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Mahjong

Mahjong

Overview
Mahjong, sometimes spelled Mah Jongg, is a game
Game
A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements...

 that originated in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, commonly played by four players (with some three-player variations found in Korea and Japan). The four player table version should not be confused with the popular Western single player (tile matching) computer game (Mahjong solitaire
Mahjong solitaire
Mahjong solitaire is a solitaire matching game that uses a set of Mahjong tiles rather than cards. It is also known as Shanghai solitaire, electronic or computerized mahjong, MahJong solitaire, solitaire Mahjong and, erroneously, as Mahjong...

), which is a recent invention and completely different from the table game. Similar to the Western card game rummy
Rummy
Rummy is a group of card games notable for gameplay based on the matching of similar playing cards. The Mexican game of Conquian is considered by David Parlett to be ancestral to all rummy games, which itself is derived from a Chinese game called Khanhoo and, going even further back,...

, mahjong is a game of skill, strategy and calculation and involves a certain degree of chance.
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Encyclopedia
Mahjong, sometimes spelled Mah Jongg, is a game
Game
A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements...

 that originated in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, commonly played by four players (with some three-player variations found in Korea and Japan). The four player table version should not be confused with the popular Western single player (tile matching) computer game (Mahjong solitaire
Mahjong solitaire
Mahjong solitaire is a solitaire matching game that uses a set of Mahjong tiles rather than cards. It is also known as Shanghai solitaire, electronic or computerized mahjong, MahJong solitaire, solitaire Mahjong and, erroneously, as Mahjong...

), which is a recent invention and completely different from the table game. Similar to the Western card game rummy
Rummy
Rummy is a group of card games notable for gameplay based on the matching of similar playing cards. The Mexican game of Conquian is considered by David Parlett to be ancestral to all rummy games, which itself is derived from a Chinese game called Khanhoo and, going even further back,...

, mahjong is a game of skill, strategy and calculation and involves a certain degree of chance. In Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, mahjong is also popularly played as a gambling
Gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

 game (though it may just as easily be played recreationally).

The game is played with a set of 136 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols, although some regional variations use a different number of tiles. In most variations, each player begins by receiving thirteen tiles. In turn players draw and discard tiles until they complete a legal hand using the fourteenth drawn tile to form four groups (melds) and a pair (head). There are fairly standard rules about how a piece is drawn, stolen from another player (melded), the use of basic (numbered tiles) and honours (winds and dragons), the kinds of melds, and the order of dealing and play. However there are many regional variations in the rules; in addition, the scoring system, the minimum hand necessary to win varies significantly based on the local rules being used.

Name


The game was called 麻雀 , meaning sparrow
Sparrow
The sparrows are a family of small passerine birds, Passeridae. They are also known as true sparrows, or Old World sparrows, names also used for a genus of the family, Passer...

 in Chinese, which is still the name most commonly used in some southern Chinese dialects such as Cantonese
Cantonese
Cantonese is a dialect spoken primarily in south China.Cantonese may also refer to:* Yue Chinese, the Chinese language that includes Cantonese* Cantonese cuisine, the cuisine of Guangdong province...

 and Min Nan
Min Nan
The Southern Min languages, or Min Nan , are a family of Chinese languages spoken in southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong, Hainan, Taiwan, and southern Zhejiang provinces of China, and by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora....

, as well as in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese. However, most Mandarin-speaking Chinese now call the game má jiàng (麻將). In Northern
Taihu Wu dialects
Taihu Wu dialects , or Northern Wu dialects , are a group of Wu dialects spoken over much of southern part of Jiangsu province, including Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, the southern part of Nantong, Jingjiang and Danyang; the municipality of Shanghai; and the northern part of Zhejiang province, including...

 Wu Chinese (Shanghainese
Shanghainese
Shanghainese , or the Shanghai language , is a dialect of Wu Chinese spoken in the city of Shanghai and the surrounding region. It is classified as part of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Shanghainese, like other Wu dialects, is largely not mutually intelligible with other Chinese varieties...

 and its relatives), it is pronounced as 麻將 mu tsiaŋ, but in actuality, 麻將 is the diminutive form of 麻雀, written as 麻雀兒 mu tsiaʔ ŋ, due to an erhua
Erhua
Erhua ; also called erhuayin refers to a phonological process that adds r-coloring or the "ér" sound to syllables in spoken Mandarin Chinese. It is most common in the speech varieties of North China, especially in the Beijing dialect, as a diminutive suffix for nouns, though some dialects also...

 event. It is through the Wu Chinese pronunciation of 麻雀兒 that the diminutive form of 麻雀 in Northern Wu dialect became known as 麻將 in both Mandarin and Wu.

Mahjong in China


One of the myths of the origin of mahjong suggests that Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

, the Chinese philosopher, developed the game in about 500 BC.The three dragon (cardinal) tiles also agree with the three cardinal virtues bequeathed by Confucius. Hóng Zhōng (紅中 , red middle), Fā Cái (發財 , prosperity), and Bái Ban (白板 , white board) represent benevolence
Ren (Confucianism)
Ren is a Confucian notion denoting, as rough approximation, the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when behaving rightly, especially toward others...

, sincerity
Sincerity
Sincerity is the virtue of one who speaks and acts truly about his or her own feelings, thoughts, and desires.-Sincerity in Western societies:Sincerity has not been consistently regarded as a virtue in Western culture...

, and filial piety
Filial piety
In Confucian ideals, filial piety is one of the virtues to be held above all else: a respect for the parents and ancestors. The Confucian classic Xiao Jing or Classic of Xiào, thought to be written around 470 BCE, has historically been the authoritative source on the Confucian tenet of xiào /...

, respectively.

The myth also claims that Confucius was fond of birds, which would explain the name "mahjong" (maque 麻雀 = sparrow).

Many historians believe it was based on a Chinese card game
Card game
A card game is any game using playing cards as the primary device with which the game is played, be they traditional or game-specific. Countless card games exist, including families of related games...

 called Mǎdiào (馬吊) (also known as Ma Tiae, hanging horse; or Yèzí [葉子], leaf) in the early Ming dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

. This game was played with 40 paper cards similar in appearance to the cards used in the game Ya Pei. These 40 cards are numbered 1 to 9 in four different suits, along with four extra flower cards. This is quite similar to the numbering of mahjong tiles today, although mahjong only has three suits and, in effect, uses four packs of Ya Pei cards.

There is still some debate about who created the game. One theory is that Chinese army officers serving during the Taiping Rebellion
Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was a widespread civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who, having received visions, maintained that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty...

 created the game to pass the time. Another theory is that a nobleman living in the Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 area created the game between 1870 and 1875. Others believe that two brothers from Níngpō
Ningbo
Ningbo is a seaport city of northeastern Zhejiang province, Eastern China. Holding sub-provincial administrative status, the municipality has a population of 7,605,700 inhabitants at the 2010 census whom 3,089,180 in the built up area made of 6 urban districts. It lies south of the Hangzhou Bay,...

 created mahjong around 1850, from the earlier game of Mǎdiào.

This game was banned by the government of People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 when it took power in 1949. The new Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 government forbade any gambling activities, which were regarded as symbols of capitalist
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 corruption. After the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, the game was revived, without gambling elements (see below), and the prohibition was revoked in 1985. Today, it is a favorite pastime in China and other Chinese-speaking communities.

Mahjong in the Western world


In 1895, Stewart Culin
Stewart Culin
Stewart Culin was an ethnographer and author interested in games, art and dress. He believed that similarity in gaming demonstrated similarity and contact among cultures across the world.-Early life:...

, an American anthropologist, wrote a paper in which mahjong was mentioned. This is the first known written account of mahjong in any language other than Chinese. By 1910, there were written accounts in many languages, including French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and Japanese.

The game was imported to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in the 1920s. The first mahjong sets sold in the U.S. were sold by Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie & Fitch is an American retailer that focuses on casual wear for consumers aged 18 to 22. It has over 300 locations in the United States, and is expanding internationally....

 starting in 1920. It became a success in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, and the (co.) owner of the company, Ezra Fitch
Ezra Fitch
Ezra Hasbrouck Fitch was the co-founder of the modern lifestyle brand Abercrombie & Fitch and is attributed with the historical introduction of Mahjong to the United States....

