Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to Play Hong Kong Mah Jong, as Much as I Remember, at Least


Moohaha on flickr

My Chinese grandmother—which is the only name I have ever known her to have—came to live with us for two years while I was in high school.  During those two years she played mah jong nearly all day, every day.  Sometime she went to a social club, sometimes they came to our house.   Mah jong tiles are very loud.  I remember that.

When my grandmother, or her maid Amy, was winning, sometimes they would let me play their seat for a hand or two.  No one spoke English well enough to explain the scoring to me, so at the end of each hand, I would hold out a bunch of chips in my hand, and the other players would drop chips in and take chips out, and when they were finished, we'd play another hand.

My father used to explain the scoring by saying, "If a Chinese person wins, it's a big win, lots of points.  If a white person wins, it's a chicken hand." Chicken hand means a winning hand that doesn't score any points.

It wasn't until some time after college, when I downloaded a computer mah jong game, that I actually learned how the game was scored. 

Damn you, Joe Cheung!  I wanted that six bamboo.

That's pretty much the story of my life.  Most of the things I know about my mother's culture I have learned as an adult, from computer games and cyberpunk novels and recipes on the internet. 

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