New Game

Mahjong’s conception took place in China over two thousand years ago. Originating in the Court of Wu, the game is rumored to have been invented by one of the ladies of the royal family. The lady then took it upon herself to delicately carve the figurines by hand and etch each design within the bamboo and ivory backings. So goes the story of the origin of Mahjong.

In the times that followed the origin, the game became something that only the royal family and upper aristocratic families could play. Playing Mahjong as a commoner meant death, as the working class was considered unworthy of playing a game invented by the royal family.

Eventually, the ban on Mahjong was lifted, allowing the major populace to play the game at without fear of a death penalty. This lift occurred around 500 A.D., and also allowed for the export and import of Mahjong into other populations. This was a large step in the popularity of Mahjong, as it then was soon being played in countries such as England and Australia.

The entrance of Mahjong into American culture took place in the early 1900’s, when Joseph Babcock, an American living in Shanghai, brought the game over. Babcock translated the tiles into English for the general populace to better understand the game and started marketing it under the pronunciation “Mah-jongg”. It was also Babcock’s wishes that made it possible for the first whole board sets of Mahjong to be imported into the United States, thereby sparking the board designs to be picked up and reproduced en masse.

Following Mahjong’s introduction into the United States, the game picked up a bit of popularity, but tapered off soon at the end of the 1930’s. It wasn’t until the recent last 20 years or so that Mahjong was reintroduced and brought into the limelight of leisurely board games.

Now, thanks in part to the revival of board games as an alternative to the daily theme of video games or television, Mahjong has found itself an increasing level of popularity, with professional tournaments being held across the country. The amateur player can find himself with a plethora of opportunities to play Mahjong in this current state of the game’s popularity.

Recently, the more popular reference surfacing towards Mahjong is “Ma Jiang”, which is the same game, but refers to the Mandarin-speaking populace’s pronunciation. The translation of the game name of Mahjong holds the meaning of “Sparrow”.

As there are many variations of the game, a player should familiarize themselves with which editions they enjoy playing. Some of the editions include such Mahjong games as the Classical Chinese version, which was the first Mahjong version introduced into the United States. Another variation of Mahjong is the Japanese version of the game. The Japanese variation of the game includes a standardized set of rules and guidelines for how to play the game. The Japanese version has also been turned into Mahjong video games.

The Western Classical version of Mahjong is a variation that had been introduced by Babcock upon his arrival to the United States. This version is the American variation that had been introduced in the early 1900’s, which included a new set of rules from Babcock and a slight difference due to the translations.

Thanks to the initial introduction of Mahjong in the 1900’s, the game has seen a steady rise in American players that value Mahjong’s intelligent design. We can be assured that we will be seeing more Mahjong in the future!