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FAQ 3. "What are some good books on Mah-Jongg?"

Here's a list of Mah-Jongg books, with my take on the books. Because so many of my readers play American-style mah-jongg, I list books on that variant first. The rest of the books are in "no particular order" (in other words, don't ask me why I listed them in the order I chose to order them in!).

Note: because mah-jongg book titles are all so similar-sounding, it is far easier to refer to mah-jongg books by author. Thus the author names are highlighted in bold for reference purposes. When writing to me to inquire about or comment on a listed book, please give me the author name. In the case of Thompson & Maloney, Headley & Seeley, The Mah-Jongg Museum, Tong Seng Tjoa, Nancy McKeithen, Elaine Sandberg, and R. C. Bell (each of whom have written numerous titles), also include book title so I know which book is under discussion.

MAH JONGG MADE EASY by National Mah Jongg League (NMJL), 1984 (No ISBN #)
This uniquely American MJ game is widely played; if your Mah-Jongg friends play using the AMJA or NMJL card, this book (the League's official rulebook) sets forth the American rules. Yearly special hand cards (i.e. member dues) cost $6.50. Write to NMJL, 250 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10107 -- order form at website: - and the booklet is also available from various online vendors listed in FAQ 4a and FAQ 4b.


THE RED DRAGON & THE WEST WIND by Tom Sloper. HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-06-123394-4.
"The perfect introduction for beginners and an excellent reference for expert players, this book is a complete guide to mah-jongg, the classic game of strategy and subterfuge. Covering all aspects of two important variants, official Chinese and American, the book reveals the true history and origin of the game. The essential book for anyone who wants to have fun - and win - while playing mah-jongg. Game designer and producer Tom Sloper has lectured at the Smithsonian and written extensively on the traditional game of mah-jongg. The author of the mahjong newsgroup Frequently Asked Questions, he lives in Los Angeles." The book is published by HarperCollins, and can be ordered through bookstores, Barnes & Noble, and

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO AMERICAN MAH JONGG, by Elaine Sandberg (Foreword by Tom Sloper), Tuttle Publishing, 2007. ISBN: 0-8048-3878-X
For beginners learning American mah jongg, following the official National Mah Jongg League rules. Offering first-time players an easy-to-follow guide to this complex game, A Beginner’s Guide to American Mah Jongg includes simple instructions and clear diagrams to walk the reader through each step, including how to select a hand, how to play and how to develop winning strategies.

WINNING AMERICAN MAH JONGG STRATEGIES, by Elaine Sandberg, Tuttle, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8048-4231-1
Subtitle: A Guide For The Novice Player. In-depth discussion of Charleston strategy and strategizing the hand during play. Includes a cut-out 2009 NMJL card, and photos of older cards to illustrate the evolution of NMJL cards.

MAH JONGG 2013 HOW TO PLAY AND WIN, by Claire Fine.
"Unlike other books it doesn't just address how to play but how to sharpen your game using the 2013 card. It is short and concise and illustrated (in color for the handswitching) The Table of Contents is broken down very finely so it could be a great textbook for a teacher. eBook or paperback."

MAH JONG, ANYONE? Revised Edition, A Manual of Western Play, by Kitty Strauser & Lucille Evans, with new material by Tom Sloper, Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1964, 2006. ISBN 0-8048-0390-0 (1964 edition, 1990 printing, lime green jacket) - ISBN 0-8048-3419-9 (2002 printing, ivory cover) - ISBN-13: 978-0-8048-3761-3 (2006 edition, white cover) - ISBN-10: 0-8048-3761-9 (2006 edition, white cover).
This has long been one of the easiest-to-find mah jong books on bookstore shelves in America, and does a good job of describing the Western-style game in an easy-to-read manner. The 2006 edition has been edited by, and includes a new section on strategy written by, Tom Sloper, the author of this website. Formerly "Mah Jong, Anyone? A Manual of Modern Play."

MAH-JONGG: From Shanghai to Miami Beach, by Christina Cavallaro and Anita Luu, Chronicle Books, 2005, ISBN 0-8118-4733-0.
A pretty little "coffee table book" filled with gorgeous photos of mah-jongg tiles, ancient and new, including some from the collection of Tom Sloper, the author of this website (who was interviewed and quoted in the book). Delves into history, colorful lore, and even has recipes for Chinese and Jewish foods to snack on while playing.

MAH JONGG: The Art Of The Game, by Ann M. Israel & Gregg Swain, Tuttle Publishing, 2014, ISBN: 9784805313237.
A gorgeous book of photos and factual history, featuring chapters by renowned scholar and historian Michael Stanwick and Tom Sloper, the author of this website. Outstanding book, a must for every mah-jongg aficionado.

SEARCHING FOR BUBBE FISCHER, by Karen Gooen, Bubbe Meises Publishing. ISBN-10: 099076012X. ISBN-13: 978-0990760122.
A sort of mah-jongg memoir, about the author's search for a mentor to teach her the secrets of the American mah-jongg gods. Tom Sloper, the author of this website, helped edit a little and wrote a blurb for the back cover.

AMAZING MAHJONG by Celia Ching, Rank Books (, 2010.
This book covers modern Singapore Style rules, as well as general basics, strategy and techniques, and also comparisons with other Asian variants (including MCR). - Thanks to Edwin Phua for the info. Edwin has written an excellent review of the book in his blog, at In particular, he discusses Ching's use of nonstandard terminology (a particular hot button of mine), and some inaccuracies in the book. Update: I now have a copy of this book. I like seeing the mix of English and Chinese, and interesting use of symbols and numeric patterns. Very colorful book.

