Mahjong Game: Chinese Culture

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Mahjong Game: Chinese Culture
In China, there is a game called Mahjong 麻將 [má jiàng]. Chinese people are proud of the Mahjong culture and they claim the Mahjong game is 国粹 [guó cuì], meaning the quintessence of Chinese culture. The Mahjong game has a long history. It was invented during the Tang Dynasty 唐代 [táng dài] (618-907) and was finalized by the Han people during the Ming Dynasty 明代 [míng dài] (1368-1644). At the beginning, only royal people could play this game. Today, Mahjong is a social game played by many people throughout different regions in China. Also, many people in other Asian countries such as Japan and Korea also play Mahjong. Mahjong is a four person game and Chinese people usually play Mahjong with their friends rather than family. At the Mahjong table, people can hang out with their friends while beating them in the game with perfect “hands”.

A Mahjong set contains 144 tiles. Have you noticed that some Mahjong tiles are carved with Chinese characters? Take a closer look and you will find some traditional Chinese characters written on Mahjong titles.

How many Mahjong titles are there?
The commonly set of Mahjong contains 144 tiles. Depending on the religion in China or the country, there may be more (up to 156 tiles) in a Mahjong set.

Do all Chinese people know how to play Mahjong?
No. Not all Chinese people know and like to play Mahjong. To some Chinese people, playing Mahjong is gambling. Almost all people play Mahjong with money, as Although playing Mahjong requires some strategic thinking, winning a game also requires some lucky.

What strategies involved in the Mahjong game?
Mahjong is an interactive game between four people. In the game, your winning depends heavily upon who is giving away the Mahjong tiles you need to win the game. The person sitting on your right gives away his or her unwanted Mahjong tile in exchange of a new tile. And you have to do the same to the person sitting on your right. Now the relationship is very interesting as you have to figure what tiles to keep from others but at the same time you can only hold 13 tiles in total. While you need to win as an individual, you need to maintain a good relationship with the rest of players as the seating chat will be changed randomly for usually 5-10 times depending on how many rounds are there throughout the entire game.

Can I learn how to play Mahjong?
Yes. The concept of the game is simple – finding the matching titles based on some fixed rules and being the first one to make a perfect hand. But the rules vary depending on which regions you play in China. There are Canton Mahjong, Shanghai Mahjong and even Taiwan Mahjong, etc.


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Mahjong Vocabulary

English Meaning Pinyin Chinese Characters
10 thousand Wàn
Spring Chūn
Summer Xià
Fall / Autumn Qiū
Winter Dōng
Plum Méi
Orchid Lán
Chrysanthemum
Bamboo Zhú
East Dōng
South Nán
West 西
North Běi
Bingo Zhōng
Wealth
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