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5 Toys and Games That Colored My Childhood in China

Hello, everybody! My name is Allen Zheng from WrittenChinese.Com. Today I want to tell you about some interesting toys and games that were a part of my childhood in China. In fact, most Chinese people born in the 80’s will remember these games. Follow me down memory lane!

1.       跳皮筋 (tiào pí jīn = rubber band jump rope)

Rubber band jump rope

The first game I will tell you about was called “跳皮筋 (tiào pí jīn = rubber band jump rope),” also called “跳橡皮绳 (tiào xiàng pí shéng = jump the rubber rope).” In this game, two players held a long rubber band tightly with their legs while other players jumped inside of the “jump rope”. The players would often jump for the whole afternoon, laughing and singing. The game became more difficult if the rubber band was placed higher and higher. Every time I watched the girls play this game I wanted to join them (if no guys were watching, haha).

2.       橡皮手 (xiàng pí shǒu = rubber hand)

Rubber hand

The second toy I will tell you about was also made of rubber, called “橡皮手 (xiàng pí shǒu),” literally “rubber hand.” This was a good “weapon” 武器 (wǔ qì) for boys to fight against each other. You would hold the thin side and propel the “palm” onto somebody’s face or body. It was elastic 松紧带 (sōng jǐn dài) and soft, so it was not very painful once you got hit. If you played with it for a while, however, the hand would become gross from dust, sand, and hair that attached to it. But whatever, most kids are not afraid of dirt 不怕灰尘 (bù pà huī chén), so keep attacking!

3.       玻璃球 (bō li qiú = marbles)

The third toy was “玻璃球 (bō li qiú = marbles)” or “波珠 (bō zhū = wavy bead). Marbles were very popular 流行 (liú xíng) among children because they were bright, crystalline, and easy to swallow (I’m joking, don’t do that). We played different games using marbles. In one game, we would dig a hole in the sand and then take turns trying to hit each other’s marbles into the hole until only one marble remained. The owner of this marble would be the winner 赢家 (yíng jiā).

In a different game, we would put some marbles into a pot. Each player would have their own pair of chopsticks 筷子 (kuài zi) and a bowl. Each player would use the chopsticks to take marbles from the pot and put them into his or her own bowl.  At the end of the game, whoever had the most marbles was the winner. When there were only a few marbles left, it was hilarious to watch the chopsticks fighting each other in the pot while the already-picked marbles rested comfortably in their bowls.

4.       积木 (jī mù = toy blocks)

The next toy we called “积木 (jī mù),” or toy blocks. Children could build whatever they wanted with the blocks. In this picture you can see one kind of block that had simple Chinese characters on one side and a puzzle 拼图 (pīn tú) on the other side. Children could practice characters while they played with the blocks.

Blocks-characters-puzzle toy

5.       红白机 (hóng bái jī = Nintendo’s “Family Computer”)

Family computer toy

The last game I want to tell you about was my favorite. It was called “红白机 (hóng bái jī = literally “red and white machine”)”in Chinese because its main colors were red and white. In English it was called “Family Computer (FC),” and it was the original gaming system introduced by Nintendo 然天堂 (rèn tiān táng) in 1983. To a boy at that time, owning a FC felt like you owned the world. You could not only play the game yourself, but you could also show it off to all of your friends. Your friends would treat you to many snacks and drinks in order to play your FC. I was one of the lucky boys who owned this toy. Thanks, Dad!

These are the toys and games that meant a lot to me in my childhood. There are many others, but I cannot write about all of them here.  How about your favorite childhood toys?