What is Mahjong and How is it Played?

Mahjong is a well known name in the online gaming world. What is Mahjong? It is an ancient Chinese game that has now spread to the Western world including America and has gained immense popularity. The tiled game is normally played with three suits and has several versions. The game has a lot of similarity to the card games like rummy though it is played with solid tiles.

The game of Mahjong originated in China. It is a game where four players participate to match their skills, strategies, and calculative powers. However, the game is exciting since it also contains a certain amount of chance factors. Luck could play a major role in your success depending on the type of game you are playing. In the Asian countries this is a popular gambling game. Each player deals with either 13 or 16 tiles in each of the hands. The number of tiles depends on the variation of the game.

Each player draws a tile and at the same time discards one on each turn. The objective is to make 4/5 melds. This one is again dependent on the variation of the game. In addition they will have to make a pair called the “head”. When a player draws a new or discarded tile that completes his hand, he or she wins the game. The winning hand will therefore contain 14 (13 + 1) or 17 (16 + 1) tiles.

The legend goes that Confucius; the great Chinese Philosopher was the inventor of the game in the year 500 B.C. The reasons for development of such concept are that the game appears in the places of China where he traveled teaching his new doctrines. The three dragon or the cardinal tiles are also commensurate with the three greatest virtues preached by Confucius. The three colors are red, green, and white representing red middle, prosperity and benevolence respectively. They are called Hong Zhong, Fa Cai, and Bai Pi in Chinese languages respectively. Legend also goes that Confucius liked birds and that is why the name of the game is Mahjong which means sparrow. However prolonged research subsequently revealed that there was no evidence of Mahjong before the Taiping era of the 19th Century and therefore the Confucius theory finds no concrete basis.

Historians believe that the present Mahjong is based on the Chinese card game Madiao which means the hanging horse. The time is believed to be the early Ming Dynasty. The game is played using 40 paper cards. These cards are like the traditional Mahjong tiles. While in the earlier Ya Pei or Madiao they were numbered 1 through 9 in four divergent suits and there were four extra flower cards making the total of 40, the Mahjong today has three suits only. On the other hand it uses four packs of the Madiao cards.

With the coming into power of the Communist regime in China, Mahjong was banned as all types of gambling were banned there. However, in the Western World Mahjong continues to hold its sway. Writings about Mahjong were first introduced in USA by Stewart Culin. The game was sensationally successful in United States. It was standardized with the formation of the National Mahjong League in the year 1937. The first American Rule book Maajh was also introduced that year. Presently the Mahjong Association of America is a pioneer of the game hoisting tournaments all over North America.

Mahjong is played with solid tiles and therefore many people consider it to be a domino game. It has also similarity with the card games like the Rummy. Mahjong also comes in several variations. Some popular variations are Chinese Classical, Hong Kong, Sichuan, Taiwanese, Japanese, Western Classical, and American versions of Mahjong. The three players Mahjong is a simplified version while the Malaysian or Singaporean Mahjong is unique in its own style.

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