PENANG: Whether it is a nuclear bomb, the act of kissing, or an event like Easter or even April Fool's, 4D punters have a special dictionary to look up specific numbers attached to these events.
Many who rely on such booklets have struck it rich and of course others have also suffered the fate of burning a hole in their pockets.
The dictionary is considered good reference material for punters who, especially after a dream, would refer to it and then place bets on the numbers.
The 4D dictionary has 9,999 numbered items that are different from the 3D dictionaries that come in two versions featuring the deities Tua Pek Kong and Kuan Yin Ma, both having different sets of 999 numbered items.
Van Hin Book Co owner Chong Yao Tuck said the books, in pink and red, have been around since his father opened his shop at Carnarvon Street in the 1950s.
The 3D dictionaries were out first, followed by the 4D but there has always been more demand for the 3D ones.
“It is amazing that there are people, particularly housewives, who memorise all the numbers, usually from the more popular Tua Pek Kong version,” he said.
Demand for the dictionaries usually picked up at year's end; probably as part of the Chinese New Year purchases, he added.
He said the items in the dictionaries have remained unchanged over the years except for image retouching, improvement and addition of colour, adding that the 4D dictionary had more modern items compared to 3D
Xiao-En Cultural Endowment chief executive director Dr Ong Seng Huat said before 4D and 3D, 2D lottery was popular in the northern states in the early 1950s, according to a May 1952 article in Nanyang Siang Pau.
“The dictionaries were likely a Malaysian creation based on an earlier dictionary of 36 names that originated from mid-Qing dynasty (1644~1911) in China.” he said.
He said some of the modern dictionaries still carried the 36 personalities whose origins were a mystery until a new discovery in the late 20th century linked them to the anti-Manchurian Qing movement.
“Chinese scholars recently found in Fujian a secret doctrine which was over 200 years old belonging to a subversive religious group called the Fragrant Flower Monks which identifies the 36 as anti-Qing martyrs,” he said.
Ong said the 36-character lottery was probably created in China as a tactic to spread the revolutionary message, but the tradition evolved here and was kept alive by the Malaysian entrepreneurial spirit.
According to another Nanyang article in 1952, a temple deity in Tanjung Tokong “condemned” the widespread punting, especially among housewives, through a divine message conveyed through a temple medium in trance.
“Devotees then distributed the message to the Chinese community scolding housewives for neglecting their motherly duties by getting obsessed with punting.” said Ong.
Nevertheless, lotteries have also been used for a good cause.
Ong said MCA started a welfare lottery in 1950 to rescue some 500,000 Chinese from being deported from Malaya by the colonial government, and helping them resettle in new villages.
The colonial government then banned political parties from operating lotteries in
1953, but it started a government-operated lottery instead, Ong added.
Today, lotteries are mainly operated by licensed gaming companies while illegal ones have always been around.