An Introduction to Mah Jong #MondayBlogs

What the heck am I doing?

I’ve fallen in love with Mah Jong, a Chinese game played with tiles that is similar to rummy. I’ll be sharing what I know about the game as I learn it. This mini-series will appear on Mondays, because I like the alteration of Mah Jong Mondays. Today, I’ll introduce the game.

 Mah Jong – The Name

The game was originally called pinyin, which means sparrow. While this name continues to be used in some southern Chinese, Korean and Japanese games, most Mandarin-speaking Chinese now call the game májiàn. The English form of this word is Mah Jong, which is spelled in various ways.

The Origin of Mah Jong

There are a few stories about how the game got started.

Blame it on Confucius (500BC)

Most people consider this story a myth, as it is based on the idea that the philosopher Confucius invented the game over two centuries ago. This, they say, explains the origin of the sparrow name, as Confucius loved birds. They also say the three dragons in the game, represent the three virtues in Confucian philosophy: sincerity, filial piety and benevolence.

It was all in the Cards (1850 – 1875)

It is widely believed the game, as we know it, was developed by a Shanghai nobleman between 1870 and 1875.

Another popular story is that two brothers from Ningpo, renowned for carving ivory,  created the game around 1850.

Mah Jong is based on popular draw-and-discard card games and is considered to have the same root as the game of Rummy.

The earliest known tile set dates to around 1870.

The Spread of Mah Jong

Although the origins continue to be disputed, everyone agrees that Mah Jong was played in China in the mid to late 1800s and came to the United States in the 1920s. It is played around the world in many different ways.

Is it a Game of Chance or a Game of Skill?

That’s the question that fascinates me.

Clearly both chance and skill are involved in the game. How much does one dominate? I have noticed that experienced players tend to win over new players, so even though it appears to be mostly a game of chance, skill is important.

What do you think?


“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Confucius


Wikipedia –

Photo Credit:

Confucius – Wikipedia

Coming Next Monday:

The 3 Dragons in Mah Jong

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

9 thoughts on “An Introduction to Mah Jong #MondayBlogs”

    1. There is skill and strategy involved for sure. The game is becoming more and more popular here. I wouldn’t be surprised if you run into it in your area.
      What games do you like to play?
      Thanks for stopping by and chatting. I always like chatting with you.
      all the best,


      1. Hi Susan,
        I love that you keep a journal of your games. I’ve started a journal to track my games, so I can see which hands are working for me, but I know that I’ll be looking back on my notes and remembering many other things.
        I’ve never heard of Settlers of Catan. I’m off to google it.
        Thanks for stopping by and chatting.
        All the best,


  1. Somewhere I hav a romantic suspense story buried away that featured a Chinese Mahjong playing head of a Chinese family on the wrong side of the law. The story lies forgotten in well deserved obscurity but the character comes vividly alive in my mind,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mah Jong is most definitely a game of chance and skill.
    As one becomes an experienced player, many of the hands are memorized. This enables the player to play several hands at once, switching back and forth until their tiles look promising as a winning hand. Sometimes the tiles dealt “speak” to the player and a decision is made right from the start what hand to play. In other words, the tiles dealt look lucky. However, this can change as
    new tiles are acquired. It takes skill to know what hand to play and this skill comes only with
    experience. I have seen days where the tiles are not lucky for me and despite years of experience
    I just can not win! If a player is tired or stressed with personal issues this also affects the game…as in any games of skill. A player needs to be alert and concentrate. If there is a lot of
    chatter amongst players during a game this can affect your concentration and mistakes are made.
    Other players should feel free to request there be no chatter. Conversation in between games is
    acceptable and fun.

    Rhondda 🀄️


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