Mahjong Information

Mahjong is a game for four players that originated in China. Mahjong involves skill, strategy, and calculation, as well as a certain degree of luck . In Asia, mahjong is also popularly played as a gambling game. In the game, each player is dealt either thirteen or sixteen tiles in a hand, depending on the variation being played. On their turn, players draw a tile and discard one, with the goal of making four or five melds and one pair, or "head". Winning comes "on the draw" by drawing a new or discarded tile that completes the hand. Thus, a winning hand actually contains fourteen tiles.

The game was called 麻雀 má què, meaning sparrow in Chinese, which is still the name most commonly used in some southern Chinese dialects such as Cantonese and Min Nan, as well as in Japanese. However, most Mandarin-speaking Chinese now call the game má jiàng . In Northern Wu Chinese , it is pronounced as 麻將 , but in actuality, 麻將 is the diminutive form of 麻雀, written as 麻雀兒 , due to an erhua event. It is through the Wu Chinese pronunciation of 麻雀兒 that the diminutive form of 麻雀 in Northern Wu dialect became known as 麻將 in both Mandarin and Wu.

One of the myths of the origin of mahjong suggests that Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, developed the game in about 500 BC. This assertion is likely to be apocryphal. According to this myth, the appearance of the game in the various Chinese states coincided with Confucius' travels at the time he was teaching his new doctrines. The three dragon tiles also agree with the three cardinal virtues bequeathed by Confucius. Hóng Zhōng , Fā Cái , and Bái Ban represent benevolence, sincerity, and filial piety, respectively.

Wikipedia, Mahjong, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahjong (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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