THE GREAT MAHJONG BOOK: History, Lore, And Play, by Jelte Rep, English version Tuttle Publishing, 2007, ISBN: 0-8048-3719-8.
Original Dutch version: HET GROOT MAHJONGBOEK (The great book of Mahjong), by Jelte Rep, Tirion Uitgevers B.V., 2002 (Netherlands), ISBN 90-4390-396-5.
Beautifully illustrated, laid out exquisitely for easy reading. Includes chapters on a variety of styles of mah-jongg, including Japanese, Hong Kong, American, Western, and Korean. Historical developments in the game worldwide are documented and illustrated. In English or Dutch, is a must for the serious collector. The pictures alone are a treasure (and you can often figure out what's going on even if you can't read Dutch).
English version available at Original Dutch version available at Bookshop DAJA from Ada & Jan Ketzer. To inquire about pricing and shipping, and to order: email (website:

MAHJONG FROM A TO ZHÚ (麻将从A到竹), by Scott D. Miller, psionicpress, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-300-09202-5.
This text contains over forty different Mahjong variants with detailed explanations. Also included are games like Meow Meow Mahjong, Sap Tim Pun, Ten Phases, fortune telling and more. Tom Sloper, the author of this website, helped edit a little and wrote a blurb for the back cover.

WORLD MAHJONG: ESSENCE, by Kingstone Kim, Maekyung Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-89-7442-440-4.
Discusses World Mahjong Federation rules. Includes information on demographics and apocryphal history.

THE COMPLETE BOOK OF MAH-JONGG by A.D. Millington, Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1987, ISBN 0-213-16951-7 (newer versions have different ISBN numbers -- ISBN 0297813404 and ISBN 0460813404; thanks to Michael Stanwick for this info).
Describes in exacting detail the Classical Chinese Mah-Jongg as played in the West, and gives an excellent history of the evolution of Mah-Jongg in the twentieth century. Book is available for sale in English-speaking countries other than the USA. See if you can find it at the library or on the Internet -- this book is a treasure for students of the classical game, and for mahjong historians. The book may still be available at

MAH-JONGG; BASIC RULES & STRAGEGIES by Dieter Kohnen, Sterling Publications, 1998; ISBN 0-8069-0752-5
Finally, a book that not only describes the Classical Chinese game as played in the West, but is also easily available for purchase in the United States! (Like the title says, it's only basic rules, so it's not nearly as in-depth as Millington, but just try to find a copy of Millington if you live in the US.) I got my copy of this new book via Book's special hands include 7-pairs hands (so it's not "pure" classical Chinese, I guess) and the book even includes one all-too-brief page about the Japanese game.

TEACH YOURSELF MAHJONG by David Pritchard, Teach Yourself Books, 2001, ISBN 0-340-80293-6.
Describes the Western game and gives strategy and history. Sections on other forms of mah-jongg as well (contains some erroneous information). UK£7.99 at Hodder & Stoughton (

THE CHINESE GAME OF MAHJONG by Samuel K. Perlmen and Mark Kai-Chi Chan, Book Marketing Ltd., 1979, ISBN 962-211-0169
This excellent book describes the game as played today in Hong Kong; covers both Old Style and New Style. I do not know if the book is still available if you write to: Book Marketing Ltd., North Point Industrial Bldg., 499 King's Road 17/F Flat A, North Point, Hong Kong. But you could try, I guess!

LET'S PLAY MAHJONG! by Benny Constantino, 1990, Federal Publications, ISBN 962-302-129-1
Briefly (very briefly) describes Hong Kong "old style" Mah-Jongg. Not as in-depth as Perlmen & Chan. Write to: Federal Publications Ltd., Units 903-905, Tower B, 9/F, Hunghom Commercial Centre, 37 Ma Tau Wai Road, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel 334-2421.

THE HAPPY GAME OF MAH-JONG by David H. Li, Premier Publishing, 1994, ISBN 0-9637852-3-0
Takes a scholastic approach in teaching the Hong Kong "old style" game. Not a lot of detail on the rules (just the basics are covered). Premier Publishing, Box 341267, Bethesda MD 20827 and available on the Internet. **

INTERNATIONAL MAHJONG RULES by Cofa Tsui, 1998, ISBN 0968368700
Detailed rules for Hong Kong "old style." New - you can now download for free from the IMJ website ( **

COMPETITION MAHJONG OFFICIAL INTERNATIONAL RULEBOOK (a.k.a. "OIRB"). The Mah-Jongg Museum, Takeshobo, 2002. ISBN 4-8124-0944-6.
English translation of the official Chinese rules (1998, by China Competition Mahjong Compilation Party) - the rules that were used at the first World Mahjong Championship tournament in Tokyo, in October 2002. Basically, this book is a shortened English-only version of SEKAI MAJAN 2000 (see below; there is also a Japanese-only version of this booklet, ISBN 4-8124-0943-8). You can download a printable version of this book at

WONDERFUL TAIWAN MAH JONG, by "Dragon" Shiang-Yu Chang. Publisher: Dragon Shiang-Yu Chang (Printers Co. Ltd.), 2003. ISBN: 957-41-1174-1.
Rules for the 16-tile Taiwanese game and the Chinese Official game. Fact-based section on the history of mah-jongg (what a breath of fresh air!). Plus: how to play Mah-Jongg Bingo and Mah-Jongg Baccarat. Book even has photos from the 2002 World Championship in Mah-Jongg in Tokyo. For sale at the site of Daja Mahjong:

