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FAQ 11. HISTORY OF MAHJONG

Part IV (FAQ 11d). ORIGINS; EARLIEST WRITINGS ON MAH-JONGG

* 1893: [USA] Anthropologist/ethnologist Stewart Culin wrote papers introducing mah-jongg to the English-speaking world (earliest known written mention of the game anywhere, in any language, per MJM). The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, provides the text of some of Culin's work at http://www.gamesmuseum.uwaterloo.ca/Archives/Culin/ .

* 1895: [Great Britain] Sir W. H. Wilkinson wrote an article on Chinese card games (precursors to mah-jongg), speculating that these were the precursors to Tarot cards. Not a lot in this article about mah-jongg specifically -- just one brief mention of a deck of cards he calls ma chioh, "hempen birds." He describes the breakdown of a ma chioh deck, and it's similar to a mah-jongg set but without winds, and with other cards in their place.

* 1909: [Japan] Article "Some Places in Manchuria and Korea" published by Soseki Natsume. I cannot read Japanese, and have no record of what the author wrote other than that he "stated that he saw Chinese people playing mah-jongg" in Shanghai. This is the earliest known Japanese description of mah-jongg confirmed so far, according to the Mahjong Museum in Chiba.

* 1914: [Shanghai] The earliest known Chinese book on mah-jongg: "Hui Tu Ma Que Pai Pu" (Illustrated Manual of Mahjong [tiles]), by Shen Yifan. Shanghai : Shi wu shu guan, Min guo 3 [1914]. 58 p. (on double leaves) : ill. ; 19 cm. Thierry Depaulis found this book and announced it on the mahjong newsgroup on July 23, 2003. Thierry found the book by using WorldCat:

* 1919, mid Autumn [China] "Maqiao zhinan" ("Mah Jong Chi Nan"), another early Chinese book on mah-jongg.

* 1919 [China] "Maqiao da guan" ("Mah Jong Ta Kuan", General View of Mahjong), Shanghai: Shanghai Qunxueshe chuban.

* May, 1920: [China] Another early Chinese book on mah-jongg: "Keys to Winning at Mah-Jongg and Poker," (or "Secret Method for Mahjong and Poker") by Haishang Laoyouke (a pen name; note that "Haishang" is a play on "Shanghai"), published by Shanghai Shijie Shuju. Click here to see the cover and read what the MJM and Ryo Asami say about this book.

* 1920: [USA] Joseph Park Babcock wrote his simplified "Rules for Mah-Jongg" (usually called "the Red Book"), based on the Chinese Classical rules. This marks the beginning of mah-jongg's introduction to the West. After Babcock, the floodgates were opened, and many many books were written.

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


Click on desired chapter...

INTRO: DEFINITIONS, SOURCES

ORIGINS: PRECURSOR GAMES

ORIGINS: WHO CREATED MAHJONG

ORIGINS: EARLIEST WRITINGS ON MAHJONG

ORIGINS: EARLIEST MAHJONG SETS

ORIGINS: PROTO-MAHJONG AND CHINESE CLASSICAL

A MINOR (and somewhat silly) CONTROVERSY: THE CC THEORY

MAHJONG TIMELINE


© 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without express written permission of the author.

Disclaimer: Some of the ideas in this article may have been originated by mah-jongg scholar Michael Stanwick. My thanks to Mr. Stanwick for his excellent research.