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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Gentle reality belies gambling stereotypes

( )

09:31, November 28, 2011

CHONGQING - When my friends heard that I was about to report on a mahjong competition from a five-star cruise on the Three Gorges, they said it sounded like covering a summit of gambler kings on the high seas.

My wife, who thought I'd become invulnerable after a reporting trip to war-torn Afghanistan, anxiously warned me: "Don't gamble! Don't borrow money to gamble."

But the Fifth China Mahjong Forum and Championship was just the opposite of what you see in movies about high-stakes gambling: no x-ray glasses, no invisible earphones to pick up signals helping you to cheat, and no loan sharks to finance your risk-taking.

Yet the legal and friendly game, which ran from Nov 20 to 22, was certainly challenging for 124 players from Japan, Europe and most parts of China. And it was inspirational to me.

Initially, I was amazed to hear foreigners using mahjong lingo like the Chinese, and I was impressed at how fast they could calculate the scores.

Then, I became impressed by the players' professionalism in keeping the "mind game" quiet, friendly and gentle.

No one smoked or complained about bad hands. And the first thing that people around the 31 tables did after each game was to put the tiles neatly back into the boxes.

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