਀㰀䴀䔀吀䄀 渀愀洀攀㴀䜀䔀一䔀刀䄀吀伀刀 挀漀渀琀攀渀琀㴀∀䴀匀䠀吀䴀䰀 㠀⸀  ⸀㘀  ㄀⸀㄀㤀 ㄀㤀∀㸀㰀⼀䠀䔀䄀䐀㸀 ਀㰀䐀䤀嘀 椀搀㴀吀椀琀氀攀开攀㸀

More than just a game

਀㰀䠀㔀㸀唀瀀搀愀琀攀搀㨀 ㈀ ㄀㄀ⴀ 㤀ⴀ ㈀  㤀㨀 ㌀㰀⼀䠀㔀㸀

By Liu Xiaozhuo (China Daily)

਀㰀䐀䤀嘀 椀搀㴀䌀漀渀琀攀渀琀 挀氀愀猀猀㴀愀爀琀椀挀氀ⴀ猀甀戀㸀㰀℀ⴀⴀ攀渀瀀瀀爀漀瀀攀爀琀礀 㰀搀愀琀攀㸀㈀ ㄀㄀ⴀ 㤀ⴀ ㈀  㤀㨀 ㌀㨀 㠀⸀ 㰀⼀搀愀琀攀㸀㰀愀甀琀栀漀爀㸀䰀椀甀 堀椀愀漀稀栀甀漀㰀⼀愀甀琀栀漀爀㸀㰀琀椀琀氀攀㸀䴀漀爀攀 琀栀愀渀 樀甀猀琀 愀 最愀洀攀㰀⼀琀椀琀氀攀㸀㰀欀攀礀眀漀爀搀㸀䴀漀爀攀 琀栀愀渀 樀甀猀琀 愀 最愀洀攀㰀⼀欀攀礀眀漀爀搀㸀㰀猀甀戀琀椀琀氀攀㸀㰀⼀猀甀戀琀椀琀氀攀㸀㰀椀渀琀爀漀琀椀琀氀攀㸀㰀⼀椀渀琀爀漀琀椀琀氀攀㸀㰀猀椀琀攀椀搀㸀㄀㠀㄀㰀⼀猀椀琀攀椀搀㸀㰀渀漀搀攀椀搀㸀㄀ 㘀㘀㐀㐀㄀㰀⼀渀漀搀攀椀搀㸀㰀渀漀搀攀渀愀洀攀㸀䰀椀昀攀㰀⼀渀漀搀攀渀愀洀攀㸀㰀渀漀搀攀猀攀愀爀挀栀渀愀洀攀㸀㈀䀀甀猀愀㰀⼀渀漀搀攀猀攀愀爀挀栀渀愀洀攀㸀⼀攀渀瀀瀀爀漀瀀攀爀琀礀ⴀⴀ㸀㰀℀ⴀⴀ攀渀瀀挀漀渀琀攀渀琀ⴀⴀ㸀

਀㰀䌀䔀一吀䔀刀㸀 ਀㰀吀䈀伀䐀夀㸀 ਀㰀吀䐀 猀琀礀氀攀㴀∀䈀䄀䌀䬀䜀刀伀唀一䐀ⴀ䌀伀䰀伀刀㨀 爀最戀⠀㈀㔀㔀Ⰰ㈀㔀㔀Ⰰ㈀㔀㔀⤀㬀 䴀䤀一ⴀ䠀䔀䤀䜀䠀吀㨀 ㄀㘀瀀砀∀ 瘀䄀氀椀最渀㴀挀攀渀琀攀爀 愀氀椀最渀㴀洀椀搀搀氀攀㸀

 
Wu Xiuqiong, 103, who lives in Guizhou, plays mahjong every day. She believes the game has kept her mind sharp and has contributed to her longevity. Peng Nian / for China Daily

਀㰀倀㸀㰀匀吀刀伀一䜀㸀䴀愀栀樀漀渀最 椀猀 愀 搀攀攀瀀ⴀ爀漀漀琀攀搀 挀甀氀琀甀爀愀氀 琀爀愀搀椀琀椀漀渀 琀栀愀琀 琀漀甀挀栀攀猀 攀瘀攀爀礀 氀攀瘀攀氀 漀昀 猀漀挀椀攀琀礀 㰀⼀匀吀刀伀一䜀㸀㰀⼀倀㸀

Four old ladies are playing mahjong in a courtyard when suddenly the water pipes burst and the place is flooded. After plumbers are called the women go back to the table and continue playing. When the workmen arrive the players and those watching the game are knee-deep in water, their eyes fixed on the mahjong tiles. Then one player looks up and nonchalantly asks: "What took you so long?"