, sent emissaries to Chinese villages to buy every set of mahjong they could find. Abercrombie & Fitch sold a total of 12,000 sets.

Also in 1920, Joseph Park Babcock
Joseph Park Babcock
Joseph Park Babcock , American popularizer of Mahjong, was born in Lafayette, Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in Civil Engineering, he worked for the Standard Oil Company. In 1912 he was sent to Soochow, China, as a representative of Standard Oil. There he and his...

 published his book Rules of Mah-Jongg, also known as the "red book". This was the earliest version of mahjong known in America. Babcock had learned mahjong while living in China. Babcock's rules simplified the game to make it easier for Americans to take up, and his version was common through the mahjong fad of the 1920s. Later, when the 1920s fad died out, many of Babcock's simplifications were abandoned.

The game has taken on a number of trademarked names, such as "Pung Chow" and the "Game of Thousand Intelligences". Mahjong nights in America often involved dressing and decorating rooms in Chinese style. Several hit songs were also recorded during the mahjong fad, most notably "Since Ma is Playing Mah Jong" by Eddie Cantor
Eddie Cantor
Eddie Cantor was an American "illustrated song" performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor and songwriter...

.

Many variants of mahjong developed during this period. By the 1930s, many revisions of the rules developed that were substantially different from Babcock's classical version (including some that were considered fundamentals in other variants, such as the notion of a standard hand). The most common form, which eventually became "American mahjong", was most popular among Jewish
American Jews
American Jews, also known as Jewish Americans, are American citizens of the Jewish faith or Jewish ethnicity. The Jewish community in the United States is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, and their U.S.-born descendants...

 women. Standardization came with the formation of the National Mah Jongg League (NMJL) in 1937, along with the first American mahjong rulebook, Maajh: The American Version of the Ancient Chinese Game.

While mahjong was accepted by U.S. players of all ethnic backgrounds during the Babcock era, many consider the modern American version a remake of a Jewish game, as many American mahjong players are of Jewish descent. The NMJL was founded by Jewish players and is considered a Jewish organization. In addition, players usually use the American game as a family-friendly social activity, not as gambling. In 1986, the National Mah Jongg League conducted their first Mah Jongg Cruise Tournament, in conjunction with Mah Jongg Madness. In 2010, this large scale seagoing event hosts its 25th Silver Anniversary Cruise, with players from all over the States and Canada participating.

In recent years, a second organization has formed, the American Mah Jongg Association. The AMJA currently hosts tournaments all across North America, with their signature event being at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort
Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort
The Trump Taj Mahal is located at 1000 Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States, in the casino area along the shore. The casino is one of two owned by Trump Entertainment Resorts...

 in Atlantic City, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

.

British author Alan D. Millington revived the Chinese classical game of the 1920s with his book The Complete Book of Mah-jongg (1977). This handbook includes a formal rules set for the game. Many players in Western countries consider Millington's work authoritative.

Mahjong is not the first re-appearance of the Chinese game in the western world. It was also introduced in playing card form by an official of Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's Consular Service
Consul (representative)
The political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries...

 named William Henry Wilkinson
William Henry Wilkinson
Sir William Henry Wilkinson was a British Sinologist who served as Consul-General for H.B.M in China and Korea...

, author of "Chinese origin of playing cards
Chinese origin of playing cards
Chinese Origin of Playing Cards is an article on the origin of playing cards written by H.B.M General-Consul in China and Korea Sir William Henry Wilkinson, and published in the American Anthropologist magazine by the American Anthropological Association under the auspices of the American...

," under the name of Khanhoo
Khanhoo
Khanhoo is a non-partnership Chinese card game of draw-and-discard structure adapted to the western taste by the British Sinologist and Consul-General in China and Korea in the mid 1890's, Sir William Henry Wilkinson...

. This card game does not seem to have made much impression. The later success of mahjong came in part from the elegance of its mechanism as embodied in the domino-like pieces.

Current development


Today, the popularity and the characteristics of players of mahjong vary from country to country. There are also many governing bodies, which often host exhibition games and tournaments. It remains far more popular in Asia than in the West.

Mahjong, as of 2010, is the most popular table game in Japan. As of 2008, there were approximately 7.6 million Mahjong players in Japan and an estimated 8,900 Mahjong parlors did ¥300 billion in sales. Many devotees there believe the game is losing popularity and have taken efforts to revive it. There are several manga
Manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

 and anime
Anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

 (e.g. Saki
Saki (manga)
is an ongoing Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Ritz Kobayashi. The story revolves around a first-year high school girl named Saki Miyanaga who is brought into the competitive world of mahjong by another first-year, Nodoka Haramura...

 and Akagi
Akagi (manga)
is a mahjong centric Japanese manga, written by Nobuyuki Fukumoto and first published in 1992. It is featured in the weekly magazine Modern Mahjong, and is a prequel to the author's previous work Ten, in which Akagi's titular character also appears...

) devoted to dramatic and comic situations involving mahjong. In addition, Japanese video arcade
Video arcade
An amusement arcade or video arcade is a venue where people play arcade games such as video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games, merchandisers , or coin-operated billiards or air hockey tables...

s have introduced mahjong arcade machines that can be connected to others over the Internet. There are also video game versions of strip mahjong.

Mahjong culture
Mahjong culture
Mahjong has been a common culture of China, Hong Kong, Japan, and other Asian regions. It shows a high degree of influence from Chinese culture.-Hong Kong:In Hong Kong, Mahjong is not only a popular game, it is the most common social activity...

 is still deeply ingrained in the Chinese community. Sam Hui wrote Cantopop songs
Cantopop
Cantopop is a colloquialism for "Cantonese popular music". It is sometimes referred to as HK-pop, short for "Hong Kong popular music". It is categorized as a subgenre of Chinese popular music within C-pop...

 using mahjong as their themes, and Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 movies have often included scenes of mahjong games. Many gambling movies have been filmed in Hong Kong, and a recent sub-genre is the mahjong movie.

Like other games, such as chess, Mastermind, checkers and card games, prolonged playing of mahjong may trigger epileptic seizures
Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

. The number of such cases, however, are rare. According to a 2007 study, to date there are only 23 reported cases of mahjong-induced seizures in the English medical literature.

Studies by doctors have also shown in Hong Kong that the game is beneficial for individuals suffering from dementia or cognitive memory difficulties, leading to the development of mahjong therapy.

Type of game


Because of the solid form of the tiles, mahjong is sometimes classified as a domino game. However, it is much more similar to Western-style card games such as rummy
Rummy
Rummy is a group of card games notable for gameplay based on the matching of similar playing cards. The Mexican game of Conquian is considered by David Parlett to be ancestral to all rummy games, which itself is derived from a Chinese game called Khanhoo and, going even further back,...

.

Old Hong Kong mahjong


In an attempt to describe the mechanics, equipment and scoring of the game, this article will first mention Old Hong Kong rules, that is, old as opposed to new which are both played in Hong Kong and abroad, as the rules are easily understood. It uses most of the tiles and has a simple scoring system as well as lacking the more advanced and complicated rules and scoring patterns used in some variations. The features of some variations of mahjong are described in the section of Variations and in other articles.

Equipment



Hong Kong Mahjong is played with a set of mahjong tiles
Mahjong tiles
Mahjong tiles are tiles of Chinese origin that are used to play many games, most notably Mahjong and Mahjong solitaire. Although they are most commonly tiles, they may also refer to playing cards with similar contents as well.- Construction :Traditionally, Mahjong tiles were made of bone, often...

 (though cards may be used). Sets often include counters (to keep score), dice (to decide how to deal) and a marker to show who is dealer and which round is being played. Some sets include racks to hold tiles (if they are shaped small or differently).

A set of mahjong tiles will usually differ from place to place. It usually has at least 136 tiles (most commonly 144), although sets originating from America or Japan will have more. Mahjong tiles are split into these categories: suits, honor, and flowers.

Simples


There are three different suits numbered 1 to 9, which are called simple tiles. They are bamboo, characters (or myriads), and circles (or dots).



Bamboos numbered 1 to 9.



Characters numbered 1 to 9.



Circles or Dots numbered 1 to 9.

In some variations only tiles 1 and 9 are used in the bamboo suit. There are four matching tiles for each value (e.g. there are four Dots tiles with the number 2).

