If you ever come to China be sure you are aware that they mean business when they are playing Maijiang (Mah jong). It is not the little matching tile game we are all addicted to on the internet. It is a game of skill, intelligence and speed..and it is as hard as hell to play. (smile) … When I look at it I think it is a cross between, Rummy, Poker, Chess, Dominoes, Yahtzee,and Math all rolled into one. (Why do all their games involve math.. don’t they realize that is my weakest subject?)
“The Maijiang game can only be traced back to the latter part of 1890 in the area of Ning Po (China). As the game spread through China different regions adopted the game, each with its own unique set of rules. Shortly after the First World War, an America resident in Shanghai, Joseph Babcock, published the game manual together with the suggestion of the British engineer named Walker to add Arabic numbers to the tiles/mahjong to distinguish each tile and make the game easier to play.”
Yeah, that did not help... adding numbers helps to identify what the tiles kind of mean but if you can count to 9 in Chinese which i can.. well.. that part is done. A Mahjong set consist of 144 titles in total plus a wind indicator and a 3 dice.
I know… already confusing... It is usually played with 4 people sitting around a table. You always know when a game of Mahjong has started up because you hear the clicking of the tiles as they are being moved around on the table faced down to be mixed.
As I walk around the city center at night you can always here tiles clicking out of upstairs windows. and people getting overly excited about winning or angry because they have lost.
Although gambling is illegal in China… you can always see money exchanging hands under the tables or after the games in secret. Although I am sure the police are aware of the gambling but there is so much of it.. I figure they decided that they don’t have time for this kind of petty crimes .. you know? with real criminals running around.
The game is usually set up like the diagram below…
Don’t ask me exactly how to play but I do know you win if you “collect 4 sets of either “Pung”, “Sheung” or “Kong” and must have a pair of same tiles known as “Ngan” to win “Sheek-Woo” or “Mahjong” except the special hands.”
It is just to exhausting for me to learn. My husband has tried to teach me but I was lost after I formed my little wall. However, I hear it is a good thing I do not know how to play because it is very addictive. Like any form of gambling, people end up spending a lot of time and a lot of money on this game. To the point of losing their cars, homes, business, and families.
On most holidays, this game is played with families for fun. Kind of like when we play Spades with our friends and families on game nights or holidays. However, a lot of times it spills over into non-holiday times… with housewives spending hours playing and business men spending most of the day playing and neglecting their duties.
You can see groups of men and women on the street that are senior citizens killing time and having fun. However, the serious players are hidden away in little back rooms, or dark shops betting as much as 5000rmb or more on a game.
Many Chinese friends tell me I am very lucky that my husband is not interested in Mahjong or it could cause a lot of trouble in my marriage. It is true.. I am lucky.. I can see the faces of the men and women that seriously play this game.. it is a little scary… or maybe that look is from all that thinking and math they have to do to play it… I don’t know.. but it is really crazy to watch them. They are so serious and intense like their whole life depends on this one game… and I guess in some cases it does.
until next time….