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The Joy of Mah Jong (or Mah Jiang Joy)
By Tong Seng Tjoa
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Tong Seng Tjoa, M.D.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMah Jong Set and Accessories
A complete set would have the following tiles & accessories:
A total of 144 picture tiles: comprising
A. Decorative tiles (8):
a. Flower tiles
Plum Orchid Chrysanthemum Bamboo
One of each for a total of four tiles; and
b. Season tiles
Spring Summer Fall Winter
One of each for a total of four tiles.
Note: Different manufacturers may design different symbols. I called them decorative because these tiles do not participate in the formation of sets in the Hand and are instantly exposed upon their acquisition. Their inclusions are purely for bonus fans (points) in the total point count and their acquisition is more luck dependent rather than skill. For example, each decorative tile represents to belong to a player during a play. Thus,
Plum & Spring, designated both as #1of the two series respectively, are recognized as belonging to the current wind Position Leader East, which is a roving position. This follows that
Orchid & Summer both as #2, are for South, Chrysanthemum & Fall both as #3, are for West and
Bamboo & Winter both as #4, are for North in respective reference to wind position leader East during every play of a Hand.
In contrast, and for comparison, the first designated Leader East seat, elected at the start of a game and known as the Home Base, is permanent during a game.
B. Suit (numbered) tiles:
Four tiles of each for a total of thirty-six tiles; and
Four tiles of each for a total of thirty-six tiles; and
Four tiles of each for a total of thirty-six tiles.
Note: These three suit tiles (36) are collectively known as numbered tiles (shu pai).
C. Word tiles (zi pai):
a. Virtue tiles Zhong Fa Bai
Four tiles of each for a total of twelve tiles; and
b. Wind tiles East South West North
Four tiles of each for a total of sixteen tiles.
Adding all these tiles together will give a grand total of 144 playing tiles. Excluding the decorative tiles, the three numbered (bamboo, coin & wan) and two word (virtue & wind) tiles are known as the five basic "component" tiles of the game. A good set will also provide a couple of blank tiles as replacements in case of loss.
I. Position Wind Leader East indicator
The dice, which is always in the possession of the contemporaneous East Leader for casting to start a play, has replaced a separate device to symbolize this position. This roving East Leader is independent of the wind of the round (round wind), which is the same for all players during the course of a round. The changing of the round wind occurs when the first elected Position Leader East player regains the dice at the end of a round of plays.
II. Home Base indicator
This device is not a necessity. However, if available, it is given to the first elected Position Wind Leader East, whose seat selection is a one-time process at the start of a game. for safe keeping during the game. It is just a reminder as to where the game started and where the changing of the round of the wind takes place.
III. Wind indicator
This device comes in different designs and shapes by different manufacturers of sets. It is used to indicate the current round of the wind (round wind) at any given play of a round. Each facet will indicate only one wind at a time: East, South, West & North in this order. The duty of changing of wind round is bestowed on the occupant of the Home Base for safe keeping as well as that of an announcer for the wind change when this First elected Position Leader East regains possession of the dice at the completion of a round.
IV. Chips of different sizes and colors are used to represent different monetary values, for example, 1, 5, 10 and 100 unit denominators with an equal base capital for all players for payment at time of settlements during a game.
These are the familiar six-face cubes devices used in many diverse games of chance. They are numbered individually on each side 1 through 6. The possession of which is always with the contemporaneous Position Leader East–the player who casts the dice to start a play. A complete set usually provides at least a pair of dice.
VI. Rulers of approximate equal length of the side of a wall (18 tile long), will come in handy for those with unsteady hands. They can be used for straightening and pushing forwards the built walls and make counting unnecessary. A regular ruler will serve nicely for this purpose. A good set will have all these accessories in a sturdy container that is easy and light to carry.
To make my instruction for learning the game easier to follow, the reader is encouraged to first familiarize him/her-self with the following nomenclature which is my distinctive creation and has exclusively been used in my earlier books: Mah Jpng for Everyone for the novice, Mah Jong Unlimited and Mah Jong Fun. Chinese terms are given in italic.
