The CC Theory

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Arguments FOR the CC Theory

Arguments AGAINST the CC Theory

Set forth by Cofa Tsui at his International Mahjong Official Website, Cofa's arguments have been re-organized and edited, with labels added, for the sake of this debate format.

[To view the entire article please visit ]

The purposes of my research are to prove the following conclusions:

(1) Chinese Classical is not the origin of MAHJONG, or at least, Chinese Classical is not the only origin of MAHJONG.

(2) Many variants, including Cantonese Mahjong or Hong Kong Old Style ("HKOS"), are simply not the descendants of Chinese Classical ("CC"). Many variants, including HKOS and CC, could have co-existed altogether for the long, undocumented history of the evolution and development of the game MAHJONG.

I believe the following results of the research support these conclusions.


A.1 The original game rules (AKA "proto-mahjongg") cannot be known at this time.

Was CC the origin of MAHJONG?

This is a question that is as difficult to answer as to a similar question: "Was HKOS the origin of MAHJONG?" In my opinion, any definition of MAHJONG is itself not definite. One may define what CC is, what HKOS is, what IMJ is.

A.2 However, one might not be qualified to define what MAHJONG is, as no any of such definition can be deemed to be absolute or definite, unless the history of MAHJONG itself can eventually be revealed and concluded in every detail.

To those who insist that CC was the (only) origin of MAHJONG, I wish to draw their attention to what Millington had said. In The Complete Book of Mah-Jongg (1977), he wrote:

    (p.7) In seeking to determine the true form of Mah-Jongg, of its rules, spirit and philosophy, we therefore proceeded first by an historical enquiry, asking which forms of Mah-Jongg were "authentic" - that is, which were played in China during the second decade of the twentieth century. This question was fortunately quite easy to answer, as a very considerable corpus of Mah-Jongg literature, by Chinese and Western authors, has come down to us from that period. It reveals, however, that...

    A.3 ...even within China a very considerable diversity prevailed in the details of the game. Our second question was therefore to ask which of the variant forms was the most perfect, philosophically considered; which came nearest to the ideal form of Mah-Jongg; which was the most logical and internally consistent...

    (p.8) This form, which is described in the Playing Rules included in chapter 3, we have called "classical Mah-Jongg", to distinguish it on the one hand from the several popular Chinese variant forms...

Millington clearly knew that "several popular Chinese variant forms" were in fact co-existing with the form of game he defined as "Classical". He also clearly acknowledged in his search for the "authentic" game of MAHJONG, that "even within China a very considerable diversity prevailed in the details of the game".

A.4 CC and HKOS, which are names created and found in modern literature, were obviously games among those variant forms.

[Note: only an abbreviated form of Cofa's argument is presented here. To see the complete article, click here.]


B.1 Mah-Jongg is an evolved game rather than an invented game. It is a commonly accepted fact that MAHJONG is an evolved game, rather than an invented game.

B.3 This gives reasonable ground that more than one style had actually been evolved from different point in time and in different places.

B.4 Thus, CC must not have been the origin of the game, or, it must not have been the only origin of MAHJONG. As far as "proto mahjong" is concerned, there should have been more than one.

[Note: only an abbreviated form of Cofa's argument is presented here. To see the complete article, click here.]


C.1 It is more reasonable to believe that games are evolved from simple and easy, through to complicated and difficult, rather than the other way around.

HKOS is simpler and easier than CC. It is very reasonable to assume that HKOS existed even earlier than CC, should HKOS and CC are related to each other.

An experience I have with a card game called "Big 2" might give you some hint how the score settlement of CC could have been developed. [snip]

[Note: only an abbreviated form of Cofa's argument is presented here. To see the complete article, click here.]


D.1 MAHJONG is believed to be evolved or developed from games like "Matiao", "Domino", "Rummy", "Tian Jiu" (Heaven Nine).

D.2 Knowing how scores are being settled in these games may give some hints or indications whether or not, and how, HKOS and CC were evolved or developed from these games.

D.3 The most important differences between HKOS and CC are the way players settle the scores when a player wins a Game (A "Game" is herein defined as a complete process of a short playing period ended in a result involving the paying and receiving of scores).

[Game details not included here; see Cofa's site.]

D.4 From the above findings, all of those ancestor games of MAHJONG (pending Matiao) have only one winner getting paid. It is obvious that HKOS has more direct connections with those ancestor games of MAHJONG, than CC has.

[Note: only an abbreviated form of Cofa's argument is presented here. To see the complete article, click here.]


E.1 Differences in the background [i.e., the ethnic origin] of writers of books on MAHJONG [make a difference in terms of this debate].

E.2 Most books written by authors of the Chinese origin support that when a Game is won, there is no settlement between players other than the winning player.

E.3 Among those authors of the "western" origin (i.e., non-Chinese origin), some support this rule and some don't.

E.4 Why most Chinese authors didn't support "settlement between players other than the winning player" and why not all western authors support this rule? (The word "most" is used because I did not read or know of ALL books of ALL Chinese writers. However, among those books I present herein, ALL Chinese writers supported ONLY rules that only the winning player gets scores.)

E.5 The only reason I could see is that, rules of Millington, who called the game of MAHJONG he chosen as "Chinese Classical", were not the only rules of MAHJONG that were existing at all times.


[Not included here.]

[Note: only an abbreviated form of Cofa's argument is presented here. To see the complete article, click here.]


F.1 Instead of accepting the long existing fact that the development of MAHJONG has itself a long, unknown and undocumented history, some writers attempt at all times to conclude that Chinese Classical ("CC") is the only origin of MAHJONG and that all other variants are simply its descendants. Such attempts are based mostly on certain books published in recent years (late 1990's), and on the ignorance of the fact that most parts of the history of MAHJONG are still unrevealed.

F.2 Those who attempt to make such conclusions usually quote books published in the 1920's, and The Complete Book of Mah-Jongg by A.D. Millington published in 1977. I have researched books on MAHJONG for several months since late 2001. I could not find any books published in the 1920's. I also could not see any original texts that were quoted out of any books by their actual names that were published in the 1920's. I, however, do not conclude that those books or the quotes are non-existent. I understand that they are simply not available to me.

F.3 With reasonable belief, I assume that none of those books of the 1920's mentioned the game of MAHJONG by the name "Classical", "Chinese Classical", or any similar names.

F.4 I also assume that none of those books of the 1920's gave any absolute suggestion that there was only one style of MAHJONG game that existed at that time

[paste] In other word, CC was not the only rule style that existed when MAHJONG first became known to people outside China, CC was not even more popular than other rules that had the same settlement system as HKOS.

F.5 ...all of these books could have called all game styles by one general name, MAHJONG.

From an October 9, 2004 post on the mahjong newsgroup in regards to a newly unearthed book written by Tam Wing Kwong, "The Game of Sparrow as played in China" (1922-1925, Hong Kong):

G. ...the book doesn't describe CC (Millington created this name many years later)...

Opponent's arguments are copyright 2002, 2004 Cofa Tsui. [To see Cofa's complete article, click here.]

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Rebuttal to arguments for the CC Theory

(Rebuttal written by opponents of the CC Theory)

Rebuttal to arguments against the CC Theory

(Rebuttal written by proponents of the CC Theory)