Playing Mahjong is a fun way to learn Chinese numbers and their characters, as well as what they mean in the language, history, and culture.
But how to play it?
At every family gathering, social event, and on the streets in Asia, the sound of game pieces (called tiles ) punctuates the rhythm of the days. This sound is synonymous with family and joy.
You’ll see all kinds of people playing it – old people in the night markets, young women at lunch and in the movies, the gangsters!
It’s an ancient game of dragons, hands, and flowers, where luck can quickly turn (an air of Game of Thrones, no?)
Playing Mahjong – The Rules
Mahjong rules are quite complex.
Additionally, the way mahjong is played differs by region – Mahjong players in Hong Kong play a very different style from the Mahjong played in Taiwan, for example.
There are plenty of very useful and comprehensive online resources if you are all interested in rules, but here is a simplified explanation:
Mahjong is played with four players and 136 tiles, engraved with a number of symbols, which are called family or honors.
There are three families: characters, bamboo, and circles. Then there are two honors: the dragons and the winds.
The object of the game is to combine enough tiles to make a complete game, i.e. a “Mahjong”.
It can be a sequence of identical tiles or a sequence of specific tiles.
There are many possible combinations of tiles in Mahjong, and each series corresponds to a score according to the tiles it contains.
To add even more complexity, some games have 8 more tiles, called ‘flowers’.
No matter how it is played, the principle of the game remains the same. So what can we learn from it?
Playing Mahjong – History
The game of Mahjong is ANCIENT – it is said by many that the Chinese have been playing it for over 2500 years and that it evolved from a game similar to cards, printed on silk.
Records confirm that it was performed in its current form in Shanghai in the early 1800s, and it was quickly incorporated into Chinese culture. In the 1900s, the game traveled beyond the borders of China, carried by migrants, which is why there are so many different versions of the game today.
Play Mahjong – Improve you are Chinese
Speed is essential for a game of Mahjong – more specifically for recognizing the characters and numbers on the tiles – all the more so when we only have one specific tile left to win the game.