Honors


There are two different honor suits: the winds and the dragons. The winds are east, south, west and north, and the dragons are Red, Green and White. They have no numerical sequence and there are four tiles of each honor (e.g. four Red Dragon tiles).



The East, South, West and North



The Red, Green and White Dragons

Bonus tiles


There are eight bonus tiles: four flowers and four seasons. The flowers are plum, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo, and the seasons are spring, summer, autumn and winter.


The four flowers (there is only one of each)


The four seasons (there is only one of each)

Choosing the first dealing and taking positions at the table


The dealer is chosen by various means, either by throwing dice (the highest total takes the east wind) or placing one of each wind face down and having each player randomly select one of these tiles. Each player sits down at their respective position at the table, which is of the reversed map: East is dealer, the right of the dealer is South, across is West and the left is North. The order becomes counterclockwise.

Hands, rounds and matches


A match consists of four rounds. In each round at least four hands are played and each round is named after its prevailing wind. The Prevailing Wind is always set to East when starting. In the second round the prevailing wind is south etc. In each round, each player takes turns being the dealer. As dealer, this player assumes the position of the east wind. It is important not to confuse the prevailing wind with the seat wind as these are distinct. There are four rounds (with their prevailing winds) and in each round each player plays all four seat winds.

Example of Games (assuming the player who is dealer in each hand does not win the hand)
Example of a 16 hand game
Hand Number Prevailing Wind Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4
1 East East (dealer) South West North
2 East North East (dealer) South West
3 East West North East (dealer) South
4 East South West North East (dealer)
5 South East (dealer) South West North
6 South North East (dealer) South West
7 South West North East (dealer) South
8 South South West North East (dealer)
9 West East (dealer) South West North
10 West North East (dealer) South West
11 West West North East (dealer) South
12 West South West North East (dealer)
13 North East (dealer) South West North
14 North North East (dealer) South West
15 North West North East (dealer) South
16 North South West North East (dealer)


If the dealer wins a hand or if there is a draw (no winner), then an extra hand is played and the seating and prevailing wind remains the same. This may mean that a match would have no limit to the amount of hands played (though some players will set a limit to three consecutive hands allowed with the same seat positions and prevailing winds).

A mahjong set with Winds in play will usually include a separate Prevailing Wind marker (typically a die marked with the Wind characters in a holder) and a pointer that can be oriented towards the dealer to show Player Game Wind. In sets with racks, a rack may be marked differently to denote the dealer.

Wind position is significant in that it affects the scoring of the game.

Dealing tiles


All tiles are placed face down on the table and are shuffled. By convention all players should participate in shuffling using both hands moving the pieces around the table, loudly, for a lengthy period. There is no fixed rule on how to deal or how to treat tiles which flip over during shuffle, though possible solutions include turning back over the pieces at the moment they are seen, turning over all revealed pieces at intervals or doing so at the end of the shuffling and forming of the wall.

Each player then stacks a row of 18 tiles two tiles high in front of him (for a total of 36 tiles). Players then push each side of their tiles together to form a square wall.

The dealer throws three dice and sums up the total. Counting counterclockwise so that the dealer is 1 (or 5, 9, 13, 17), so that south is 2 (or 6, 10, 14, 18), etc., a player's quarter of the wall is chosen. Using the same total on the dice, the player then counts the stacks of tiles from right to left. Starting from the left of the stacks counted, the dealer takes four tiles to himself, and players in counterclockwise order take blocks of four tiles until all players have 12 tiles, so that the stacks decrease clockwise. Each player then takes one last tile to make a 13-tile hand. Dealing does not have to be this formal and may be done quite differently based on house rules.

Each player now sets aside any flowers or seasons they may have drawn and takes replacement piece(s) from the wall.

The dealer takes the next piece from the wall, adds it to his hand. If this does not complete a legal hand, he then discards a piece (throwing it into the middle of the wall with no particular order in mind).

Rules


Each player takes a turn picking up a tile from the wall and then discarding a tile by throwing it into the centre and, if desired, announcing out loud what the piece is. Play continues this way until one player has a legal hand. At this point a player will call out mahjong and reveal their hand. There are four different ways that this order of play can be interrupted which is mentioned below.

During play, the number of tiles maintained by each player should always be thirteen tiles (meaning in each turn a tile must be picked up and another discarded). Not included in the count of thirteen tiles are flowers and seasons set to the side and the fourth added piece of a kong (mentioned below). If a player is seen to have more or less than thirteen tiles in their hand outside of their turn they are penalised.

Legal hand


A winning hand consists of fourteen tiles (the thirteen tiles in the hand plus the additional tile picked up from the wall or stolen when a player discards a tile needed to complete a hand). The first is called winning from the wall, the second is called winning by a discard.

The winning hand is made of four melds (a specific pattern of three pieces) and the eyes (a pair of two identical pieces).

Most players play with a table minimum, meaning a winning hand must score a minimum amount of points (which can be seen in the scoring section). In Hong Kong Mahjong the most common point set is three.

Melds

  • Pong/ Pung is a set of three identical tiles. For example:


.

You can form a pong with any tile (except flowers as they are bonus tiles set to the side when drawn from the wall). The tiles must be identical (you cannot mix suits).
  • Kong is a set of four identical tiles. For example:


Consider a Kong the same as a Pong/ Pung with an additional tile to make a set of four. There are three ways to form a Kong. At any point during a players turn, if they have all four matching tiles in their hand, they may declare the Kong. They do so by revealing the meld and placing two pieces in the middle face up and two pieces on the ends face down. This is called a concealed or hidden kong. It is worth noting as having several concealed pongs and/or kongs are worth points. If another player discards a tile and a player has the other three matching tiles in their hand, they may take it and create a melded (stolen) Kong. The player does this by placing the three tiles down and the fourth tile on top of the middle one. The final way to make a Kong is if a pong/ pung has already been melded and the player draws the fourth from the wall. They may add the fourth piece on top of the middle tile in the melded pong/ pung. If a pong/ pung has been melded a player cannot steal the fourth piece if another player discards it.

In any case, whenever a Kong is formed, the player must draw an extra tile from the end of the wall and then discard a tile. Kongs count extra for scoring purposes.
  • Chow is a meld of three suited tiles in sequence. For example:


The meld must be in absolute numerical sequence. There is no skipping of numbers, nor does 9 loop around to 1. The sequence must be in the same suit. Honours, flowers and seasons cannot be used to make chows. A player can steal a discard to form a chow from the player prior to them in order if no one else needs the tile to make pongs/ pungs or kongs. When stealing a discard, winning precedes merely making melds.
  • Eyes, also known as a pair, are two identical tiles which are a component to the standard hand. The eyes cannot be declared or formed with a discard except if completing the pair completes the hand. For example:



Flower or season

Whenever a player draws a flower or season, it is announced and then placed to the side (it is not considered as a part of the hand but can earn a bonus point for the winning hand) and the last tile of the wall is drawn as a replacement tile so that the player has the fourteen pieces needed before their discard. This may happen twice or more times in a row in a player's turn.
Melding (or stealing) another player's discard

When a player discards a tile, any other player may "call" or "bid" for it in order to complete a meld (a certain set of tiles) in his own hand. The disadvantage of doing this is that the player must now expose the completed meld to the other players, giving them an idea of what type of hand he or she is creating. This also creates an element of strategy as, in many variations, discarding a tile that allows another player to win the game requires the discarding player to lose points, or pay the winner more, in a game for money.

When a meld (Pong, Kong or Chow) is declared through a discard, the player must state the type of meld to be declared and place the meld face up. (As for the Japanese variant, callings to make melds are different from the actual names of the types of melds.) The player must then discard a tile, and play continues to the right. Because of this, turns may be skipped in the process.

When two or more players call for a discarded tile, a player taking the tile to win the hand has precedence over all others, followed by Pong or Kong declarations, and lastly, Chows. In American mahjong, where it may be possible for two players needing the same tile for melds, the meld of a higher number of identical tiles takes precedence. If two or more players call for a meld of the same precedence (or to win), the player closest to the right wins out. In particular, if a call to win overrides a call to form a kong, such a move is called "robbing the Kong", and may give a scoring bonus. The game may be declared an abortive draw if two or more players call a tile for the win though, again depending on the variation.

