How much you know about Chinese Mahjong?


Playing mahjong 麻(má)将(jiàng) is very popular in China. Many of us like to play it. During Spring Festival, family and friends stay together and play mahjong at home. Some of us play it almost everyday.

There are many different style Mahjong in different places. Even in the same city, different people play it differently. In my mind, like many games in the world, it is easy to play at a beginner level and it is hard to get advanced.

In Chengdu, people are crazy about Mahjong, they play their Chengdu Mahjong in any places such as tea houses, and some even in water or a cave! Just check the pictures as below:


Playing Mahjong in cave


Playing Mahjong in river

I have to admit that many people play mahjong with a little money. But in fact it is the same as playing card. It is just a game and would be out of fun without a little betting. Most of players are able to keep the stake under control. For example, at home, one yuan for a set, we often play one day, the amount of money lost or gotten just 10 yuan. Sometimes 10 yuan for a set, one day only about 100 yuan lost or gotten.

Mahjong is an ancient Chinese game that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, and which gained great popularity in the 1920s. It is a popular game that had been developed from various Chinese games. Many historians believe Mahjong Games are based on a Chinese card game called Mǎdiào (马吊) (also known as Ma Tiae, hanging horse; or Yèzí (叶子), leaf) in the early Ming dynasty. The fact that it came from different Chinese games provided it with sophisticated cultural pattern.

But do you know how to play Chinese Mahjong? Here it goes:

No.1 Making a Break in the Wall

Before the game starts, the player in the East position rolls the dice in order to determine who goes first. Counting anti-clockwise, the player who is seated where the count ends rolls the dice and then the totals of both are added to count along his/her wall going from right to left. This is where the player breaks the wall and removes the pair of tiles, placing the topmost tile above the previous one and the lower tile two positions further anti-clockwise. These tiles look like the following:

No.2 Dealing the Tiles

Tiles are dealt in an anti-clockwise fashion from the break that was just made until each player has received twelve tiles. The first and third tiles are then dealt to the East position and then the first on the lowest row is given to South. The next on the topmost row is given to West and the subsequent lower tile is given to North. Thus, the East positioned player will end up with fourteen tiles and everyone else will have thirteen.

No. 3 Playing the game

Before we get into playing the game, let’s review the aim of mahjong and what is required to win. The basic idea is to create combinations of tiles which have special names as listed below:
Pong (or Pung) – A combination of any 3 same identical tiles
Kong – A combination of any 4 same identical tiles
Chow – A combination of 3 tiles in sequential order

The primary objective in the end is to have a set of tiles that is completely made up of these combinations. So in order for a player to win (or declare “Mahjong”), he/she must have a pair and 4 Pongs, Kongs or Chows.

The player positioned as East is the first to discard a tile by placing it face up in the middle of the table. Each player then has their subsequent turn of discarding a tile and picks up a new one with the option to create a tile combination. i.e. after each discard, any player can declare Pong, Kong or Chow and use the discarded tile as part of a combination.

Play continues in this fashion until someone can declare Mahjong. Whenever a player declares Kong, he/she must present the combination face up and immediately take a new tile from the Kong Box. A Pong that has been declared can be converted into a Kong but only when using a tile taken from the wall.

Tile that have been discarded are considered dead if no one is able to create a combination with them.

If all tiles have been drawn, then there is no winner and the game is declared a draw. The tiles are then reshuffled with the same wind positions.

Do you want to know how do Chinese people build relationship when playing mahjong? Why do Chinese people love this game so much? If you can play it, you will find more fun and know more about Chinese people. It will be easy for you to make friends or do business with Chinese people.

(The rules of Chinese Mahjong is extracted from

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2 Responses to How much you know about Chinese Mahjong?

  1. Anita says:

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  2. Mahjong says:

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