SEKAI MAJAN 2000 (世界麻雀2000 - "World Mah-Jongg 2000"). Edited by the Mah-Jongg Museum (no author name). Publisher: Takeshobo, October 1999. ISBN 4-8124-0551-3.
This trilingual (Chinese - Japanese - English) book describes the modern Official Chinese rules (aka "Chinese Mahjong Competition Rules" aka "CMCR"). Book is not highly recommended. Due to its being trilingual, the information is terse. And it's probably hard to get nowadays anyway. Not a lot of clarifying detail on the Chinese Official rules. Book might still be available at the Mah-Jongg Museum (in Chiba Prefecture, an hour by express train out of Tokyo). Takeshobo also publishes Kindai Majan, an entertaining comic book (manga) about modern mah-jongg, and they have a website about that at

MAHJONG COMPETITION RULES, by The World Mahjong Organization, 2006.
The updated official rules used in international tournaments from 2002-2007. Download it for free from
Download the MCR ERRATA/Addenda file HERE. And you should also download Per Starbäck's "Beyond the Green Book" at

THE NEW MAHJONG; The International Game by D. B. Pritchard, 2004, ISBN 0-7160-2164-1
The first work on the Chinese Official rules to be printed outside of Asia. Unfortunately, the book does not fully discuss exclusions/inclusions of scoring elements (the most frequently debated topic among players of this variant).
The book lists the scoring elements by points and the element's "order" position within the scoring group. For instance, the first scoring element in the one-point group is 1/1, and the second element in the one-point group is 1/2. This is all well and good, but the player would have to do math (else count) to find out how many scoring elements there are in all - and the player cannot communicate with others who refer to scoring elements by their position within the overall list. The players who will be participating in the 2005 OEMC are in the habit of referring to scoring elements by number only, "Melded Hand" being referred to as simply "#32," for instance.
Also, the author refers to the scoring elements by his own names. For instance, the scoring element popularly known as "Short Straight" (#3) is called herein "Sequential Chows" (1/3), and "Last Tile" (scoring element #27) is called herein "Fourth Tile" (4/4). It may result that some players will have communication problems when discussing hands with one another, if they've learned the game from different books.
We haven't read the entire book yet, but one error was spotted on page 72. The description of "Full Flush" (called herein "Single Suit") says that the player making the hand is permitted to claim extra points for a pung of winds - but of course the hand cannot have anything but tiles from the one suit. Hopefully a followup edition will correct all errors and omissions.
The book's price is £3.99 plus postage and is available from, +44 (0)1737 832202.

MAH JONGG; WRIGHT-PATTERSON RULES by Wright Patterson Mah Jongg Group, 1963-1996-2003. (No ISBN #)
This Western game is the one played by officers' wives on American military bases; it's somewhat similar to the game described by Strauser & Evans and Thompson & Maloney but has more special hands, and other specific differences. Books available through the Wright-Patterson Officers' Spouses' Club website, at Or write to: Mah Jongg Book Sales, PO Box 1067, Fairborn, OH 45324.

THE GAME OF MAH JONG ILLUSTRATED by P. Thompson & B. Maloney, Kangaroo Press, 1990, ISBN 0-86417-302-4
This book describes Western-Style MJ, as it is played in Australia (very similar to the game described by Strauser & Evans). Brief mention of Classical Chinese rules. The descriptions of the Western special tile combinations are accompanied by clear and helpful pictures.

IMPROVE YOUR MAH JONG by P. Thompson & B. Maloney, Kangaroo Press, 1991, ISBN 0-86417-398-9
Western rules in more detail for players who have already mastered the basics of Western Mah-Jongg. Emphasis is on scoring, and pictures of the special tile combinations. Brief mention of Classical Chinese rules.

THE MAH JONG PLAYER'S COMPANION by P. Thompson & B. Maloney, Kangaroo Press, 1997, ISBN 0-86417-891-3
In-depth strategy guide for players of the Western game. How to turn a random hand into a Western special hand. This book is NOT for beginners -- the rules of the game are not described in the book. This is Western strategy, ONLY.

MAH JONGG 2000 by Thomas G. Glass, Jr., M.D., Glass Publishing, 2000, ISBN O-9614758-4-1
Thick and detailed new book about Western-style mah-jongg (or possibly Wright-Patterson). Emphasis on terms. Nice section on 3-player game.

LET'S PLAY MAH JONG! by Nancy McKeithan, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC, Canada. ISBN 155212860.
Western game, in a handy small size (5" by 5.5") booklet.

MAH JONG II: A MODIFIED FORM OF PLAY WITH JOKERS by Nancy McKeithan, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC, Canada. ISBN 155395033X.
Western game, with 8 jokers added. Small size spiral-bound booklet.

A MAH JONG HANDBOOK by E. Whitney, Charles E. Tuttle Co., latest edition 2007, ISBN-10: 0-8048-3874-7; ISBN-13: 978-0-8048-3874-0
This book describes the classic Chinese, Western, and Japanese rules, mostly as they were 40 years ago (note: the 2007 edition includes some updated material). If you are a newbie, I don't necessarily recommend this book (it would be easy to get confused by trying to pick out the rules for the game you want to learn from the two games you don't want to learn and it might just confuse and frustrate you, unless you mainly are interested in Japanese Classical rules). This book is, however, an excellent reference for those already knowledgeable in various ways of playing Mah-Jongg.

HOW TO PLAY MAH JONG by K. J. Carkner, Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1993, ISBN 0 14 017638 1
A pocket-sized book that packs a lot of solid information about Chinese, Western, and even a couple of pages about Japanese Classical rules, and seems to do a pretty good job keeping them separate from one another (unlike Whitney). I got my copy from Whitcoulls bookstore in New Zealand. May also be available in a larger size?