There is generally an informal convention as to the amount of time allowed to make a call for a discarded tile before the next player takes their turn. In American mahjong, this "window of opportunity" is explicitly stated in the rules; whereas in other variants, it is generally considered that when the next player's turn starts, i.e., the tile leaves the wall, the opportunity has been lost.
Going mahjong

If at any point in the game a player can use another player's discard to complete a legal hand (and with the agreed minimum points) they yell out Mahjong and take the piece and reveal their hand, with the way of calling it out depending on variations. This ends the hand and scoring commences. If two or three players need the piece to win (rare) there are two ways to resolve the issue depending on agreed table rules. Either the players compete to see who would have a better hand in terms of scoring or simply the player closest to the discarder in order of turn wins the game.
Robbing a kong

A rarely occurring and high scoring feature of Hong Kong Mahjong is a move called robbing the kong. If a player declares a kong (by melding it or adding a fourth piece to a pong to form a kong or declaring a concealed kong) and another player(s) can use that piece to complete a hand (which would only logically happen by making a chow) a player may steal that piece from that player when declaring the kong and go mahjong (win the hand).

Example winning hands


Below are examples of winning hands, which are split into melds and a pair for clarity. A winning hand must consist of four melds and a pair (with special patterns available), and must score the agreed table minimum as well.

Hand formed with pongs and the eyes (pair) of East wind. Only bamboo is used (no other simples) scoring extra points (clean hand). No chows are used (all pong/kong hand scoring extra points).

Hand formed using only circles (pure hand of only one suit worth extra points). Hand is made of chows, pongs and the eyes of circles.

In Western Classical variants, this is known as creating a mahjong, and the process of winning is called going mahjong.

Variations may have special nonstandard hands of which some are more common than others. The hands of seven different pairs and thirteen orphans are examples which do not have four melds and the eyes. For thirteen orphans, see the section of Limit hands.

Turns and rounds


If the dealer wins the game, s/he will remain the dealer and an extra hand is played in addition to the minimum 16 hands in a match. The same occurs if there is no winner.

The dealer position is significant in that s/he owes or is owed double their score.

Extra points are also scored if their hand is composed of pieces that match their seat wind and or prevailing wind.

Flowers and seasons are also scored as bonus points to the winner depending on their seat position.

Scoring


Scoring in Hong Kong mahjong
Hong Kong Mahjong scoring rules
Hong Kong Mahjong scoring rules are used for scoring in Mahjong, the game for four players, common in Hong Kong and some areas in Guangdong.- Criteria :...

 is a relatively easy process.

1) Only the winner scores points.

2) Winning hands are scored by totaling the point value of each element in the hand.

Point is distinct from the actual payment received from each player (as will be seen in a moment).

3) The winner receives points (also known as faan among some players) for:
  • individual melds,
  • the composition of the entire hand,
  • how the hand was won,
  • bonus tiles,
  • special patterns,
  • and a few other special criteria.


4) In order to win, a player needs to have at least the minimum points agreed in advance (often 3).

5) Bonus points are separate from the minimum points a player needs to win.

6) If a player goes mahjong with a legal and minimum hand, his/her hand is scored by adding his/her points and bonus points together.

7) The payment received from each player depends on three factors:

a) the point value of the hand,

b) if the player won from a discard or from the wall, and

c) if the player was the dealer or not.

Optional scoring


There are a series of "limit hands" (players agree in advance on a limit for scoring); for example, 64 points (which is the highest base points doubled twice).

Table rules dictate if these special hands are allowed and which ones.

In some cases it is expected that the hand is achieved without melding any sets (stealing tiles) except when winning and or that it must be won from the wall.

The winner receives a payment of the maximum possible payment (such as 64 points as shown above) from each player without any doubling.

They (limit hands?) are rare. They are also optional.

Some groups also play with the "great flowers" rule, in which: if a player picks up all 4 flowers and all 4 seasons during his/her hand, s/he instantly wins the hand and receives the maximum points from all players. This is exceptionally rare and is also an optional rule.

Payment


The number of points scored in a hand is translated to a base number for payment.

The base payment doubles for every increment of two or three points.
Base Payment
Points Base Payment
3 1
4 1
5 2
6 2
7 2
8 4
9 4
10 8
11 8
12+ 16

Doubles


The base payment is doubled for the following (if two criteria apply, the base payment is doubled and then redoubled)
  • If the winner wins from the wall the base payment is doubled.
  • The discarder pays double the base payment to the winner (if the hand is won on a discard)
  • Whoever is east pays or receives double.

Examples of payment

Hand 1 (West wins with 4 points from the wall (base payment of 1)
Player Base Payment
East (dealer) 1 (base payment) x2 (doubling for winning from wall) x2 (doubling for being east) = -4
South 1 (base payment) x2 (doubling for winning from wall) = -2
West 4 (from east) + 2 (from south) 2 (from north) = +8
North 1 (base payment) x2 (doubling for winning from wall) = -2
Hand 2 (North wins with 6 points on discard from south (base payment of 2)
Player Base Payment
East (dealer) 2 (base payment) x2 (doubling for being east) = -4
South 2 (base payment) x2 (discarding winning piece) = -4
West 2 (base payment) = -2
North 4 (from east) + 4 (from south) 2 (from west) = +10
Hand 3 (East wins with 10 points on discard from west (base payment of 8)
Player Base Payment
East (dealer) 16 (from south) + 32 (from west) + 16 (from north) = +64
South 8 (base payment) x2 (paying to east) = -16
West 8 (base payment) x2 (paying to east) x2 (discarding winning piece) = -32
North 8 (base payment) x2 (paying to east) = -16

As one can see Hong Kong mahjong is essentially a payment system of doubling and redoubling. The higher the points, the higher the base score. East gains or suffers more from other players, winning from the wall is beneficial (though not much of a case of strategy but more luck) and throwing away the winning piece can be a big penalty.
Basic points

A winning hand must include an agreed minimum amount of the following points (often 3)
Basic Elements
Item Points
A pong/kong of Dragons 1
A pong/kong of Seat wind or Round wind 1
All simples 1
All chows and a pair of simples 1 point more
All pongs/kongs and any pair (pong hand) 3
Only one simple suit (no mixing bamboos, circles or characters) and honours (dragons and or winds) (clean hand) 3

Advanced Elements (less common and difficult elements to achieve)
Item Points
Three unmelded (stolen) pongs/kongs 3
Three kongs 3
Seven pairs (special pattern) 4
Only one suit (pure circles, pure bamboos or pure characters) 6
Little Dragons (two pongs of dragons and a pair of the 3rd dragon) 12
Little Winds (three pongs of winds and a pair of the 4th wind) 12

Bonus points from manner of winning
Bonus Points Table by Manner of Winning (not counted towards the minimum points needed
Item Points
Winning from the wall 1
Robbing the Kong 1
Winning on the last tile from the wall or its subsequent discard 1

Bonus points from flowers and seasons
Bonus Points Table from Flowers and Seasons (not counted towards the minimum points needed
Item Points
No flowers or seasons tiles in hand 1
Having Own flower (seat flower)
East-1 South-2 West-3 North-4
1
Having Own season (seat season)
East-1 South-2 West-3 North-4
1
All four flowers or all four seasons 4 points extra
All 8 flowers and seasons (exceedingly rare) Automatic win with maximum points


Having a flower or season that is not a players seat flower or seat season scores no bonus points (unless a player achieves all four seasons or all four flowers).
Limit hands
Limit Hands (winner receives agreed maximum payment from each player)
Item Explanation
Thirteen Orphans Player has 1 and 9 of each simple suit, one of each wind, one of each dragon and in addition one extra piece of any of those thirteen elements
Heavenly Gates Player has 1112345678999 of any simple suit and one extra piece of numbers 1 to 9. This hand always has four melds and the eyes.
Pong Hand Four concealed pongs and or kongs
Kong Hand Player has four Kongs
Honours Hand Player has all honours in the hand (winds and dragons)
Pearl Dragon All circles and a pong of the white dragon
Ruby Dragon All characters and a pong of the red dragon
Jade Dragon All bamboo and a pong of the green dragon
Great Dragons Three pongs of all three dragons
Great Winds Four pongs of all four winds

Variations


There are more variations of Mahjong than there are variations of poker. Although the basic mechanics stay the same, most variations include some particular rules, while some of them cut out a rule or two. Those variations may have far more complicated scoring systems, add or remove tiles, and include far more scoring elements and limit hands.

