Friday, April 26, 2013

Mah Jong

The spelling of Mah Jong seems to vary, just like the rules of the game. With the Winds, Dragons, Bamboos, Dots and Cracks, the clicking of tiles was a familiar sound in old Chinatown. The gambling went on throughout the night with high stakes; fortunes were made and lost. The game is still very popular and there are two versions of it - the traditional Chinese way and the North American way.

The North American style became popular with the Jewish ladies of New York and some changes to the traditional rules were made. They produced a game card with annual change of sequence in tiles. To Mah Jong, one has to follow the current sequences exactly. Also, one must purchase a new card every year, which is a good business for the ladies of New York. The gambling part remained the same. The early Chinese immigrants brought their sets with them, and these sets ranged from plain bamboo to very ornate.

I played the North American version for years with a group of friends, four to a table. We drank gallons of Rooibos tea and solved domestic problems. We supported one another through the tough times and laughed through the good times. With my life " in transit" it is now difficult to organize a Mah Jong game, but maybe one day …

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