One of my favourite activities when I am in Singapore is to play mahjong… with relatives and friends there who know how to play and enjoy it too :)
Careful though, I am not referring to the Mahjong game you can play on your computers where the aim is to match pairs… I am talking about the 4-player game which you have probably less heard of.
Mahjong is a chinese game where you use tiles to build combinations (three of a kind or sequencing numbers), gain more points thanks to the “winds” and “dragons” tiles… and overall win (or loose) money. (as you may know, Chinese people love to gamble, and I must admit it is more fun when there is something at stake!) It is a little like rummy, if you’ve played this game before.
One of my best hands so far !! 2 flowers and all of a same kind
It is originally a game from continental China, called Ma Jiang (麻将）but it was later exported to other countries when the Chinese community moved to other countries. “Mahjong” is the name for the Hong-Kongese version, which is the most played in Singapore. So there are no longer “fixed” rules of mahjong, since every region or community has its specific rules and way of counting points. Also, different versions of mahjong exist in other Asian countries, like Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
The funny thing about mahjong is that sometimes Asian people you meet do not know how to play (especially in the younger generation), whereas tourists or foreigners (like me :) ) sometimes know the rules! I wonder if that’s because it’s an easy item to bring back to your home country and share with your foreign friends…
However if you have the chance to visit elderly people in Singapore, you will probably see them play mahjong. It is said to be a great game to keep your mind alert… and boy! Are they fast when they play!! I wish someday I’ll be able to compete with them!!
Another of my winning hands… with jokers!
Overall, mahjong is really fun and a great way to get closer to the Chinese culture if you are not very knowledgeable about it and wish to learn more. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know how to speak Chinese, just read a few characters which you can find on the internet.
Also, there is a growing trend of mahjong competitions in foreign countries, so why not join a club and start practicing?
I even thought about starting a Mahjong club in my school a few years back… it’s a pity I didn’t have enough time to carry this project out, I’m sure it would have been a great hit! Especially since more and more Chinese students are studying in foreign countries like France, it would have been quite easy to find knowledgeable players :)