I play Mahjong with friends every now and then, using a set of rules that we sort of invented along the way: we knew the basics, but had no internet connection for one summer and played with what made the most sense. Now, we'd like to settle on established rules, but there are so many of them... I'd like to have rules that are:

  • stable (no changing every year like American Mahjong)
  • uses a 14-tiles hand, 4 winds, 3 dragons, flowers and seasons, no jokers
  • scoring doesn't have to be zero-sum operation (we don't play money)
  • If you believe it, there's one regional variant in China that allows chowing winds.
    – Joe Z.
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 20:43

5 Answers 5


This set of rules for Chinese Mahjong might be a little terse, but are essentially the rules I have always played with. The last chart gives a nice limited set of honor hands too.


The simplest ruleset is Hong Kong Old Style (HKOS). It has simple scoring and very few special hands. Other forms may have few special hands but complex scoring - or simple scoring but many special hands to learn - or complex scoring and many special hands to learn (like American Mahjong).

If you want even simpler rules, have a look at these ultra-simplified Chinese rules. They even omit Kan and most of scoring, so you can understand and explain them in a few minutes. From experience I would say they are a good way to start. Once you got the basics, you can gradually add more rules of the HKOS set, and eventually also have a look at other rulesets.

One thing I especially like about the ultra-simplified rules is how scoring works:

Whoever won gets a chip or a coin from everybody. Or just use the "ooh and aah" method. When somebody wins, everybody goes "ooh." You can keep track of score on a piece of paper too. Make a tick mark next to the winner's name. Whatever works for you.

If you want to make things really exciting, award an extra chip, coin, or "aah" for a pung of dragons or winds.

If you want to recognize dragon or wind pungs for all players (not only for the player who goes mah-jongg), you can do that. It might be possible for a non-winning player to get a higher score than a winner, if you allow this. But that's OK, if you like it that way.


I'm generally a fan of Riichi Mahjong, but what I use for teaching beginners is Zung Jung, a very simple and logical ruleset. See the scoring chart here - it's easy to apply (no "small points" and "multipliers", only one limit), and the point values are adequate to the effort required for a given pattern. At the same time, you can find most of the commonly used patterns in Chinese and Japanese mahjong, so a transition to a more complicated system shouldn't be a problem.

  • I searched for materials and updated the links with best alternative articles I cound find. I hope this helps.
    – hmp
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 22:50

According to this table, Hong Kong, Classical (Babcock's red-book rules), and Korean variations fit your criteria.

Having said that, this page state that Korean rules don't use seasons.


My preferred ruleset is Mahjong Competition Rules, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guobiao_Majiang (I don't think anyone in the west call them by the name Guobiao though, or at least I have yet to hear anyone do so, even at major tournaments). The rules can also be found at http://mahjong-europe.org/.

These may seem very complicated at first, but the scoring itself is fairly straightforward (just add whatever patterns are on the hand), and due to the large number of patterns, there will almost always be plenty of opportunities to pick different directions during the course of a hand.

A good way to get to know the rules is to start playing without the 8-point requirement and then spend some time figuring out the actual score of each hand, to get used to the patterns.

The ruleset also has the advantage (at least in Europe) that many of the large cities will have some club or similar playing by the ruleset, which gives an opportunity to get to know other players.
There are also a decent number of tournaments using the ruleset, and most of them (barring the European and World Championships) are open to everyone and generally have a very friendly atmosphere.

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