What is Mahjong and how do you play it?

1 month ago 14

Lockdown is a perfect opportunity to try something new – whether it’s picking up a new hobby you can learn or practice at home or trying out some home workouts.

Another thing you can do is explore the customs of other cultures, as a way of travelling when you can’t physically travel.

With it being Chinese New Year, why not learn about a popular game played all across Asia – Mahjong.

What is it, and how do you play the game?

What is Mahjong?

Mahjong is a popular Chinese game played with sets of tiles.

Players – usually four – will play with 144 tiles, starting with 13 each.

It dates back to the Qing dynasty in the 17th Century and has since spread, undergoing different regional variations.  

Different regions have included new rules and new symbols to the game, but at its core, Mahjong remains the same.

How do you play Mahjong?

At its core, in a game of Mahjong, the aim is to be the first person to match a hand of 14 tiles – this person gets to call mahjong, which ends the game and awards the player a point.

The winner must get their 14 tiles into four sets and one pair: a set can either be a ‘pung,’ which is three identical tiles, or a ‘chow,’ which is a run of three consecutive numbers in the same suit.

A single tile cannot be used in two sets at once.

When a game begins, all tiles are shuffled together, and the players build a wall of 34 face-down tiles in front of themselves, 17-tiles long and two tiles high.

The result should be a large square wall of tiles in the centre of the table.

The dealer rolls the dice and counts that many tiles from the right edge of their wall and separates the wall at that point to begin dealing tiles from the left of that spot and going clockwise.

Each player receives 13 tiles, with the dealer starting with an extra 14th tile.

Each player then arranges their own tiles so they can see them, and other players cannot – a bit like the Western card game Rummy.

Once the game starts, players will draw and discard tiles until they complete a legal hand – mahjong!

MORE : Chinese New Year traditions and superstitions – from not taking medicine to not washing your hair

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