KNOW THE GAME: MAH-JONG by Gwyn Headley & Yvonne Seeley, A & C Black, 1994. ISBN 0 7136 3742 0. 2nd edition 2002, ISBN 0713660090, available on (thanks to Gareth Saunders for the info).
Produced in association with the British Mah-Jong Association. Book describes a variant of the Western game - uses some popular Western hands (Knitting, for instance) and features (Goulash; limit of one chow per hand). Describes rules for home play and also tournament rules. I got my copy through

THE GAME OF MAHJONG by Max Robertson, Whitcoulls (New Zealand), 1974, ISBN 0 7233 0306 1
A "Handy Little Book" which describes Western-style rules; book widely used in English-speaking countries outside North America. I got my copy from Whitcoulls bookstore in New Zealand.

MAH JONG FOR BEGINNERS by S. Kanai & M. Farrell, 1952, Charles E. Tuttle Co., ISBN 0-8048-0391-9
This book describes the classic Japanese rules as they were 45 years ago. This book introduces the beginner to the basics of the Japanese game, but few in Japan play the game this way today. Newer rules (Reach and Dora, for example) are not described in this book.

REACH MAHJONG; THE ONLY WAY TO PLAY by Jenn Barr, 2009,, Las Vegas, Nevada. $14.95, 212 pages, full color.
The first book in English that fully describes modern riichi-dora mahjong, including strategy. Some non-standard terminology. Tom Sloper, the author of this website, helped edit a little.

THE RIICHI MAHJONG PRO-SPECTIVE, by Reach Spirits, Inc. Jenn Barr and Gemma Collinge Sakamoto have collected some Japanese pro players' thoughts on strategy. 2017, (no ISBN).

RIICHI MAHJONG: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE JAPANESE GAME TAKING THE WORLD BY STORM, by Scott D. Miller. Psionic Press (2015) ISBN Hardcover: 978-1-329-49304-9 ISBN Paperback: 978-1-329-62647-8 ISBN ePub: 978-1-329-62648-5
The second book in English to describe Japanese riichi/dora majan. Thankfully, the book uses standard terminology and is well-organized. Japanese terms also included to aid communication with other players. Foreword by Martin Rep.

HOI TOI (Hoi1 Toi2), by Gaan Ji-Cing (Gaan2 Ji4 Cing1, Kan Yi-Ching), (Hong Kong), 1984, ISBN 962-17-0088-4.
History of mah-jongg, in-depth strategy, pictures of unusual tile sets in the author's collection, description of a solitaire game roughly similar to Shanghai. Book is in Chinese (no English text except in a couple of illustrations).

HANDBUCH: MAH-JONGG; Das chinesische Mah-Jongg-Spiel, by Uwe Martens, Books on Demand GmbH, 2005 (Germany), ISBN 3-8334-2401-X.
Lavishly illustrated book (in German) about the Classic game and the Chinese Official rules. Judging by the pictures and what I can make out, the book includes a section on antique sets and the history of the game. Has a forward by Kyoichiro Noguchi, who figured prominently in the 2002 World Championship and whose company, Takeshobo, publishes mah-jongg books and magazines and runs the Mahjong Museum in Japan. Author Uwe Martens served as a referee at the 2005 OEMC and is the first president of the newly-formed European Mahjong Association.

LE MAH-JONG; Les Règles Internationales, by Stéphane Parcollet, Book Printing Services, 2005 (France), ISBN 2-9523515-0-3.
The Chinese Official rules in French. I got my copy, personally autographed(!), at the 2005 OEMC!

HATSUNE MAI NO SEKAI NI KATSU (初音舞の世界に勝つ - Challenge the World with Mai Hatsune), by Mai Hatsune and Takunori Kajimoto (初音 舞 • 梶本 琢理), Takeshobo (竹書房), 2005, ISBN 4-8124-2190-X.
Goes into great detail (in Japanese) about the Chinese Official rules and other variants as well. Lots of pictures of tournaments worldwide (America, Tokyo, Hainan, Hong Kong - couple pictures of me in there) and plenty more stuff I can't read because my Japanese sucks. I got my copy, personally autographed(!), at the 2005 OEMC! Important strategy chapters of the book have been translated into English, at

THE GAME MAKERS; The Story of Parker Brothers, From Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit, by Philip E. Orbanes, HBS Press, 2004 USA. ISBN 1-59139-269-1.
Brief but powerfully important section on mah-jongg's early history.

BOARD AND TABLE GAMES FROM MANY CIVILIZATIONS, by R. C. Bell, Dover, 1960-1979 (New York) ISBN 0-486-23855-5
Two volumes (available as one volume in paperback); describes Sap Tim Pun (Ten and a Half), which can be played with cards or Mah-Jongg tiles, and there is a 12-page description of Chinese Classical Mah-Jongg. Also see two other listings for R. C. Bell in the Out-Of-Print section, below.

THE NEW GAMES TREASURY by Merilyn Simonds Mohr, Chalice Press (Houghton Mifflin) ISBN 1-576-30058-7
Describes numerous games (not just Mah-Jongg). I haven't seen this book but "geenius[at] (Geenius at Wrok)" tells me that it describes Chinese Classical.

THE FORTUNE TELLER'S MAH JONGG, by Derek Walters, Eddison-Sadd Edition, Viking Penguin, 1994, ISBN 0-670-85640-1.
Describes ways to tell the future with Mah-Jongg kards (a deck is included with the book). There is a 2-page description of how to play Mah-Jongg (an abbreviated version of classical Chinese). The book is out of print (and nearly impossible to obtain) in the U.S., but there is now a German translation of Derek Walter's book, named "Das Mah Jongg Orakel", Hugendubel, 2001, ISBN 3-7205-2249-0. (Thanks to Ulrich M. Schwarz for the info.)

