The 3 Dragons of Mah Jong #Mondayblogs

It’s Mah Jong Monday …

Dragons in Chinese Culture

Not all dragons are equal. Here in the west, we depict dragons as fire-breathing, aggressive beasts that need to be conquered, but eastern cultures see things differently.

“Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, typhoons, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it.” Wikipedia

Given their grand position in Chinese culture, it’s no surprise that there are three dragon tiles in the game of Mah Jong.

Dragons in Mah Jong

The three dragon tiles (i.e., red, green and white dragons) are honor tiles. They play important roles in mah jong hands.

Illustration: white, red, and green dragons. In many sets (mine included) the red and green dragons are actual dragons.

White Dragon

  • Chinese Character “Pai”
  • it represents the mysterious unknown
  • a border is drawn around the white to contain it


Red Dragon

  • Chinese Character “Chung” (see above)
  • it means middle or center and the character looks like an arrow hitting a target
  • so the larger meaning of this tile is success or achievement


Green Dragon

  • Chinese Character “Fa” (see above)
  • means to commence – the stylized version of the character looks like an arrow being drawn back, ready to release
  • to proceed or start



My 2 Cents

Knowing the meaning of the tiles adds another dimension to the game. Call me cheesy, but it makes it more exotic and fun for me.


My Mah Jong

My winning hand this week  was Windvane


Windvane: one of each of the winds, and one paired, a pung in each suite. We play it exposed.



What’s Next?

Next Monday I’ll look at the other honor tiles (i.e., the winds, ones and nines).

If you found this post interesting, check out the rest of my Mah Jong mini-series.


“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” ~ Confucius

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

6 thoughts on “The 3 Dragons of Mah Jong #Mondayblogs”

  1. Hi Jo-Ann,
    I find the Mah Jong tiles very attractive but only understood the part about ‘playing it exposed’. Your winning hand was ‘windvane’ and the three sets along the bottom must have been the winds. After that I was befuddled. But must admit I’m not much of a board or card player. I can see Mah Jong playing a role in one of your future stories though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear, I’m sorry to have lost you, Daniela. I am assuming the reader has played the game and/or has some familiarity with it.
      I found in doing research on the game that it isn’t easy to find clear information, so I am trying to offer it about parts of the game as clearly as I can.
      All the best,


  2. So do you play the American version with the Standard Hands from the Mahjong league? That’s what my group uses and jokers which isn’t common but so much fun!


    1. Hi Vicki,
      I’m not sure. I play the “Western” version, which comes from Australia. I suspect the games are similar but not identical.
      I’d love to play with jokers. It sounds like you have a great group.
      Right now I’m still swimming in all the hands I need to learn, but loving every minute of it. It’s a great game for writers, because when you play you can’t think about anything else. It gives the mind a nice break.
      I hope you’re having a wonderful spring.
      all the best,


  3. Hello Vicki and Jo-Ann.
    The American version is quite different from the Western (Australian) version. These are also different from the Chinese version. There is no universal way of playing, over the years Mah jong has been adapted world wide with many versions.
    I teach the Western version at our university ElderCollege. We play a large variety of hands from a series of 3 books published in Australia. We use 144 tiles with only 4 flowers and 4 season tiles. We do not use jokers. I have looked at American Mah Jong sets and they have more tiles then the Western sets. I understand in the American version you receive a card in the mail each year. However, I am not familiar with this.
    The Mah Jong sets from the orient do not have our Arabic numerals on them so are difficult for us to use unless we can read Chinese! I have a set from Cambodia with no numerals on the tiles.
    Here in Western Canada I know of groups who play American, Western and Chinese.
    Whatever version players use, Mah Jong is always enjoyable. I am known to say it is good exercise for our mind and memory and helps prevent dimentia!
    The artist’s descriptions on the tiles are always a joy to behold.
    I am so happy to hear that you enjoy the game, whatever version you may play.

    Rhondda 🀄️


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