stoves for cooking and heating water. My point is relatively few people in our circles would know much about the techniques involved, in this day and age.
A nicely combustible pile of firewood needs a mixture of long, short, thick and thin pieces. Logs are first sawn to a particular length, then stood up for an axe to chop along the grains. After this, the woodcutter places them down horizontally on a block, then chops them into pieces of various lengths.
Since this practice was once so deeply engrained, the term for not chopping firewood in the right manner became a synonym for doing anything hap-hazardly, incorrectly, without care, against procedure.
Now, allow me to explain the game known as ‘Luan-pi-chai,’ then you’ll understand the connection.
The Luanpichai Game
This game needs two individuals playing in tandem, not unlike rock, paper, scissors. Each player signals a random number between zero and five with a single hand gesture, whilst at the exact same time, shouting out another between zero and ten.
Put very simply, you win if the number you shout out matches the finger total between you and your opponent, unless they happen to yell the same number, in which case the game just continues.
I say shout and yell because luanpichai is mostly commonly played by men as a drinking game towards the end of a meal, especially in the streetside hotpot restaurants. As the players consume ever more beer with each loss, they generally become louder and more excitable.
There are a few variations. Normally, two friends play together, but groups may sometimes play a knockout style game, where you continue playing the next person along until you lose, or where everybody splits into two teams and play until a whole team has lost.
Hand Signs and Chinese Numbers
Here, I will display all numbers from zero to ten, how they are spoken, and the hand gestures used (Up to 5)
0 – Ling零 (Zero), or Mei-you没有 (Nothing)。A clenched fist
1 Yi 一。 One thumb up
2 Er二。 Thumb and forefinger up
3 San三。Thumb, forefinger and middle finger up.
4 Si四。All fingers up except for either thumb or forefinger retracted.
5 Wu五。 All fingers up
The remaining numbers are 6 Liu六，7 Qi七，8 Ba八，and 9 Jiu九。10 of course is shi十, but can also be ‘Quan全’ (All, or whole).
The Luanpichai connection
A colourful feature of this game is expressing each number in the form of either common idioms and sayings, or just plain random sentences. There really aren’t any rules, and this why locals call the game luanpichai.
Personally, my mind doesn’t work quick enough on these occasions, and there’s also a little uneasiness about producing really lame sentences for people to make fun of. So I tend to stick with the plain numbers whenever I play.
That aside, there are a few ‘pro rata’ options, like 四季彩Si-ji-cai (Four seasons), 七星岗Qi-xing-gang (Seven star crags – a well known place name), or 八仙过海Ba-xian-guo-hai (8 Immortals showing their skills- Idiom).
Alternatively, you can just blurt out any random sentence you like. One tree. Two rabbits in hole. Three makes a crowd. Four dollars a kilo. Five a sixpence, ….
I’ll spare you the rest.
Make an Impression
Next time you’re in town, look out for locals playing luanpichai in the evenings.
The best experience is to join in with other people. Locals in Chongqing are very friendly, and will love playing a few rounds with foreign guests. It won’t matter that you’ve never met, or how bad you think your Chinese is. Just go for it!
Luanpichai is also called Hua-quan划拳, the finger guessing game. The only difference is that luanpichai specifically refers to the random sayings used with numbers, although there’s no reason you couldn’t just do the same anyway.
Below, I’ll leave you with a Chinese language Youtube video that demonstrates how to play.
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