The Wai Seng Lottery

The Wai Seng Lottery is a fascinating subject matter not many are likely to have heard of. Authored by G. T. Hare, a civil service employee in the Straits Settlement, this 1895 book looks into the 19th century history of the Wai Seng lottery through tracing the origins of this betting service in Canton and its expansion to other areas such as Macau, Johor and Singapore, explaining its playing method and rules and highlighting various dishonest measures that could be or were actually implemented to enable bettors to win or lose.

For example, as this lottery involved placing bets on the surnames of candidates who were likely to pass civil or military examinations held by the Chinese government, men could be paid to impersonate the candidates and obtain a degree on their behalf. In turn, this outcome would benefit bettors who had placed their bets on the surnames of these ‘successful’ candidates.

Besides this, the book also contains guides that provide brief background on the candidates potential. Bettors could refer to these guides to give themselves an idea on who were likely to fare well in each specific examination.

The Wai Seng Lottery is an enthralling read and is likely to appeal to anyone studying Chinese history and culture or the ancient game of lottery.


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