Elizabeth leads our Mah-Jong group and they meet every other Thursday afternoon in the Small Digby Hall. There is a charge of £3.50 - £5 per term.
The group are always happy to have new members and the game is very easy to learn. It can be enjoyed at all levels and we find that after one session, people have generally got the hang of it!
Mah Jong originated in China and is usually played with tiles made of bamboo and ivory engraved in colour, though it can also be played with cards of equivalent design.
Sets traditionally consist of 136 standard tiles (and eight bonus tiles) as follows:
- Three suits with tiles numbered 1 to 9. The usual English names for the suits are dots, bamboos and characters. There are four identical copies of each suit tile - 108 suit tiles in all.
- The four directions or "winds" (east, north, west, south) - four copies of each (16 tiles).
- Three colours or "dragons" (red, green, white) - again four copies of each, so 12 tiles.
- Bonus tiles: four different flower tiles and four different season tiles - so 8 bonus tiles in all, though some sets may have more.
Four players, designated as East, South, West, and North, each build a wall of seventeen tiles long, two tiles in height (all face down) and position them to form a hollow centred wall. In the traditional game, 13 tiles are dealt to each player, and the object is, by a draw and discard mechanism, to form a winning hand of 14 tiles. Tiles are drawn from the wall. At the beginning of the game the wall is "opened". The opening point is generated randomly by the throw of a dice. Discards are put face up inside the wall.
A winning hand normally consists of four sets of three and a pair. A set of three can be three identical tiles or three tiles of the same suit in numerical sequence. Depending on the variation played, the game can also be won with various special hands containing other combinations of tiles. There are numerous extra bonuses for feats such as winning with a single suit, or all winds and dragons.
The literal translation of Mah Jong is "flax/hemp" "sparrow clattering". Players love the sound of the tiles as they are mixed together prior to the start of each hand. Listening carefully, they hear the sound of the flax blowing in the wind and the sparrows clattering.