Mahjong Tile Meanings - A Helpful Study Guide

Posted by Steven Barnhart on 5th Aug 2019

Mahjong Tile Meanings

The Meaning Of The Mahjong Tiles

Early on the board game Mahjong was often played as a gambling game and as such was banned after 1949 in China but reintroduced after the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

There are numerous variations in game play from one country to another. There Western Mahjong game sets as well as Oriental game sets.

Mahjong game sets contain 136 or 144 tiles. There are 16 rounds in a game and a winner is decided after each round.

The origin of Mahjong is heavily debated. 

The true origin of mahjong is unknown and may be debated for hours.

Determining its origin depends on who you ask, there are a variety of opinions about mahjong's origins, most theories are unsubstantiated, and several stories have been embellished.

One story is that mahjong was an idea brought about by Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher.

There is even a story that the beginning was on Noah's Ark. 

This fast paced 4 player game is very popular throughout Asia, however it is gaining traction in the West.

Mahjong can be played as a casual game, with mahjong clubs or at a variety of mahjong tournaments throughout the world.

Understanding the Mahjong tile.

If you want to learn how to play, you must first be able to identify and understand the different mahjong tile. 

Each Mahjong tile set contains 3 ‘simple’ suits (stones, characters, and bamboos), 2 ‘honor’ suits (winds and dragons), and 1 optional suit (flowers).

Speaking of Flowers

In recent years, the National Mah Jongg League reconfigured the number of Flowers needed for play (as well as what the Flowers function was, because Flowers did serve as jokers or wild tiles for many years).

Often people would hide Flowers, and the blank tiles that came with the set, under stickers to turn them into Jokers.

For a deep dive about the makeup of tiles you may have in your Mahjong set browse Understanding The Makeup of the Tiles in Your Mahjong Set.

Information about the Stones – Referred to as circles or wheels they highlight one to nine round shapes on each tile.

Normally there are 4 sets of stones containing 9 tiles, making a total of 36 stones in each game set.

Bamboo tile - Can also be referred to as sticks because the image of bamboo sticks over the tile representing the strings.

The Mahjong characters – May be referred to as coins, numbers or thousands. The tiles have the wan character over them.

Go to this page to learn more about the  mahjong tile meanings. This study guide will help to understand and identify the various game pieces.

There are several spelling versions of Mahjong depending on how you are speaking to about it.

Some of the variations are Mahjjong, Mah Jong, Mah Jongg and others.

The bottom line with the Mahjong Board Game

Regardless how you want to spell it or what version  you play Mahjong is a fascinating board game that can become addictive very quickly.

Regardless whether or not you understand the tile meanings at the moment, you should not let that discourage you from pursuing this amazing board game. 

If you need your own  Mahjong game sets then browse our selection!