Maj Jongg is a game of Chinese origin, dating over two thousand years ago. It is said to have originated by a royal who was in seclusion. To keep herself amused she invented a game, to be played with her maids. She carved domino shaped tiles of ivory and bamboo. For centuries Maj Jongg remained exclusive to the royale class. The penalty for commoners caught playing was decapitation. However, around 500 A.D. the penalty was lifted. The game spread through out the world. It came to the U.S.A. in 1920 by Joseph P. Babcock. Maj Jongg surged, then tapered off, resurging again during the Geat Depression. Inexpensive forms of recreation were sought after,. people wanted more mental agilty, and escape from their problems.
That said, I really like playing Maj Jongg .Of the five players in my game, four have sets from their mothers. The fifth player now has a beautiful new set, with jokers that say her name. All the racks are red for good luck. My mother played Maj Jongg in our apartment building. The ladies were the parents of my friends, and neighbors. There were light snacks, and coffee served. The games were chatty. The women were happy for a night out. I remember the clicking of the tiles on the table, as you said the tiles names, one crack, two dot, south. My mother had two substitute players, Irving who was married to Esther, a player and me. I was used to fill in if a player was late. Irving was a good player. My father had a problem with a man playing Maj Jong, it was too feminine. He would have accused him of being gay but the world did not exist in that context yet.
We moved, but the games continued with new players. My mother brought the set to the catskills on vacation. There were always willing players. On a recent cruise Maj Jongg was being played. The players were the " real deal". They were men and women screaming at each other in Chinese. There were no cards, or racks. I was told there was heavy betting going on. I was the uninvited, I could not watch.
I married, bought a house and played Maj Jongg on the block. The women all had sets from their mothers. Conversations were personal. We knew who was pregnant, and who hoped to be. We discussed deaths, taxes, and teachers. We talked about each other and everyone else. We compared grades and salaries.
Now I play with dear friends. There are light snacks and coffee. We are mostly concerned with health issues, new babies, and the troubles of our children. As much as life changes it remains the same. The Maj Jongg tiles click on the table as you say their names, one crack, two dot, south.
Dedicated to the ladies of Maj Jongg