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Mahjong Cards

China was one of the first countries where card games had first evolved. It is believed that card games were fist played in China in 9th century. Mahjong is one of the most popular pastimes in China. Although, traditionally Mahjong is played with Mahjong traditional tiles, there is evidence that the tiles  were replaced with cards which are easier to use and store.

Confucius and Mahjong

One of the myths about the Mahjong game is that the game was developed first by Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher. This myth spread because the game was appearing in the states where Confucius was travelling for teaching his doctrines. It is also believed that since Confucius was very fond of birds, the game had been named so (the name Mahjong means sparrow).

However, the earliest evidence for Mahjong exists only in the 19th century in the Taiping era. So it is quite unlikely that Confucius might have been the inventor of the game. Various scholars and historians also believe that Mahjong was based on an earlier card game known as Madiao that was popular in the early Ming dynasty. The game used of 40 cards made from paper that were divided in four suits with four extra cards that depicted flowers. These were quite similar to the Mahjong cards that are seen today; however, Mahjong has only three suits.

The rules of Mahjong

Mahjong is a game that is generally played between four players. In the southern Chinese parts, the dialects of Cantonese and Minnan still pronounce the game as Mahjong; however it is pronounced as ma jiang in Mandarin.

The game of Mahjong requires a lot of calculation, strategy, skill as well as luck for winning. In several parts of Asia, Mahjong is generally played as a gambling game. Every player is dealt sixteen or thirteen cards or tiles, depending on the type of Mahjong game that is being played. Players have to draw and card and discard another one. The main goal of the game is to make four or five melds and one pair or a head. Towards the end of the game, the winning player would draw a new card or would discard a card to complete the hand. At the end of the game, the winning player would have either fourteen or seventeen cards or tiles.

In the earlier years, Mahjong was only played with tiles that were usually stored in large wooden boxes. These tiles were engraved with beautiful flower patterns and Chinese letterings and then hand painted. However, in the recent years, tiles have been replaced with cards since these are more comfortable to use and occupy lesser space for storing. In 1924, De La Rue had published a book that served as a guide for playing Mahjong in which the use of cards was advocated instead of tiles.

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