Each suit in a deck of cards represents the four seasons, the 13 represent 13 lunar months, the 52 cards represent the 52 weeks in a year, and all the cards added up is 364 days (for lunar year)
A playing card is a piece of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic, marked with distinguishing motifs and used as one of a set for playing card games. Playing cards are typically palm-sized for convenient handling.
A complete set of cards is called a pack (UK English) or deck (US English), and the subset of cards held at one time by a player during a game is commonly called a hand. A deck of cards may be used for playing a variety of card games, with varying elements of skill and chance, some of which are played for money. Playing cards are also used for illusions, cardistry, building card structures, and cartomancy.
The front (or “face”) of each card carries markings that distinguish it from the other cards in the deck and determine its use under the rules of the game being played. The back of each card is identical for all cards in any particular deck, and usually of a single color or formalized design. Usually every card will be smooth; however, some decks have braille to allow blind people to read the card number and suit. The backs of playing cards are sometimes used for advertising. For most games, the cards are assembled into a deck, and their order is randomized by shuffling.
Playing cards were invented in imperial China. They were found in China as early as the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). The first reference to card games in world history dates from the 9th century, when the Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang, written by Tang Dynasty writer Su E, described Princess Tongchang, daughter of Emperor Yizong of Tang, playing the “leaf game” in 868 with members of the Wei clan, the family of the princess’ husband. :131 The Song Dynasty (960–1279) scholar Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) asserted that playing cards and card games existed at least since the mid-Tang Dynasty and associated their invention with the simultaneous development of using sheets or pages instead of paper rolls as a writing medium. The first known book on cards called Yezi Gexi was allegedly written by a Tang era woman, and was commented on by Chinese writers of subsequent dynasties.
By the 11th century, playing cards could be found throughout the Asian continent. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), characters from novels such as the Water Margin were widely featured on the faces of playing cards.
Ancient Chinese “money cards” have four suits: coins (or cash), strings of coins (which may have been misinterpreted as sticks from crude drawings), myriads (of coins or of strings), and tens of myriads (a myriad is 10,000). These were represented by ideograms, with numerals of 2–9 in the first three suits and numerals 1–9 in the “tens of myriads”. Wilkinson suggests that the first cards may have been actual paper currency which were both the tools of gaming and the stakes being played for, as in trading card games. The designs on modern Mahjong tiles likely evolved from those earliest playing cards. However, it may be that the first deck of cards ever printed was a Chinese domino deck, in whose cards all 21 combinations of a pair of dice are depicted. In Kuei-t’ien-lu, a Chinese text redacted in the 11th century, domino cards were printed during the Tang Dynasty, contemporary to the first printed books. The Chinese word pái (牌) is used to describe both paper cards and gaming tiles.
The primary deck of 52 playing cards in use today includes 13 ranks of each of the four French suits, clubs (♣), diamonds (♦), hearts (♥) and spades (♠), with reversible Rouennais “court” or face cards. Each suit includes an ace, depicting a single symbol of its suit (quite large often only on the ace of spades) a king, queen, and jack, each depicted with a symbol of their suit; and ranks two through ten, with each card depicting that number of symbols (pips) of its suit. As well as these 52 cards, commercial decks often include between one and four jokers, most often two. These Jokers are not used in most basic game rules, but have a variety of uses with rule variations, and can simply serve as “spares” to replace a damaged or lost card.