Equipment



There are variations that feature specific use of tiles. Some three player versions remove the North Wind and one Chinese provincial version has no honors. Korean mahjong removes the bamboo suit or at least its numbers 2–8 so that terminals can be used. Japanese mahjong rarely uses flowers or seasons. The seasons are removed in Korean mahjong, while Singapore/Malaysian mahjong has a third set of bonus tiles called animals and even a fourth called vehicles. Joker tiles are used in some versions. Some variations use counting sticks while others use chips, and some use pencils and paper for score keeping.

Rules


Japanese and Korean mahjong have some special rules. A player cannot win by a discard if that player had already discarded that piece, where players' discards are kept in neat rows in front of them. Players may declare ready, meaning that they need one tile to win, cannot change their hand and win extra points if they win. Some rules may replace some of the number 5 tiles with red tiles, as they can earn more points. Korean mahjong does not allow melded (stolen) chows.
Taiwanese mahjong adds three tiles to a hand requiring a 5th set to be formed, making a clean hand or all pong hand very difficult to procure.
American mahjong has distinctive game mechanics and the article on American mahjong
American mahjong
American Mahjong, more commonly known as Mah Jongg or Maahj, is a variant to the Chinese game mahjong. It is distinct from Asian mahjong in several ways...

 details these. Some differences include many special patterns, a different scoring system and the use of jokers and 5 of a kind.

Description of variations


There are many variations of mahjong. In many places, players often observe one version and are either unaware of other variations or claim that different versions are incorrect. Although many variations today differ only by scoring, there are several main varieties:
  • Chinese classical mahjong is the oldest variety of mahjong and was the version introduced to America in the 1920s under various names. It has a small, loyal following in the West, although few play it in Asia.
  • Hong Kong mahjong or Cantonese mahjong is possibly the most common form of mahjong, differing in minor scoring details from the Chinese Classical variety. It does not allow multiple players to win from a single discard.
  • Sichuan mahjong is a growing variety, particularly in southern China, disallowing chi melds, and using only the suited tiles. It can be played very quickly.
  • Taiwanese mahjong is the variety prevalent in Taiwan and involves hands of 16 tiles (as opposed to the 13-tile hands in other versions), features bonuses for dealers and recurring dealerships, and allows multiple players to win from a single discard.
  • Japanese mahjong
    Japanese Mahjong
    Japanese Mahjong , also known as Rīchi Mahjong, is a variation of mahjong. While the basic rules to the game are retained, the variation features a unique set of rules such as rīchi and the use of dora....

    is a standardized form of mahjong in Japan and is also found prevalently in video games. In addition to scoring changes, the rules of rīchi (ready hand) and dora (bonus tiles) are unique highlights of this variant. Besides, there is a variation called sanma (三麻) based on this sort, which is modified for playing by three players, and its main differences from the standard one are that chī (Chow) is disallowed and the simple tiles (numbers two through eight) of one suit (usually characters) are removed. Some rules replace some of number 5 tiles with red tiles so that they can eventually get more value.
  • Western classical mahjong is a descendant of the version of mahjong introduced by Babcock to America in the 1920s. Today, this term largely refers to the "Wright-Patterson
    Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
    Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base in Greene and Montgomery counties in the state of Ohio. It includes both Wright and Patterson Fields, which were originally Wilbur Wright Field and Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot. Patterson Field is located approximately...

    " rules, used in the U.S. military, and other similar American-made variants that are closer to the Babcock rules.
  • American mahjong
    American mahjong
    American Mahjong, more commonly known as Mah Jongg or Maahj, is a variant to the Chinese game mahjong. It is distinct from Asian mahjong in several ways...

    is a form of mahjong standardized by the National Mah Jongg League and the American Mah-Jongg Association. It uses joker tiles, the Charleston, plus melds of five or more tiles, and eschews the Chow and the notion of a standard hand. Purists claim that this makes American mahjong a separate game. In addition, the NMJL and AMJA variations, which differ by minor scoring differences, are commonly referred to as mahjongg or mah-jongg (with two Gs, often hyphenated).
  • Three player mahjong
    Three player mahjong
    Three player mahjong is as different from four player mahjong as Texas hold 'em is from draw poker or as Bridge is from Euchre. While the materials and mechanisms are the same, the rule changes, dynamics and scoring systems as well as the social atmosphere and challenges to playing create two...

    (or three-ka) is a simplified three-person mahjong that involves hands of 13 tiles (with a total of 84 tiles on the table) and may use jokers depending on the variation. Any rule set can be adapted for three players, however this is far more common and accepted in Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. It usually eliminates one suit entirely or tiles 2-8 in one suit leaving only the terminals. It needs fewer people to start a game and the turnaround time of a game is short—hence, it is considered a fast game. In some versions there is a jackpot for winning in which whoever accumulates a point of 10 is considered to hit the jackpot or whoever scores three hidden hands first. The Malaysian and Korean versions drop one wind and may include a seat dragon. Korean Japanese three player variant.
  • Singaporean/Malaysian mahjong is a variant similar to the Cantonese mahjong played in Malaysia. Unique elements of Singaporean/Malaysian mahjong are the four animal tiles (cat, mouse, cockerel, and centipede) as well as certain alternatives in the scoring rules, which allow payouts midway through the game if certain conditions (such as a kang) are met.
  • Fujian mahjong, with a Dàidì joker 帶弟百搭.
  • Vietnamese mạt chược, with 16 different kinds of jokers.
  • Thai mahjong, includes the Vietnamese tiles with another eight for a total of 168 tiles.
  • Filipino mahjong, with the Window Joker.
  • Korean mahjong is unique in many ways and is an excellent version for beginners and three players. One suit is omitted completely (usually the Bamboo set or 2-8 of bamboo) as well as the seasons. The scoring is simpler and the play is faster. No melded chows are allowed and concealed hands are common. Riichi (much like its Japanese cousin) is an integral part of the game as well.Korean Rules
  • Pussers bones is a fast-moving variant developed by sailors in the Royal Australian Navy
    Royal Australian Navy
    The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

    . It uses a creative alternative vocabulary, such as Eddie, Sammy, Wally, and Normie, instead of East, South, West, and North.
  • Mahjong Solitaire
    Mahjong solitaire
    Mahjong solitaire is a solitaire matching game that uses a set of Mahjong tiles rather than cards. It is also known as Shanghai solitaire, electronic or computerized mahjong, MahJong solitaire, solitaire Mahjong and, erroneously, as Mahjong...

    involves stacking the Mahjong tiles in various configurations and then through an act of elimination the discovery of tile pairs and the removal of those pairs from the stack. The computer game was originally created by Brodie Lockard in 1981 on the PLATO system. Microsoft Corporation released a computerized Mahjong solitaire
    Mahjong solitaire
    Mahjong solitaire is a solitaire matching game that uses a set of Mahjong tiles rather than cards. It is also known as Shanghai solitaire, electronic or computerized mahjong, MahJong solitaire, solitaire Mahjong and, erroneously, as Mahjong...

     game called "Mahjong Titans
    Mahjong Titans
    Mahjong Titans is a computer game version of mahjong solitaire developed by Oberon Games and included in Windows Vista and Windows 7 Home Premium, Business/Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate, but it can run in Windows XP, too...

    " originally bundled with Windows Vista and later also with Windows 7. Previously Activision
    Activision
    Activision is an American publisher, majority owned by French conglomerate Vivendi SA. Its current CEO is Robert Kotick. It was founded on October 1, 1979 and was the world's first independent developer and distributor of video games for gaming consoles...

     in 1986 released a computerized Mahjong solitaire game for the Amiga
    Amiga
    The Amiga is a family of personal computers that was sold by Commodore in the 1980s and 1990s. The first model was launched in 1985 as a high-end home computer and became popular for its graphical, audio and multi-tasking abilities...