Much-abbreviated version of MAJAN HAKUBUTSUKAN DAI ZUROKU ("Illustrated Book of the Mah-Jongg Museum," or "Mah-Jongg Museum Big Encyclopedia"), which is listed in the out-of-print section, below. This version contains numerous color pictures of sets, books, and people of importance to those wishing to learn about the history of mah-jongg. Not much English in this version, unfortunately. Booklet was given to each of the attendees of the 2002 World Championship in Mah-Jongg, and is most likely available for sale at the gift shop of the Mahjong Museum in Chiba, Japan.

MAHJONG MUSEUM BULLETIN (Majan Hakubutsukan Kaihou, 麻雀博物館会報) (quarterly publication). The Mah-Jongg Museum, Takeshobo.
This quarterly bulletin was one of the few recurring publications on mah-jongg. It came from the now-shuttered Mahjong Museum in Chiba, Japan.

THE HISTORY AND CULTURE OF MAHJONG, from the DISPLAY HALL OF THE BIRTHPLACE OF MAHJONG ("DH/BP/MJ"), 74 MaYa Street, Ningbo 315010, China, Tel. (0574) 8729-3526. No ISBN number.
Booklet which examines the history of mah-jongg, in three languages (Chinese, English, Japanese). Booklet was given to each of the attendees of the 2002 World Championship in Mah-Jongg, and is also available for sale at the DH/BP/MJ, located within the grounds of the Tianyige Museum (Tian Yi Ge Bowuguan, also known as Tianyi Pavilion) at No. 10, Tianyi Street, in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China.

THE BOOK OF MAH JONG: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE, by Amy Lo. Publisher: Tuttle. ISBN: 0804833028. Price: $15.95.
Tuttle says: "Until now, a comprehensive book on Chinese mah jong for English-speaking readers did not exist. Finally, The Book of Mah Jong meets that long-sought need, as author Amy Lo, in consultation with many master players of the different forms of mah jong, offers the most complete mah jong guide ever."
Thanks to David Hearder for informing me of this book, and who comments: "the english is excellent, and contains a detailed explanation of the Cantonese rules (equivalent to Hong Kong old style?), plus variations for the Shanghai [New Style] rules, plus a 12 tile game (use of tiles as jokers) and the 16 tile Taiwanese game." I'd give you the URL for Tuttle's website, but when I checked it on New Year's Eve (Dec. 31, 2001), the site was not functioning. Try eBay and and

MAH JONG FOR EVERYONE (AN INTRODUCTION TO MAH JONG), by Tong Seng Tjoa, M.D.. Published by Vantage Press, Inc. NY. ISBN: 0-533-13530-3. 2001.
** Two asterisks for non-standard terminology (see footnote below).
The style of mah-jongg described in this book seems to be New Style mah-jongg. Numerous tile combinations; scoring is in fan only. I recommend this book to players of Taiwanese or New Style (both styles being under-represented in English-language books) -- then the player may make adjustments according to the table rules in use in actual play. Unfortunately, this book propagates the hype that mah-jongg dates "back more than one thousand years" (referring the reader to Chung Wu's An Advanced System for Playing Mah Jong. More on that book, below.

MAH JONG UNLIMITED (The Fundamentals of Mah Jong Game), by Tong Seng Tjoa, M.D.. Published by Vantage Press, Inc. NY. ISBN: 0-8059-4367-6. 2002.
Book describes the New Style of playing mah-jongg (numerous special hands; count the fan and then convert to payment units). Interesting discussion of American-style mah-jongg in the introduction.

MAH JONG FUN (A Handbook of Classic Fundamentals of Mah Jong), by Tong Seng Tjoa, M.D.. Published by Vantage Press, Inc. NY. ISBN 0-533-14020-X.
More about the New Style game.

AN ADVANCED SYSTEM FOR PLAYING MAH JONG, by Chung Wu. Dorrance Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 1973. Book describes the New Style of playing mah-jongg (numerous special hands; count the fan and then convert to payment units). Unfortunately promulgates the hype that mah-jongg dates "back more than one thousand years." Available through

WHAT CHARACTER IS THAT?: AN EASY-ACCESS DICTIONARY OF 5,000 CHINESE CHARACTERS, by Ping-gam Go. Simplex Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0962311352 - second edition, paperback - May 1, 2002. Most Chinese dictionaries sort by the complexity of the character, IE the number of strokes in the character.  The unique feature of this dictionary is its arrangement: first by the English word of the character's root, and then by the number of strokes.  This simple arrangement dramatically narrows your field of search for any given character.  This dictionary teaches you how to identify the radicals and also provides etymology to help you memorize it. (Thanks to Bruce Bacher)

A DICTIONARY OF CHINESE SYMBOLS: HIDDEN SYMBOLS IN CHINESE LIFE AND THOUGHT, by Wolfram Eberhard. Routledge, London, 1986. ISBN 0-415-00228-1. Originally published in German as Lexicon chinesischer Symbole by Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Cologne, 1983.
Not about mah-jongg - the title is self-explanatory. Useful for mah-jongg researchers and historians.

OUTLINES OF CHINESE SYMBOLISM AND ART MOTIVES, by C.A.S. Williams. Dover Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0486233727 (multiple editions; available in paperback and hardcover). Not about mah-jongg, but useful for mah-jongg scholars, and those wishing to better understand their ornately carved tiles or unusual flower tiles in collectible sets.

YIN YU TANG, The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House, by Nancy Berliner. Tuttle Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0804834873. Brief mention of mah-jongg, with a rare 1880s sketch of people playing mah-jongg.


