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 How To Play MahJong - Rules  

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How to Play

There are simply too many versions of Mahjong to list all the rules for all the variations.  But at it's core, Mahjong is, to quote one famous player, "making order out of chaos". No matter where you play, the basic game consists of building a hand of 14 tiles with Eyes, Pongs, Kongs, Chows, and Quints. Games are typically played by groups of 4 people to a table. Below you'll find detailed explanations and rules for Traditional Chinese Mahjong, American Mahjong, the Israeli twist on American Mahjong, and Siamese Mahjongg™ for 2 players. You'll also find links to the rules for Mahjong played in other countries around the world. Enjoy!

Basic Equipment

A set of Mah Jong tiles consists of 144 tiles typically around 30 x 20 x 15mm. Traditionally, they are made from bone or ivory but modern sets are usually plastic. The tiles comprise:

 

  • 36 Circle tiles in 4 sets of 9 tiles numbered 1- 9. The picture on each shows the appropriate number of circles.

  • 36 Character tiles in 4 sets of 9 tiles numbered 1- 9. The pictures show the Chinese symbol for the number represented.

  • 36 Bamboo tiles in 4 sets of 9 tiles numbered 1- 9. The picture on each shows the appropriate number of bamboos except for the One of Bamboos which often is denoted by a sparrow or rice-bird and doesn't feature a bamboo at all. 1, 5, 7 and 9 of Bamboos are represented by a picture of both red and green bamboos. The other bamboo tiles are represented by green bamboos only.

  • 16 Wind tiles - 4 tiles for each of the 4 winds.

  • 12 Dragon tiles - 4 Red dragons denoted by a bright red character, 4 Green dragons denoted by a bright green character and 4 White dragons which are traditionally denoted by a completely blank tile. However, some sets denote the white dragon with a capital 'P' which stands for 'Pai', meaning white or pure.

  • 4 Flower tiles - The Four Flowers are numbered 1 - 4 and are optional - if used, they give bonus points when drawn. Depiction of the flowers varies hugely between sets but the most common traditionally are Plum blossom, Orchid, Chrysanthemum and Bamboo.

  • 4 Season tiles - The Four Seasons are numbered 1 - 4 and are optional - if used they give bonus points when drawn. Depiction of the seasons varies hugely between sets and they are often not recognisable as a season by people who can't read Chinese.

Circles, Characters and Bamboos are known as "suits". The suit tiles numbered 2 - 8 are known as the "minor" tiles. The remaining suit tiles, 1 and 9 are known as the "major" tiles. The Wind and Dragon tiles are known as "honour" tiles.

In addition to the tiles, two dice are required. The 1 and 4 are red on traditional Chinese dice; the remaining numerals are black.
 

Optional Equipment

In fact, the tiles and dice are all that is required to play the game and these rules have been written as if no other equipment is available. However, other equipment does usually form part of a set. The following can be used at the discretion of the players if available: