Mah-jong is a competitive game with a history in China. As it is played with tiles, similar in physical description to those used in dominoes but engraved with Chinese symbols and characters,mah-jong is also jokingly called a game to "move" or "lay" bricks. It is also known as a "game of encirclement". Legend has it that mah-jong was invented by an ancient Chinese strategist who used tiles to mock battle formations. A full set of mah-jong contains 136 tiles,including 36 sticks (or bamboos,numbered 1 to 9,4 of each number), 36 dots (or circles,numbered 1 to 9,4 of each number),12 hounours (4 red,4 green,4 white dragons), and 16 winds (4 east,4 south, 4 west, 4 north winds). These do not include eight flowers,which are added in the midst of a mah-jong game.
Among the tiles,a stick represents the spear, a dor the shield, and a crack a troop. The east,west, south and north winds represent the guardian generals of the four doors. The character "zhong" denotes the commander, and the "fa" represents the officer that delivers the commander"s orders. Blank tiles represent reserved forces.
The game is usually played by four individuals each holding 13 tiles.The object of the play is to obtain sets of tiles, and the winner is the first player to hole four sets and a pair of like tiles. In old days,the mah-jong was played for gambling; today it is still a fad around the country.
The game was introduced to the West and Japan during the 1920s, where it remains popular to this day.