Suits in Mah Jong #Mondayblogs

It’s Mah Jong Monday again and this time we’ll look at the suits.

There are three suits in a Mah Jong set:

  • bamboo (sometimes referred to as bams)
  • characters (sometimes referred to as craks)
  • circles (sometimes referred to a dots)

1-9 Notation

Each suit has the numbers one to nine and an image. In Chinese sets the roman number is not shown only the picture.

4 of Each

There are four of each tile, 36 of each suit and a total of 108.

What can You do with them?

Suit tiles are the most flexible tiles in a hand and can be:

  • chowed,
  • punged,
  • konged or
  • paired.

What is a Chow?

It’s a run. For example: 1, 2, 3 in circles, seen below.

What is a Pung?

It is three of a kind. For example: 5 of bamboo seen below.

What is a kong?

It is four of a kind.

What is the significance of the suits?

It’s all about money.


“Because of the large size of the circle in the 1 Circle, it is commonly nicknamed da bing (大餅 pinyin dàbǐng, lit. big pancake).

From the monetary origin of this suit, the circles represent the copper coins known in English as “cash.”  Wikipedia


“… the sticks are actually rope strings (索) that tie 100 Chinese copper coins together by the square holes in the middle. … The repeated bumps in the sticks depict the individual coins in the strings, but they were mistaken as the knots on the bamboo plants, hence the English name of the suit. The 1 Bamboo, as it commonly depicts a bird, is often referred as the sparrow (麻雀 – má què).” Wikipedia


“These tiles feature the character 萬 (wàn) on its surface, which means ’10,000.”   Again it refers to money.




Feature Photo Credit:

Sandberg Elaine. Winning American Mah Jongg Strategies. Tuttle

Publishing, China. 2012

What’s Next?

If you found this post interesting, check out the rest of my Mah Jong mini-series. I may write about it more in the future, but for now that’s it.




“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” ~  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

4 thoughts on “Suits in Mah Jong #Mondayblogs”

  1. This is interesting, Jo-Ann, as my group doesn’t have chow on the cards from the National League. We say dot, not circle and crack. Rats, I can’t play today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vicki,
      I picked up a couple books on the American version. It looks like fun, too. I didn’t realize you couldn’t chow in it.
      Sorry your game got cancelled today.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      May the tiles be with you,

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the explanations of the suits and the markings on the tiles. I play oine or two of those Mah Jongg solitaire games, which don’t require any knowledge of the game itself, and it’s nice to know what I’m looking at.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John,
      You’re welcome. I’m quite addicted to the game and enjoy writing about what I am learning.
      While I enjoy playing it alone , I prefer working with a group as we help each other out. I’m forever going the wrong way when I deal etc. Lol.
      I hope you continue to enjoy your games.
      All tge best,


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