    , Macintosh
    Macintosh
    The Macintosh , or Mac, is a series of several lines of personal computers designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc. The first Macintosh was introduced by Apple's then-chairman Steve Jobs on January 24, 1984; it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a...

     and Apple IIgs
    Apple IIGS
    The Apple , the fifth and most powerful model in the Apple II series of personal computers produced by Apple Computer. The "GS" in the name stands for Graphics and Sound, referring to its enhanced graphics and sound capabilities, both of which greatly surpassed previous models of the line...

     computers and also the Sega Master System
    Sega Master System
    The is a third-generation video game console that was manufactured and released by Sega in 1985 in Japan , 1986 in North America and 1987 in Europe....

     entitled Shanghai
    Shanghai (video game)
    Shanghai is a computer game developed by Activision in 1986 for the Amiga, MacIntosh and Apple IIgs and also the Sega Master System.-Gameplay:Shanghai is a computerized version of mahjong solitaire...

    .

Scoring



Scoring in mahjong involves points, with a monetary value for points agreed upon by players. Although in many variations scoreless hands are possible, many require that hands be of some point value in order to win the round.

While the basic rules are more or less the same throughout mahjong, the greatest divergence between variations lies in the scoring systems. Like the rules, there is a generalized system of scoring, based on the method of winning and the winning hand, from which Chinese and Japanese (among notable systems) base their roots. American mahjong generally has greatly divergent scoring rules, as well as greatly divergent general rules.

Because of the large differences between the various systems of scoring (especially for Chinese variants), groups of players will often agree on particular scoring rules before a game. As with the other rules, many attempts have been made to create an international standard of scoring, but most are not widely accepted.

Points (terminology of which differs from variation to variation) are obtained by matching the winning hand and the winning condition with a specific set of criteria, with different criteria scoring different values. Some of these criteria may be subsets of other criteria (for example, having a meld of one Dragon versus having a meld of all of them), and in these cases, only the most general criterion is scored. The points obtained may be translated into scores for each player using some (typically exponential
Exponential function
In mathematics, the exponential function is the function ex, where e is the number such that the function ex is its own derivative. The exponential function is used to model a relationship in which a constant change in the independent variable gives the same proportional change In mathematics,...

) functions. When gambling with mahjong, these scores are typically directly translated into sums of money. Some criteria may be also in terms of both points and score.
In many variations the dealer receives no scoring bonus and does not maintain his/her turn by winning or a dead hand.

Scoring in variations


In classical mahjong all players score points. Points are given for sets and hand composition and winning bonuses, doubled and redoubled for basic patterns. Sometimes a loser may score more points than a winner.
Japanese mahjong has a complex scoring system with several stages of scoring, rules and exceptions, evening out scores and bonus points at the end of a match.
Korean mahjong has a simple scoring system where only winner scores without any form of doubling.
Some variations give points for concealed hands, in which case no melds are made except by winning on a discard.

Selected variations compared

Mahjong Variations
Variation Hong Kong
Hong Kong Mahjong scoring rules
Hong Kong Mahjong scoring rules are used for scoring in Mahjong, the game for four players, common in Hong Kong and some areas in Guangdong.- Criteria :...

 
HK New Classical Japanese
Japanese Mahjong
Japanese Mahjong , also known as Rīchi Mahjong, is a variation of mahjong. While the basic rules to the game are retained, the variation features a unique set of rules such as rīchi and the use of dora....

 
Korean Taiwan  Malaysia/Singapore
Singaporean Mahjong scoring rules
Singaporean Mahjong scoring rules are similar to that of the Chinese Old Style / Hong Kong system, but accounts for the different set of tiles used therein.- Tile system :...

 
Three player mahjong J/K
Three player mahjong
Three player mahjong is as different from four player mahjong as Texas hold 'em is from draw poker or as Bridge is from Euchre. While the materials and mechanisms are the same, the rule changes, dynamics and scoring systems as well as the social atmosphere and challenges to playing create two...

 
American
Flowers Yes Yes Yes Optional Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Seasons Yes Yes Yes Uncommon Yes No Yes No Yes
Bamboo Yes Yes Yes Yes No or only terminals Yes Yes No or only Terminals Yes
Animals No No No No No No Yes No Yes
Jokers No No No No No No Yes No Yes
Scoring Base Faan Faan Multipliers Multipliers Simple Simple Simple Simple American
Scoring Winner Winner All Winner Winner Winner Winner Winner Winner
East Doubles Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Sacred Discard No No No Yes Yes No No Yes No
Melded Chows Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Riichi No No No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
Minimum Points (in variations units) 3f 5f 3f 1y 2p 7/10t 2u 3+ Varies

Specific hands


Many variations have specific hands, some of which are common while some are optional depending on regions and players. One example is the Pure Green hand made of chows or pongs using 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 of bamboo and green dragon.

Flowers


Japanese rule sets discourage the use of flowers and seasons. Korean rules and three player mahjong in the Korean/Japanese tradition use only flowers. In Singapore and Malaysia an extra set of bonus tiles of four animals are used. The rule set includes a unique function in that players who get two specific animals get a one time immediate payout from all players. In Taiwanese mahjong, getting all eight flowers and seasons constitutes an automatic win of the hand and specific payout from all players.

Four of the flower tiles represent the four noble plants
Four Gentlemen
The Four Gentlemen, also called the Four Noble Ones, in Chinese art refers to four plants: the orchid, the bamboo, the chrysanthemum, and the plum blossom. The term compares the four plants to Confucianist junzi, or "gentlemen"...

 of Confucian
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

 reckoning: 🀢 plum, 🀣 orchid, 🀥 chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemums, often called mums or chrysanths, are of the genus constituting approximately 30 species of perennial flowering plants in the family Asteraceae which is native to Asia and northeastern Europe.-Etymology:...

, and 🀤 bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

.



The other four flower tiles (or season tiles) represent seasons: 🀦 spring
Spring (season)
Spring is one of the four temperate seasons, the transition period between winter and summer. Spring and "springtime" refer to the season, and broadly to ideas of rebirth, renewal and regrowth. The specific definition of the exact timing of "spring" varies according to local climate, cultures and...

, 🀧 summer
Summer
Summer is the warmest of the four temperate seasons, between spring and autumn. At the summer solstice, the days are longest and the nights are shortest, with day-length decreasing as the season progresses after the solstice...

, 🀨 autumn
Autumn
Autumn is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter usually in September or March when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier....

, and 🀩winter
Winter
Winter is the coldest season of the year in temperate climates, between autumn and spring. At the winter solstice, the days are shortest and the nights are longest, with days lengthening as the season progresses after the solstice.-Meteorology:...

.



The animal tiles used in Malaysia, Singapore and local variations are the animals. They represent the cat
Cat
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

, mouse
Mouse
A mouse is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse . It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles...

, cockerel and centipede
Centipede
Centipedes are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda. They are elongated metameric animals with one pair of legs per body segment. Despite the name, centipedes can have a varying number of legs from under 20 to over 300. Centipedes have an odd number of pairs of...

.

Number of tiles


All tiles are placed face down and shuffled. Each player then stacks a row of tiles two tiles high in front of him, the length of the row depending on the number of tiles in use:
  • 136 tiles: 17 stacks for each player
    • Suits of dots, bamboos, and characters + winds + dragons
  • 144 tiles: 18 stacks for each player
  • 148 tiles: 19 stacks for dealer and player opposite, 18 for rest
  • 152 tiles: 19 stacks for each player

Charleston


In the American variations, it is required that before each hand begins, a Charleston is enacted. In the first round, three tiles are passed to the player on one's right; in the next round, the tiles are passed to the player opposite, followed by three tiles passed to the left. If all players are in agreement, a second Charleston is performed; however, any player may decide to stop passing after the first Charleston is complete. The Charleston is followed by an optional pass to the player across of one, two, or three tiles. The Charleston, a distinctive feature of American mahjong, may have been borrowed from card games such as Hearts.

Jokers


A feature of several variations of mahjong, most notably American variations, is the notion of some number of 🀪 Joker tiles. They may be used as a wild card: a substitute for any tile in a hand, or, in some variations, only tiles in melds. Another variation is that the Joker tile may not be used for melding. Depending on the variation, a player may replace a Joker tile that is part of an exposed meld belonging to any player with the tile it represents.

Rules governing discarding Joker tiles also exist; some variations permit the Joker tile to take on the identity of any tile, and others only permit the Joker tile to take on the identity of the previously discarded tile (or the absence of a tile, if it is the first discard).

