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Hot tiles: how mahjong conquered the West

2014-11-14 16:10:21



[Photo/China Daily]

There has been much speculation among China’s Internet users that if mahjong was ever admitted into the Olympic Games, the Chinese would surely win the gold medal.

Yet this was hardly the case at the 2014 European Mahjong Championship, when the highest-scoring Chinese player came in 30th and the Chinese team ended up 37th. The result led to rampant dissatisfaction, with one angry fan pointing out “one billion people play mahjong, and the rest are watching.”

The question was obvious: How could China lose to other countries at its own game?

Western mahjong players have in fact become increasingly competitive. Mahjong, invented by the Chinese roughly two millennia ago, is gaining ground all over the world.

The World Mahjong Organization was established in 2005 with Chinese economist Yu Guangyuan as the president. Scenes of old ladies playing mahjong have appeared in American smash-hit TV dramas like 3rd Rock from the Sun and Modern Family. In Magic City, young women are shown playing mahjong in Miami as far back as 1959.

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