The CC Theory

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Arguments FOR the CC Theory

Arguments AGAINST the CC Theory

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)

Proponents rebut opponent's arguments against the CC theory.

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

    It is true that we cannot know for certain. That's why we call it "the CC theory." We believe that the original rules can be deduced from clues gleaned from the game's history. And we believe that our opponent also believes in the principle that "rules can be deduced" (given his argument D).

A.2. 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.

    We disagree. We believe that mah-jongg can be defined, as follows.


      Mah-Jongg can be distinguished from other games by four primary characteristics:

        The form of the pieces.
        b. The symbols or indicia on the pieces.
        c. The structure of the set (the distribution of symbols on the pieces).
        d. The game played with the pieces.

      a. The form of the mah-jongg pieces - the pieces are usually small tiles, something like dominoes only thicker and not as tall. The pieces also can be in the form of paper cards (and may have been cards when the game originated).

      b. The symbols or indicia on the pieces:

        i. Three suits of 1 through 9; "dots, bams, and craks" (called other names in other languages).
        ii. Four winds: East, South, West, North. [Note: The earliest sets may have had a differing number, but today a set with a different number of different wind indicia would not be regarded a proper mah-jongg set.]
        iii. Three dragons: White, Green, Red. ["Dragons" is the Western term, not the Chinese term. The earliest sets may have had a differing number of dragon tiles.]
        iv. May also include "flower" or "season" tiles (some of which may not actually depict flowers or seasons).
        v. May also include jokers or various other special tiles.

      c. The breakdown of the set (the distribution of symbols or indicia on the pieces):

        i. Four each of the three suits of 1 to 9; "dots, bams, and craks," yielding a total count of 108 suit tiles or cards.
        ii. Four each of the four winds, for a total count of 16 wind tiles or cards.
        iii. Four each of the three dragons, for a total count of 12 dragon tiles or cards.
        iv. The total count of the suit tiles, wind tiles, and dragon tiles is 136 tiles. This is the "basic set."
        v. The number of "flower" or "season" tiles (some of which may not actually depict flowers or seasons) may vary considerably, from none to over twenty.
        vi. The number of jokers or various other special tiles may vary considerably, from none to over twenty.

      d. The gameplay consists of forming the tiles into a hand.

        i. The first player to form a valid hand wins.
        ii. A complete mah-jongg hand usually follows the formula "Number of tiles = (n groups) + pair, where 'n' = (usually) either 4 or 5, 'group' = 3, and 'pair' = 2." In other words, the complete hand might be 14 tiles, or it might be 17. The use of "groups" as mentioned here is the norm, but as with all generalities about mah-jongg, there are exceptions.
        iii. The game is normally intended primarily for four players (variants may allow other numbers of players).

A.3. (Millington:) ...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.

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.

    We agree that:

    • matiao and khanhoo influenced and led to the system of suits and designs on the mah-jongg tiles;
    • dominoes influenced and led to the form of the mah-jongg tiles;
    • khanhoo influenced and led to the gameplay of mah-jongg.

    These influences can be considered to be part of an evolutionary process, but this does not necessarily mean that there was no invention or inventor involved. Note that we are not arguing firmly against statement B.1 -- just pointing out some qualifications to it. It's not a hill we are willing to die on. And we disagree that our opponent's statement is "a commonly accepted fact."

B.2. This gives reasonable ground that more than one style had actually been evolved from different point in time and in different places.

    It is not unreasonable to draw inferences (as we stated in our rebuttal to Cofa's argument A.1).

    We'd like to help Cofa out a little here, if we may. He argues (and has argued in the past) that it's possible that HKOS evolved in parallel with CC. We acknowledge that it is possible. But we point out that all the existing documentation indicates otherwise.

B.3. 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.

    This is a nonsequitur. It doesn't follow that because it's not unreasonable to conclude something, that therefore it is so.

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.

    Tom has designed games professionally, and he disagrees. It's a common trap for a game designer to get carried away designing more and more interesting details into a game. Sometimes the designer has to simplify the game in order to improve it and make it accessible to new players.

    If we acknowledge that it is possible that mah-jongg was invented (as an evolutionary step based on the previous Chinese games mentioned below), then it is possible that the inventor got carried away (especially in regards to all that darned triplet-counting and payment-to-all stuff).

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

    We agree that Matiao and dominoes preceded and influenced the FORM (and that Khanhoo preceded and influenced the gameplay) of mah-jongg. Rummy, however, has not been shown to have pre-existed mah-jongg, as was discussed in a thread posted on March 3, 2002, entitled "Is Mah-Jongg a Chinese ancestor of Rummy? (Why I doubt it)"

    [Click here to go to, where you can rummage through old newsgroup posts.]

