Many games, especially ancient ones, have their own set of manners. For instance, Go players bow before the game and greet each other ("onegaishimasu") and play the first stone in the upper right corner [etc].

Is there something similar in mahjong, too?

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    Why was this flagged as spam?
    – mafu
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 20:54
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    Onegaishimasu not the "standard greeting of Go," is very specifically Japanese. Go is played in a lot more countries than just Japan though. It didn't even originate in Japan, Go just recently became popular in the western world through the surge of Japanese culture there, hence the image.
    – deceze
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 1:45

2 Answers 2


I beg to disagree with User545. Mahjong is drenched in formal--even ceremonial--aspects: The sorting of the seats, the selection of the first east, the building of the wall, the breaking of the same, the collecting of the tiles, the procedures of play, the vocabulary... To a person who grew up with the game around her or him many of these might seem commonplace, but to someone new to the game they appear remarkably ritual. And the way expert players seamlessly, silently and knowingly interact in smooth choreography under the same peculiar (and somewhat mysterious) etiquette is uniquely enchanting to those being introduced to the game.

Furthermore, each national variant of mahjong (Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, even the Western variants, like American, or the Chinese Classical game now played mainly in Europe, among many others) has variations of these formalities and rites, not just of rules and hands.

For example, the most popular mahjong variant in Japan--riichi mahjong, which is played extensively in that country, across all ages, and which is undergoing a true renaissance (not only in Japan, but around the world, thanks to Japanese manga and anime)--is particularly adept at meticulously keeping this ritual aspect of the game. This aspect affects all forms of game traits, manners, and in-game behavior, all the way down to tile size, as well as their handling, and the body language of the players in doing so.

In Japanese mahjong, there are particular ways to shuffle (if not using automatic machines), hold and handle the tiles, build the wall, arrange discards (in neatly disposed discard rows, exactly 6 tiles across and 3 down), etc. The rules of the game strictly legislate the punishment of deviations of many of these behaviors, especially the ones that lead to time being wasted in the game or the cancellation of a hand.

And it's not only in Japan that mahjong game play generates manners, rituals, and codified behaviors and vocabulary. Also, it's not only because of the central elements of play. Different regional variants introduce locally specific accessories (counting sticks, tile racks, chips, first-east and round-wind markers, tile pushers, dice, different indicators [horse-race chips, yakitori markers, 5th-player bettor]), all of which generate region-specific behaviors and manners around their use.

One more thing to clarify is a notion that could seem implicit in what the OP writes: Mahjong is NOT an ancient game like weiqi (go). The oft-repeated bit that the game is an ancient invention of Chinese wise men, and that it was played by Kǒng Fūzǐ, is shameless marketing poppycock introduced by the American entrepreneur that brought the game to the USA. Some of the game's distant forerunners (in paper card form) date back, perhaps, to the middle ages, but definitely not to antiquity. The game, as we know it today, originated during the final decades of the Qing dynasty (mid to late 19th century) and spread to the world in the early 20th Century.


Mahjong (actually Majiang - 麻将 in mandarin) is really just played like a card game. It's mainly played in China and doesn't have the "manners" that you can find in Japanese traditions.

Old people play mahjong like they would play a card game, some people play for money, but there are no manners to follow others than the rules of the game.

  • Thanks for answering an old open question. I was wondering what your background in Go was? Or perhaps, what is your source for this answer? Thanks!
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Dec 23, 2010 at 5:33
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    Background in majiang you mean? I live in China. Neighbors (old people) play the game everyday, my wife's father goes gambling sometime and just everyday life experience. Other people might have had different experiences in a club or other countries (I've heard there's an European mahjong league!), but there is no specific manner traditionally. (as far as I know)
    – user545
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 10:57

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