> Does anyone know if backgammon was played in the 19th century China?
The short answer is 'Yes'. An abridged 'long' answer is set out below.
A precursor of backgammon, the game of 'nard', was known in China as early
as 700 A.D. The local name for the game was Shan-liu (meaning double six).
A reference can be found in the following book; Stewart Culin, 'Chinese
Games with Dice and Dominoes', (Washington 1895), at page 80.
Nard closely resembled backgammon: ie race game played on the 'backgammon'
board with 30 checkers whose movements were governed by chance from the
throw of 2 die.
If one considers 'backgammon' to be a generic term encompassing the
numerous variantions in rules, set up and movement (ie so it would include
variants such as Russian Backgammon, Greek Backgammon etc) then its safe to
say that backgammon was played in 19th century China.
However, if one defines 'backgammon' very narrowly as a specific variant
with a distinct set of rules, (ie so as to preclude variants such as
Russian Backgammon, Greek Backgammon etc) then the answer might be 'no', as
more research is needed.
Hope that helps.