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Mahjong: to protect or to crack down?

By Wei Xi (Global Times)

09:19, November 09, 2012

Mahjong lovers participated in the 3rd World Mahjong Championship. (Xinhua)

You may know a lot about the world championships of basketball, tennis and cycling, but have you ever heard of the World Mahjong Championship? It does exist, and was recently held by the World Mahjong Organization for the third time. Late October in Chongqing, 188 competitors took part in the championship, including over 80 from foreign countries.

On the heels of that event, thousands of Chinese mahjong lovers also organized a signature collecting in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, to support the induction of mahjong as an intangible cultural heritage of China.

A general background

According to Sheng Qi, president of China Mahjong Union, Chen Yumen, a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) official, created the modern version of mahjong during the period of Emperor Tongzhi (1861-75).

And before that, it is said that similar games appeared about three or four thousand years ago, spreading from the royal members to the common people.

Usually, a set of mahjong has 144 tiles (136 may used in some places) and is played by four people. The tiles are differentiated by Chinese characters and symbols, and are split into three categories: simple suits (108 tiles), honor suits (28 tiles), and bonus tiles (8 tiles).

Generally, each player gets 13 tiles and strives to draw "melds" to win rounds. Some specific rules vary from region to region.

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