Complete set of Mahjong
Photo by Immanuel Giel
OTHER NAMES: majiang, mah jongg, 麻雀/Ma Que (in Chinese)
Mahjong is the most played game in China and one of the most famous game in the world, it has heavy relation to Feng Shui and contains many special meanings in the tiles themselves. Mahjong is a tile-based game that requires heavy amount of skill, strategy, decision making skills, and some luck. Mahjong consists of a pair of dice and 144 tiles labeled in Chinese characters and symbols, and commonly requires four people to participate.
Folklore and legend depicts that Mahjong is invented by Confucius, which is due to the three dragon tiles carry the paradigm for Confucius' virtues; Sincerity, filial piety, and benevolence. This is further related with the fact that Confucius is found of birds, and the Chinese name for the game is 麻雀(ma que), which means sparrow. (1)
Evidence from Chinese researchers claim that contemporary Mahjong originated from Kiangsu, Anhwei near Shanghai around mid- to late 19th century, while others still contest the origin of the game even today. Mahjong isn't very well know prior to 1905 in the rest of the world, however during the early 20th century it gradually spread to the Western world. By 1920, Mahjong spread in the states feverously. (2)
MahJong was taken to America by Joseph P. Babcock who began importing sets in bulk to the USA in 1922. In order to make it a commercial success, Babcock heavily simplified the rules and removed many of the interesting intricacies.(3) Parker Brothers was a major factor that helped Mahjong spread in the United States in the 1920s, which had evidence that contained newspaper clippings and photographs of the Mah-Jongg Sales Company factory in Shanghai. (4) National Mahjong League Inc., who claim to produce the "official" American rules, was formed in 1935. The rest of the world began establishing clubs and organizations around that time as well. (5)
There are many digital versions of Mahjong games that were created based on the traditional Mahjong tiles.
While Mahjong is very popular globally, many official tournaments held around the world every year including WMC (World Mahjong Championship), OEMC (Open European Mahjong Championship), etc. It is also a fun game to play between family and friends for leisure, and it is a great way to engage fast pace fun during the holiday get-togethers.
The origin of games is one of the oldest human civilization lineage, spanning over millenniums of development to date. From archaeological evidence traditional games is one of the fundamental aspect of life in the ancient world, and is paramount to the development of social culture and military strategies. Many of these games became modern day family fun for holidays and occasions to enjoy.