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What is Mahjong?

Mahjong (MJ) is a game that has a long history, incredibly deep meaning and complex strategic aspects to it. The game’s origins remains a mystery and there is a legend that the famous philosopher Confucius invented the game and created mahjong around 500 BC. In Singapore Mahjong, there are 148 tiles, which is slightly different from other regions due to the additional 4 animal tiles - chicken, centipede, cat and mouse. A Mahjong set is categorized to Suited Tiles, Honour Tiles and Bonus Tiles. In each of the Suite Tiles, it runs from one to nine in the form of dots, lines and Chinese Characters. Honour tiles includes the Chinese Characters of the wind directions and 3 dragon tiles. Bonus tiles includes the flowers set, which represents the seasons, and the animal set


Tile Sets

There are 3 suits under the Suited Tiles, each of the tile set runs from one to nine:

The dots suit




The bamboo suit




The character suit




There are 2 suits under the Honour Tiles:

Wind tiles - From left to right: East, South, West, North






Dragon tiles - From left to right: Red Dragon, Green Dragon, White Dragon







There are 2 tiles sets under the Bonus Tiles:

Flower set

From left to right: Plum, Orchid, Chrysanthemum, Bamboo, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter





Animal Tiles - From left to right: Cat, Rat, Rooster, Centipede








Setting up to play

Mahjong is a four-player game that includes a fair amount of luck and skills. To begin the game, 4 players and 1 set of Mahjong is required.

4 players seat at each side of the MJ table facing each other. All the tiles are turned facing down and 4 players start to mix the tiles on the table.


Choosing the Wind Players

Choose a "Banker", 1 of the player will have to roll the dice to determine who shall be the “东“ player. The person on the right side of the "东” player shall be the "南“ player, follow by ”西“ player  and lastly, the person on the left side of the "东” player shall be the "北“ player.

After determine everyone's role in the 东南西北, the game shall start. 

To set up the board, the "东” and the "西" player grabs 2 row of 19 tile, the "南“ and the ”北“ player grabs 2 row of 18 tiles and stack them on top of each other.

Once the board is set, the "东” player starts the game by rolling 2 or 3 dices (depending on the game preference) in the center. It decides which player to pull out the stack in front of them to starts the game.

Pulling tiles from stacks

If the added number of the rolling dice landed is 7, the count will start from the “东" player and it will land on the "西" player. by counting on the right. The "西” player will start taking away 7 stack of tiles from the row in front of him/ her starting from the right. These 7 stack of tiles will be the “补花” stacks. 


Each player will take turns in anti-clockwise to grab 4 tiles from the 8th stack of tiles until they have 13 tiles on hand except for the "东“ player will have 14 tiles on the start. 

Starting the game

To start the game, every players should have 13 tiles on hand while "东“ player has 14 tiles on hand and to throw 1 tile from own stack to start the game and the next player ("南” player) grab a new tile from the stack to continue.

Congratulations! You have completed the first step of learning how to play Mahjong. Understanding the tiles and how to set up the board to start the game could be daunting. Get yourself familiar with the tiles and set ups. When you are ready, read our blogs on how to play Mahjong and how to win to start the game!

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