Some Chinese Mah Jongg Basics

The Chinese set of tiles consists of 144 tiles. There are NO Roman letters or Arabic numerals the set is marked in Chinese only. The red and green dragons are marked with the Chinese characters for those tiles rather than the dragon image itself. The white dragon tile is frequently a blank white tile.


Set up for Chinese Mah Jongg


The game in play


On the streets of Shanghai


Serious players in Shanghai








Concentration, patience, and quickness of play make the good player.

Before you begin to play Chinese Mah Jongg, it is important to understand a few of the basic terms.

Terms Frequently Used

PUNG – An exposed Pung is any 3 of a kind (same suit and same number or same wind or same dragon)that is obtained by having a pair already in your hand first and the third is obtained from a  player’s discard immediately when it is thrown away by the player. The Pung is now placed face up on the table as it is now exposed. A concealed Pung occurs when a player has the pair already in their hand and drawing the  third tile directly from the wall. It is not declared and is kept concealed in the hand. This is worth twice the number of points as the exposed Pung.

KONG – A Kong is any 4 of a kind and is obtained by forming either an exposed Pung or concealed Pung first. An exposed Kong can be formed in two ways. First the payer has a concealed pung in their hand and another player discards the fourth tile and this player claims it and exposes it immediately.  The second way a player can declare an exposed Kong is if they have already exposed a Pung and they draw the fourth tile from the wall themselves then they can declare the Kong placing the tile on the table. Once a Pung is exposed the fourth tile can not be claimed from anyone else to make the Kong. A concealed Kong is four of a kind drawn by the player and it is in their hand. They must declare the concealed Kong which allows them to draw a tile  from the loose wall. If this step is skipped then they will be a tile short as a Pung and a Kong are counted the same in obtaining a winning Mah Jongg hand.

CHOW – A chow is a sequence of 3 tiles in the same suit. You may only claim a discarded tile for a chow from the player on your left and you must have the other two tiles already in your hand. This exposed chow must be set out on the table.  Should a player be waiting for one tile to complete their whole hand for Mah Jongg and this tile is required to complete a chow it may be claimed from any player at the table.

PAIR – Every completed hand must have one pair of matching tiles. The pair is also known as the sparrow’s head.

FLOWERS and SEASONS – There are four Flower tiles numbered 1-4 and four Season tiles also numbered 1-4. Each corresponds to a seating position. East and the number 1 are important to  the person in the first position or East chair. South and number 2 are next. West and number 3 follow and North and number 4 are in the last position. Should a player draw a complete set of flowers or seasons (1-4 of the same color – red or blue),  it is known as a “bouquet”. This adds to the player’s score if they win the hand, doubling the score for each of their own flowers or seasons.