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Mah Jong

Mahjong (麻將 pinyin: ma2 jiang1 lit. hemp general or 麻雀 Cantonese: ma4 jeuk3, literal meaning: "sparrow") is a Chinese gambling game for 4 players. The game pieces (tiles) and scoring rules used in the game are slightly different depending on regional variations. The game play in general are very similar in all versions, as players compete to build sets including the highest point value and the best combinations of Honor tiles.

The game of mahjong was very popular in the Jewish senior community in the US. They called it Jong.

There are 4 suits in the tile set - They are known by different names in English vs. Chinese.

  • circles or coins (銅 pinyin tong2 lit. copper) (nine values, with four tiles of each number)
  • bamboos or bams (索 pinyin sou3 lit. rope) (nine values, with four tiles of each number)
  • characters (萬 pinyin wan4 lit. myraid) (nine values, with four tiles of each number)
  • honors - comprising
    • four winds (East 東, South 南, West 西 and North 北) (four tiles for each wind)
    • the four seasons (Spring 春, Summer 夏, Autumn 秋 and Winter 冬) Unique tiles that function as a set
    • the four flowers (plum 梅, Orchid 蘭, chrysanthemum 菊, bamboo 竹) Unique tiles that function as a set
    • the three Dragons (red 中, green 發 and white 白) (four of each dragon)

Little known to most players, the suits of the tiles are money-based. The coppers represent the coins; the ropes are actually strings of 100 coins; and the character myriad represents 10 thousand coins or 100 strings.

Mah Jong tiles are also used for a computerised solitaire matching game called Shanghai solitaire, or occasionally computerised Mahjong. While this game could be played with real tiles, the electronic setup makes it quick and simple to play.

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