What is Mahjong

Mahjong is a popular Chinese tile game that requires both luck and skill. The game likely originated in ancient China, but even today, the game is still being played by older and younger generations across Asia. Whilst Mahjong can be used for gambling, it is also commonly played during family gatherings (e.g. Chinese New Year) as a means to enhance family bonding. The game requires 4 players to sit around a square table, making it a good opportunity to make conversation and catch up with your relatives.


History of Mahjong

The exact origins of Mahjong are debated but the general consensus is that the game has at least been around for two centuries. A common theory is that Mahjong evolved from Madiao, a popular card game in the Ming dynasty, which were made up of cards of four suits (with numbers 1-9) and flower cards.

Another interesting theory is that in the ancient Taicang city of Jiangsu, there was a royal granary that was always overflowing, which attracted many sparrows. In an effort to reduce damage made to the grains by the sparrows, the rulers mobilised the people to capture the sparrows in return for prizes. The number of sparrows caught were recorded on bamboo-made cards, indicated by Circles/Dots (筒子), bamboo sticks (索子), number characters (萬子) and numbers, and the cards could ultimately be exchanged for prize money. The people giving out the bamboo cards eventually invented a game with the cards, and the Circles/Dots (筒子), bamboo sticks (索子), number characters (萬子) became the three suits of present day Mahjong.