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FAQ 7b. Is My Set Complete?

So... you are the happy owner of a mah-jongg set, and you are wondering if all the tiles that are supposed to be there are there. The purpose of this FAQ is to help you determine if all your tiles are present. Other FAQs are available through the nav frame at left, to help you figure out other things about your set.

To determine if you have all the tiles you're supposed to, the first thing you should do is take all the tiles out of the mah-jongg case. In this FAQ, our focus is just on the tiles, so leave all other pieces in the case. Arrange the tiles by suit and number.


The suit of dots is numbered 1 through 9. There are 4 of each tile. 36 tiles.


The suit of bams is numbered 1 through 9. There are 4 of each tile. 36 tiles. The One Bam usually depicts a bird.


The suit of craks is numbered 1 through 9. There are 4 of each tile. 36 tiles.


There are 4 different winds (East, South, West, North), 4 of each. There are 3 different dragons (White, Green, Red), 4 of each.
There are 8 flower tiles (right), which can depict all kinds of things; some of them might be named for the 4 seasons. Total: 36 tiles.

The above 144 universal tiles make up the basic Chinese set. Your set might have more than that. If you do have additional tiles, arrange those at the side, as in the picture below.


This set has 160 tiles. You can tell because, in addition to the "normal" 144-tile Chinese set (dots, bams, craks, winds, dragons, 8 flowers) it has 8 additional jokers, 4 Chinese jokers, and 4 blanks. 144+16=160. Simple math.

Count all the tiles. The easy way to count so many tiles is to organize everything in four rows (like the picture above). Then you don't have to count each piece -- you can count the columns of four (and multiply by four). It's a lot like a trick I learned from my grandpa, who was a dairy farmer. He taught me that the quick way to count cows is to count the legs, and divide by four. Oh, wait. I'm trying to remember. Maybe it wasn't the legs that he counted...?   (^_^)


Another way of arranging your tiles is "the big square," as shown above.

The Chinese Set
The normal Chinese set has 144 tiles: the dots, bams, craks, winds, dragons, and 8 flowers.

The American Set
The modern American set has 152 tiles: essentially, it's a Chinese set, plus 8 jokers (right).

A couple things you'll notice in the above images:

A couple things you might find in your set that differ from the above images:

Overview of different types of sets (more details, and pictures, can be found in FAQ 7a):

More stuff you don't really need to know, but can be of interest (may include some repetitive stuff):

Got a question not answered above? Visit the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board to get answers to your mah-jongg questions.

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