Joker tiles may or may not have an impact on scoring, depending on the variation. Some special hands may require the use of Joker tiles (for example, to represent a "fifth tile" of a certain suited or honor tile).

In American mahjong, it is illegal to pass Jokers during the Charleston.

Ready hands


When a hand is one tile short of winning (for example:
, waiting for:
,
, or
, as
can be the eyes), the hand is said to be a ready hand (Traditional Chinese: 聽牌; Simplified Chinese: 听牌; Japanese: tenpai [聴牌]), or more figuratively, "on the pot". The player holding a ready hand is said to be waiting for certain tiles. It is common to be waiting for two or three tiles, and some variations award points for a hand that is waiting for one tile. In 13-tile mahjong, the largest number of tiles for which a player can wait is 13 (the thirteen wonders, or thirteen orphans, a nonstandard special hand). Ready hands must be declared in some variations of mahjong, while other variations prohibit the same.

Some variations of mahjong, most notably Japanese and Korean ones, allow a player to declare . A declaration of rīchi is a promise that any tile drawn by the player is immediately discarded unless it constitutes a win. Standard requirements for rīchi are that the hand be closed or have no melds declared (other than a concealed kong) and that players already have points for declaration of rīchi. A player who declares rīchi and wins usually receives a point bonus for their hand directly, and a player who won with rīchi also has the advantage to open the inner which leads to higher possibilities to match such a card, thus has more chance to grant additional bonus. However, a player who declares rīchi and loses is usually penalized in some fashion. Declaring a nonexistent rīchi is also penalized in some way.

In some variations, a situation in which all four players declare a rīchi is an automatic drawn game, as it reduces the game down to pure luck, i.e., who gets their needed tile first.

Draws


If only the dead wall remains (or if no dead wall exists and the wall is depleted) and no one has won, the round is drawn (流局 liú jú, 黃莊 huáng zhuāng, Japanese ryūkyoku), or "goulash
Goulash
Goulash is a soup or stew of meat, noodles and vegetables , seasoned with paprika and other spices. Originating in Hungary, goulash is also a popular meal in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Romania, Scandinavia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the north-eastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia...

ed". A new round begins, and depending on the variant, the Game Wind may change. For example, in most playing circles in Singapore, if there is at least one Kong when the round is a draw, the following player of the dealer becomes the next dealer; otherwise, the dealer remains dealer.

Japanese mahjong has a special rule called , which is, if three players claim the same discard in order to win, the round is drawn. One reason for this is that there are cases in which bars of 1,000 points for declaring rīchi cannot be divided by three. The rule is treated the same as "abortive draws".

Abortive draws


In Japanese mahjong, rules allow abortive draws to be declared while tiles are still available. They can be declared under the following conditions:
On a player's first turn when no meld has been declared yet, if a player has nine different terminal (also known as major) or honor tiles, the player may declare the round to be drawn (for example,
, but could also go for the nonstandard thirteen wonders hand as well).: On the first turn without any meld declarations, if all four players discard the same Wind tile, the round is drawn.: If all four players declare rīchi, the round is drawn.: The round is drawn when the fourth Kong is declared, unless all four Kongs were declared by a single player. Still, the round is drawn when another player declares a fifth Kong.

Mahjong competition rules




In 1998, in the interest of dissociating illegal gambling from mahjong, the China State Sports Commission published a new set of rules, now generally referred to as Chinese Official rules or International Tournament rules (see Guobiao Majiang
Guobiao Majiang
Guóbiāo Májiàng is a rule of Mahjong founded by All-China Sports Federation in July 1998.- Features in the rule :...

). The principles of the new, wholesome mahjong are: no gambling, no drinking, and no smoking. In international tournaments, players are often grouped in teams to emphasize that mahjong from now on is considered a sport.

The new rules are highly pattern-based. The rulebook contains 81 combinations, based on patterns and scoring elements popular in both classic and modern regional Chinese variants; some table practices of Japan have also been adopted. Points for flower tiles (each flower is worth one point) may not be added until the player has scored 8 points. The winner of a game receives the score from the player who discards the winning tile, plus 8 basic points from each player; in the case of zimo (self-drawn win), he receives the value of this round plus 8 points from all players.

The new rules were first used in an international tournament in Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

, where, in 2002, the first World Championship in Mahjong was organized by the Mahjong Museum, the Japan Mahjong Organizing Committee, and the city council of Ningbo, China. One hundred players participated, mainly from Japan and China, but also from Europe and the United States. Mai Hatsune, from Japan, became the first world champion. The following year saw the first annual China Mahjong Championship, held in Hainan; the next two annual tournaments were held in Hong Kong and Beijing. Most players were Chinese, but players from other nations attended as well.

In 2005, the first Open European Mahjong Championship was held in the Netherlands, with 108 players. The competition was won by Masato Chiba from Japan. The second European championship in Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

(2007) was attended by 136 players and won by Danish player Martin Wedel Jacobsen. The first Online European Mahjong Championship was held on the Mahjong Time server in 2007, with 64 players, and the winner was Juliani Leo, from the U.S., and the Best European Player was Gerda van Oorschot, from the Netherlands. The Third Open European Mahjong Championship 2009 at Baden/Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, was won by Japanese player Koji Idota, while runner-up Bo Lang from Switzerland became European Champion. There were 152 participants.

In 2006, the World Mahjong Organization (WMO) was founded in Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, China, with the cooperation of, amongst others, the Japan Mahjong Organizing Committee (JMOC) and the European Mahjong Association (EMA). This organization held its first World Championship in November 2007 in the Chinese town of Chengdu
Chengdu
Chengdu , formerly transliterated Chengtu, is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. It holds sub-provincial administrative status...

, attended by 144 participants from all over the world. It was won by Li Li, a Chinese student at Tsinghua University
Tsinghua University
Tsinghua University , colloquially known in Chinese as Qinghua, is a university in Beijing, China. The school is one of the nine universities of the C9 League. It was established in 1911 under the name "Tsinghua Xuetang" or "Tsinghua College" and was renamed the "Tsinghua School" one year later...

. The next World Championship will take place in Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

, the Netherlands, in Summer 2010.

Some other parties have also attempted to create international competition rules. The most noticeable one is the Zung Jung (中庸) Mahjong Scoring System, created by Hong Kong mahjong scholar Alan Kwan. Unlike the Chinese Official rules, Zung Jung is designed with simplicity as one of its design goals, and aims to be suitable for casual entertainment as well as tournament play. Zung Jung is adopted by the World Series of Mahjong event held annually in Macau. The World Series of Mahjong was last held in September 2008, in which 302 participants took part. The main event had a prize pool of US$1-million, which was won over three days of play by Alex Ho, from Hong Kong. He won US$500K from the prize pool and a mahjong necklace designed by Steela+Steelo.

Western, or American-style Mah Jongg tournaments are held in virtually every state – the largest in Las Vegas, NV twice a year, and in Atlantic City, NJ, by Mah Jongg Madness; and the annual cruise hosted by the National Mah Jongg League and Mah Jongg Madness (MJM). MJM tournaments host between 150 and 500 participants at these larger events; and there are several smaller scale, but equally successful tournaments held annually by other hosts. Prize pools are based on the number participating. Rules are based on the National Mah Jongg League standard rules.

Special meaning and history of tiles


The suits of the tiles are money-based. In ancient China, the copper coins had a square hole in the center; people passed a rope through the holes to tie coins into strings. These strings are usually in groups of 100 coins, called diào (弔, or variant 吊), or 1000 coins, called guàn (貫). Mahjong's connection to the ancient Chinese currency system is consistent with its alleged derivation from the game named mǎ diào (馬弔).

In the mahjong suits, the coppers represent the coins, the ropes are actually strings of 100 coins, and the character myriad represents 10,000 coins or 100 strings. When a hand receives the maximum allowed winning of a round, it is called mǎn guàn (滿貫, literally, "full string of coins".)
  • Dragon tiles: 🀄 Red Dragon, 🀅 Green Dragon, and 🀆 White Dragon. The term dragon tile is a Western convention introduced by Joseph Park Babcock in his 1920 book
    Book
    A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...

     introducing mahjong to America. Originally, these tiles are said to have something to do with the Chinese Imperial Examination
    Imperial examination
    The Imperial examination was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was directly responsible for the creation of a class of...

