Where Dominoes Were Invented: Dominoes, distant relatives of playing cards, developed in China in the 1300s and are one of the first gaming instruments. From professional domino competitions to putting them up and knocking them down, dominoes provide a range of diversions as well as tests of ability and patience. Originally, the pips on dominoes reflected the outcomes of tossing two six-sided dice. European dominoes varied from Chinese counterparts in that they included seven more dominoes—six indicating the outcomes of tossing a single die with the other half of the tile left blank, and one representing the blank-blank (0-0) combination.
Tile games date all the way back to 1120 CE in China. Certain historical tales trace the pieces’ existence all the way back to a soldier-hero called Hung Ming (181-234 CE). Other historians think they were constructed in the twelfth century BCE by Keung T’ai Kung.
According to the Chu sz yam (Investigations into the Traditions of All Things), dominoes were created around 1120 CE by a politician. This individual is believed to have given them to Emperor Hui Tsung and to have ordered their distribution abroad during the reign of Hui’s son, Kao-Tsung (1127-1163 CE). According to some interpretations, this paper relates to the standardisation of the game, not to its creation.
Michael Dummett published a little article in the history part of his “Game of Tarot” (page 35) attributing the arrival of dominoes in Europe to Italy in the 18th Century, perhaps in Venice or Naples. While domino tiles are unmistakably Chinese, there is dispute about whether the European tile set originated in China and was brought to Europe in the fourteenth century or later or was created independently.
A solitary domino was discovered beside the Mary Rose debris (early 16th century), although it seems to have arrived considerably later. On the whole, there is so much evidence for games in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that dominoes would not have slipped the record had they existed.
European dominoes are rectangles twice the length of their width. Each combination of the faces of a pair of dice is represented by a single tile; the blank suit represents the throws of a single die, for a total of twenty-eight tiles in the basic Double six set. Other sets with a greater number of tiles were developed subsequently, the most popular being the double nine and double twelve sets.
Most likely, the term “domino” is derived from the Latin, dominus (i.e. the master of the house). Scottish and English dominie were derived from the vocative domine (i.e. schoolmaster). The dative or ablative domino evolved into the French and then the English domino. This term was first used to refer to a kind of monastic hood, then to a hooded masquerade outfit with a tiny mask, then to the mask itself, and ultimately to one of the domino set’s components, the [1-1] tile.
In the early 18th Century, the game spread from Italy to France and became popular. France began manufacturing domino puzzles in the late 18th century. There were two kinds of puzzles. In the first, you were given a design and instructed to arrange the tiles such that the ends matched. In the second kind, you were given a pattern and instructed to arrange tiles according to the mathematical characteristics of the pips, which were often totals of tile lines and tile halves.
The book CREATIVE PUZZLES OF THE WORLD by van Delft and Botermans (Abrams, New York; ISBN 0-8109-0765-8 (hardcover) or 0-8109-2152-9 (softcover); 1978) reproduces an ancient French image puzzle that is constructed by matching domino tiles on the bottoms of the picture squares from this era.
The majority of domino games require players to empty their hands while obstructing opponents’ play. Points are determined in scoring games such as bergen and muggins by counting the pips (spots on a tile) in the losing players’ hands. Additional play styles include matador, chicken foot, and Mexican train. Certain domino games are similar to card games—but without the risk of the cards being blown away by the wind. Additionally, each kind of domino game teaches children number recognition and arithmetic abilities.
Who initially arranged a row of domino tiles and then pushed one? We don’t know, but the technique, dubbed “toppling,” is likely to trace all the way back to the tiles’ infancy. From 1986 until 2009, the Netherlands held an annual domino toppling display known as Domino Day, culminating in an event in which a team toppled 4.5 million dominoes. Additionally, do-it-yourself topplers are almost as talented, as shown by the many incredible amateur toppling films available on the Internet.