Digging into Beijing’s obsession with Mahjong

Have you ever seen locals gathering around a table in the middle of the street in Beijing? Maybe you were confused by the situation or the mix of tiles. The locals probably played a very famous game called mahjong (麻将 majiang).

Mahjong is a game played with sets of tiles, each based on Chinese characters and symbols. It’s a game of strategy, logic, skill and a bit of luck.

Mahjong was developed in the mid 1800s. The origins of the game are unclear and many theories exist. However, in the 1900s, the game’s popularity spread around the world (mainly in Japan, England and the United States), resulting in new versions of mahjong rules.

To learn more about the fascinating culture of mahjong, we spoke with a mahjong player and teacher from the institution Our Beijing: Dominic De Couto

Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Dominic, I’m from England and I’ve been in Beijing for almost five years now.

I started a business with my friend called Our Beijing. We have many good experiences for people to have a good time and learn more about Beijing in terms of culture and life history. We have mahjong workshops, which I’m going to tell you about, but also jianbing workshops, e-bike tours, walking tours, food tours, Great Wall tours, river day trips or even paddleboard experiences.

How was mahjong introduced to you?
I was introduced to mahjong by culture court (a Chinese language school) and a friend, and I’ve been playing quite often since! After founding Our Beijingwe are now focusing on experiences, and culture court on the Chinese language.

Why do you find mahjong interesting?
It’s one of those fun local things to do, especially in the hutongs, where locals play in the streets. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to get involved in. Since it is played all over the country, when I meet friends from other cities in China, we can just sit down and play mahjong like we would play cards.

There is more to this story! This article originally appeared on our sister site, Jingkids International.

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READ: Some Chinese table games to learn and master

Images: Pexels, courtesy of Our Beijing

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