I can't comment in detail on all of the following because I haven't necessarily seen them all, and if there is no ISBN # it's because I don't have one or there isn't one. Many of the following are out of print or hard to find.

Click here to see pictures and selected scans from classic mah-jongg books of the 1920s!

MAJAN HAKUBUTSUKAN DAI ZUROKU (麻雀博物館大図録 - "Illustrated Book of the Mah-Jongg Museum," or "Mah-Jongg Museum Big Picture Book"). Edited by the Mah-Jongg Museum (no author name). Publisher: Takeshobo, April 1999. ISBN 4-8124-0473-8.
This spectacular bilingual (Japanese - English) "coffee table book" contains tons of gorgeous photos of rare and unusual mah-jongg sets from around the world, and gives a detailed history of the game of mah-jongg. The book does not describe any rules, but is very useful for mah-jongg historians and enthusiasts. Unfortunately, within 6 months of publication, all copies had been sold and it's now nearly impossible to find. Takeshobo has said that they will NOT print another run, but it's possible that this will change. Takeshobo also publishes a mah-jongg-themed series of comic books (mentioned below).

CHINESE MAHJONG COMPETITION RULES (sometimes referred to as "CMCR" or "CHINESE OFFICIAL RULES" or "BEIJING RULES"). Publisher: People's Sports Publishing House. Distributor: Xin Hua Books Store, Beijing Distribution Office. ISBN 7-5009-1630-2/G - 1529. 98 pages, paperback, 8.5 x 11.68 cm, 10 Renminbi (Chinese dollars).
This book was written and/or sponsored in 1998 by the Chinese government to create a type of mah-jongg that would prohibit gambling and would thus be legal to play in China. Book is entirely in Chinese; I can't read my copy! (^_^) There is also a trilingual (Chinese-Japanese-English) description of these rules, sold by the Mah-Jongg Museum in Japan (see SEKAI MAJAN 2000, above).

CHINESE MAHJONG COMPETITION RULES: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. Publisher: People's Sports Publishing House, 2002. ISBN ISBN 7-80602-511-1. Followup book to CMCR - goes into depth about rules that hadn't been given in the first book. Book is entirely in Chinese. Extremely hard to obtain outside of China. I call this book "CMCR2" for short.

FOSTER ON MAHJONG, by Robert F. Foster, 1924. Foster serialized his research on Mahjong in the magazines Vanity Fair and Asia from 1923 to the next year, and compiled and published it as a book. Look for it in the public library. Highly recommended work from the 1920s. Includes a well-researched history of the game that does not fall prey to the usual hype about how "ancient" the game was said to be. Sometimes auctioned on eBay.
[Click here to see scans and selected text from this important book.]
[Click here to see scans and selected text from the Vanity Fair pamphlet by Foster.] (Part of the CC Theory pages.)

THE AMERICAN OFFICIAL LAWS OF MAH-JONGG, formulated by the "Standardization Committee of the American Official Laws of Mah-Jongg" (Babcock, Smith, Hartman, Work, and Foster). 1924.

MAH-JONGG UP-TO-DATE, by Milton C. Work. In addition to describing the Chinese Classical rules in the then-standard 3 variants (the standard or "Mixed-Hand" game, the Cleared-Hand game, and the One-Double game), this book includes The American Official Laws of Mah-Jongg mentioned above. Look for it in the public library. Highly recommended work from the 1920s. Sometimes available for auction on eBay.
[Click here to see scans of this book.]

MAAJH, by Viola L. Cecil, first Chairman of the National Mah Jongg League. 1938, 1940.
The first book written to describe a radically different kind of mah-jongg, designed specifically for women players in America. Today the American style of mah-jongg stands alone among all other forms of mah-jongg, and it all began with this book.

THAT'S IT! by Dorothy S. Myerson.
Several printings exist (it had to be printed each year to reflect that year's card of hands). This book was (or so it seems) the successor to Viola Cecil's book, and the precursor to the current NMJL book "Mah Jongg Made Easy."

THE GAME OF SPARROW AS PLAYED IN CHIA, by Tam Wing Kwong, published (2nd edn) in 1925 in Hong Kong (1st edn was 1922), 72pp. "Sole Distributors, IP TAK & COMPANY. Printed by WING FAT & Co." - describes CC rules, pretty much putting an end to the "CC Theory controversy." (Thanks to Julian Bradfield for reporting this book in a 8/10/04 newsgroup post.)

KEYS TO WINNING AT MAH-JONGG AND POKER, by Haishang Laoyuouke (a pen name or, if you will, a pun name - note that "Haishang" is a play on "Shanghai"), Shanghai Shijie Shuju [China], May, 1920. The earliest known Chinese book on mah-jongg. See FAQ 11 for more on historical mah-jongg writings.

Bell, R. C. (Robert Charles), Discovering Mah-Jong / 2nd ed. Aylesbury : Shire Publications, 1978. 48 p. : ill. ; 18 cm. Reprinted 1979, 1982, 1983, 1988. ISBN 0 85263 444 7. Also see following listing, and listing for Bell in the list of books currently in print, above.

"The Way To Play: The illustrated Encyclopedia of the games of the World" by the Diagram Group. Includes section on Chinese mah-jongg, which seems to have been written by R. C. Bell. Also includes sections on Sap Tim Pun and "American" mah-jongg in addition to the Classical game, all under the section of 'Tile Games'. Book certainly bears a resemblance to Bell's 'Board and Table games of Many Civilizations' (above).


