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mah jongg

mah jongg (mä jông), four-handed game, probably of Chinese origin, popular in the United States. It is played in many variations throughout China. In 1920, Joseph P. Babcock, an American traveler in China, devised a set of rules for Western play and invented a complete terminology. He patented the game under the trademark Mah Jongg. The game enjoyed a remarkable popularity. The goal of the game, which is similar in principle to rummy, is to accumulate sets. The equipment for the currently popular mah jongg set consists of 152 tiles—small rectangular blocks of wood with ivory or bone faces. There are 108 suit tiles, 16 wind tiles, 12 dragon tiles, 8 flower tiles, and 8 jokers. The three suits are bamboo, or sticks; circles, or dots; and characters, or cracks. Both the distribution of tiles and succeeding play are complicated.

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mah-jongg

mah-jongg / mä ˈzhäng; -zhông/ (also mah-jong or mah·jongg or mah·jong) • n. a Chinese game played, usually by four people, with 136 or 144 rectangular pieces called tiles. The object is to collect winning sets of these tiles, as in card games such as gin rummy.

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mah-jong

mah-jong XX. — Chinese, ‘house sparrow’.

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mah-jong

mah-jongalong, belong, bong, chaise longue, dong, Geelong, gong, Guangdong, Haiphong, Heilong, Hong Kong, Jong, King Kong, long, mah-jong, Mao Zedong, Mekong, nong, pong, prolong, prong, sarong, Shillong, song, souchong, strong, thong, throng, tong, Vietcong, wrong •billabong • dingdong • Wollongong •Chittagong • headlong • livelong •sidelong • lifelong • oblong • oolong •singalong • furlong • pingpong •Armstrong • headstrong • part song •plainsong • evensong • singsong •swansong • birdsong • biltong •diphthong

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Mah-Jongg

Mah-Jongg

Mah-Jongg, an ancient gambling game which originated among the Chinese ruling class over 2000 years ago, gained widespread popularity in the United States from the 1930s, particularly as a leisure pastime among American Jewish women. Recognized the world over by its ritualized play and the satisfying clack of tile against tile, Mah-Jongg is a complicated four-handed game, whose rules are similar to the card game rummy. It is played with 152 tiles, colorfully painted with three suits (bamboo, characters, and dots), four winds, eight flowers, and three dragons. The popularity of the game spread through all classes in China and soon throughout Asia and the world, with different versions evolving in Japan, the Philippines, Europe, and the United States. Since 1937, The National Mah-Jongg League has governed the rules of the American game, although enthusiasm for Mah-Jongg faded at the end of the 1960s, due in part to the increasing popularity of contract bridge. However, during the 1980s and 1990s, the game began to enjoy something of a renaissance as nostalgic baby-boomers sought to revive the once-favored social pastime of their mothers.

—Tina Gianoulis

Further Reading:

Greene, Susan. The Mah-Jongg Group. Port Washington, New York, Ashley Books, 1974.

Millington, A. D. The Complete Book of Mah-Jongg. London, A.Barker, 1977.

Shiu, Priscilla. The Mystic Mah-Jongg Game. New York, Exposition Press, 1973.

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