Mahjong as Stepping Stones to Chinese Culture

Mahjong as Stepping Stones to Chinese Culture


Chinese is a difficult language and Chinese culture like its history, calligraphy, art and craft, ethics and traditions may sound boring and remote to many people, in particular to the young ones. But there is a strong call in the Hong Kong community after the social movement to reinforce young people’s sense of national identity through the understanding of their Chinese roots and culture. The recent Policy Address by Hong Kong Government stresses the importance of Chinese culture in school curricula while at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the rejuvenation of the nation were an important agenda.

But, how can Chinese culture be more relevant and sound interesting to young people? After months of doing videos for this channel, I found Mahjong is a good stepping stone to these subjects. Today, we will categorise our content into three levels of depth and difficulty. The Elementary ones will be good for foreigners and kids to learn something basic about Chinese, the intermediate ones should be good for general interest while the advanced ones will appeal to those who are proficient in Chinese.

Starting from the elementary, from our Mahjong 101 series, we share visual guides to pick up the Chinese numerals from one to nine and the unit of ten thousand. We also explain the two important Chinese words, the word for Central 中 after which the country is named, and the word for wealth發 which the Chinese have a keen interest in and for this reason, love the number 8 which sounds close to it.  In the same series, the episode, Why 4, shows the Chinese words for the four directions 東南西北 and the four seasons and flowers in nature. In future, we may use them to explain how 4-character Chinese idioms work and the beauty, precision and refinement of the Chinese language.

In the episodes on Mahjong crossover Festivals and Mahjong for the Dead, we put Chinese festivals in a global perspective and explain the importance of the agricultural calendar. The beginning of spring was celebrated as the Chinese New Year while the harvest as the Winter Solstice. Implanted with strong Confuscism traditions, the Chinese also take ancestral veneration seriously and worship ancestors regularly in the festivals of Ching Ming and Double Nine and extend their care to other ghosts through the Yu Lan Festival.

At the Intermediate level, we look into the various forms of art and culture embedded in mahjong. From the hand carving of mahjong tiles, we introduce the heritage of Chinese calligraphy and seal engraving art. Through the subjects of cheongsam, architecture and furniture, we review the parallel history between various forms of art and design and how they were affected by the lifestyle of people at a time, and by the development of materials and technology.

In less tangible aspects, the episode on Mahjong crossover Manners explains how the game reveals the inner nature and personal character of people. As a reflection of one’s conduct, mahjong may help people to develop better habits and behaviours, and perseverance in overcoming difficult situations.

At the macro scale, mahjong shows the Chinese’s preference for big happy gatherings that are “hot and noisy” and tight bonds between friends and family. With a priority of the mass over individuals, the Chinese appear more introverted and disciplined and have less concern for personal privacy as explained in the episode on AI. We believe mahjong may be a means to show and develop other virtues of Chinese.

In the episode, Who created Mahjong, we trace the origins of mahjong and share interesting folklore through which people will learn more about the history of China, in particular the more recent Ming and Qing dynasties and the beginning of Modern China. It touches on major events like Chinghe’s expeditions to the West and the Civic War of Tai Ping Rebellion, and places like Ningbo and Jiangsu. The regional differences in lifestyle and culture were also examined in the episode on the Glocalization of Mahjong. From this, one may know more about the spread and diversification of the mahjong game to other parts of the world and recognize the influence of Chinese culture in other places.

In the episode on Mahjong crossover Queen, one may learn more about the colonial history of Hong Kong and its contribution to carrying down the mahjong tradition while it was banned in China. It also shows the potential of Hong Kong as a good cultural bridge connecting the Eastern and Western worlds. In this episode, we also explained mahjong was highly regarded by many famous people and scholars. To people like Chairman Mao, it was even been coined as a major contribution to the world by the Chinese after Chinese Medicine and the famous Chinese literature, Dream of the Red Mansion.

At the advanced level, we expect the audience to know Chinese and have a stronger interest in the future development of mahjong. We have created 20 quizzes to challenge people’s knowledge of Chinese idioms. They range from something simple and direct to something more difficult. In the episode of Mahjo-preneur, we showed the effort of some Hong Kong people, including us, in removing the bad association of mahjong with gambling and our attempt in repositioning mahjong as something healthy, social, creative and professional.

With this framework of three levels, we can map our content better and down below we list them out for your easy access. Hope we can also produce more interesting content and become good stepping stones to Chinese culture, as stated in our tagline Mahjong Connect and Inspire.


Mahjong 101 - Learn mahjong easy through 5 questions

Mahjong 101- Remember mahjong tiles easily

Mahjong 101 - How the wind work? Why 4?

Mahjong 101- 10 reasons to learn more about mahjong

Mahjong x Number



Mahjong X Carving art

Mahjong X Festival

Mahjong for the dead

Mahjong X Furniture

Mahjong x Architecture

Mahjong x Cheongsam

Mahjong – Who Created it?

Mahjong X Glocalization

Mahjong X Queen

Mahjong X Manner

Mahjong X AI



Quiz: Mahjong X Chinese Idiom


Mahjong – Play it Pro



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