Active Wall This is the wall to the left of the break site, and where the tiles are drawn at the start, and during the course of a play.
Inactive Wall This is the wall to the right of the break site. The tiles from this wall serve as replacements for the decorative (flower/season) tiles and after exposing a set of gang.
Leader Is meant the Position Wind Leader East – the player with the dice at the start of every play, disputably called "Dealer" by all other authors. Since tiles of a mahjong Hand are not dealt by this player but drawn by each individual player following this player-leader's turn.
Home Base (Permanent Leadership Seat) Is the designated seat of the first elected position wind leader East. The occupant of this seat is concurrently the first to start the game. This is the site where the change of the wind round takes place. It is permanent for the duration of a game. The Wind Indicator device, is permanently placed with this first elected Position Leader East, can also be used to serve at the same time as Home Base indicator.
Position Leader East Is the player who assumes the duty to throw the dice to start the play as Position Wind Leader East. Each player's wind position is relative to this Leader East's Position. And every player will assume this position at least once in every round. The following diagram shows the difference of wind position between
Mah Jong and Compass:
West North North South West East East South
Note: The East, South, West and North position for Mah Jong (counter-clockwise) does not follow the direction of the compass (clockwise) except for the maintenance of the position of the opposing wind position. Customarily, we use East as the orientation position in a game. In contrast, North is the customarily referenced point for compass, as it is in the game of contract bridge.
Game Made up of 4 rounds of wind change.
Round Consists of at least 4 plays, assuming none of the players repeats his/her position as Position (Wind) Leader East.
Hand Is defined as each player's total number of tiles for feature building, based on his/her own blueprint. It consists of 13 during a play and 14 tiles upon mahjong in the classic version. Extra tiles from decorative (flower/season) and 4th tile from gang are excluded from the total count of fourteen.
Set Is defined as either a group of sequence, peng, gang or pair.
Peng Is a set of three identical tiles. This is the Mandarin pronunciation for pong or pung that are dialects of different parts of China and used by various authors.
Gang Is formed with four identical tiles. I adopt, for the same reason, the official (Mandarin) pronunciation for this set that replaced kong or kang used in other mahjong books.
Coin My preferred description for one of the suits rather than "dot" or "circle" as described by other authors.
Wan Is the true meaning of the Chinese word for "ten thousand" engraved on the tile. Popularly known among the American players as "crack".
Virtue The word I use to denote collectively the three Chinese character zhong (center), fa (prosperity). and bai (white=purity). These tiles, together with all wind tiles are grouped as belonging to the word tiles. The colors on the tile characters are usually red, green and white (blank) respectively.
Dragon Three sets of sequential numerical order of suit (bamboo, coin & wan) tiles from 1 through 9, either in same or 3 different suits. This is the true meaning of the Chinese word and the original term for one of the adopted entities (features).
End (External =Terminal) tiles The 1s & 9s of the three suit tiles.
Hard Tiles Are meant for the word (virtue and wind) tiles. For practical and statistical point of view, all end tiles (1s & 9s) are considered belonging to this group.
Soft (Internal = Middle) Tiles Are tiles made up of the 2s through 8s of the three (numbered) suits.
Raw tiles Are tiles not found on the playing field, either as discarded or exposed in claimed sets
Dead tiles Tiles that have been discarded or claimed by a player in forming sets of sequence, peng or gang, and hence no longer available.
Hidden (Concealed) tiles Are tiles that are hidden from other players' view, in other words, those in each player's Hand.
Exposed tiles Tiles that are visible in the playing field either as discards or among the claimed sets.
Replacement tile Is a tile that a player needs to draw from the inactive wall to replace a decorative (flower/season) or after exposing a set of gang before discarding.
Last five tiles Are the total number of tiles remaining in the wall, which has now been reduced to a single wall. This is only of importance as a warning to all players for sole responsibility of payments to the winner if a player discards a raw tile that leads to a player's mahjong.
Last tile Is the tile meant when all but one tile of the remnant wall have been drawn, in contrast to some version, where 14 tiles will be left untouched.
Losing tile A discarded tile that instantly leads to a player's mahjong, It is known as a Winning tile in the event of Self-pick.