    . The red tile ("中"榜, zhōngbǎng) means passing the examination to clear the way to officialdom. The green tile ("發"財, fācái, literally "get rich") means wealth. The white tile (白板,báibǎn, literally "clean slate") means freedom from corruption. It usually has a blue border to distinguish from replacement tiles and prevent alterations. In the original Chinese mahjong, these pieces are called jiàn (箭), which represents archery, and the red "中" represents a hit on the target. In ancient Chinese archery, one would put a red "中" to signify that the target was hit. White "白" represents failure, and green "發" means that one will release the draw.

  • Stones (alternatively wheels or circles): one through nine (🀙🀚🀛🀜🀝🀞🀟🀠🀡). Named as each tile consists of a number of circles. Each circle is said to represent can (筒, tóng) coins with a square hole in the middle.



  • Bamboos: one through nine (🀐🀑🀒🀓🀔🀕🀖🀗🀘). Named as each tile consists of a number of bamboo sticks. Each stick is said to represent a string (索, suǒ) that holds a hundred coins. Note that 1 Bamboo is an exception: it has a bird sitting on a bamboo, to prevent alteration.



  • Characters (alternatively numbers): one through nine (🀇🀈🀉🀊🀋🀌🀍🀎🀏). Named as each tile represents ten thousand (萬, wàn) coins, or one hundred strings of one hundred coins.

Mahjong online


Mahjong can be played online through websites or downloading programs in various languages for fun or for money.

Unicode


Mahjong tiles were added to the Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 Standard in April, 2008 with the release of version 5.1.

The Unicode block for mahjong tiles is U+1F000–U+1F02F. Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points.

See also



  • Games played with Mahjong equipment
    Games played with Mahjong equipment
    Besides standard mahjong and its variations, several other games can be played with a set of Mahjong tiles, with any even surface provided, and a lot more can be played with little modification, for example:*Shanghai solitaire...

  • Mahjong culture
    Mahjong culture
    Mahjong has been a common culture of China, Hong Kong, Japan, and other Asian regions. It shows a high degree of influence from Chinese culture.-Hong Kong:In Hong Kong, Mahjong is not only a popular game, it is the most common social activity...

  • Mahjong movie
  • Mahjong solitaire
    Mahjong solitaire
    Mahjong solitaire is a solitaire matching game that uses a set of Mahjong tiles rather than cards. It is also known as Shanghai solitaire, electronic or computerized mahjong, MahJong solitaire, solitaire Mahjong and, erroneously, as Mahjong...

  • Mahjong video game
  • Singaporean Mahjong scoring rules
    Singaporean Mahjong scoring rules
    Singaporean Mahjong scoring rules are similar to that of the Chinese Old Style / Hong Kong system, but accounts for the different set of tiles used therein.- Tile system :...

  • World Mahjong Organization
    World Mahjong Organization
    The World Mahjong Organization is the international govering body of mahjong. Its headquarters is located in Beijing, China. As of March 2011, its president is Guangyuan Yu.-Before establishment:...

  • World Mahjong Championship
    World Mahjong Championship
    The World Mahjong Championship is played to determine the World Champion in the table game Mahjong held by World Mahjong Organization . Both men and women are eligible to contest this title, and the championship holds both of Individual event and Team event.-History:During the propagation of...


Further reading


Historical research
  • Culin, Stewart, ‘The Game of Ma-Jong, its Origin and Significance’. In: Brooklyn Museum Quarterly, Brooklyn, NY, Vol. XI, 1924, p. 153-168. Also found at; Gamesmuseum.uwaterloo.ca
  • Depaulis, Thierry, ‘Embarrassing Tiles: Mahjong and the Taipings’. In: The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card is a quarterly publication, publishing scholarly articles covering all aspects of playing cards and of the games played with them, produced by the International Playing-Card Society....

    , Vol. 35, No. 3, 2007, pp. 148 – 153.
  • Ebashi, Takashi, ‘Proto Mahjong. Mahjong Tiles in the 19th Century’. In: Mahjong Museum Report, Vol. 5, No.2, Issue 9, April, 2005, pp. 14 – 17 (in Japanese).
  • Lo, Andrew, ‘China’s Passion for Pai: Playing Cards, Dominoes, and Mahjong’. In: Asian Games: The Art of Contest, Colin Mackenzie and Irving Finkel, eds. Asia Society. 2004. pp. 217–231. ISBN 0-87848-099-4
  • Stanwick, Michael, ‘Mahjong(g) Before Mahjong(g): Part 1’. In: The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card is a quarterly publication, publishing scholarly articles covering all aspects of playing cards and of the games played with them, produced by the International Playing-Card Society....

    , Vol. 32, No. 4, 2004, pp. 153–162.
  • Stanwick, michael, ‘Mahjong(g) Before Mahjong(g): Part 2’. In: The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card is a quarterly publication, publishing scholarly articles covering all aspects of playing cards and of the games played with them, produced by the International Playing-Card Society....

    , Vol. 32, No. 5, 2004, pp. 206–215.
  • Stanwick, Michael, ‘Mahjong(g), Before and After Mahjong(g): Part 1’. In: The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card is a quarterly publication, publishing scholarly articles covering all aspects of playing cards and of the games played with them, produced by the International Playing-Card Society....

    , Vol. 34, No. 4, 2006, pp. 259–268.
  • Stanwick, Michael, ‘Mahjong(g), Before and After Mahjong(g): Part 2’. In: The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card is a quarterly publication, publishing scholarly articles covering all aspects of playing cards and of the games played with them, produced by the International Playing-Card Society....

    , Vol. 35, No. 1, 2006, pp. 27–39.
  • Stanwick, Michael and Xu, Hongbing, 'Flowers and Kings: A Hypothesis of their Function in Early Ma Que'. In: The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card
    The Playing-Card is a quarterly publication, publishing scholarly articles covering all aspects of playing cards and of the games played with them, produced by the International Playing-Card Society....

    , Vol. 37, No. 1, 2008, pp. 29–40.
  • Wilkinson, William H.,(1890): Published in 1901 as pp 184–194 of Catalogue of the Collection of Playing Cards Bequeathed to the Trustees of the British Museum, F. M. O’Donoghue.
  • Wilkinson, William H.,(1893): Published in Culin, Games of the Orient, Tuttle, 1958. First published under the title Korean Games, with Notes on the Corresponding Games of China and Japan, University of Pennsylvania, 1895.
  • Wilkinson, William H., ‘Chinese Origin of Playing Cards’, in The American Anthropologist, Volume VIII, 1895, pp. 61–78. Also found at; Gamesmuseum.uwaterloo.ca

Chinese classical
  • Babcock, Joseph Park, Babcock's Rules for Mah-jongg. Mah-jongg Sales Company of America: 1923.
  • Babcock, Smith, Hartman, Work, and Foster, The American Code Of Laws For Mah-Jongg. Standardization Committee: 1924.
  • Millington, A.D., Complete Book of Mah Jong. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: 1993. ISBN 0-297-81340-4.

Chinese official
  • Competition mahjong Official International Rulebook. Takeshobo: 2002. ISBN 4-8124-0944-6.
  • Handbook for the Competitions of the Chinese MaJiang. Organizing Committee of Chinese MaJiang: 2005.
  • Hatsune, Mai and Takunori Kajimoto, translation by Ryan Morris World-Class mahjong with World Champion Mai Hatsune: 2005.
  • Pritchard, David B., The New mahjong. Right Way: 2004. ISBN 0-7160-2164-1.

Others
  • Lo, Amy. The Book of Mahjong: An Illustrated Guide. Tuttle Publishing: 2001. ISBN 0-8048-3302-8.
  • Oxfeld, Ellen, Blood, Sweat, and Mahjong: Family and Enterprise in an Overseas Chinese Community. Cornell University Press: 1993. ISBN 0-8014-9908-9.
  • Pritchard, David B., Teach Yourself mahjong. McGraw-Hill/Contemporary: 2001. ISBN 0-658-02147-8.
  • Sloper, Tom., Mah-Jongg: Game of the Orient. Self-published: n.d.
  • Wright Patterson Mah Jongg Group, Mah Jongg; Wright-Patterson Rules. Wright Patterson Mah Jongg Group: 1963.