Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

#AtoZ: M is for Mahjong, Majiang, Mah-jongg, Mahjongg, or Mah jongg

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What the heck is making all that noise?

The men at the Horizons at Woods Landing, my 55+ community, have the nerve to complain about all the noise we ladies make when we play mahjong! But, of course, they are just jealous of the fun we have as we clack and clink away with our tiles.

And soon enough, they beg and plead to learn how to play mahjong, too. Poor things. They’re feeling just a little left out.

Okay, fair is fair.  We let them play with us, and slowly, slowly, slowly, they learn how to make noise play this game of skill, strategy, and luck with us.


One member of our group wrote an article for our community newsletter, On the Horizon, and as editor, I checked on the various spellings of mahjong: mahjong, mahjongg, mah-jongg, mah jongg, ma jiang, and others.

We decided to use one common spelling, mahjong, in our newsletter. Really, it doesn’t matter if you choose another spelling variation, just follow one primary rule: be consistent with whichever variation you use through out your article or publication.

Just as there are several spellings for mahjong, there are several versions to play. At the HWL clubhouse, we play two different versions: the Filipino version and the American version.

What? You thought mahjong was a Chinese game?

Well, it is. Or was. Now you can play mahjong in just about any country and in any style: American mahjong, Asia-Pacific mahjong, Hong Kong mahjong, Japanese mahjong, Filipino mahjong, and others.

Supposedly, Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, developed mahjong around 500 B.C., and everyone, emperors to peasants, played the game over the centuries. But in 1949, the  ruling powers of the People’s Republic of China banned the game because it corrupted Chinese morals with gambling. After the end of the Cultural Revolution and the deaths of several major political leaders of the time, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, Chinese citizens were again free to play mahjong (1980 or so), but without gambling.

Mahjong is quite popular in my Woods Landing community where we hear the clacking and shuffling of tiles for several hours, five or six times a week. Several groups play the Filipino version, and several groups play the American version. Personally, I think the American version is more difficult than the Filipino version.

Suzanne, Linda, Cathy, and I stir up the tiles to begin our game of mahjong.

Suzanne, Linda, Cathy, and I stir up the tiles to begin our game of Filipino mahjong.

After we build four walls of tiles, we begin to disperse tiles in two groups of eight to each person. Here's my beginning hand.

After we build four walls of tiles, we disperse tiles in two groups of eight to each person. Here’s my beginning hand. Next, we take turns and draw one tile from the wall in the middle and discard one tile. Our goal is to build five sets of three tiles (a run of three numbers or three matching tiles) and one pair of matching tiles.

This is as far as I got in building sets before Cathy called "mahjong." My luck was not so good today.

This is as far as I got in building my sets before Cathy called “mahjong.” My luck was not so good today. I needed one more set of three and one pair.

When I hear those tiles clacking as they get shuffled around the table, I remember my time in Hong Kong (1993-2000). We often walked in Stanley or Kowloon and would hear the clacking of tiles as men and women played out in the alleys on hot summer days and nights. It was a good, comforting sound.

And that reminds me of the glorious food smells coming from the little restaurants in Stanley and Kowloon.  Um-yum.

I miss Hong Kong, but I guess I have to settle for mahjong at the clubhouse and Chinese food from the ubiquitous Best Food in Town. Oh, well.

Here’s a video about the food in Hong Kong.


Your turn: What quirky errors or interesting words do you find in writing?

Janice Hall Heck, retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

logo 2.2Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk, theme for the 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.








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4 thoughts on “#AtoZ: M is for Mahjong, Majiang, Mah-jongg, Mahjongg, or Mah jongg

  1. I learned to play this many years ago in my village – a small village in the heart of Somerset, near Bath, in the UK. I live in a 400 yr old cottage, and we are as far from Asia as you are likely to get – but still, we played with an ancient set owned by a friend’s family!

    We have a friend from Hong Kong who visited – he was at a university in a city nearest us… he could not get home for Christmas so we have a scheme where we invite anyone who wants to come home to our home for Christmas. Our children were young at the time, and we still keep in touch.

    Liz A-Z http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

    • Hi Liz, What a game! It’s played around the world. Your cottage sounds fascinating. And so nice that you invite “orphans” in on holidays. Being away from family on holidays is hard. Nice to meet you in the blogosphere.

  2. While serving in West Berlin in ’76 – ’78 (the wall was still in place), I was taught to play Mahjong by a couple who were serving with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I wasn’t married long at the time and both me and my young wife enjoyed our evenings learning the game. It was strange that in such a wonderful city we learned the rules of a game that originated in the Far East. The FCO couple had previously spent about four years in Hong Kong.

    • I had tried learning to play Mahjong several times, but never had the patience to continue. This year, however, I committed to a group of friends, and we played every Wednesday morning through the fall. I did the snowbird thing for a few months this winter so took a hiatus, but now we are back at the game. I enjoy it. It gets me away from this computer! I am thinking about trying the American version. I did get a couple practice sessions on that in Florida. I liked the challenge.

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