Short handed Denotes a player's Hand with less than thirteen tiles total in the play. Despite the fact that this player can no longer mahjong, he/she continues to participate in the play and is bound by the same game rules and responsibilities.
Excess Indicates a Hand of having more than thirteen tiles, except for the Leader East who has fourteen before making the first discard to start the play. Same game rules apply.
Claim Is the privilege for any one player to claim a discarded tile at that moment, that is,
a. when he/she is to mahjong, (hu) or
b. to form a set of peng or gang in combination with the two or three tiles in his/her Hand respectively, or
c. to complete a sequence. However, making a sequence, in contrast to other claims, can only be claimed by the player whose turn it is to draw next.
Pao Is the Chinese colloquial term for warning. A player announces pao to alert the players, out of courtesy, when he/she exposes at that moment the third set of One Suit, or the second set of Peng (Gang) a Virtue, irrespective of the true composition of the concealed tiles in Hand. This means when a discard of the "pre-warned" tile leads to this alerting player's immediate completion, the perpetrator is held sole responsible in payments for all players. But if the Hand turns out not to be of one suit, nor three sets of Peng a Virtues, (i.e. two pengs & a pair), the "discarder" of the "claimed" tile is absolved of sole responsibility in payments to the winner. However, in the event that the announcer of pao claims the tile only to form an exposed set, the risk-taking player will be responsible for payments later to the winner for Self-pick of the winning tile.
Feature Denotes a certain set of pair, group, combination, or "act". Each set is given a specific Intrinsic Fan Value (IFV) to play for and can be found on an agreed, codified list, comparable to the options of extra features in a basic model car.
Entity Is an adopted feature to play for with an assigned intrinsic value of one or more fans. All the adopted entities are codified on an IFV List and which all players have approved prior to the start of a game.
Fan The assigned intrinsic unit value of an adopted entity expressed in Mandarin Chinese. It is called tai in Taiwanese. It is universally known as a unit point.
Mahjong Hu, so pronounced in Manderin Chinese. I use it here as a verb to mean the completion of the requirement of one of the fundamentals for a play, colloquially expressed as going out, or complete.
The Goal of a mahjonged Hand
To achieve one of the following three fundamental features:
I. Basic Configuration
To establish 4 sets of well-defined groups of either sequence(s), peng(s) or gang(s) and a pair, a basic pattern of 4 x 3 (4) + 2. For example,
sequences set of three same suit tiles in numerical order
peng set of three identical tiles
gang set of four identical tiles
pair set of two identical tiles
Comment: All quoted sets above in this mahjonged Hand are either completed from a discard or self-picked during the course of a play, with the understanding that whenever the third member of a set, which is acquired from a discard (or the fourth for a set of three in Hand to form gang), the resulting set is instantly exposed. The pair set is always self-picked unless the second member of the pair is the calling tile to mahjong.
Note: A set of gang is not required as a component feature to mahjong. When a player obtains the fourth tile of an earlier acquired, exposed set of peng, he/she has the option to keep it in Hand for use in other set combination or add to convert the earlier exposed set of peng into gang. In this instance, the player will concurrently draw a replacement tile from the inactive wall before making a discard. No player can keep four identical tiles hidden in Hand as set of gang, unless the player splits it into two pairs as components of Seven Pairs, or use them separately in sets to form the entity Quads. (see terminology)
To reiterate, the requirement for a player to mahjong is to compose a Hand of this basic pattern of either all sets of sequences, or all pengs, or all gangs plus a pair of this first fundamental. The winning tile is the one tile that completes the composition of above example set combination.
II. Seven Pairs
To collect seven pairs of any combination of suit, virtue or wind tiles.
For example: a completed Hand is composed of the following tiles:
Comment: The winning (waiting) tile is the second mate of a pair that completes the final pair among these tiles. It should be understood that all the pairs forming the composition of this Hand are hidden in Hand.
Excerpted from The Joy of Mah Jong (or Mah Jiang Joy) by Tong Seng Tjoa Copyright © 2011 by Tong Seng Tjoa, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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