Mahjong was born in China around 150 years ago. It is a very interesting game similar to gin rummy, but played with tiles as opposed to cards. The game has developed since it was first introduced to the U.S. in early 1920s, and is now a popular pastime in America.
Recent news want mahjong as a possible new addition to the line-up of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.
Instead of clubs, hearts, diamonds and spades you can find in regular poker playing cards, in mahjong you have tile suits that are dots (circles), bams (bamboos) and craks (characters). In addition, depending on the version of the game, you will find wind, dragon, flower and joker tiles.
While traditional Chinese mahjong sets have 144 tiles, American version is played with eight more joker tiles and score cards that are published annually by non-profit organizations like the National Mah Jongg League.
This is an association that fills in as the authority for everything that identifies with the American Mahjong. It began with only 32 individuals in 1937 to institutionalize the game. Every year earnings from sales of the league’s official scorecards go to charitable organizations across the country.
According to a research by Annelise Heinz of Stanford University in 2013, it results that mahjong really assumed an essential part in the development of early American communities. In fact it seems that both Jewish American and Chinese American groups were built around mahjong amid the twentieth century.
Unlike other kind of games, mahjong requires collaboration between players and multi level strategies that, according to Heinz, make a perfect discussion base for engaging individuals into communication.
Socially, mahjong was essential in Chinatown in the 1930s, as it gave Chinese Americans a social bond when the vast majority of Americans just considered them as outsiders. Mahjong offered a chance for individuals of various characteristics to take a seat and play together, making a common legacy.
If you live in New York City or want to immerse yourself in a true Mahjong experience as a tourist, each Monday and Thursday evening Bryant Park, one of most celebrated open places in downtown, is theater of a true mahjong battle, where you can hear the classic tingle of the tiles and see people and hearts lighting up for drawing an unfortunate piece on the board.