(1) Babcock's Rules for Mah-Jongg. The red book of rules. 10th printing. July 1923. Published by Mah-Jongg Sales Company of America. 36 Spear Street San Francisco. PP14. Bklt.
[Click here to see scans and selected text from the hardcover edition of the Little Red Book.]
Allen R. Sanderson emailed me with a tip:
>A good source for searching for Babcock's book is the Advanced Book
>Exchange I found several copies out there.

(2) Directions For Playing Mah-Jong. Three Daimonds Trade Mark. Tsing Kee Ma-Jong & Co. Manufacturers for Ivory Articles, Dice, Dominoes, Chopsticks, Fans, Stamps, and other Engraving Works. No. 99, Anping Street New North Gate of Shanghai. Inside; Tsing Kee & Co. Dealers in Chinese Dominoes(Ma-Jong) Pipes, Necklace Beads, Seal Stamps and All Kinds of Fine Carving Goods All Made by Ivory. Special Orders Received in the Best Attention. No. 99, Anping Street, New North Gate of, Shanghai. Chinese ideographs inside back cover. [Booklet with Mah Jong Set.]

(3) Directions of Playing Chinese Game of Four Winds. [Original booklet with Mah Jong Set.]

(4) How to Play Mah-Jong. 8th edition. 1937. Published by the Mah-Jong Manufacturing Co. Peter S. Van Proprietor. Shanghai, China. PP24. Bklt.

(5) Ma-Chiong. As Played Aboard Admiral Oriental Steamships. Published by the Admiral Oriental Line. 4th edition. October 1924. PP12. Bklt.

(6) Mah Jongg. A complete guide to the fascinating from China. A most intriguing game full of Oriental quaintness. East Wind, 1923. George Routledge & Sons, Ltd. PP62. Bk.

(7) Mah-Jongg. How to Play and Score according to the Chinese rules. Arranged by an English Enthusiast of the Game. [C. M. W. Higginson] 2nd edition. 1924. Published by J. Jaques & Son. Ltd. London. PP32. Bklt.

(8) Mah-Jongg. Sometimes called Sparrow. Rules of the game and how to play it. 8th edition. March 1924. Printed and published by Chad Valley Co., Ltd., Harbourne, England. PP23. Bklt.

(9) Mah-Jong. Published in cooperation with the British Mah-Jong Association. Gwyn Headley and Yvonne Seeley. E P Publishing Ltd. PP36. Bklt. New York : distributed by Sterling Pub. Co., 1978, 1983: ill. ; 14 x 21 cm.

(10) Ma-Jong. Book of Instructions. 4th edition. September 1923. Long Sang Ti Chinese Curios Co., Inc. PP44. Bklt.
[Click here to see scans of this and other books and pamphlets of the 1920s.]

(11) Rules and Directions for the Chinese Game of Ma Cheuck (Sparrows). Also known as Ma Jong, Mah Diao, Pung Chow, Le ping, and other translations of the different Chinese Dialects. A simple and complete explanation of the original Chinese game, translated and compiled from Chinese rule books and aided by Chinese experts of the game. 3rd edition. Copyright 1923. P. Naftaly, San Francisco, Calif. PP24. Bklt.

(12) Rules and Guide to the Game of "Mah-Jongg". "Jackpot". Copyright by H. P. G. & S. Ltd. London. PP28. Bklt.

(13) Standard Rules and Instructions for the Chinese Domino Game of Pungwo Brand of Mah-Jongg. PP20. Bklt.

(14) Standard Rules for "The Ancient Game of the Mandarins". The original game of old China. Hugo Manovill. Copyright 1923. Piroxloid Products Corp. 200 Fifth Avenue NY. PP22. Bklt.
[Click here to see scans of this and other books and pamphlets of the 1920s.]

(15) Standard Rules for the Chinese Domino Game of Mah Jong. Yue Sing Zung and Co. Manufacturers For Ivory Articles Dice Dominoes Chopsticks Fans Stamps And Other Engraving Works. Shanse Road, No. 70 - 76. Tel 90791. Shanghai. PP25. Bklt.

(16) The Game of Mah Jong. Max Robertson. 5th edition. 1941. Whitcombe and Tombs Limited. PP47. Bklt.

(17) The Game of Mah Jong. Max Robertson. 24th edition. 1968. Whitcombe and Tombs Limited. PP49. Bklt.

(18) The Pocket Guide to Mah Jong. Containing the Standard Laws. 1924. London. Thomas De La Rue & Co., Ltd. Bunhill Row, London. E.C.1. You can download a PDF version of this booklet on Gareth Saunders' site, at This booklet describes the Classic Chinese rules (as do all books from the 1920s, with the sole exception of Babcock's "Little Red Book," which describes Babcock's simplified rules).

Thanks to Michael Stanwick for the numbered list above.


Gelbman, Alain, Mah jong: One step at a time. Ishi Press, 1991. 50 p. : ill.

Hammer, Marcia, Learn to play mah jongg : from beginner to winner. New York : D. McKay Co., c1979. xii, 143 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.

The Complete Book of Indoor Games, Peter D. Arnold, England, 1982. British equivalent of Scarne's Encyclopedia of Games. Emphasizes quality over quantity, taking time to show sample games and give strategies for all the games described.

Clement Wood & Gloria Goddard, The Complete Book of Games. Garden City Publishing Co., Garden City, New York (1940)

Coming soon: MORE out-of-print books, from my own library.


(see FAQ 2 for more on the exact difference between playing styles):


* Whitney's "American" game lies somewhere between the game defined by Babcock and the Western game defined by S&E and T&M (primarily in that Whitney lists the common Chinese/Japanese/American special hands, and not the full list of American/Western special hands; Babcock's rules did not include special hands at all).