਀㰀倀㸀䌀栀攀渀 䰀甀 漀昀 䌀栀攀渀最搀甀Ⰰ 琀栀攀 挀愀瀀椀琀愀氀 漀昀 匀漀甀琀栀眀攀猀琀 䌀栀椀渀愀✀猀 匀椀挀栀甀愀渀 瀀爀漀瘀椀渀挀攀Ⰰ 爀攀挀愀氀氀猀 琀栀椀猀 猀琀漀爀礀 眀椀琀栀 愀 猀洀椀氀攀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

਀㰀倀 愀氀椀最渀㴀挀攀渀琀攀爀㸀㰀⼀倀㸀

For Chen the game is a tonic for the mind and soul, something that promotes an optimistic outlook, love and the union of family and friends.

਀㰀倀㸀䤀渀 氀愀椀搀ⴀ戀愀挀欀 䌀栀攀渀最搀甀 椀琀 栀愀猀 戀攀攀渀 猀愀椀搀 琀栀愀琀 椀昀 礀漀甀 琀愀欀攀 愀 渀愀瀀 礀漀甀 愀爀攀 氀椀欀攀氀礀 琀漀 戀攀 愀眀漀欀攀渀 戀礀 琀栀攀 挀爀椀猀瀀 猀漀甀渀搀 漀昀 猀栀甀昀昀氀椀渀最 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 琀椀氀攀猀⸀ 䤀渀 琀栀攀 挀椀琀礀✀猀 猀琀爀攀攀琀猀 愀 挀漀洀洀漀渀 猀椀最栀琀 椀猀 昀漀甀爀 瀀攀漀瀀氀攀 瀀氀愀礀椀渀最 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀 愀琀 愀 猀洀愀氀氀 琀愀戀氀攀Ⰰ 猀甀爀爀漀甀渀搀攀搀 戀礀 愀渀 愀渀椀洀愀琀攀搀 愀渀搀 瘀漀挀椀昀攀爀漀甀猀 挀爀漀眀搀 漀昀 漀渀氀漀漀欀攀爀猀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

Such settings may underline the game's status as a pastime for the masses, but some scholars go so far as ranking it as an icon of Chinese culture alongside Peking opera.

਀㰀倀㸀吀漀 琀栀攀 甀渀椀渀椀琀椀愀琀攀搀Ⰰ 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀 漀昀 洀愀樀栀漀渀最 洀愀礀 戀攀 愀猀 搀椀昀昀椀挀甀氀琀 琀漀 挀漀洀瀀爀攀栀攀渀搀 愀猀 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀 漀昀 戀爀椀搀最攀Ⰰ 戀甀琀 琀栀愀琀 搀漀攀猀 渀漀琀 猀攀攀洀 琀漀 搀攀琀攀爀 瀀攀漀瀀氀攀 昀爀漀洀 眀愀渀琀椀渀最 琀漀 琀愀欀攀 椀琀 甀瀀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

Whatever the motive for playing the old Chinese game, be it entertainment, socializing, relaxation, gambling or something else, it never seems to lose its luster for young and old alike.

਀㰀倀㸀䤀琀猀 昀愀洀攀 愀渀搀 瀀漀瀀甀氀愀爀椀琀礀 栀愀猀 猀瀀爀攀愀搀 昀愀爀 愀渀搀 眀椀搀攀Ⰰ 愀椀搀攀搀 戀礀 琀栀椀渀最猀 猀甀挀栀 愀猀 琀栀攀 ㄀㤀㠀㤀 伀猀挀愀爀ⴀ眀椀渀渀椀渀最 洀漀瘀椀攀 䐀爀椀瘀椀渀最 䴀椀猀猀 䐀愀椀猀礀Ⰰ 眀栀椀挀栀 昀攀愀琀甀爀攀搀 猀挀攀渀攀猀 漀昀 昀漀甀爀 攀氀搀攀爀氀礀 䄀洀攀爀椀挀愀渀 眀漀洀攀渀 攀渀樀漀礀椀渀最 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

In Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club, four Chinese mothers who migrated to the United States from China when they were young play mahjong together regularly.

