Mah Jong is a tile game from China, related to both dominoes and playing cards. The left menu item on History of Mah Jong offers information about this game and its origns. The Museum collection includes some traditional Mah Jong sets on tiles, one of which can be seen at the bottom of this page.
The photograph below partially illustrates a Mah Jong set printed on playing cards. This set was donated to the Museum in 1970, but was manufactured about 1948 by Kardjong, Inc. in the United States. The playing card set comes in a light green box (9.5cm long x 12.1cm wide x 2.8cm high).
There are 178 cards in the set. Each card is 8.8cm long x 5.6cm wide. The backs of the cards have a picture of a Buddha (top row right). The number of cards in this set is the arbitrary choice of the manufacturer, since the number of tiles in a traditional Mah Jong set is also variable.There are 6 "suits" in Mah Jong. In the United States these suits are called "winds", "dragons", "flowers", "dots", "bams (bamboos)", "cracks (characters)", and have various names in other languages..
A "5 character" card is illustrated in the top row (first card). A "south wind" card is illustrated in the photograph below the "5". A "red dragon" card is on the right on the bottom row next to the "south wind". Next to this is a "flower" card. In the main, the colors used on these cards are the same as one might find on a tile set.
There are no instructions with the Kardjong set, since there are many published books on "how to play" Mah Jong. In addition to standard methods of play, various North American Mah Jong associations over the years have issued periodic rule changes. A number of Websites concerning Mah Jong are available. Here is a comprehensive one from England:
CLICK HERE to go to that site. Please note, that you must click your BACK button to return to the Museum Website.
The Mah Jong set pictured above was donated to the collection in 1971. It was manufactured in the United States probably in the 1940s or 1950s. It is typical of the type of sets sold at that time, in that the parts were contained in a leather-like covered brass latched piece of luggage. There are 5 green tile racks made of a type of plastic, with brass fittings which hold the circular betting chips. The red curcular object at the bottom of the photograph is related to the betting procdure. The tile faces (which were once white) have yellowed with age, suggesting that they were fabricated from animal bone.
Last update March 9, 2010