In my childhood, when I had the Commodore 64 computer that I’ve talked about before, one of the games I had installed was Mah Jong. I liked it for the images on the computer tiles, but I had no clue how to play and never learned.
Last week I visited a favorite store filled with trinkets of all sorts. I found a lovely black top with an embroidered section on the upper part, a sleeveless flowing ruffle around the upper arms. I did a final look to make sure I didn’t miss anything and that’s when I saw hanging from a display a small wine colored pouch—reminiscent of the material that white almonds are bundled in at weddings. I saw that there was a stack of something inside—four little squares. I flipped the information card over: Magnets in a Bag. But not just any magnets, Mah Jong Tile magnets. It was the cutest thing. I decided I wanted to bring them home with me and when I read more on the information card, it said, “When translated, Mah Jong means ‘the Game of the Sparrows’ – a title thought to have originated from the bird-like chattering noise created by shuffling the tiles together at the start of the game.” I don’t know if this is true, but it seems Wikipedia does mention that according to myth the game was developed by Confucius and that he was fond of birds and perhaps that’s how this game got its name. Each magnet has the Chinese calligraphy symbol for one of the four winds. Precious. I was happy to add these magnets to the refrigerator for our viewing pleasure.
Since bringing the Mah Jong magnets home, I looked on the iTunes App store through my iPod Touch to see what Mah Jong Apps they have. I found two that I downloaded, but they are not real Mah Jong games in the sense that the Apps that I downloaded have the characters and images that one may see on a real set of tiles, but play on the App is more of a solitaire game of matching. I watched a video of a group of four people playing Mah Jong and realized that the real game is more complicated.
From the second link below, it seems difficult for scholars to agree on the exact true origins of the game and naming.
For now, the imaginative and dream spirit in me is happy with knowing Mah Jong as “The Game of Sparrows.”
The photo I’ve included with this blog is of a coin purse that I also saw and brought home.