਀㰀倀㸀䤀琀 椀猀 愀 猀礀洀戀漀氀 漀昀 琀栀攀椀爀 挀甀氀琀甀爀愀氀 戀愀挀欀最爀漀甀渀搀 琀栀愀琀 琀栀攀椀爀 䄀洀攀爀椀挀愀ⴀ戀漀爀渀 搀愀甀最栀琀攀爀猀 挀愀渀渀漀琀 昀愀琀栀漀洀⸀ 䄀猀 琀栀攀 眀漀洀攀渀 瀀氀愀礀Ⰰ 琀栀攀礀 爀攀挀漀甀渀琀 猀琀漀爀椀攀猀 漀昀 琀栀攀椀爀 攀愀爀氀礀 氀椀瘀攀猀 椀渀 䌀栀椀渀愀⸀ 吀栀攀 渀漀瘀攀氀 瀀漀爀琀爀愀礀猀 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀 愀猀 愀 猀礀洀戀漀氀 漀昀 栀愀爀洀漀渀礀 愀渀搀 甀渀椀琀礀 椀渀 琀栀攀 洀椀渀搀猀 漀昀 䌀栀椀渀攀猀攀 瀀攀漀瀀氀攀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

Underlining the game's international pull, the World Mahjong Organization was founded in Beijing in 2005 and now has 23 member countries or regions, among them 16 European countries.

਀㰀倀㸀䨀椀愀渀最 堀甀愀渀焀椀Ⰰ 琀栀攀 搀椀爀攀挀琀漀爀 漀昀 琀栀攀 漀爀最愀渀椀稀愀琀椀漀渀Ⰰ 猀愀礀猀 琀栀愀琀 漀渀攀 漀昀 椀琀猀 洀愀椀渀 愀椀洀猀 椀猀 琀漀 昀漀爀洀甀氀愀琀攀 挀漀洀瀀攀琀椀琀椀漀渀 爀甀氀攀猀 眀椀琀栀 漀琀栀攀爀 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 愀猀猀漀挀椀愀琀椀漀渀猀⸀ ∀唀渀椀昀礀椀渀最 爀甀氀攀猀 椀猀 琀栀攀 欀攀礀 琀漀 栀攀氀瀀椀渀最 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀 搀攀瘀攀氀漀瀀 椀渀琀攀爀渀愀琀椀漀渀愀氀氀礀⸀∀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

A competition the organization has arranged in November will have as a backdrop the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. The Fifth China Mahjong Forum and Championship will be held on a five-star cruiser and has attracted players from more than 20 countries and regions, Jiang says. Two hundred players from both China and overseas will take part.

਀㰀倀㸀∀吀栀椀猀 眀椀氀氀 戀攀 愀 最爀愀渀搀 洀攀攀琀椀渀最 漀昀 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 挀甀氀琀甀爀攀Ⰰ 挀漀洀瀀攀琀椀琀椀漀渀 愀渀搀 氀攀椀猀甀爀攀 琀爀愀瘀攀氀⸀∀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

For Jiang Xuanqi, mahjong is a mind game, and beginners can learn fast as the rules are not complicated.

਀㰀倀㸀∀吀栀漀甀最栀 椀琀 椀猀 攀愀猀礀 琀漀 氀攀愀爀渀Ⰰ 琀漀 瀀氀愀礀 椀琀 眀攀氀氀 椀猀 搀攀洀愀渀搀椀渀最⸀ 吀栀漀甀最栀 琀栀攀爀攀 愀爀攀 攀氀攀洀攀渀琀猀 漀昀 挀栀愀渀挀攀Ⰰ 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 椀猀 愀 最愀洀攀 漀昀 猀欀椀氀氀Ⰰ 猀琀爀愀琀攀最礀 愀渀搀 挀愀氀挀甀氀愀琀椀漀渀⸀∀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

Such attributes are said to provide ample mental practice that help sharpen the mind.

਀㰀倀㸀圀甀 堀椀甀焀椀漀渀最Ⰰ 眀栀漀 氀椀瘀攀猀 椀渀 匀漀甀琀栀眀攀猀琀 䌀栀椀渀愀✀猀 䜀甀椀稀栀漀甀 瀀爀漀瘀椀渀挀攀Ⰰ 瀀氀愀礀猀 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀 攀瘀攀爀礀搀愀礀 愀渀搀 瀀愀礀猀 琀爀椀戀甀琀攀 琀漀 椀琀猀 爀漀氀攀 椀渀 栀攀爀 氀漀渀最攀瘀椀琀礀⸀ 匀栀攀 椀猀 ㄀ ㌀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

But in mahjong, Jiang sees much more than a game and says it reflects Chinese society. "It is a tool for social communication."

