Mah Jongg

Mah Jongg

Originating in China, Mah Jongg is a popular multiplayer board game found across Asia and all over the rest of the world.

History of Mah Jongg

The game was originally played with cards in China, during the time of the Ming Dynasty. Back then it featured four suits, not the three suits seen today.

It was popular in China until 1949, when it was prohibited as a form of gambling. After this was revoked in 1985, the popularity of Mah Jongg returned, without the connected gambling elements.

The game did not reach America until 1920, but it is now popular all over the world. There are many single player variants of Mah Jongg which, although they have the same name, simply use the Mah Jongg set in a similar manner to Solitaire. True Mah Jongg is still played as a multi-player game.


Gameplay uses a Mah Jongg tile set. A traditional tile set has three suits, ranging from 1 to 9. The suits are typically Bamboos, Characters and Circles. Additionally, there will be three dragon tiles, four wind tiles, four flower tiles and four season tiles.

The game is typically played with four people, playing in four rounds. In each round, a different ‘wind’, or player, takes turn dealing the tiles out. Each round starts with each player having a wall of 18 random tiles; the rest of the tiles are in the middle. Players also have a hand of 13 tiles.

Rounds consist of players taking turns to discard a tile from their wall, throwing it into the middle. The goal of the game is to acquire a hand of thirteen tiles, using specific sets and suits to win. Typically, this is done through four ‘melds’ (sets of three) and the ‘eyes’ (a matching pair).

As Mah Jongg is quite old, there are many local variations and standards to adapt to. The traditional game-play, however, focuses on discarding and picking up tiles. In most formats, for instance, players must maintain a hand size of 13, unable to go above or below. As such, they must constantly discard and pick up tiles each turn.