    ... And the game "Tian Jiu" (Tien Gow) does not seem to us to have any bearing on this discussion (it is a domino game, using normal dominoes, with gameplay completely unrelated to mah-jongg). Millington mentions the game on page 103 of his book as a possible source of the "dealer pays and receives double" rule, but beyond that we don't see this game as being significant in the development of mah-jongg.

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.

    It may. But only if Cofa's argument A.1 is invalidated.

D.3. The most important differences between HKOS and CC are the way players settle the scores when a player wins a Game...

    Agreed. In fact, this significant point adds considerable weight to our arguments in favor of the theory, as referenced several times in this debate.

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.

    i. It is possible for influences to "leapfrog." New things do not necessarily have to follow their influences in a straight linear fashion.

    ii. The "payment to all" rule of the classic game is one of the complications in the classic game, which is why it is not commonly found among the numerous varieties of mah-jongg extant today.

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].

    This argument is not deemed a suitable argument for 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.

    The cited books by Chinese authors were all written decades after the 1920s. The "payment to all" feature was a complication that was cut from newer variants to streamline the game for an ever-accelerating world.

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

    Depending on the variant of mah-jongg under discussion. It has nothing to do with the authors' genealogy.

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?

    All authors writing about variants in which "payment to all" is the rule do, of necessity, describe ("support") the rule.

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.

    In the 1920s, every documented rule set includes "first count the base points, then apply doubles for special characteristics of the hand." Therefore, even given the variations in details between this 1920s book and that 1920s book, they all describe the classic game, and the classic game only.

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.

    Um, no. Mostly on books from the 1920s (as is stated in opponent's next argument).

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.

    Perhaps Tom can be of some help. He is including some pertinent passages and chapters of the most pertinent books, here on this site. It is, unfortunately, too much work to scan entire books. Click here to see them.

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.

    We fail to see the point of this argument, since we are talking about a period of time 80 years ago, when the game was still young, there was only the one game, and it had not yet spawned the myriad of variants we have today. That said, one author (L. L. Harr) did in fact use the word "classic" in his 1923 article, "The Game of a Hundred Intelligences." You can read this article at Jim May's website at [click here]

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...

    We have stated several times (both in the newsgroup debate and here in this web version) that there is considerable evidence that CC was the only game in town back then. Additionally, we refer the reader to J. B. Powell's 1923 article, "Mah Chang: The Game and Its History," at Jim May's website at [click here]. (Hint: scroll down to the bottom and read the second-to-last paragraph.)

[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.

    Of all the books we have seen from the 1920s, each and every one of them describes the classic game (first add base points, then apply doubles), and the classic game only. While, in history, you never can obtain positive conclusive evidence, we hold that these books constitute a mass -- not just a preponderance -- of evidence supporting the CC theory. Much evidence in these books shows that CC was the only style played in the 1920s, even in Canton and Hong Kong, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever showing that the style we now call HKOS existed in the 1920s.

    [Click here to see those books.]

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

    Would that it were so! Today we have the "luxury" of at least having everyone pronounce the game's name about the same (despite the unfortunate ongoing plethora of spellings). But in the 1920s it was actually much much worse. Not only was the game's name spelled in many different ways by different authors back then, it was even pronounced in a confusing number of completely different ways. M. C. Work discusses this briefly [click here].

    Here is a partial list:

    • Game of a Hundred Intelligences, The
    • Lung Chan
    • Ma Cheuk
    • Ma Chiong
    • Ma Chong
    • Ma Chuek
    • Ma Deuck
    • Ma Jong
    • Ma Jongg
    • Machiang
    • Ma-Ch'iau
    • Mah Cheuk
    • Mah Chuek
    • Mah Jong
    • Mah Jongg
    • Mahjong
    • Mah-Jong
    • Mahjongg
    • Mah-Jongg
    • Majiang
    • Majong
    • Majongg
    • Mar-Juck
    • Pe-Ling
    • Pung Chow
    • Sparrow

    In one of my books, I read a passage that described the proper 1920s pronunciation of the game's name in Peking, Shanghai, and Hongkong (each being entirely different). But I cannot find the passage at the time of this writing.

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

    Ridiculous. This is just a restatement of argument F.3. CC is CC, no matter what someone else calls it or when somebody first named it "Chinese Classical." All books of the 1920s describe CC rules, including those which mention Hong Kong rules. No books from the 1920s have yet been discovered that describe any other variant of mah-jongg (especially HKOS). Read the debate's "Definitions" page to see the definition of "Chinese Classical." Click here.

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