Charada China (literally, “Chinese charade”) is a simple numerological system of dream interpretation used traditionally and primarily for the divination of numbers to play the lottery in Cuba.  Numbers from one to one hundred have a name assigned to them; if you dream about a snake you play 21.

The first thirty-six are often depicted as images and numbers on a stereotypical chinaman.  The image has the primitive and naïve simplicity of a much duplicated anonymous popular artwork.  These thirty-six were the original ones that were expanded to one-hundred sometime in the twentieth century.

Ethnically Cuba is rather unique amongst Latin American countries in that the three main ethnographical streams that make up the national character are Spanish, African and Chinese.  Though the Chinese did not arrive (as coolie laborers) until mid 19th century, they had a large cultural impact, particularly in adding mystic elements to the cuban mélange of Santeria, Catholicism, Jewish Mysticism, etc.   Though the exact origin of the assignment of images or names to numbers is hazy, it is pretty certain to have come from the Chinese population in Cuba. I have also found references to a “Chifa book” commonly used in Malaysia to pick lottery numbers that expands the range all the way to 1000.

The images are also used as code for illegal lottery transactions and all sorts of basic popular cryptography.

The Charada China may have also influenced the Jorge Luis Borges short story Funes el memorioso("Funes the Memorious") about a man who has absolutely perfect memory and power of recall. One of the ways that Funes uses his prodigiously perfect memory is assigning each number a name. Borges was an expert in the Kabbalah so it is easy to make the leap of faith that he was aware of the Charada China. This is of course purely speculation.

1 Horse
2 Butterfly, Money
3 Sailor, Small child
4 Cat, Tooth
5 Nun, Sea
6 Turtle
7 Snail
8 Dead man
9 Elephant, Tongue
10 Big Fish
11 Rooster
12 Whore
13 Peacock
14 Cemetery, Tiger
15 Dog, Pretty girl
16 Bull
17 St. Lazarus, Moon
18 Small Fish
19 Worm, Flag
20 Purebred cat
21 Snake, Money
22 Toad
23 Steam
24 Dove
25 Gem, New house


26 Eel, New doctor
27 Wasp
28 Goat
29 Mouse
30 Shrimp
31 Deer
32 Hog
33 Buzzard
34 Monkey
35 Spider
36 Pipe
37 Witch, Black Hen
38 Macaw, Money
39 Rabbit
40 Priest, Blood
41 Lizard
42 Duck, Distant country
43 Scorpion
44 Year of the crow
45 Shark, President
46 Bus, Smoke
47 Bird
48 Roach
49 Drunkard
50 Policeman

51 Soldier
52 Bicycle
53 Electric light
54 Flowers
55 Crab, Bat
56 Meringue, Queen
57 Bed, telegram
58 Photo, Knife
59 Crazy man
60 Clown
61 Big horse
62 Married Couple
63 Assassin
64 Big dead man
65 Food
66 Animal horn
67 Stab wound
68 Cemetery
69 Well
70 Coconut
71 River
72 Ox
73 Suitcase
74 Kite
75 Tie

76 Dancer
77 Italian flag
78 Coffin
79 Cargo train
80 Old doctor
81 Theater
82 Mother
83 Tragedy
84 Blood, Banker
85 Mirror, Watch
86 Scissors
87 Banana
88 Glasses
89 Lots of water
90 Old man
91 Sandal, Communist
92 Big Pig, Airplane
93 Ring
94 Machete, Havana
95 War
96 Shoe, Old whore
97 Mosquito
98 Piano
99 Saw
100 Toilet

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