਀㰀倀㸀吀栀攀漀爀椀攀猀 漀渀 琀栀攀 漀爀椀最椀渀 漀昀 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 愀爀攀 洀愀渀礀 愀渀搀 瘀愀爀椀攀搀Ⰰ 戀甀琀 䨀椀愀渀最 猀愀礀猀 椀琀 挀漀洀攀猀 昀爀漀洀 攀椀琀栀攀爀 䌀栀椀渀愀✀猀 吀愀渀最 䐀礀渀愀猀琀礀 ⠀㘀㄀㠀ⴀ㤀 㜀⤀ 漀爀 琀栀攀 䴀椀渀最 䐀礀渀愀猀琀礀 ⠀㄀㌀㘀㠀ⴀ㄀㘀㐀㐀⤀Ⰰ 愀渀搀 戀攀最愀渀 琀漀 猀瀀爀攀愀搀 愀爀漀甀渀搀 琀栀攀 眀漀爀氀搀 愀琀 琀栀攀 攀渀搀 漀昀 琀栀攀 ㄀㤀琀栀 挀攀渀琀甀爀礀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

"The stories put mahjong's origination in places such as Ningbo in Zhejiang province and Liangshan in Shangdong province," Jiang says. "This shows how widely mahjong spread in the country."

਀㰀倀㸀䠀攀 爀攀挀欀漀渀猀 琀栀愀琀 眀漀爀氀搀眀椀搀攀 㘀   洀椀氀氀椀漀渀 瀀氀愀礀 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀Ⰰ 眀栀椀氀攀 琀栀漀猀攀 眀栀漀 瀀氀愀礀 戀爀椀搀最攀Ⰰ 挀栀攀猀猀Ⰰ 䤀ⴀ最漀Ⰰ 搀爀愀甀最栀琀猀 愀渀搀 䌀栀椀渀攀猀攀 挀栀攀猀猀 琀漀琀愀氀 㜀   洀椀氀氀椀漀渀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

As mahjong spread, people began to gamble on it. In the late Ming Dynasty corrupted officials all over the country were said to be addicted to mahjong gambling, so much so that the emperor's rule came under threat.

਀㰀倀㸀吀栀攀 最愀洀攀 眀愀猀 戀愀渀渀攀搀Ⰰ 戀甀琀 琀栀攀 洀攀愀猀甀爀攀 昀愀椀氀攀搀 琀漀 爀攀猀挀甀攀 琀栀攀 猀琀爀甀最最氀椀渀最 椀洀瀀攀爀椀愀氀 挀漀甀爀琀⸀ 吀栀攀 氀愀琀攀爀 儀椀渀最 䐀礀渀愀猀琀礀 氀攀愀爀渀攀搀 琀栀攀 氀攀猀猀漀渀Ⰰ 愀渀搀 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 眀愀猀 漀甀琀氀愀眀攀搀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

So exactly what is it that so beguiles mahjong's aficionados? Jiang has an idea: for many the desire to win is irresistibly strong. "When people lose in one round, they just have to play the next round because they want to win."

਀㰀倀㸀䤀渀搀攀攀搀Ⰰ 氀攀最椀漀渀 愀爀攀 琀栀攀 挀愀猀攀猀 漀昀 琀栀漀猀攀 眀栀漀猀攀 氀椀瘀攀猀 栀愀瘀攀 戀攀攀渀 爀甀椀渀攀搀 戀礀 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 愀搀搀椀挀琀椀漀渀Ⰰ 眀栀椀挀栀 洀愀礀 愀挀挀漀甀渀琀 昀漀爀 琀栀攀 氀漀眀 攀猀琀攀攀洀 椀渀 眀栀椀挀栀 洀愀渀礀 䌀栀椀渀攀猀攀 栀漀氀搀 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

But Yu Guangyuan, 96, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has spent a lot of his elderly years in propagating mahjong, and is among its most stalwart defenders.

਀㰀倀㸀∀䤀琀 椀猀 琀栀攀 昀愀甀氀琀 漀昀 瀀攀漀瀀氀攀 琀栀愀琀 琀栀攀礀 甀猀攀 洀愀栀樀漀渀最 琀漀 最愀洀戀氀攀Ⰰ 渀漀琀 琀栀攀 昀愀甀氀琀 漀昀 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀Ⰰ∀ 栀攀 猀愀礀猀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

After the People's Republic of China was founded, especially in the period of the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976), mahjong was shunned as a symbol of the bourgeoisie.

਀㰀倀㸀倀攀漀瀀氀攀 眀攀爀攀 愀爀爀攀猀琀攀搀 椀昀 琀栀攀礀 眀攀爀攀 昀漀甀渀搀 瀀氀愀礀椀渀最 琀栀攀 最愀洀攀Ⰰ 眀栀椀挀栀 眀愀猀 漀昀昀椀挀椀愀氀氀礀 爀攀最愀爀搀攀搀 愀猀 猀漀洀攀琀栀椀渀最 琀栀愀琀 爀攀瀀爀攀猀攀渀琀攀搀 甀渀猀漀甀渀搀 椀搀攀漀氀漀最礀⸀ 㰀⼀倀㸀

The situation did not change until 1985 when the ban on mahjong began to be lifted and people plucked up the courage to play in public. The game began to flourish.