ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Tile Game Mahjong

Updated on January 12, 2022
wahponywoo2 profile image

As an owner of a board game website since 2005 I have played and reviewed numerous outdoor games including the backyard games mentioned here

The Chinese game Mahjong.

A brief history of the tile game mahjong

We are going to learn about the tile game Mahjong but before we do let's start with some history.

According to Wikipedia: The game Mahjong is based on draw and discard card game that was popular in 18th and 19th century China during the Qing dynasty, some of which are still popular to this day.

There are a variety of different spellings such as Mahjong, Mahjongg, Mah Jong, and others however, it doesn’t matter how you spell it because all the variations mean the same thing fun!

The game was popular in China in the mid to late 1800s and reached the United States in the 1920s.

However, it was mentioned in a paper written by an American anthropologist Stewart Cullen in 1895.

In 1949 the People’s Republic of China completely banned the game because it was considered gambling.

At the time Mahjong was not the only game banned, other games like it were considered by those in power to be a representation of capitalist corruption, and the powers that be would not tolerate any forms of gambling.

It took another cultural revolution to bring back the game which flourished without the gambling element.

Finally, in 1985, it became legal to play the game again, and people in China and other Chinese communities began to play it with even more enthusiasm.

Banned or not more than likely the game was played in secret, a game that popular would not be completely shut down.

In public may be one thing but behind a closed-door may be another thing.

Mahjong Fun Fact #1

The longest Mahjong match lasted 33 hours.

What is the meaning of the variety of different Mahjong tiles?

The tile game consists of 3 sets of suited tiles, 2 sets of honor tiles, and any number of variations of different tiles, usually, the tile is nature-based.

A game should consist of at least 136 tiles and will always be in multiplications of 4.

The Simple Tile:
There are 3 sets of basic tiles or also referred to as suits that are numbered from 1 to 9.

The numbers on the tile are often simplistic Chinese characters when the first and the last tiles sometimes appear unique due to their original game purpose, similar to what the Ace represents in a deck of playing cards.

These basic 3 sets represent Bamboo, Characters (myriad), and circles or bam – round bread. These sets will appear 4 times.

Bamboo represents the Axis of Earth, the circles are representing the Wheel of Heaven and the characters represent changes in the life of man.

The tiles used to represent Chinese currency like the “bams” are equal to their numerical value in copper coins, each “bamboo” is worth 100 copper coins (bamboo were used to carry coins) and each “myriad” is worth 10,000 copper coins.
The honor tiles:
Opposed to the basic sets, the symbols on the honor tiles are different and don’t have ranking or numerals on them.

The honor tiles are the four winds and the “dragons”.

The wind tiles represent the four cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west.

The Three Dragon tiles do not represent real dragons, in Chinese culture Dragons can also mean the “basics of life”.

This being said the red, green, and white tiles; represent in order the 3 of the virtues in Confucianism – Piety, Benevolence, and Sincerity.

The Flower tiles:
One would think that the Flower tiles would be all about flowers however, they are not strictly symbols of flowers.

Flower tiles are usually numbered in Latin numerals from 1 to 4. The first common set is traditional Chinese flowers: Plum, Orchid, Chrysanthemum, and Bamboo.

The Second common set, are the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Winter, and Autumn.
Flower sets may represent flowers from the region where the game is played.

This is just an example of different tile there are Mahjong games that offer bonus tile and other specialty tile depending on the country of origin.

We will look closer at the other types of Mahjong and some of their characteristics below.

Most Mahjong game sets consist of 166 tiles.

The different Mahjong versions

There are numerous versions of the game Mahjong and depending on what area the game is from will dictate the rules and the game pieces.

Not all Mahjong is played the same.

Chinese classical Mahjong tile game:

This version is the oldest surviving variety of Mahjong and was the version introduced to America in the 1920s under various names.

Western classical Mahjong:

A descendant of the version of Mahjong introduced by Babcock to America in the 1920s.

Currently, this term largely refers to the " Wright-Patterson" rules, used in the U.S. military, and other similar American-made variants that are closer to the Babcock rules.

American Mahjong:

This 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, treats bonus tiles as honors, and eschews the Chow and the notion of a standard hand.

These are just a sample of the many versions worldwide because each area of the globe has its own favorites which also includes a different set of rules.

Mahjong Fun Fact #2

The first Mahjong set was sold in the US by Abercrombie & Fitch in 1920.

Highly rated Mahjong game set

Kai Tai Inc 4 Pushers Complete American Mahjong Set in Aluminum Case, 166 Tiles(mah Jong Mah Jongg Mahjongg)
Kai Tai Inc 4 Pushers Complete American Mahjong Set in Aluminum Case, 166 Tiles(mah Jong Mah Jongg Mahjongg)
What a great American Mahjong game value! This Mahjong game set features 166 non-glaring tiles. Tile size is approximately: 1.25” x 0.9” x 0.5”. The tiles are 36 Circles - 36 Bamboos - 36 Characters - 12 Dragons (Red Green and White) - 16 Winds (North, East, South, West) - 16 Flowers - 10 Jokers - 4 Blank Spare tiles. There are 4 Jewel colored transparent plastic racks (the color combination may vary) with coin holders. There are Chips, 1 Wind indicator, and 3 dices and pushers. The aluminum case with handle features 2 felt lined tile trays. They will give your whole set the best protection for years to come. Also featured is an instruction manual that will help everybody to learn how to play if you don’t already know-how. Of all the Mahjong game sets I have looked at or played this is without a doubt one of the best values. Of course, value is like art it is in the eyes of the beholder so there may be features of this game set that are not appealing to you. However, if you are just starting out and have never played the game before this is a low-cost investment to make sure you will enjoy the game. So there you have it, low cost, loaded with features, and a solid carrying case. If you are thinking of investing in your first Mahjong game set or just getting another set then this is an excellent choice!

The popularity of Mahjong is still growing!

Mahjong Fun Fact #3

The three dragon tiles which coincide with Confucius’ idea about three vital virtues: filial piety, humaneness, and sincerity.

© 2020 Steven


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)