** Books marked with a double asterisk use non-standard Mah-Jongg terminology. This can make it a little difficult to use these books, if you are already familiar with standard terminology, and/or if you want to discuss mah-jongg with other players. Mah-Jongg players need to be flexible! (^_^) See FAQ 6, the "Rosetta Stone" FAQ.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: There is bound to be some difference between the game defined by one author and the same game defined by another author (see Kohnen vs. Millington, for example). For the people who use a particular book to determine their table rules, the book defines the rules -- some play groups may agree on different table rules. The main criterion that makes a book "authoritative" is whether or not a reasonable number of people play (or at one time played) according to its rules.


Mah-Jongg in the Media...
NOVELS, MAGAZINES, NEWSPAPERS, MOVIES & TV SHOWS featuring (but not about) Mah-Jongg


Archive-name: mjfaq03.htm
Posting-frequency: N/A (now posted on the Web)
Last-modified: October 12, 2002
Version: 2.49


Update Log:

March 16, 1999 (made corrections to entry for Max Robertson's book and added Carkner listing)
March 22, 1999 (updated Robertson & Carkner listings since I received the books)
March 23, 1999 (added Headley & Seeley entry, thanks to Dan Densley)
April 5, 1999 (clarified Headley & Seeley entry, since I got the book)
June 22, 1999 (updated entries regarding the Li, Robertson, and NMJL books)
June 23, 1999 (added Wood & Goddard mention)
October 26, 1999 (changed "Filipino" to "Philippine")
November 16, 1999 (added Gaan Ji-Cing's book)
January 5, 2000 (added the two books by the Mahjong Museum)
January 23, 2000 (added NMJL website)
March 23, 2000 (added two newer ISBNs for the Millington book)
July 8, 2000 (added more books, w/o ISBNs; added movies)
August 10, 2000 (modified comment about Takeshobo printing more copies of MAJAN HAKUBUTSUKAN DAIZUROKU)
September 15, 2000 (added Mah Jongg 2000 by Glass)
September 26, 2000 (added 2 fiction books that feature mah-jongg)
September 29, 2000 (changed FAQ URL from to
September 30, 2000 (added a book to the list of movies, books)
October 18, 2000 -- corrected the FAQs' URL to match actual direct URL; added Hong Kong movie
November 8, 2000 -- added another Hong Kong movie with "mahjong" in the title
December 8, 2000 -- changed FAQ URL to
January 6, 2001 -- changed file to HTML format (have not yet made the URLs clickable) and set up a new Out Of Print section
January 13, 2001 -- added CMCR; modified the description of "Maajh;" added more clickable URLs; scattered minor touchups.
January 16, 2001 -- saw mah-jongg mentioned on "3rd Rock From The Sun"
February 5, 2001 -- modified the CMCR entry since I obtained a copy March 7, 2001 -- added Kindai Majan mention. May 4, 2001 -- added several books to the out-of-print list, thanks to Michael Stanwick. Modified/updated the Kindai Majan mention. Saw another mah-jongg mention on TV but forgot what it was so didn't add it.
June 4, 2001 -- added the Amy Lo book (thanks to David Hearder!) and Dim Sum Dead (thanks to Martin Rep's spectacular website!)
June 6, 2001 -- removed Takeshobo's Mahjong Museum website (defunct link); added Takeshobo's Kindai Majan website. Thanks to Peter Gallagher for the tip.
June 7, 2001 -- added book by Dr. Tong Seng Tjoa, thanks again to Peter G.
July 9, 2001 -- modified description of Dr. Tjoa's book, now that I have a copy. Added Chung Wu's book mention.
July 13, 2001 -- added a note re Amy Lo's book, now that I have a copy.
July 16, 2001 -- cleaned up the Overview section; Lo describes not only New Style but also Taiwanese and HKOS.
July 18, 2001 -- changed the address for Wright Patterson, thanks to Susan Hanley (Chairperson of the Wright Patterson Mah Jongg Group).
July 30, 2001 -- added "America's Sweethearts" to the list of movies.
August 5, 2001 -- update per new info on the BMJA.
August 15, 2001 -- updated the URL for Cofa Tsui's book (now downloadable for free).
August 29, 2001 -- added Kiss of the Dragon to the movies list.
October 1, 2001 -- added Pritchard book.
October 26, 2001 -- added detail re selected 1920s books.
November 3, 2001 -- added link to PDF download of the Pocket Guide at Gareth Saunders' site.
November 15, 2001 -- added info about the Advanced Book Exchange site, a source for hard-to-find or out-of-print books (thanks to Allen R. Sanderson). Fixed a formatting problem.
December 2, 2001 -- added King of the Hill reference.
December 31, 2001 -- deleted nonfunctioning Tuttle website, changed URL for Whitcoulls website.
January 27, 2002 -- added commentary on two novels that mention mah-jongg.
March 30, 2002 -- Perlmen & Chan no longer available at but now Amy Lo is (thanks to William Sweet for the heads-up)
April 17, 2002 -- added link to the new page about 1920s books; added new info to the Majan Hakubutsukan Daizuroku listing; added listings for two new books: those of Chung Wu and Tong Seng Tjoa, M.D.
April 18, 2002 -- added more links (several of the books are now pictured in the CC Theory pages)
April 21, 2002 -- added reviews of Chung Wu's book and Dr. Tjoa's 2nd book; added mention of TV show "The Nanny"
May 19, 2002 -- added Simpsons listing.
June 2, 2002 -- reinstated URL for Takeshobo's Mah-Jongg Museum site.
June 10, 2002 -- Henceforth, all edits to any FAQ will be tracked in a separate log, not in the individual FAQ pages. Click here to see the update log.


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