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